Lawyers Jessica Neuwirth, Navanethem "Navi" Pillay and Feryal Gharahi founded Equality Now in 1992 with the mission of using the law to protect and promote the human rights of women and girls.
At the time, women’s rights weren’t recognized as human rights. Domestic violence was just life. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was a cultural rite of passage. Child marriage was a local custom. And rape was seen as an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of war and civil unrest.
Legal advocacy at every level
Equality Now learned that by directing public and media attention from all over the world on individual cases of abuse, while also advocating with policymakers and at the United Nations, we could put significant international pressure on governments to enforce and enact good laws – laws that defend women’s rights.
We want to make discrimination against women history.
Equality Now is dedicated to:
- Gender Equality: Women and girls are fundamentally equal to men and boys.
- Universality: Everyone, everywhere, has the right to live without violence and discrimination.
- Partnership: We value strong reciprocal relationships with organizations and activists who also champion equality.
- Speaking Up and Out: Where others see controversy, we see opportunities for activism and change.
With persistence and the help of our partners and supporters, Equality Now helps change laws and attitudes.
- In 1993, UNICEF was spending just $100,000 USD/year to combat FGM, which affected more than 100 million girls at the time. Equality Now launched a global campaign calling for increased funding and UNICEF stepped up its efforts. Currently UNICEF/ UNFPA budgets nearly $91 million to end FGM.
- In 1993, Equality Now mounted an investigation into Radovan Karadzic’s horrific campaign of torture, rape and forced pregnancies during the Bosnian war. We testified before Congressional hearings and helped recruit women attorneys to gather evidence on behalf of the UN War Crimes Commission. Radovan was indicted in 1995 and in March 2016, was convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by a UN tribunal in the Hague.
- In 1996, Equality Now became one of the first organizations to take on sex tourism. We began a series of campaigns against U.S. companies exploiting women and girls through overseas which ultimately led to indictments, convictions, and laws that made sex tourism a crime.
- In 1999, Equality Now launched our first campaign to put an end to laws that treat women and men unequally. Since then, we’ve continued to push governments to make all laws gender equal – and we’re bringing more and more organizations and individuals to the cause. To date, more than 50 of the sexist laws Equality Now has highlighted over the years have been repealed or amended by their governments.