This Week in Women: Fighting For A More Just New Year

This Week in Women is part of a series produced in partnership between Ms. and the Fuller Project for International Reporting. This column is also part of a newsletter by Across Women’s Lives. Sign up and receive it regularly here.

The new year began as protests over unpaid wages and food scarcity in Iran continued this week, with Iranian women’s rights activists jumping into action, yanking off their hijabs and demanding changes to laws that prevent their free movement and opportunity in the Islamic Republic.

Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad explains here how this movement has been bubbling for months (or longer). Still, activists are cautious given how deadly political instability has been for women in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere. The hard lessons of the Syria uprising kept Turks more or less quiet during the attempted coup against Erdogan, who has since detained or arrested thousands of civil servants, police, members of the judiciary, academics and journalists. 

As Trump flirted with the idea of nuclear war against North Korea on Twitter this week, The Washington Post ran two related pieces on women’s role in conflict. The first argues that sexual violence in conflict (rape in Burma, for example) is a security and stability challenge that the military should recognize and respond to, rather than treat as purely a human rights violation.

The second Washington Post article looks at whether Trump’s National Security Strategy considers women’s status worldwide as connected to global stability. Since President Bill Clinton, there’s been growing recognition that removing the oppression of women is a smart tool for maintaining stability. However, President Trump fails to adequately recognize this concept, author Hilary Matfess argues, and has rolled back efforts to empower women, such as funding to improve women’s health and give them access to contraception.

In Saudi Arabia, could this be a banner year for women? On Thursday, Al Arabiya published the “Nine important ways change will unfold in Saudi Arabia this year,” and nearly half of them involve the liberalization of women’s lives. They have already won the right to drive, run for local office, and more. And in 2013, Saudi Arabia criminalized domestic abuse. But CNN notes there is still a lot of work to do. One of the changes in the Kingdom will reopen movie theaters for the first time in over 35 years. The timing couldn’t be better.

Monday morning started off with a full page ad in The New York Times and elsewhere by more than 300 leading Hollywood actresses, agents, writers, directors and producers announcing a multimillion-dollar legal defense fund and “anti-harassment action plan” called Time’s Up. Read their plan and feel confident #MeToo will not disappear.

This news coupled with a Washington Post article on Monday about the wave of women running (finally!) for governor across the U.S., have made me feel pretty excited about this year for women. If 2017 shattered the taboos that silenced so many female victims of sexual assault, 2018 challenges us to solve these problems. It’s only the fifth day of the year, and we’re starting strong. Happy New Year.


Christina Asquith is former editor for Across Women’s Lives at PRI’s The World and founder/editor in chief of the Fuller Project for International Reporting, which contributed this story and which works with Peace Is Loud on women, peace and security issues.