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Want equality? Be patient, girls. We need centuries.

In 2015, we were told that we’d achieve equality by 2030 — or so said the UN in its Sustainable Development Goals. A plan was drawn up, and countries were told to get their houses in order. Every year we get an update on how we’re doing.

And this year, just eight years shy of our supposed finish line, we’re told that we’re a long way off. Centuries, in fact.

We’re getting used to empty promises. And we’re getting used to being sidelined, being told that this isn’t “our time,” that we should “be patient.” Well, I for one have never been a patient person. And certainly NOT NOW.

Where did I get this depressing info from?!

It seems we were never on track to reach global gender equality by 2030, in fact, the data estimates that we might not reach this goal until 2108! I don’t expect most of us will be around to see it.

Meanwhile, we keep churning out documents reminding us why we need to empower women and girls. Why do we need reminding?

The UN’s 2022 Gender Snapshot gave us a few bleak blips — most of which we’ve been saying for decades. What the Snapshot adds to our understanding is this: things are getting worse.

Firstly, women and girls are the majority of the world’s poor — over 380 million women and girls are in poverty.

Women are discriminated against by law. In 104 countries, laws still exist that restrict the type of work women can do — for example needing permission from their husbands before pursuing a new job. And it’ll take another 286 years to close the gaps in legal protection for women.

Women represent only 26% of some 35,500 parliament seats and just 23% of over 3,400 ministers worldwide. Certainly, not all power is politics — but these are visible positions. Here, in political life, inequality is most visible because women are rendered virtually invisible.

In the economy, women continue to be exploited, underpaid, or not paid at all. The wage gap is real — with women earning 83 cents to every man’s dollar. If the pay gap were to close, the world’s GDP could grow by $12 trillion by 2025.

I could go on. You’ve heard me say this before. But it’s worth repeating, lest we become complacent. This is not how things were supposed to go!

The bottom line is that achieving equality for women is not just inaccessible — it’s impossible.

Do I need to explain why equality is important? It would be rather baffling if this wasn’t obvious to absolutely everyone. Equality is a right. It is non-negotiable. It is not up for interpretation. It applies to everyone. Yup — everyone. Living humans — all of us.

And who would argue against this?! The truth is that without gender equality, we’ve got zero hope for a safe, just, sustainable future. In short — we’re screwed.

The reality is that no country in the world has achieved equality. Not a single one. I’m not making this up. Global statistics show that the gender gap is increasing.

In 2020, we learned that it would take 100 years to close the gender gap. In 2021, this number grew to 136, and in 2022 it decreased to 132 years. A micro-decrease. But still, this means that another generation of women and girls will have to wait for gender equality. And this means that none of us reading (or writing) this blog right now will actually live to see it. That’s not something I’m willing to accept.

As long as we keep moving backwards, we are leaving more and more women and girls behind.

So, why are we still talking about this? Shouldn’t we all be really angry — and do something?

Read the full blog here!

Was Madeleine Albright a feminist?

Lina AbiRafeh

Madeleine Albright died today. She was 84.

Much will be written about her life and legacy in the coming hours and days. But the question I want to tackle is this: Was Madeleine Albright a feminist?

She was a “first”. The first woman to serve as US Secretary of State. A political pioneer. In many ways, she paved the way for women in senior positions in the US government… was that enough?

Being the first woman to do this or that may not make you a feminist, but there’s more to her story…

Madeleine Albright was born Marie Jana Korbelova in Prague in 1937, raised in Communist Yugoslavia, and moved to the United States in 1948. She was an immigrant. She was a daughter of refugees. This in and of itself is important.

Albright attended an all-girls high school and a women’s college, educated in environments that fostered and encouraged girls to speak out. She received further degrees from Columbia University.

Albright went on to serve as the US ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997 and then US Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001 — the highest-ranking woman in the history of the US government at that time. That’s a big deal.

She understood the importance of her role, and knew that she was a trailblazer for women in politics, stating that it is “perfectly possible for a woman to be secretary of state” and, upon the appointment of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State in 2005, said “I am delighted that there is second one.”

In 2001, she was appointed Chairwoman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Washington, DC. She remained Chairwoman until her death. In 2010, she founded the Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College, her alma mater. Albright was also a lifetime trustee of The Aspen Institute and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2012.

Yes, ok, but does that make her a feminist?

She was a champion of democracy, an opponent of totalitarianism and fascism. All of this makes sense, given her origins and upbringing. “It took me a long time to find my voice. But having found it, I’m not going to shut up,” she said. “I’m going to use it to the best of my ability in terms of making sure that democracy is our form of government and that those around the world that want to live in a democracy have a possibility to do so.”

In terms of her politics, she was anything but timid. She coined the term “assertive multilateralism” to describe the Clinton administration’s foreign policy, and NATO’s airstrikes in Kosovo were known as “Albright’s War”. She called for aggressive military action in Iraq, and was involved in Israel/Palestine peace talks. She says the US failure to act in Rwanda was her “greatest regret from that time.”

Albright’s most famous line might possibly be this: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

But she said much more. During her time as a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, she would tell female students to “be ready to interrupt,” especially in male dominated spaces. “Some man says it and everybody thinks it’s brilliant, and you think, Why did I not talk?”

And she understood all too well what it meant to be the only woman in the room. “If we are in a meeting,” she said, “we are there for a reason — not to just sit there and absorb but to state what we believe in.” Women’s silence is too high a price to pay — we undoubtedly belong in positions of power and decision-making. She said it — and she lived it.

“It is unfortunately true that there is plenty of room in the world for mediocre men,” she argued, “but there is no room for mediocre women.” Women are held to a higher standard — simply because they are women. Albright saw that women were constantly expected to prove themselves, while men got the same opportunities handed to them freely.

“That is where my statement originated — there is a special place in hell for women who do not help each other.” She went on to explain that women can do better, be stronger, go farther, if we “support each other in the lives that we have chosen.” Men don’t need to do this, she explained, but we do. And when we do, it will make all the difference.

Despite this, she came under criticism in 2016 when she advocated for women to support Hillary Clinton, arguing that “the first female commander in chief would be a true revolution.” Some women pushed back, saying that we should not direct our votes to women simply because they are women. But Clinton would have been a pioneer. Another important first. Perhaps the most important. In any case, that did not come to pass. What Albright recognized intimately — painfully — was how hard it was for Clinton to get as close to that position as she did.

Based on comments made in her capacity as Secretary of State, she came under feminist fire again because of her “white feminism” which critics said didn’t “embrace intersectional analysis on race, class, and sexuality.” The representation of an “incomplete definition of feminism” is no doubt harmful and such criticism certainly has a place. However, we should not be so quick to dismiss Albright and negate her life’s work on account of it. We can hold two truths at once — that she was a woman who played an important role for women in politics, and that her politics were also imperfect. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. So as feminists, we shouldn’t dismiss her — even with her flaws — because there is always room to be more feminist.

In the end, we ask again: Was Madeleine Albright a feminist? It depends on what definition we’re working with. Even though she never branded herself exclusively as a feminist, she was a feminist in part — a feminist for her time. She opened a door for women — and she helped other women through it. Most importantly, her life paved the way for other women who embrace a more robust definition of feminism. In the end, no one’s life can be cleanly labeled. Ultimately, the point is not about whether you or I approve of her life or her political choices, rather it is to raise the question and let everyone decide for themselves based on their own definition of feminism. And let’s hope that we too are feminists, in whatever ways we’re capable of, in whatever spaces we occupy.

Originally published here: