Equality Now's 2016 “Make Equality Reality” gala was a stunning success celebrating activism and action for women's and girls' rights.

On December 5, 2016, hundreds of business and thought leaders, philanthropists, celebrities, activists and friends attended Equality Now’s third Make Equality Reality fundraising gala in Beverly Hills, California. Joining gala co-chairs Gloria Steinem, Susan Smalley, PhD, Paula Ravets, PhD, and Susan Hassan, the audience was inspired by the humor and passion of four powerhouses for change: Jane Fonda (award winning actress, activist and Equality Now Adolescent Girls’ Legal Defense Fund Advisory Board Member), Jaha Dukureh (Equality Now partner, female genital mutilation (FGM) survivor activist and TIME 100 honoree), and Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes (award winning film producers of “He Named Me Malala” / Parkes + MacDonald Image Nation). 

View pictures from the event (click picture to expand):

2016 Make Equality Reality

Host Matt McCoy kicked off the event by introducing Global Executive Director Yasmeen Hassan, who spoke on the critical situation for gender equality, justice and human rights. Recognizing the amazing examples of world-changing activism in the room, she stated, "[w]e know communities are more peaceful, safe and prosperous when women are treated equally with men...We need your help to make equality a reality for women and men alike." 

Lily Tomlin introduced her "partner in crime of 40 years," Jane Fonda. Jane had the audience laughing before speaking on the importance of investing in girls, because "what happens to girls around the world will help determine the kind of future we have."   

Gloria Steinem took to the stage to introduce Jaha Dukureh, an activist who has been working to end FGM since she was a teenager. Jaha eloquently spoke on her own experience with FGM and child marriage and how the youth, especially girls, are behind her determination to see an end to FGM within a generation. She stated, "[i]t is youth who bring hope and energy to the campaign. For them, equality is a reality, and they are ready to run with it."

Debbie Allen introduced her friends Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes, with a special video message from Malala Yousafzai. Laurie and Walter highlighted the importance of speaking up, stating "[w]e try to do no harm...try to work with deeply talented people. And, every now and then, you'll get lucky and make something that might just leave the world a slightly better place." 

Between the honorees, members of the GoodCapp Arts Ensemble, Lola Blackmann and Odley Jean, delivered powerful monologues written and directed by Katie Cappiello. Lola and Odley moved the audience with their portrayals of girls' experiences dealing with the objectification of their bodies and female genital mutilation (FGM). Closing out the evening, Maria Bello introduced a special music performance by the iconic band, The Bangles. 

Equality Now surpassed its fundraising goal, which will go a long way to help the organization continue its work to create a just world for women and girls. This was bolstered by a surprise fundraising challenge and match from supporters Karen Lehner and Joss Whedon, relayed by actress and activist, Daphne Zuniga. Make Equality Reality was generously supported by Vanguard of Change partner, The Ultraviolet Edge, Urban Decay’s global initiative to empower women.  Their incredible $100,000 donation will support Equality Now's work to create a just world for women.

Watch the powerful remarks and performances:

EQN Yasmeen Hassan Speech

Yasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director of Equality Now

The Naked Truth: Emma's Story

Lola Blackmann performs "The Naked Truth," written and directed by Katie Cappiello

EQN Jane Fonda Speech

Honoree Jane Fonda, actor, activist and Adolescent Girls' Legal Defense Fund (AGLDF) Advisory Board Member - 
"The work that Equality Now has done for adolescent girls around the world has been life-changing - not only for the girl herself, but for the society that she lives in. I am delighted to receive this honor and stand alongside them as they continue to do this vital work.” 

Her Story, Uncut: Deka's Story

Odley Jean performs a piece from "Her Story, Uncut," written and directed by Katie Cappiello

EQN Gloria Steinem Speech

Gloria Steinem, activist, author and Equality Now Board member

EQN Jaha Dukureh Speech

Honoree Jaha Dukureh, FGM survivor activist, Time 100 honoree and founder of Safe Hands for Girls -
"I've worked alongside Equality Now since the age of 15 and to receive this honor in LA is nothing short of extraordinary." 

Honorees Laurie MacDonald & Walter Parkes

Honorees Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes, Parkes + MacDonald Image Nation, Producers of "He Named Me Malala" -
"The mission of Equality Now is more urgent now than ever --  their activism and advocacy has already changed the lives of so many women and girls around the globe,  which is why we are so deeply honored to be a part of this event."

Equality Now is deeply appreciative of everyone who contributed to making the evening a success, and would like to extend a special thank you to:



Maria Bello
Sarah Brokaw
Janie Bryant
Maggie Grace
Judy Hofflund & Tom Hansen
Christine Lahti
Bethany Joy Lenz
Kathy Najimy

Aubrey Plaza
Michele & Rob Reiner
Paul Reiser
Jazmyn Simon & Dulé Hill
Mary Steenburgen & Ted Danson
Joss Whedon
Daphne Zuniga


Marcy Carsey
Susan Hassan
Lynda & Stewart Resnick
Jami Gertz
Herzer Foundation
Monica & Philip Rosenthal

Erika J. Glazer
Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes
Susan Smalley PhD. & Kevin Wall
Paula Ravets PhD. & Paul Reiser