'Connect, uplift and inspire': Women’s Equality Day 2016

In July 1918 the Equal Franchise Act was passed by Parliament, giving voting rights to all women over the age of 21. As a result, more than 15 million women became eligible to vote and women achieved equal voting rights to men.

The General Election on 30 May in 1929 marked the first time this piece of legislation was used, and Women’s Equality Day is celebrated each year on that date. 

Today is the 77th Women’s Equality Day, and here members of the Women’s Action Network reflect on what this day means to us. Join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Rachel Statham, Campaign organiser

'At the ballot box we're more equal than almost anywhere else. I think it's incredibly exciting to be able to organise for the change we need to see, and to vote and be heard. Women's Equality Day is an opportunity to celebrate what progress we've made this far, and to look forward to the inequalities we still have to challenge.'

Alison Graham, English Literature undergrad student

'I was first eligible to vote last year in the General Election. The process seemed insignificant, taking only a few minutes; marking a piece of card with a pencil in a primary school canteen. But for others it had lasted years longer, in a campaign that ranged from hunger strikes to letter writing, and producing pamphlets to window smashing.

'It is a vital part of the history of feminism, and it was through feminism that I was first introduced to the concept of human rights. To me, human rights remain the best framework for securing autonomy and defending the dignity of all women, and this absolutely cannot be achieved without women having a voice in the political system; it provides a way for grievances to be heard, and represents respect and a basic trust in us.'

Justine Nneyere, Health Policy graduate student

'Growing up first generation in the United States, I find it mind boggling to fully grasp that people of colour once had to guess the amount of candies in a jar to be able to vote or be of a certain age, let alone gender. The joy on my 18th day of birth, came from a sense of self-proclaimed independence as I became legal and could vote for the first African American President in the history of my country.

Time truly waits for no one, but it seems we as human beings sometimes try to convince ourselves otherwise. Progression has indeed come a long way in the world, some countries more than others. However, to remain complacent and stagnant in the way things are, is a crime against humanity. I don’t want to have to explain to future generations how women do not get equal pay or why they must always smile in order to not come across intimidating, and play small in order to not be perceived as over confident.

Truth be told I can’t even explain it now to myself, let alone to future young women and leaders of the world. Conversations need to be had and open ears need to listen in order to fully digest the magnitude of injustices that still exist today. An optimistic mind can shine light upon an issue to uplift others to feel empowered to take action for the evolution of women’s rights everywhere.

I challenge you to eliminate the separation of self and others, for it is not just 'us' and 'them'. We are all divine women in our own unique ways and to think otherwise would be a result of being comfortably numb. Hold onto to your self-conviction and stand in your truth knowing you are not alone, we are here together so let’s finish this marathon strong ladies. Connect, uplift, and inspire through conversations, actions and fierce grace.

Sheenu Das, Filmmaker  

'The question What Does Women’s Equality Day mean to me conjures up mixed feelings of gigantic proportions. Women have come a long way ever since they were granted the right to vote and I personally salute all those women who fought for our rights but we must not tarry as we still have a long way to go.

'Think modern slavery, female genital mutilation, honour killing, child marriage, rape, violence, equal pay, diversity and the list goes on…

'Yet our fight continues. Progress requires the vision to see what is possible and courage to make what others deem impossible. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’

'So we must never give up to fight the good fight, no matter what until we win for what we stand for. Just as Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.’

What does Women’s Equality Day mean to you? Let us know, on Facebook or Twitter

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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