Points of Progress: Where women are seeing gains, globally

Places where the world saw progress, for the Aug. 3, 2020 Monitor Weekly.

1. Canada

The U.S.-based National Women’s Hockey League announced the opening of a franchise in Toronto, offering hope that women’s sports will not be abandoned during the pandemic. In the middle of national shutdowns, the NWHL has established a new team named the Toronto Six, after the Canadian city’s nickname. It is the first time the league, formed in 2015 and the first to pay women a salary for playing hockey, will have a presence beyond the U.S. The move is not without critics, but coming a year after the demise of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League – for lack of financing – it will mark a major advance for women in sport when the season opens in late fall. 

– Sara Miller Llana, Staff writer

Why We Wrote This

This is more than feel-good news – it's where the world is making concrete progress. A roundup of positive stories to inspire you.

2. United States

The U.S. Army Special Forces has welcomed its first female Green Beret, a major milestone for one of the last all-male branches of the Army. Green Berets are considered experts in unconventional warfare and counterterrorism. It’s against Army Special Operations Command policy to release the names of newly minted soldiers due to “unique missions assigned upon graduation,” but the female graduate of Special Forces training has captured media attention. A former military intelligence officer, Kathleen Wilder, completed the Army’s Special Forces Qualification Course back in 1980, but was not allowed to graduate at the time. She filed a sex discrimination complaint and was later sent a graduation certificate. At the July 9 graduation ceremony, Lt. Gen. Fran Beaudette encouraged the new class of “Green Beret men and women” to “smash through stereotypes, innovate, and achieve the impossible.” (Army Times, CNN

– Lindsey McGinnis, Staff writer

3. Latin America

Latin America is on pace to close its gender gap in 59 years, a huge jump from the 74 years expected in 2018. This puts the region just behind Western Europe, which is expected to close gender disparities in the workforce, education, access to health, and political empowerment in 54 years. The World Economic Forum, which issues the annual Global Gender Gap Index, says the sudden advance was due to regional improvements, particularly in political empowerment. Mexico, for example, leaped up the rankings this year after nearly tripling the number of women serving in ministerial positions (15.8% to 42.1%). With local and federal elections slated this year in nations from Chile to Brazil, the region could slash several more years off its journey toward gender equality. (World Economic Forum)

– Whitney Eulich, Special correspondent

4. Middle East

Arab women are serving as government ministers in record numbers. With women serving in nine of 33 ministerial posts, the United Arab Emirates has the highest ratio of female cabinet members in the Gulf. In December, Kuwait named a record three women as ministers. Saudi Arabia recently appointed women as deputy minister of labor and social development and deputy director-general for alimony affairs – a first for each role. And 25% of Jordan’s latest cabinet are women. Arab women are not only being better represented in government, but are also rising to significant posts. In January, Lebanese politician Zeina Akar Adra became the Arab world’s first female defense minister and now helms the country’s national security efforts and armed forces. 

– Taylor Luck, Special correspondent

5. Nigeria

Nigerian leaders pledge a state of emergency over rape and gender-based violence. After Nigerian women took to the streets en masse in early June to protest a series of high-profile rapes and murders of young women, the country’s government did something surprising: It listened. In mid-June, Nigeria’s 36 state governors each promised to declare a state of emergency over violence against women, and pledged to start the country’s first sex offender registry.

Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters
People raise awareness about sexual violence in Abuja, Nigeria, June 5, 2020. Nigeria has vowed to create a sex offender registry.

While it remains to be seen if they will all come through, activists say they have never before seen this kind of momentum against gender-based violence. “This is a generation that says enough is enough,” Chioma Agwuegbo, one of the protests’ organizers, told Quartz Africa. (Quartz Africa)

– Ryan Lenora Brown, Staff writer

6. South Korea

South Korean women are mobilizing around gender rights as never before, making significant gains. The latest advance came during April elections, when more women – 57 – were elected to parliament than at any time since the country democratized in 1987. The ruling Democratic Party enjoyed a landslide victory and now has 30 female legislators. The new Women’s Party, the country’s first feminist party, won 200,000 votes but no seats.

Heo Ran/Reuters
Women cast their ballots for the parliamentary election in Seoul, South Korea, on April 10, 2020.

South Korea ranks 117th in the world for women’s political representation. But the country’s momentum on gender issues is unmistakable, as women’s gains in education raise pressure for greater equality in the workplace and at home, and younger women help energize a #MeToo movement. (Inter-Parliamentary Union)

– Ann Scott Tyson, Staff writer

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