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50 years of good news for women

Words by Smiley Team

How have women's rights evolved over the past 50 years? While there is still a way to go to achieve gender equality, a lot of moves have been made in the past five decades to give women better representation in our world.

Smiley's book – 50 Years of Good News – highlights some of the huge achievements made for women in the past 50 years. 

Here's a snapshot of what went right for women since the 1970s.

1976: Grameen Bank Spearheads Microcredits 

Community-based banking initiatives underline the effects of organized people power. When Grameen Bank first began making small loans known as microcredits to an impoverished region of Bangladesh without requiring collateral, this became a force for change in rural communities, by empowering women to help manage investments and make a real impact for their families. Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, and by 2015, the bank’s total borrowers numbered 8.8 million, 97 percent of whom were women. 

1980: World’s First Female President Is Elected in Iceland 

Iceland became the first country in the world to elect a female president when Vigdís Finnbogadóttir won the election against three men in 1980. But while Finnbogadóttir was elected as the globe’s first female president, she wasn’t the world’s first female leader—in 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became Sri Lanka’s first female prime minister when her political party won in a landslide election. Today, over seventy countries have had women elected or appointed as heads of state or government, a number that will only continue to climb.

1987: Aretha Franklin Becomes First Woman Elected to Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, made history in 1987 when she became the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, setting the stage for generations of female rockers to come. 

1988: Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto Becomes First Woman Leader of a Muslim Nation 

Benazir Bhutto made history when she was elected prime minister of Pakistan, becoming the first woman elected to lead a Muslim nation.

2005: Organization to Help Educate Girls of Rural China Is Launched 

While China launched a mission in the 1970s to lift every member of its population out of poverty, the government has acknowledged that its efforts have fallen short in certain rural areas of the country. To combat this gap in resources, Canadian NGO Educating Girls of Rural China aims to help improve the quality of education through scholarship programs, mentorship, career planning, personal development, confidence-building and mental health resources.

2006: The Gulabi Gang, a Movement for Justice for Women in India, Is Formed 

With a central mission to protect women from abuse and fight corruption, the Gulabi Gang is a vigilante group of women between the ages of 18 and 60, donning pink saris and wielding sticks to confront abusers across India. The group empowers women and keeps a watch on their local communities, fighting instances of social injustice.

2014: Malala Yousafzai Wins Nobel Peace Prize 

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in promoting education for all children and ending discrimination against girls. She shared the prize alongside Kailash Satyarthi, a fellow children’s rights activist from India.

2018: Women Gain Right to Drive in Saudi Arabia

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, lifted the ban on female drivers during the first year of his regime. More than 120,000 women applied for their first driver’s license the day the ban was lifted, as they finally took a seat behind the wheel instead of relying on private chauffeurs.

2018: Iceland Becomes First Country to Enforce Equal Pay Across Genders 

The new law requires companies to prove that they pay all of their employees fairly without gender discrimination, and if companies fail to comply, they have to pay a daily fine. This law is the first of its kind in the world, and covers both the public and the private sector. 

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