In the wake of global health emergency COVID-19, increased conflict and rapid climate change, these are worrying times. We could all do with a reason to celebrate – so, in honour of last month’s International Women’s Day, we have rounded up 10 good news stories by and for women, to show that real positive change is afoot.
1. The world’s first Vagina Museum opened in London
Opened last year, the bricks and mortar space in North London’s Camden Market is the first museum dedicated to vaginas, vulvas and the gynaecological anatomy. Founded by science communicator Florence Schechter and curated by Sarah Creed, the museum aims to raise awareness and eradicate the stigma surrounding the female body and gynaecological anatomy, whilst promoting intersectional, feminist and trans-inclusive values. Currently exhibiting ‘Muff Busters: Vagina Myths and How To Fight Them.’
The Vagina Museum at Unit 17&18, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AH. Open 7 days a week, with free admission.
2. First all-female spacewalk took place
Nasa astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir embarked on the historic mission to repair the outside of the International Space Station (ISS) in October last year. Originally scheduled for 7 months earlier, the space walk was delayed because the ISS only had one suitably sized spacesuit on board. Their mission brought the number of women to complete spacewalks to 16, in comparison to 213 men. Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya holds the title as the first woman to walk in space, outside the USSR’s Salyut 7 space station in 1984.
3. Abortion was legalised in Northern Ireland
As of October 2019, abortion has been decriminalised in Northern Ireland. Previously, under Sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, anyone who accessed abortion services were subject to investigation and prosecution. Now, the UK Government will pay for women to travel to England for the procedure in the interim period, until adequate services are in place. However, Section 25 of the 1945 Criminal Justice Act means that abortions ‘where the foetus is capable of being born alive’ are still illegal.
4. Greta Thunberg
Need we say more? The awe-inspiring Swedish teenager has arguably done more for the environmentalist movement to halt climate change than any other individual or group. The Fridays for Future strikes across the world began a movement with unstoppable momentum. 2019 was a massive year for Greta. Not only did she grace the cover of Time Magazine in May, she addressed September’s UN Climate Action Summit in New York.
5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever to be elected to US office
Having defeated 10-term incumbent Joe Crawley in June 2018 in the Democratic Party’s primary election for New York’s 14th congressional district, at just 29 Miss Ocasio-Cortez was elected to the US House of Representatives in January last year. The youngest woman ever to serve in the US Congress, AOC (as she is known) challenges traditional stereotypes for politicians with her significant social media presence (4.2M Instagram followers and counting!).
Alongside three other female Democrats, Netflix documentary Knock Down The House charts Ocasio-Cortez’s primary campaigns for Congress.
6. First all-female music festival took place in Dorset
Created to celebrate women in music, HearHer describes itself as an ‘indoor boutique festival with an all female line up’. In conjunction with PRS Foundation initiative Keychange, HearHer is part of a wider movement to achieve a 50/50 gender split on music festival lineups by 2022. Founded by actress, musician and LGBT activist Heather Peace, the first Hear Her festival took place in Poole last year.
7. The Booker Prize was won jointly by two female authors
October saw the historic judgment that saw Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo named joint winners of the 2019 Booker Prize. The judging panel defied the rule prohibiting joint winners to award both The Testaments and Girl, Woman, Other the illustrious title and half the £100,000 prize money. Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments is set 15 years on in the fictional world of Gilead. Girl, Woman, Other is Evaristo’s eighth fictional work. It tells the stories of 12 different women.
8. Upskirting was made illegal
Upskirting, the act of taking a sexually intrusive photograph up someone’s skirt without their permission, became a criminal offence in February 2019. The Voyeurism (Offences) Act was passed after an 18-month campaign by activist and author Gina Martin. After falling victim to it at a festival, Ms Martin launched an online petition to criminalise upskirting under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
9. Sex Education will become compulsory in UK schools
From September 2020, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) will become compulsory from age 11 in England as part of the national curriculum for science. The Children and Social Work Act 2017 requires all secondary schools (excluding academies and free schools) to teach RSE. In addition, all English primary schools must teach Relationships Education as part of the science curriculum.
10. Scotland became the first country in the UK to offer free period products
In an effort to tackle period poverty, last month the Scottish Parliament approved the Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland Bill, to make menstrual products (tampons, pads and other feminine hygiene products) free of charge. The new law, when passed, will mean that the Scottish government must provide free period products ‘for anyone who needs them’. This extends the existing law, put in place in 2018, which ensures free tampons and pads in all Scottish schools, colleges and universities.