Women Creating Change: Equality Now’s Yasmeen Hassan

We’re big fans of our partner Equality Now. Through the laws they’ve helped put into place that eradicate violence and discrimination, they are fostering a just world for women and girls.

In the spirit of Women’s History Month, we are honored to share a discussion with the extraordinary woman at the helm, Global Executive Director Yasmeen Hassan:

Who inspires you?

Growing up in Pakistan at a time when women were losing their rights under the guise of Islamization was difficult. I watched the creation of the women’s rights movement as women took to the streets to protest. Asma Jehangir, a lawyer who has worked tirelessly, strategically and at great personal risk, for women’s rights in Pakistan was an inspiration to me and I was lucky enough to have her as a mentor. Fatima Mernissi’s writings on Muslim women, helped put the issue of Islam and women’s rights in context and inspired me to continue to fight for change in difficult contexts. Gloria Steinem has taught me important lessons on grassroots organizing and active listening.

We have made great strides over the past twenty four years to advance the rights of women and girls, but there is much work yet to be done. Through my work at Equality Now, I hope to inspire the next generation of feminists to stand up for gender equality around the world.

What do you hope to see in the future for Equality Now?

At Equality Now, we work to create a just world for women and girls: a world where women are treated equally under the law to men, and have full enjoyment of their rights. My biggest hope for the future is that our work is done and we can shut down!

How has increasing access to technology affected women across the globe and/or locally?

Increased access to technology has revolutionized advocacy in that grassroots activists can now use social media platforms to elevate issues in the public consciousness, and millions of individuals can lend their voices to a common cause. We’ve seen increased levels of engagement online with campaigns like #MyDressMyChoice in Kenya. Additionally, one of our most effective means of applying pressure to governments and institutions is through the media, and advancements in technology have allowed us to partner with more diverse media outlets to reach wider audiences globally.

However, just as the Internet has revolutionized activism, it has also changed the way women experience violence and discrimination. And really before technology was being used to bring us together and connect like-minded people, it was being used for exploitation. In the early days of the internet, it was pornographers and pimps who had figured out how to use technology to promote their “businesses.” Technology provides new means for harassers, traffickers, abusive partners, and others to target women and girls—and remain largely anonymous while doing it. If we want to improve the lives of women and girls, we must also consider their lives online. So, technology has created a new frontier where we need stronger policies in place to protect and promote the rights of women and girls.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

So often, gender equality is viewed as a women’s issue, when in reality, gender equality an issue that concerns all of us. When women and girls can live free from violence and discrimination, when they can reach their full potential, everyone benefits. Societies that treat women equally are happier, more peaceful, and more prosperous.

For more inspiration from our Women Creating Change series, check out interviews with Jamiah Adams (NAACP), Dionne Scott (Center for Reproductive Rights) and Jenna Lowenstein (originally EMILY’s List, now Hillary for America).