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This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating amazing women doing incredible things, from a 16-year-old who sparked an international climate movement to a lawyer taking on the opioid epidemic.
Over the past year, straight-talking Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg has risen to fame as the face of the flourishing youth climate movement. “I don’t want your hope,” she told world leaders at Davos in January. “I want you to panic … And then I want you to act.” Since August 2018, Thunberg has staged school strikes every Friday outside the Swedish parliament, inspiring tens of thousands of students around the world to follow suit.
This American attorney has spent the last 20 years fighting for workers’ rights, including co-founding Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a national advocacy group to improve wages and working conditions for U.S. restaurant workers. “Fundamentally it’s an issue of fairness,” Jayaraman told HuffPost. “No one should be working full time – or more than full time – in this country and not be able to make ends meet.”
Much of Jayaraman’s work focuses on women and people of color, groups she says suffer the most when it comes to exploitation and economic inequality.
“When women’s wages are so low that they’re living off tips, they’ve got to tolerate however their customers treat them, including harassment,” she said. “That makes it not just an issue of sub-minimum wage but one of a terrible lack of physical safety, dignity and self-worth.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is getting a lot of attention right now for her progressive politics (and her impressive dance moves). The congresswoman has been driving for action on climate change. While Trump champions coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels, Ocasio-Cortez is pushing for the implementation of a Green New Deal to curb climate breakdown and address worsening inequality in the process.
She’s also not afraid to question the patriarchy.
“The idea that a woman can be as powerful as a man is something that our society can’t deal with,” Ocasio-Cortez told The New Yorker in an interview published Monday. “But I am as powerful as a man, and it drives them crazy.”
“We are going to be the kids that you read about in textbooks. Not because we are going to be another statistic about mass shootings in America but because … we are going to be the last mass shooting … We are going to change the law.”
These were the powerful words of Emma González, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, speaking at an anti-gun rally just three days after one of the deadliest high school shootings in U.S. history. In the weeks that followed, González was one of a group of survivors who launched a grassroots gun-reform movement that helped catalyze new gun legislation. She continues to speak publicly about the system that perpetrates gun violence and the organizations which profit from it, such as the NRA.
While the U.S. president is doing everything he can to build walls, New Zealand’s prime minister has announced she will increase her country’s refugee quota by 50 percent in 2020.
Ardern’s “anti-Trump” style of politics doesn’t stop there, from increases to paid parental leave to the implementation of a well-being budget that recognizes that measuring a country’s success requires more than just monitoring its GDP. Ardern’s government is also taking on climate change, banning new offshore oil and gas exploration while putting forward plans to move to 100 percent renewable energy.
As co-founder and executive director of WE ACT For Environmental Justice, Peggy Shepard has spent more than three decades fighting to improve the living conditions of those in low-income communities of color.
Testifying before a House of Representatives subcommittee last week, Shepard talked about groups on the frontline of poor environmental conditions, from New Yorkers living in deteriorating, moldy housing to farmworkers exposed to toxic chemicals. “These sacrifice zones are a moral outrage,” she said. “We must pledge to end this dichotomy of two Americas, of throwaway communities, of the acceptance that we will always have winners and losers.”
The U.S. is in the grip of an opioid epidemic and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is on a mission to bring those responsible to justice. Last June, Healey filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma – owned by the wealthy Sackler family – for misleading prescribers and the public about the addiction and health risks of their opioids, including OxyContin “to increase the companies’ profits.”
In response, Purdue accuses Healey of trying to publicly vilify the company. “Interestingly, I don’t hear a denial,” the attorney general told Boston’s NPR News Station in February. “Sure, companies are allowed to market their products, to sell their products and, in fact, to try to sell as much of their product as possible. What you cannot do is lie and mislead and deceive.”
When she’s not starring in blockbusters like Crazy Rich Asians, Constance Wu can be found criticizing the patriarchy and calling out the fetishization of Asian-American women.
In accepting an American Civil Liberties Union award in 2018, Wu said she agreed to make a speech at the ceremony because she was no longer willing to go along with “the systemic culture that birthed my reluctance to speak” – a culture, she said, that encourages Asian-Americans to fit in, keep their heads down and become invisible in the process.
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