Image by Katherine Hanlon

WOMEN IN 2020

14/12/20
Myreen Tahra Edwards

How girls all over the world are fighting against the odds and accomplishing their goals this year – a little uplifting news to read.


2020 – just saying the name can almost give you a headache. Let’s just say, it’s definitely a year that will go down in history. But let’s not get caught up in all the negatives – in trying times, we must remind ourselves of all the good that still exists. For example, in spite of all the hurdles, women all over the world are still doing some amazing things. Now that the year is drawing to a close, let’s take a look at six women who are making the best of this strange year and breaking barriers in the face of it all!


1.     Svetlana Tikhanovskaya


Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is a Belarusian politician and human rights activist who has found herself at the center of political turmoil in Belarus surrounding the 2020 presidential election. After her husband, fellow activist Sergei Tikhanovsky, a candidate in the election, was arrested in May, she decided to run in his place. Allegations of fraud were brought up immediately after the elections, which showed incumbent Lukashenko winning with eighty percent of the votes. Enduring repeated harassment and even death threats, she fled to Lithuania. Since then, she has continued to be active in politics and speaking up about Belarus.

In fact, Lukashenko just last week announced that he will step down after a new constitution is adopted.


2.     Mariska Hargitay


If you’ve watched Law & Order SVU, you will recognize Mariska Hargitay as the no-nonsense NYPD officer investigating sex crimes and fighting for justice for women. Something you may not know, however, is that she is an activist in real life too! She is trained as a rape crisis counselor and has started a nonprofit organization, the Joyful Heart Foundation, that supports survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. One of the foundation’s main projects is the End the Backlog initiative, which deals with the astonishing number of untested rape kits just sitting in backlog in the U.S.


3.     K.K. Shailaja


K.K. Shailaja is an Indian politician and the current Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Kerala state, where she is from. Not a newbie to infectious diseases, she also faced an outbreak of Nipah virus in 2018 during her first term as minister. She has received international attention this year for her response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Kerala, being honored by the UN and featured in Vogue Magazine! Her determined attitude and enthusiasm to get involved will come in handy as she continues to fight coronavirus in Kerala. 

  

4.     Ozlem Tureci


Another woman fighting against COVID-19 is Ozlem Tureci, the chief medical officer of BioNTech, an immunotherapy company she co-founded with her husband. BioNTech and Pfizer recently made headlines after developing a coronavirus vaccine that has been ninety percent effective in human trials. Aside from working to develop vaccines, Tureci also works with cancer immunotherapies. She believes the most important thing she’s learned in the last few years is to “stick to the vision” and not give up.


 5.     Billie Eilish


While this name might seem a little out of place on this list, Billie Eilish has joined the growing ranks of teens and young adults speaking up against climate change. Before she had to cancel her 2020 tour due to the coronavirus pandemic, she had announced efforts to make the tour as eco-friendly as possible, such as banning plastic straws and installing informational booths at each show. This year she has also continued to back the Music Declares Emergency organization, a group of artists and music industry professionals calling for environmental change. She also uses her platform to encourage young people to vote, particularly in the recent 2020 U.S. presidential elections. 


6.     Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul


Recent pro-democracy protests in Thailand have been rocking the country recently, and among the most active organizers and protesters are young women – many of them students. Thai student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul is one of these leaders. Women like Sithijirawattanakul are speaking out more and more against a long tradition of patriarchy in Thailand in many aspects of life from military to government to religion. Sithijirawattanakul says she “shouldn’t be afraid to say that men have almost all the power in Thailand.” While these words may seem like a small step, they are important to vocalize and help empower other women to stand up for their rights.