What happened in November 2020?

  • New Zealand: Nanaia Mahuta has become the first Maori woman to be appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs. She has vowed to bring a broader perspective to the role, promoting indigenous voices within global affairs. A member of parliament since she was 26, she served as the Minister for Maori Development between 2017-2020.  
  • Poland: After the huge protestation against the new law on abortion, the government has postponed the abortion ban. The abortion regulations in Poland are already one of the strictest in Europe. The protests continue and they have been the most important one since the fall of communism. 
  • USA:
    • Sarah Mcbride has become the first openly trans woman to be elected to the Senate. As a state senator for Delaware’s first district, she has become the country’s highest-ranking openly trans official. 
    • Kamala Harris is the first woman to be appointed as vice president. In addition, she is also the first Black and first South Asian woman vice president to ever be appointed.
    • Biden has chosen an all-women communication team.This is the first time in history that an all-women time has existed in the USA.    
    • Sydney Barber, a black woman, has been assigned the post of head of the USNaval academy. It is the first time in 175 years. 
  • Guatemala: Women have been protesting against femicide, including holding vigils on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Guatemalan Women’s Group estimates that, to date, 444 women have been murdered in 2020. 
  • Global:
    • International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women was marked worldwide on the 25th of November. The day was founded by the United Nations in 1999. The UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka referred to the continuation of violence against women as a “shadow pandemic” in her speech to mark the day. In Europe for example, ⅓ of women are victims of physical and/or sexual violence.
    • Actress Lashana Lynch has allegedly been cast as the new 007 agent in the James Bond franchise. It’s speculated that her character Nomi, who is to appear in the new James Bond film No Time to Die, will take over the 007 name after the retirement of James Bond. There has been a backlash against this news, resulting in Lynch suspending her Twitter account. In a statement at the GQ Men of the Year Awards, where she was honoured as best breakthrough actress, Lynch hit back at the “white patriarchy”. She said that the response to her casting was proof of how racist the film industry and society remain. 
  • Mexico: Queer activist Victoria Volkova has made history as the first trans woman to be on the cover of Playboy Mexico. Volkova has been a vocal LGBTQ+ activist in Mexico, the world’s second-deadliest country for trans people. She has stated that by being on the cover she hopes to encourage the celebration of different ways of being a woman. Playboy Mexico has also stated that they hope the issue will support openness and diversity within the country. 
  • Iran: Iranian human rights lawyer and activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, imprisoned since June 2018, has been temporarily released from Qarchak women’s prison in Tehran. Satoudeh has gone on hunger strike twice since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, demanding the release of other political prisoners at risk of infection due to the unhygienic and unsanitary conditions in the prison. The latest lasted six weeks, resulting in her hospitalization and subsequent release on medical furlough. She, and her husband, have since tested positive for Covid-19. If she recovers, it’s likely her return to prison will be expedited. However, a return to prison beforehand will deprive her of the medical care she needs. 
  • Libya: Hanan Al-Barassi, lawyer and human rights defender, was gunned down in the streets of Benghazi by a group of armed men on the 10th of November. Her killing came just a day after she made comments on social media criticising Khalifa Haftar, the son of a renegade military general and Libyan National Army leader. The Libyan National Army is currently in control of Benghazi. Libya’s UN-backed Government of the National Accord has condemned her killing.
  • Gabon: Two women have been arrested because they were kissing in public and risk two years of prison. They were accused of faking a gay marriage. The Gabonese punishment for acts against “good morals” can be up to two years in jail and CFA 2 million which is around 3  thousand euros.
  • Moldova: Maia Sandu has become the first woman president-elect of the ex-Soviet country. She is pro-European and ran on a platform of balancing relations between the West and Russia. Following her victory, against a pro-Russian incumbent, she has called for the withdrawal of its peacekeeping force from the self-proclaimed Transnistria Republic. At the moment, roughly 1,000 Russian troops are guarding 20,000 metric tonnes of ammunition as a decommissioned depot in Transnistria. Sandu is in favour of transferring this mission to an Organization for Security and Co-operation civilian observer mission. The UN previously called for the withdrawal of all Russian troops in 2018. 
  • Great Britain:
    • 18-year-old activist Mya-Rose Craig, nicknamed Birdgirl, has become the youngest British person to receive an honorary doctorate from Bristol University as well as becoming the youngest committee member of the RSPC. She has campaigned for greater ethnic diversity in nature, conservation, environment, and wildlife funding. Her organisation Black2Nature aims to inspire young visible ethnic minority people to get involved in nature and environmental issues. 
    • The “Rail of Refuge” program gives free train tickets to people experiencing domestic abuse to get to a refuge. Started at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has recently been extended until March 2021. 61% of women in abusive relationships said Covid-19 had exacerbated the abuse, while 78.3% said it made it harder for them to escape the situation. 
  • Saudi Arabia: Women’s rights activist Nassima al-Sada was imprisoned in 2018 for asking for the right to drive. Amnesty International, ahead of the December G20 summit, is calling for the immediate release of her and other women’s rights activists still languishing in jail. Saudi Arabia is claiming significant reforms to women’s rights – they are being branded as hypocrites for failing to release the women who fought for these rights. 
  • Scotland: Scotland has become the first country to provide free menstrual hygiene products. The bill was unanimously passed and requires that local authorities must ensure such products are generally available free of charge. They will be available in all schools, colleges and universities, as well as in designated public spaces. The measure is estimated to cost 24 million GBP annually. The Scottish Government has declared that the measure aims to promote the dignity, equality, and human rights of all. 
  • Germany: The Government has introduced a new mandatory quota of at least 30% women on the executive boards of public companies who have 3 or more board members. A voluntary commitment to gender equality on boards has existed since 2015 but has failed to have a significant impact. At the moment, women only make up 12.8% of management boards in the 30 largest companies listed on the blue-chip Dax Index. The number of women in senior executive positions has also fallen this year to 23, down from 29 in September 2019. 
  • South Sudan: A staunch campaigner for peace, human rights, and gender equality, Awut Deng Acuil has become the first woman to be elected as the head of a University. Following a presidential decree, she had been appointed as head of the board of governors at Bahr El Ghazal University. She previously became the first southern Sudanese woman to become foreign minister in August 2019, before serving as Minister of Education since February this year. In 2002 she was the second African woman to be awarded the International Humanitarian Award, after Grace Mandela. Awut Deng Acuil has surely beaten the odds to make it to where she is now – married in her teens, she and her children spent many years exiled in Kenya during the liberation struggle, in which her husband ultimately died. 


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