This post was originally published by Forbes.
While the world watches the US government shutdown over funding for US President Donald Trump’s border wall, another wall has been quietly built up – in India. On the first day of this year (2019), five million women in the state of Kerala formed a human chain which that stretched for 385 miles.
This was done as an act of protest against the centuries-old ban on the entry of women of menstruating age. The ban was overturned by the Supreme Court last year, but the court’s move had triggered opposition from conservatives. Though the human chain lasted only 15 minutes, its symbolic value defines what the year 2019 may mean for women globally.
As I look through the photographs of the “Women’s Wall” in Kerala online, a word came up: Defiance. These women are openly resisting gender injustice. In face of increasing backlash, defiance is probably what we need this year to assert the progress we have made thus far.
India has a long and vibrant history of grassroots protests. Yet, the scale of the “Women’s Wall” in Kerala is remarkable. News18 reports that this human chain is the fourth largest human chain ever formed – and the only one led by women.
2018 has been one of the best years for women, ever in history. The UK celebrated the centenary of the voting rights for women. From CNN to Brookings Institution, many have called 2018 the “Year of the Woman”. There is much for us to celebrate, but the march towards gender equality is never a linear one.
Despite progress on the mandatory gender pay gap disclosures in the UK, three-quarters of boardroom appointments are still going to men. Most worryingly, there are signs of backlash against gender equality, and against liberal progress more broadly.
If the Trump’s wall represents hatred and chaos, let the Women’s Wall represent compassion and unity. Let the bravery, creativity and above all, defiance of the women in Kerala help set our intentions for 2019.
About the Author
Bonnie Chiu is a social entrepreneur, a gender equality advocate and a social impact consultant. A Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur and a Senior Contributor. She will be speaking at Think Future on “Breaking Biases for Bold Leadership” hosted at Spier Wine Farm, Cape Town, from 14 to 16 October 2019.