World Pulse

2015: What We're Celebrating

Corine Milano
Posted December 31, 2015 from United States

As the year comes to a close, World Pulse members shed light on some of the many key milestones women achieved in 2015.

What will you remember about 2015?

It was a year of Ebola and terrorist threats; a year of refugees in crisis; a year of natural disasters and mounting climate change consequences. It's easy to find reasons to be grateful the year is coming to a close.

But, as we looked through community submissions to World Pulse, we keep finding reasons to celebrate. We see beauty and abundance. We see supportive comments and meaningful milestones.

As we look back at the year, we look to our community membersto give voice to just some of the many key milestones reached for women's empowerment.

Political Leadership

Across the world, women continue to be underrepresented in politics. From the right to vote, to seats in parliament, we have a long way to go before we can say we have reached true gender equality in the political arena. But a few countries are narrowing the gap.

Saudi Arabia Women Vote, Become Elected Officials

2015 marked a year of firsts for women in Saudi Arabia—a country that has long been known for its oppressive policies towards women. While many policies—including a ban on female drivers and male guardianship laws—remain in effect, for the first time, women were given the right to vote and the right to run for municipal office. According to the Associated Press, in the December elections, 20 women were elected to councils in what clearly marks a monumental turning point for women.

“Women are half of society, and they raise the other half—how is it we think she’s one half of society only? Women are society. We are the today, we are the tomorrow. How long will women wait for the State to give them the right they already have as Muslim women and should have as citizens?

Nepal elects first female president

“Nepal made history in October when Bidhya Devi Bhandari became the country’s first female president. A renowned advocate for women’s rights, Bhandari is poised to lead the country in its efforts to achieve gender equality.

“With the election of women as both President and Spokespersonof Legislative Parliament, Nepal has reached an unprecedented milestone in its history...I hope the rise of more women leaders from across the country will lead the way forward in days to come. The significance of this achievement is not limited to Nepalese women alone but is bound to affect the women globally with a little step forward towards a more equal world.

Social Movements

“This year, people took to social media and to the streets to make a positive difference in women’s lives. Here are a few of the important social movements that gained steam and caught our attention.

HeForShe invites men to be part of the solution

“The UN’s HeForShe campaign has succeeded in mobilizing men from all over the world to make gender equality commitments. For years, we’ve witnessed increasing global recognition that equality is not a “women’s issue” and that men also need to be involved if we are going to see large scale change in the status quo. This is one trend we are glad is catching on!

“Caring about all people, even those who are part of the problem, is the only way to change the world. We need to think about how we are going to raise men who are responsible and kind.

unleashing the potential of Women in Stem

“From Silicon Valley to Bangalore, women are making key contributions to global science and tech industries. But the women and girls who pursue Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers often face an obstacle-laden path to success. The good news: They have never been more visible. Campaigns like the #Ilooklikeanengineer are strengthening the collective voice of women in STEM fields.

“May we all come together to be the voice and make the noise to let people know that it is time now for us women to STEM IT UP!

Black Lives Matter and #SayHerName

“In the United States, 2015 could be remembered for the series of high profile cases of police violence against black Americans throughout the year, which brought structural racism and issues of police oversight to the fore. Hopefully it will also be remembered for the Black Lives Matter movement and related #SayHerName movement: grassroots efforts that are honoring black lives through collective action and the pursuit of justice.

“I found a safe space to just be able to say, "It's hard out here for a Black woman," without the litany of being told 'it gets better' or 'keep your head up, ma.' Our heads are up. Our mouths smile and crack jokes, tell stories and speak of love. The sisters I surround myself with love hard and go hard for their personal and collective revolutionaries. But the difficulty of our lives does not escape us.


“Across the globe, women have made it clear that they will not be made to feel ashamed of their bodies for menstruating. We’re glad to see this body love ethos spreading through grassroots campaigns like #HappytoBleed and World Pulse member Urmila’s Breaking the Silence campaign in India.

“Why is [poor] treatment given out to girls and women for a biological phenomenon of menstruation, which gives women the power to give birth/life? It is time we banish the stigma, myths and taboos and ‘break the silence’ and educate women and girls.

Evolving Laws

“Around the world, we see gender inequality codified into many of our laws. Slowly, political processes and grassroots activism are advancing change. It can be a long and difficult road to turn laws into cultural norms and to hold powerful institutions accountable for enforcing the laws. All the more reason to celebrate the legal victories that pave the way! 2015 saw several of these advances.


“This year, the West African nations of Nigeria and the Gambia joined a growing list of countries that outlaw the harmful practice of female genital cutting.

“Passing the[bill] against Female Genital Mutilationin Nigeria was a milestone in the country's history, however; certain factors that might affect effective implementation such as cultural and religious reasons need to be addressed especially at the grassroots level.

Child Marriage banned in Guatemala and Malawi

“Malawi and Guatemala joined the ranks of countries with child marriage bans on the books. Advocacy groups like Girls Not Brides say that minimum marriage age laws are an important contributor to ending child marriage and giving girls control of their own lives. According to the World Policy Analysis Center, in 2015 58% of countries in the world still legally allowed girls to be married before 18, at least under certain conditions (such as parental permission). 31% of countries legally allowed marriage at or before age 15. In Malawi, before the ban, more than half of girls were married before the age of 18.

“[Married girls] skip a very important stage where they are supposed to play and grow physically and mentally... These are the outcomes of unsupportive laws. We need to bring our voices together and educate our communities on the importance of supporting girls’ education and urge our governments to amend these unsupportive laws.

Countries strengthen LGBT Rights

“There are still parts of the world where LGBT people fear for their well-being and even their lives because of who they are and who they love. While some countries took steps backwards in 2015, this year also brought some important legal victories we can celebrate.The Human Rights Campaign reports that Nepal became the first country in Asia to include LGBT protections in its constitution. Mozambique decriminalized homosexuality and Ukraine passed new non-discrimination legislation. Malta, Thailand, Ireland, Vietnam, and Bolivia all passed some form of legislation to advance the rights of transgender people. And marriage equality victories were won in Ireland, Mexico, and the United States.

“There is nothing illegal about love.

Climate Change Commitment

COP21 reaches historic agreement

“The historic climate deal adopted in Paris this month is by no means a panacea for our fragile planet. However, 195 countries signing on to this binding agreement is an important milestone for global efforts to halt and reverse climate change.For more on the significance of climate change for women, see our recent Climate Justice Initiative.

“COP21 was a serious reminder to the devastation that countries around the world (including mine) are already facing.

At World Pulse, we hope that the energy and momentum of our collective wins—big and small—will mobilize further progress for women in the coming years.What milestones did you and your communities celebrate in 2015? What do you hope to see as we enter 2016?Add your thoughts in the comments!

Comments 3

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Jan 12, 2016
Jan 12, 2016

Ok got your reason of celebrating.

Tamarack Verrall
Jan 24, 2016
Jan 24, 2016

It is encouraging and empowering to see these changes listed together. A lot of work has been done to summarize all the successes and I appreciate being able to use it to show just how much has been accomplished. Thanks to all doing the work and reporting from everywhere.

Mar 10, 2016
Mar 10, 2016

I saw a quote that summarizes my feeling about all the incredible steps forward your post highlights.

To “Be the Change” means to liberate ourselves from the self-imposed limitations of our minds.

To “Be the Change” means to create peace and connection from the inside out.

To “Be The Change” means to move away from hopelessness and fear, and take powerful positive steps toward creating the life—and world—of our dreams.

To “Be the Change” means to notice what’s happening in the world around us and to take positive action to change things.

Thanks for sharing all the positive changes of 2015.