A woman walks past a mural calling for women and children's rights in Afghanistan on August 12, 2022 in Bamian, Afghanistan.
A woman walks past a mural calling for women and children's rights in Afghanistan on August 12, 2022 in Bamian, Afghanistan. © Nava Jamshidi/Getty Imagea

The Struggle Starts by Speaking Out

Giving voice and driving change takes sustained, collective effort.

Friday, 8 March, 2024

The standardised game of football was invented in England, but from 1921-70, women were banned from Football Association (FA) grounds.

It took 103 years for the women’s game to recover. Currently, the Arsenal Women’s team sells out matches at the “men’s” stadium and is setting new attendance records– at long last, routinely exceeding the levels last seen a century ago.

This progress could only be achieved through collective effort – commitment from the players, fans, FA, media, business, schools, clubs and (in my own modest contribution) parents. Changing structures, changing minds, creating broad and sustainable social engagement. And lots of driving.

Nava Jamshidi/Getty Images

If the road can be so long for something so non-controversial, how about in other environments, on other issues? The right to choose, the right to work, the right to speak out, the right not to be abused online, the right to equal power.

As we mark International Women’s Day, it is vital to keep in mind success stories, because in many areas the road ahead remains far too long.

It is especially disheartening to see crushing reversals, none more so than in Afghanistan, where the Taleban takeover has wiped out two decades of hard-won progress by Afghan women. Remarkably, some women journalists continue to speak out against this extreme repressive ideology. We are proud to be supporting them, and we are humbled in this special package to highlight some of their searing reports.

In a virtual world, our thoroughfares – where we traffic day to day – are online, and it is courageous of our stalwart Middle East and North Africa country director Nadia Samet-Warren to speak out about her personal struggle against online abuse as a woman of colour working in the region. We are so proud of her. 

In Ukraine, the war continues, as Russia seeks to reverse that country’s democratic will. Amid the ravages of bombing and assault, and significant gender-based violence, women and men must also struggle to assert their values and human dignity, as the inspirational story of Kyiv District Court Judge Yuliia Matveeva shows.

The struggle is long and takes sustained, collective effort. Giving voice, driving change – as this collection of reports attest, it starts by speaking out.

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