5 Recent Women-Led Protests That Changed the World

Women's voices echoing worldwide - from Iceland's equality strike to Iran's hijab defiance. Join the fight for abortion rights, resilience in Afghanistan, & the drive for gender equality. Experience the creative force of women in shaping a brighter world.

Oshi Saxena
New Update
Women Led Protests

(image Credits: The New York Times/BBC/CNBC)

On the global stage, women have consistently emerged as catalysts for transformation, leading the charge in pivotal social and political movements. These remarkable movements not only champion women's rights but challenge societal norms, fostering positive change globally.  


From Iceland's fight for gender equality to Iranian women unveiling freedom, and the battle for reproductive rights in the United States, these five recent protests, coupled with historical movements led by strong female voices, are forging a path towards a more equitable and compassionate world. 

Iceland's Struggle for Gender Equality: Unveiling the Inequalities

Iceland, often hailed as an "equality paradise," recently embarked on a historic journey toward gender equality. Tens of thousands of women and nonbinary individuals united for a one-day strike, a bold endeavour to address enduring workplace disparities. Although Iceland has earned global acclaim for its strides in gender equality, it recognises that more work remains.

The strike, witnessed by 25,000 rallying in Reykjavík, demonstrated the pivotal role of women in society. Schools, theatres, and even flights halted operations, underscoring the significance of this event. Yet, parity in wages and representation among senior officials has faced setbacks since 2021, with the wage gap still standing at 21 per cent. Moreover, a 2018 study unveiled that a quarter of Icelandic women reported experiencing sexual violence, emphasising an issue that urgently demands attention.


Iran Anti-Hijab Protest: Breaking Free from Oppression

The anti-hijab protests in Iran serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit of Iranian women. Triggered by the tragic death of a woman in custody, detained for alleged hijab law violation, these women displayed exceptional courage. Despite arrests, detention, and even death sentences, they ignited a flame that refuses to be extinguished. Their defiance challenges deeply ingrained societal norms and highlights that liberation is not about clothing but the freedom to choose.

From the bustling streets of India, Muskan Khan became an icon of defiance, asserting the right to wear what she chose. The movement against religious divisions reverberated globally, echoing a universal struggle against patriarchal oppression.

Protest Against Abortion Laws: Defending Autonomy and Justice


 In the United States, women have been at the forefront of protests against restrictive abortion laws. These laws jeopardize reproductive rights and disproportionately impact marginalised communities. Women have organised marches, rallies, and protests, passionately demanding lawmakers protect their right to safe and legal abortions. Their unwavering commitment in the face of opposition testifies to their dedication to autonomy and reproductive justice.

The futility of criminalising abortion in reducing abortion rates has been exposed by data, as restricted countries often witness a higher proportion of pregnancies ending in abortion. The consequences are grave, resulting in millions of unsafe abortions and maternal deaths. Protests erupted in Poland after a woman's tragic death due to a denied abortion, and in El Salvador, women fought against one of the world's strictest abortion bans, even in life-threatening situations. These instances underscore that criminalisation endangers those seeking an abortion, highlighting the urgent need for change.

Afghanistan: Resilience in the Face of Suppression

The suppression of women's rights in Afghanistan persisted despite the Taliban's promise to honour them. The suspension of university education for female students and the ban on girls returning to secondary schools drew widespread outrage. In response, female students and their male counterparts boycotted exams. The absence of a positive response from the Taliban fueled this protest, indicating deep dissatisfaction and unhappiness. 

In addition, women rallied against beauty salon closures in Kabul, demanding "work, bread, and justice." The Taliban's restrictions on women, including strict dress codes and travel limitations, have continued despite international condemnation. These events exemplify the resilience of Afghan women in the face of adversity.


Representation Matters: The Push for Gender Parity

Data illustrates the alarming underrepresentation of women at all levels of decision-making worldwide, emphasising that gender parity in politics remains a distant goal. In Manila and other parts of the world, thousands of women protested on International Women's Day in 2022, demanding more political power and government jobs.

Take the example of Cameroon, women constitute over half of Cameroon's population, yet not a single woman holds a position among the country's 10 regional governors or council presidents. 

The significance of women's presence at the decision-making table goes beyond fairness. Evidence suggests that when women are included, peace talks are less likely to fail, and resulting agreements endure. Women also play a pivotal role in conflict prevention and resolution. This principle extends to global issues, exemplified by the lack of female representation in the leadership of COP27, despite the proven benefits of female leadership in achieving positive climate outcomes.

Historical Protests with Strong Female Voices: 

Beyond these recent protests, history showcases the remarkable impact of women-led movements. From the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911, a turning point in labour rights, to the Korean Women's Democratic Party's demand for immediate independence in 1946, women's voices have long shaped history. 

Mops on the March in 1949 and the Women's Anti-Pass March in 1956 challenged economic injustice and apartheid in South Africa, respectively. The Silent March Against the Vietnam War in 1968 exemplified women as agents of peace, and the Chipko Movement in India, led by women in 1974, was a pioneering example of eco-feminism.

Women With Feminist Disabilities Collective in 1981 challenged beauty standards and the MeToo movement that emerged in 2017 amplified voices against sexual harassment and assault. The Anti-CAA Protest in India in 2019, led by women from diverse backgrounds, united for equality and democracy.

These women-led protests, recent and historical, form a symphony of strength, resilience, and determination. They remind us that the fight for gender equality, autonomy, and justice is a timeless battle, carried forward by the voices of women who refuse to be silenced. Each of these protests has changed the world and sowed the seeds of hope for a brighter, more inclusive future. As we honour their legacy, we recognise that the strength of women is the driving force behind positive change and progress.

Views expressed by the author are their own

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