The NGO was foundered in 1992 by Jessica Neuwirth, a lawyer with extensive international experience (Amnesty International, ERA Coalition, United Nations), Navi Pillay, a South African lawyer of Tamil ancestry who was appointed a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Feryal Gharahi, an American Muslim lawyer with experience in the Balkan conflict zones. The three founders made a committed effort to raise awareness about issues that were considered taboo but affected millions of women and girls every year.
Equality Now helps women at risk of abuse, or currently suffering harm, by shining a spotlight on what some deem “acceptable” violence perpetrated against women in different societies. Too often brutal acts are dismissed as merely cultural in nature, or a situation best left for families, rather than letting the world pry them open to public debate or legislation. Marrying off young female children, violence against wives, FGM, and honor killings are some examples.
By establishing a global network with offices in London, Nairobi, and New York, as well as working with numerous like-minded partners in “nearly every country in the world,” Equality Now is tackling hard issues like human sex trafficking and discriminatory laws against women that are too often accepted (if even only tacitly) as tolerable cultural norms.
Some of the weapons this virtuous organization has in its arsenal include organizing petitions letters—in mass—giving women equal legal rights in countries like Jordan and Lebanon, aiding the administration of Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR), funding and promoting global and regional campaigns to remove legal discrimination clauses against women, supporting legal cases that help protect women and children from sexual abuse, and advocating for specific actions in support of women around the planet, from enforcing sexual violence laws in Brazil to preventing FMG in Europe and North America.
Equality Now is a grassroots movement that is making a sizable impact on the lives of women. By trying to repeal or reform legislation that places women on unequal footing, and by vigorously promoting global and country-specific campaigns that call for an end to female-based violence, the organization is charging ahead with its noble mission and no signs of slowing down. Supporters can get involved and make a difference by sending letters for Take Action campaigns, reading up on the issues and of course, donating money to keep Equality Now fighting strong as it strives to bring basic human rights to women everywhere. ■