It's Time To #WakeUp and #ShapeHistory - Equality Now

It's Time To #WakeUp and #ShapeHistory

Around the world, there’s a startling disparity of statues commemorating the accomplishments of women. To mark the launch of season three of Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, CNN, along with our partners at Hulu, are teaming up to--literally--ask New Yorkers to #WakeUp and reflect on how far the city must go before as many women as men are commemorated for their achievements. Here, Equality Now considers some of the women we know who are doing work that will #ShapeHistory.

How many monuments can you think of that honor a woman or women? In your community? In your city?

If you’re struggling to come up with an answer, you’re not alone. According to a recent piece by CNN, There are 4,799 statues of men in the U.S. Among these, just 384 depicting women, accounting for less than eight percent of statues across the country. In New York City, just five statues honor women, compared to the 145 honoring men. Five of those statues alone honor George Washington. And there are a total of 23 statues honoring animals.


Across the United States, there’s a striking disparity in the gender ratios of the statues that adorn the country’s public spaces. In Washington, D.C. there are 147 statues honoring men and just 13 honoring women, while in San Francisco there are 84 statues honoring men and just three women. Meanwhile, Chicago boasts two statues honoring a woman, compared to 48 statues of men, besting Boston’s single statue honoring a woman, versus 31 men.

Women fare even worse in the United Kingdom, where historical, non-royal women make up less than three percent of statues. Just last year, a statue of British suffragette Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in London’s Parliament square, the first time a female historical figure was depicted in the esteemed location.

At Equality Now, we are purposeful in placing the voices and experiences of survivors at the heart of our work. But there are also myriad ways for their work to be shared and celebrated. There’s young women like Zaynub Affinih of France, who, in May 2018, at age 16, started an online petition that collected 1.6 million signatures calling for justice for Noura Hussein, a Sudanese teen sentenced to death for defending herself against her rapist husband. #JusticeForNoura generated intense media interest in the young woman’s case and put pressure on the Sudanese justice system to convert her sentence from execution to a prison term.

Then, there’s Brisa de Angulo, whose experience of sexual violence as a teen in Bolivia inspired her work as a legal advocate and her determination to change the country’s legal system to ensure other survivor’s had access to justice she did not. Now a lawyer, Brisa has successfully pushed for the repeal of a marital rape exemption in Bolivia’s Penal Code, and has achieved a range of positive changes the way rape victims are treated by the authorities.

Jaha Dukureh uses her personal experience as a survivor of FGM and child marriage in The Gambia and the United States to inform her work and her activism as the founder of Safe Hands For Girls, a nonprofit dedicated to ending FGM and child marriage.

And Fraidy Reiss, who was just 19 when her family forced her to marry a man who was abusive. With limited education, no job or income, and two children to provide for, she had to overcome huge challenges to escape her marriage and build a new life. Today, Fraidy is an internationally renowned journalist and activist who has gone on to found Unchained At Last, the sole organization dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the United States.


Who is someone you want to see reflected in public spaces? On Friday, June 7th, to mark Season 3 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, CNN will host the Shape of History installation in Flatiron Plaza- unveiling 140 mirrored statues - the number of statues needed for equal gender representation in New York City. Made entirely of mirrors, each statue will represent women’s role in history. Give us a shout out on social media if you attend and don’t forget to add #WakeUp and #ShapeHistory to your post!