6 Promising Women's Rights Victories We Saw In The Last Year, Because It's Not All Doom And Gloom

It's no secret that the global fight for women's rights has been an uphill battle for decades (or centuries, really). Across the globe, women are harassed just for walking around on the street, are often unable to make decisions regarding their own health care and family planning, can be arrested for anything from driving to having a miscarriage, and in many countries, even killed just for being women. Given the tremendous weight of this struggle, it's necessary to take the time to celebrate the successes we've had in the global fight for women's rights.

Currently, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women intends to remove "all the obstacles to women's active participation in all spheres of public and private life through a full and equal share in economic, social, cultural and political decision-making." The Commission's theme for 2015 is to appraise and review progress towards this and other goals, and in 2016 it will focus on sustainable development for the empowerment of women. These are high-reaching, but incredibly necessary goals that many government, non-government, and non-profit organizations are working towards everyday. Ensuring that women are safe, healthy, empowered, and able to fully participate in society is crucial for development around the world.

Amazing progress towards gender equality is being achieved around the world, and are giving us plenty to celebrate while we continue the fight for women's rights.

1. Zimbabwean women are free to go out at night

Until May 27 of this year, women in Zimbabwe could be arrested for going out in public at night, on the presumption that they were sex workers. After the lift on the arrests, Winnet Shamuyarira, who was arrested walking home from school when she was 18, said she was so refreshed to know she "could go out and have a drink again."

2. Nigeria banned female genital mutilation

Also called female circumcision, female genital mutilation is now illegal in Nigeria, thanks to the work of Choice4Life advocates. Nigeria's now former president, Goodluck Jonathan, signed the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act on May 25 that now bans the practice of female genital mutilation across the country. Congratulations to all who worked so hard for this victory, and to the women of Nigeria.

3. Women's rights activists released from jail in China

After being arrested on International Women's Day (March 8), five women's rights activists were released on bail on April 13. The activists, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Li Tingting, Zhen Churan, and Wu Rongrong were arrested for attempting a protest on a count of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble." Due to the strict views towards public dissenters, this release was not expected. Hopefully this is a sign that more good is on the way for Chinese women.

4. Malawi banned child marriage

Before child marriage was banned in Malawi this past February, half of girls were married off before the age of 18. Child marriage was previously rationalized in Malawi on the basis of wanting to maximize upon a young woman's fertility, but now there is a focus on empowering young girls through educational opportunities. Malawian parliament member Jessie Kabwila stated that the new law protecting girls is so vital to the country because "we cannot talk about development if we have child marriage. Women's empowerment is a crucial player in development and women cannot be empowered if they are not educated."

5. For the first time, more than 100 women are serving in the U.S. Congress

2014's November midterm elections for U.S. congressional representatives pushed the number of women serving in Congress over 100 for the first time in U.S. history. Many equal rights organizations agree that female representation in government is vital to the success of democracy, and this unprecedented congressional makeup is evidence that the U.S. is moving towards equal representation for women.

6. Brazil strengthened laws protecting women's safety

With violence against women and alarming highs in Brazil (a woman is murdered every two hours, and assaulted every 15 seconds), Brazilian women have been holding enormous protests in São Paulo. The Brazilian government introduced tougher laws that increase prison sentences for violence against women, along with a zero-tolerance policy towards violence against women in public spheres and at home. While enforcing these laws remains a struggle, the protests along with new legislation demonstrates that women in Brazil are ready to demand equality.

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