Women Empowerment: How Far We’ve Come

Throughout history, women have been subjected to the gravest of injustices - often treated as less than human. Even today, women are regarded as objects or vapid beings that don't know anything. The fight against discrimination and gender inequality has been long, hard and often violent. But women have persevered. Let's take a look and honour the struggle for women's rights and movements.

A Timeline of Global Women's Rights Movements

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft was an 18th-century writer and philosopher who is regarded as one of the founding members of the feminist movement (more on this later). Her most famous essay entitled A Vindication of the Rights of Woman(1792) argues that women appear inferior to men (even though they're not) because of lack of education. She argued that men and women must be treated equally and should both be regarded as rational beings. 

Fun fact: Her second daughter, Mary Shelley, is the author of the book Frankenstein!


Seneca Falls Convention

This convention, held in 1848, marks the beginning of the historic women's suffrage movement. A group of activists led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott gathered at Seneca Falls, New York, to press for women's rights. They declared "that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

For the next 50 years, women's suffrage supporters worked tirelessly to educate the public about the importance of women's rights.


The First International Women's Day

In a meeting in Copenhagen in 1910, it was decided that a day should be set aside to honour the women's rights movement and build support for women's suffrage. As a result, on March 19th, 1911, the International Women's Day was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

It was on this day that over one million men and women gathered and, together, rallied in support of women's right to vote, hold public office, enter the labour force and participate without discrimination!


The International Congress of Women

In the spring of 1915, over a thousand women delegates from the United States and eleven European nations gathered in the Hague for the first International Congress of Women (now known as the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom). The organisation now strives for peace and women's equality.

The United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations was formed on December 10th, 1948, after the Second World War. The newly-created organisation adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was the first international document to assert the “dignity and worth of the human person and the equal rights of men and women.” 

Later, at the 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, women's rights became widely recognised as fundamental human rights.

UN First World Conference on Women

Held in Mexico City in the year 1975 (International Women's Year), UN representatives from the 133 member nations created a Plan of Action to achieve objectives for the advancement of women over the next decade. The UN General Assembly also proclaimed 1976-1985 to be the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

This convention, passed by the United Nations General Assembly is widely regarded as an international bill of rights for women. It explicitly defines terms and phrases such as discrimination against women and outlines a vision of gender equality. 

Fun fact: As of 2017, 189 parties have ratified the treaty, making it the second most ratified UN human rights treaty!

UN Fourth World Conference on Women

As mentioned earlier, this conference, held in Beijing in September 1995, was attended by 17000 official participants and 30,000 activists. It is during this conference that Hillary Clinton (then-US First Lady) famously proclaimed that women's rights are human rights

The conference resulted in the unanimous adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by 189 countries. Global reviews are held every five years since this declaration’s passage to evaluate the progress made toward its realization.


The struggle for equality has been long and hard. To this day, in many parts of the world, there are women deprived of fundamental rights simply because of their gender. The fight for justice, freedom and equality can never end until every woman is respected and is treated no less than a man. 

To progress as a society, we must all unite against prejudices, stereotypes, sexism and violence. We all must stand together.