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9 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM


A modern movement for women’s rights
by Maria Mohsin

World Economic Forum's ‘2017 Global Gender Gap Report’ says gender parity is still over 200 years away. According to the report, this is the most important time to keep motivating and standing up for women. For International Women’s Day (March 8) this year, declared their theme as ‘#PressforProgress’, while the United Nation’s theme was ‘Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives’.

Both the themes were influenced by recent hashtags like #MeToo, #TimesUp and many more, which captured headlines and public discourse. The hashtags in turn were fuelled by a global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice, and a rising determination to end all sorts of harassment, violence and discrimination against them.  

Here are some hashtags used on popular social media sites and apps, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which served as encouragement to stand up for challenges facing women, or simply to help women and girls to open up more.


The seminal hashtag that started it all was triggered by a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano, resulting in a social media movement. “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she tweeted on October 15, 2017, and survivors, from all across the globe, shared disturbing but starkly similar tales of being harassed and assaulted with this hashtag.


Started on January 1, 2018 by Hollywood A-listers celebrities as a follow up to #MeToo, #TimesUp called for unified change for women, not only in the entertainment industry but across all sectors. The celebrities used their status and the platform to call for fair workplace practices, and created a legal defence fund for those who have experienced harassment or have been bullied for reporting against sexual misconduct.


This hashtag is one of the most popular and it is used in different countries in different languages. This hashtag gives women a voice to speak up about sexual assaults they face, even in their homes, by their loved ones. It gives the idea that whatever the relationship, if a woman says no to sexual interaction, it means no.  


#HeForShe is a campaign initiated in September 2014 by UN Women to achieve gender equality by encouraging men and boys to become agents of change and take action against discrimination faced by women and girls. Gender equality affects people everywhere, it is not just a women’s problem, but a human rights issue. With celebrity advocates, like actors Emma Watson and Kiefer Sutherland, it invites people to come together to create a bold and visible force for equality.    


A group of Hollywood men launched this movement recently with the aim to highlight the importance of men speaking out against sexism. In an open letter, signed by stars like ‘Friends’ actor David Schwimmer and ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ actor Matt McGorry, they pledge “to support survivors, condemn sexism wherever we see it and hold ourselves and others accountable”.


#WhyIStayed is a powerful hashtag that was first used by writer Beverly Gooden, who told her own heartbreaking story of domestic violence and survival. Her tweets motivated women all over the world to share their personal stories and raise awareness on domestic violence.



Writer and political analyst Zerlina Maxwell candidly shared a series of tweets about her own experiences as a survivor of assault, including being asked “What she was wearing?” after reporting her own rape. This hashtag was used by women across the world to draw attention to the ways in society blames victims of assault.


#YouOKSis was created by blogger and social worker Feminista Jones in August 2014, inspired by an incident of street harassment. From a simple hashtag came a vigorous online discussion about street harassment, or ‘eve teasing’ as it is known in our part of the world, how it affects women everywhere, and what can be done to stop it.



This hashtag created by Laura Bates, founder of The Everyday Sexism Project, began trending on Twitter in April 2015. Thousands of people used the hashtag to share their stories of how sexism had affected them. It made people realise that just because something is widely accepted, it doesn’t mean it isn’t sexist.


#AddWomen, like similar hashtags #WomeninSTEM and #STEMinism, was created in an effort to highlight the need for more women to be included in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sectors. The American Association of University Women started the #AddWomen hashtag in March 2015, spearheading a conversation about the need for more diversity as women in STEM is becoming rare worldwide.  


This started out as a nostalgic hashtag with social media users recalling wearing puffy socks and playing with Barbie dolls. But soon it turned into a flood of tweets about daily battles that girls and young women face. Teens wrote about double standards in school dress codes, being afraid to walk alone at night, and being asked if it was “that time of the month” every time they voiced a conflicting opinion. Women also shared their experiences of abusive and sexually exploitive childhood, menstruation and hygiene problems they went through.  


In February 2015, plus-size model Tess Holliday started an online movement for body positivity. #EffYourBeautyStandards took off across Twitter and Instagram, with overweight women from all over the world proudly sharing selfies celebrating their curves and defiantly challenging the idea that being skinny is the only way to be beautiful.

We know gender parity won't happen overnight. But the good news is that across the world, women are making positive gains day by day. Plus, there is indeed a very strong and growing global movement for advocacy, activism and support. Women need role models, a hand on the shoulder to give them the courage to speak up, and most importantly, to stand up for herself. These social activities many play a small but significant role in encouraging women and give them something to look up to for support.  

International Women's Day is not only about the women any more. The whole of society, particularly men, have to understand the rights of women and make a stand for it. A strong call-to-action is needed right now, more then ever.  It’s the time to press forward and progress with gender parity. Women need to budge the society, the norms and all the odds, to go forward. n


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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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