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Public Voices Fellowship on Advancing the Rights of Women and Girls

To ensure gender equality becomes a reality for all women and girls in our evolving world, profound and transformational new ideas are needed in all industries and specialisms. This requires fresh, bold, radical thinkers whose ideas break down the barriers that continue to hold women and girls back. 

Equality Now is delighted to announce its partnership with The OpEd Project and Senior Advisor Ann MacDougall in sponsoring the Public Voices Fellowship on Advancing the Rights of Women and Girls. This Fellowship is part of The OpEd Project’s Public Voices initiative to change who writes history, and Equality Now’s mission to create a just world for all women and girls. People who have taken part have had their work published in international news outlets, in books, podcasts, radio shows, and many other mainstream media. 

The OpEd Project is a social venture and leadership organization, founded to change who writes history. They are a community of thought leaders, journalists, commentary writers, and activists who proactively share our skills, knowledge, and connections across color, creed, class, age, ability, gender, orientation, and beyond. 

Through their nationally-recognized curriculum, their team of journalist mentors, and through a portfolio of programs in partnership with leading institutions across the nation and the globe, they accelerate solutions to the world’s biggest problems – problems that cannot be solved justly or sustainably without a diversity of voices, expertise, experience, and identity. They believe the best ideas, regardless of where they come from, should have a chance to be heard and to change the world.

Changing who writes history

For the Public Voices Fellowship on Advancing the Rights of Women and Girls, Equality Now and The OpEd Project are seeking to assemble a cohort of twenty diverse thought leaders to join a fellowship that will receive a year-long program of training and mentoring. All workshops will be provided free of charge and shall be held virtually so participants can join online from around the world.

Fellows will represent a wide diversity of backgrounds and specialisms and we are looking for individuals with fresh ideas to share about strengthening the rights of women and girls, and who are coming from a place of expertise or unique personal experience. 

Some will be the voice of a new generation, others will provide insight gained from decades of experience. These individuals will come from a range of sectors and will have a demonstrated desire and ability to disrupt established assumptions and offer new ways of thinking, understanding, and doing. 

Why this fellowship?

We stand at a critical juncture for women’s and girls’ rights. During the past fifty years, great strides have been made globally in advancing gender equality. However, the pace and reach of reform has been uneven and piecemeal, and gender discrimination remains commonplace in both law and practice. 

At the current rate of change, the global gender gap will not close for another century. In many regions, reactionary forces are seeking to roll back legal rights for women and girls, and the gendered impact of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates how fragile and tentative hard-won progress can be.

To defend and strengthen women’s rights, there is an urgent need for new ideas from a diversity of individuals situated across geography, age, sexual orientation, race, and other intersectional identities. Coming from a variety of arenas, these thought leaders can provide the innovative perspectives and solutions needed to accelerate gender parity and forge an equitable future for all women and girls, everywhere.

Worldwide, women have on average just three-quarters of the rights of men. In no country have women achieved economic equality, and many of the problems that disproportionately impact women and girls – such as sexual and domestic violence, limited access to education, low pay, child and forced marriage, and lack of sexual and reproductive rights – are all underpinned by persistent gender inequity. 

One in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, regardless of age, background or location, and every country in the world has laws that treat women and girls as second-class citizens. 

Harmful cultural norms and practices sanctified by religion and traditions remain big barriers to progressing women’s rights. So too are the myriad of gaps and weaknesses within sexual violence laws and policies, which result in women and girls being denied protection and access to justice and foster the perpetuation of sexual and gender-based violence.

And yet, gender equality benefits everyone. Research clearly demonstrates that when women are given the same rights as men there is a positive ripple effect, whether it relates to economic development and poverty reduction, environmental protection, or peace and security.

Governments and civil society in many countries have helped narrow the education and health divide between men and women, and a majority of countries guarantee sex equality in their constitutions. We have seen that when gender equality is made a priority, huge gains are achieved across the board.

The widespread disruption caused by the COVID19 pandemic must be seized upon as an opportunity to create more gender-equal and sustainable societies. We need a world that is better equipped to deal with the myriad of challenges facing humanity, including the climate crisis, life in the digital age, and shifts in geopolitical and ideological landscapes. It is vital that women are given a seat at the table so they can stand up for their rights, be empowered socially and economically, and provide positive solutions.

>> Explore the twenty inspiring individuals who are part of the 2022 fellowship.