The Egalitarian’s Women to Watch in 2021

2021 is set to be a big year. After an exhausting 2020 characterised by Coronavirus - with its lockdowns, social restrictions, disastrous death count (surpassing 2 million worldwide in January 2021) and varying competencies of Governments globally - the hope is that the pandemic may ease with the mass global vaccination process ahead. We are hopeful that the world is set to return to some form of normality, though intermittent lockdowns and restrictions on social mixing may be here to stay for some time. But normality isn’t something we should be hoping for.

As the world resets, economies restart and lives start to recommence as normal, we should question what we want from this reset. What we perceive as normal has allowed inequality to thrive worldwide and the pandemic has not only highlighted, but exacerbated these inequalities. We need to use this reset to strive for equality, justice and hope globally  - including pressuring state governments to implement policies that allow for real change. 

But enough of the grim outlook, we’ve had enough of that in 2020. Some positives we can expect to see from 2021 include:

  • The European Parliament has approved a law to ban single-use plastic by 2021 in the EU.
  • Tokyo 2020 Olympics (hopefully).
  • A quiet revolution regarding flexible work culture and being able to work from home, creating a better work-life balance.
  • Support for right-wing populist policies has declined in Europe, hopefully this is long lived.
  • Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
  • A rethink of the vulnerable global food chain.
  • NASA's Perseverance rover lands on Mars.

Here at The Egalitarian we’ve picked out six women to look out for in 2021 that we believe are going to highlight and fight against some modern-day inequalities that need urgently tackling.

Sian Massey-Ellis

Sian Massey-Ellis is the only female assistant referee in the premier league and was the first English female to officiate in a men’s European tie. Sian rarely makes a mistake and is holding her own in the top flight. 

In 2020, Sian had a slight controversial encounter with Sergio Aguero where he placed his hand on her back after a decision was made against him. Massey-Ellis spoke out after the game how people should not take this to offence because she is a woman and demands the same respect and treatment as any other official in the game, man or woman. She is constantly asked about the abuse she receives on and off the pitch but makes clear that she is always so focused on the job at hand that she never listens to it or gets intimidated! 

“I think that it’s definitely becoming more normal to see female officials in the men’s game...ultimately it shouldn’t matter what gender, race or religion anyone is, it’s about going out there and doing your job as best you can.”

An all-round good lass, Massey-Ellis is showing that women are a great addition to the men’s game at the top level and is refreshingly very good at her job. A real credit to young girls and women worldwide. We hope in 2021 she gets a chance of refereeing in the Premier League, it is time for women to be treated equally in football and this would be a massive steps towards doing that.

Caster Semenya

Image: Bob Ramsak, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Caster Semenya - Olympian, women’s role-model, champion and according to the International Association for Athletics Federation, biologically a male. Semenya has won an impressive 14 gold medals spanning across many different sporting competitions, including 2 Olympic gold medals in the 800m race.  

However, after continuously producing outstanding performances in her sport, The IAAF have banned Semenya from competing in her usually medal winning events at the Olympics due to take place this year. Due to Semenya’s aesthetic appearance and her domination in her friend the IAAF began to question her biological makeup. As a result of this, they have deemed her to have a biological advantage that gives other women in her competition an unfair disadvantage and therefore have come to the legal decision that she is, in fact, biologically a male. The IAAF have ruled that the only way in which Semenya can compete in the 800m is if she takes medication that would suppress her testosterone levels. 

"I am very disappointed by this ruling, but I refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am … I know what is right and will do all I can to protect basic human rights, for young girls everywhere."

Semenya’s aesthetic didn’t conform with the usual gender binary image or roles imposed on Global South countries by the West, therefore her gender was questioned. Semenya has lost all of her attempts to appeal the IAAF decision, which is unsurprising as the IAAF is dominated by Western countries and so are the courts she has tried to appeal in. However, she is now taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights in hope that she can compete in her favourable events at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Stay tuned and support Semenya in her battle against her oppressors. 

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez - The ‘AOC’

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez! The youngest woman to ever be elected to sit in Congress and every second since her election in 2018, the AOC has continued to shine in what has been an era of dismay for politics in America. 

She fights for gender equality, climate change, against racism and all the progressive policies that 2021 is screaming for. At the Women’s Unity Rally, AOC hailed “Justice is about making sure that being polite is not the same thing as being quiet, in fact, oftentimes the most righteous thing you can do is shake the table”. Something here at The Egalitarian, we love to do! 

“Capitalism has not always existed in the world and will not always exist in the world.”

The AOC has continuously taken Donald Trump on throughout her career, she held him accountable for his actions when others turned a blind eye. When asked if Trump was racist, AOC replied “The president certainly didn’t invent racism but he has certainly given a voice to it and expanded it”. 2021 needs a strong female politician, not afraid of tackling right wing racists and AOC is exactly that! if you want to watch how to verbally take down political opposition, watch her response to representative Ted Yoho in July 2020. She effortlessly defends herself as a woman in her occupation and explains what it really means to be a ‘decent man’. 

Her passion and loyalty to stand up for what she believes in no matter who is challenging her, is something people everywhere should aspire to be more like! If anything good has come out of American politics in the last few years it is the AOC and with the Democrats soon to be in control of the House and the Senate, be sure to expect her to play a big part in the policy agenda in 2021.

Jaha Dukureh

Jaha Dukureh is from Gambia and underwent Female genital mutilation (FGM) when she was just 1 week old. Dukureh was also a victim of forced child marriage at the age of 15.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a reality for more than 200 million women and girls globally, while 3 million girls in Africa are at risk of undergoing FGM every year. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports that 78.3% of Gambian women and girls aged between 15 and 49 have undergone FGM. Of these, 55% were younger than four at the time of being cut; 28% were between five and nine years old; and 7% were between 10 and 14. The UN calls FGM an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls, and a violation of their human rights, including the right to be free of torture, and wants to stop female genital mutilation by 2030.

FGM is a barbaric mutilation not undertaken for health benefits, it is a cultural practice only causing mental and physical health complications. FGM – or circumcision, as its proponents they call it – is seen as desirable because it makes a wife less likely to stray when her husband is away with their cattle. A pilot study that was supported by the WHO found that 30% of survivors showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, while 80% had anxiety disorders. FGM can cause death as a direct consequence of the mutilation, for example by bleeding to death or developing an infection, or later in life, for example causing maternal and infant deaths for those who have been ‘cut’.

“I started this work when I had my daughter, Khadija. I knew there was no way she would ever live the life I lived. But it’s also not just my daughter. Every day, 6,000 girls are cut, and no one speaks out for those girls.”

Jaha Dukureh was appointed Regional UN Women Ambassador for Africa in February 2018. She is the CEO and Founder of the NGO “Safe Hands for Girls” that provides support to African women and girls who are survivors of FGM. Dukureh helped secure a ban on FGM in Gambia in 2015. Dukureh is currently focused on building an African women’s grassroot leaders’ network, The Big Sisters Movement, to end FGM and child marriage by 2030. Dukureh is a member of The NewNow, whose objective is to ensure that the voices of rising leaders are heard and that their agenda is implemented, aiming to achieve deep, sustainable, and transformative global impact.

Katrin Jakobsdottir

Image: NordForsk/Kim Wendt, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Described by The Independent as ‘a pacifist environmentalist and expert on crime thrillers’, in 2017 Katrin Jakobsdottir became Iceland’s second woman Prime Minister. Leader of the Left-Green Party, Katrin Jakobsdottir has emphasised “the need to restructure the economy” in order to tackle climate change and address inequality. She is a strong advocate for women’s rights and expresses huge support for accepting refugees in Iceland.

Jakobsdottir became Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders on 19 February 2020, an independent, self-governing network of 77 current and former women Prime Ministers and Presidents established in 1996. In her address, Katrin said:

“Women’s solidarity is one of the most important components in the fight for gender equality and women’s liberation. Also, I wish to engage the common strength in the council to be in the forefront of fighting climate change, with a focus on climate action, sustainability and just transition at the core.”

Jakobsdottir is on with the promotion of a ‘wellbeing economy’, one that delivers human and ecological wellbeing. Iceland is a member of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), recently teaming up with Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to promote a “wellbeing agenda”. Watch out for these strong women in 2021 trying to challenge the status quo of working for an economy that continues to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Stephanie Kurlow

Stephanie Kurlow has been coined ‘The World's First Hijabi Ballerina’.

Kurlow is a Russian-Australian dancer who has been wearing a hijab since she was 9 years old. She quickly found out that wearing a hijab and wanting to be a ballet dancer were not going to be an easy mix - Kurlow was rejected by a number of ballet schools, not allowing her to wear her hijab whilst training. She launched a campaign on LaunchGood to fund her professional training and classes, and promised that once trained, Kurlow will open up her own dance facility that will be welcoming to people of all religions, races or backgrounds.

“I found it very unfair towards girls who do not fit the mould of a stereotypical ballerina and decided to pursue my dreams, whatever challenges I might face.”

Since, Kurlow has released campaigns with numerous brands such as Converse, Lenovo and Haute Hijab, which will inspire young girls just like Kurlow to pursue their dreams despite their background, culture, fashion sense, race, religion, morals, and more.  She was also awarded the Game Changer Scholarship by sports fashion brand Björn Borg.

Kurlow draws her inspiration from athletes such as Misty Copeland, the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history, and hijabi Emirati competitive weightlifter, Amna Al Haddad. Kurlow is using her platform to actively tackle Islamophobia in the mainstream rhetoric and online.

“I really look forward to a time where wearing a hijab isn’t front page news, because having different beliefs or clothes shouldn’t be a deciding factor as to whether you pursue your dreams or not.”

We can’t wait for that time either. But for now, we salute you, Stephanie. 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

Lets make 2021 the year of the revolution. We can’t go back to how things were before.

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