Women's Rights

The Women Who Power Change.org

Joshunda Sanders
Mar 8, 2017

Today, as millions of women around the world commemorate International Women’s Day, we celebrate the passionate people who start bold campaigns every day at Change.org geared toward making life better for women here and around the world.

In North America, Jaha Dukureh petitioned to end Female Genital Mutilation in the United States and rallied 220,000 people to support her cause. You can hear directly from her on our movement page. Since launching her petition, she has inspired women around the world to continue fighting to end FGM in places like India, where FGM is still widely practiced.

Lili Bernard  started a petition to guarantee sexual assault survivors the justice she never had. Bernard was one of many women who came forward to report that Bill Cosby had raped her. When she decided to report the attack years later, she discovered  the statute of limitations on her assault had run out, and she wouldn’t be able to press charges against Cosby – despite the fact that so many other women had accused him of the same crime. In her petition, Bernard explained that fear of retaliation, stigma and victim blaming can cause survivors to delay reporting their attacks for years. “Victims should be able to file a police report when they feel safe and strong enough to do so,” she said. And thanks to her dedicated campaigning, California passed a bill abolishing the statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault just a year after she started her petition.

In Canada, historian Merna Forster couldn’t believe it when in 2011, the Bank of Canada announced it was removing important women from Canadian history from its bank notes. The proposed new $50 banknote would feature an icebreaker ship, replacing the faces of five heroines who had fought for the right to be recognized as “persons” under the Canadian constitution. Forster called for corrective action. A year ago today, on International Women’s Day (You can view the Canada movement page here), Minister Bill Morneau made an announcement culminating Forster’s years-long campaign including hundreds of letters she wrote to the Bank and elected officials: Civil Rights activist Viola Desmond — best known for standing up to racial segregation by sitting in the whites only section of a Halifax movie theater in 1946 — would be the face of the next $10 bill.

“Together, we made history,” Forster said. “Let’s continue to be vocal about the need to recognize the contributions of men and women equally. Women hold up half the sky, and should hold up half the bank notes.”

This International Women’s Day, Jaha, Lili and Merna are inspiring examples of women who took action on Change.org – and won.

Today, women still risk everything to fight for justice for themselves and their communities. When Jassary Rico, a high school student in Texas, discovered her state legislature was considering a law that would threaten the safety of her family, she joined a classmate to start a petition to stop the bill. She shared that her parents were undocumented immigrants, and her fears that they might be deported should the bill pass.  

“While most people our age are worried about doing well in school or going to prom,” Rico wrote, “We spend most days worried that our parents and loved ones will be deported.”

In Iowa, Kristen Rankin turned to Change.org to fight the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through her state, which she was arrested for protesting.  Afterwards, she started collecting signatures asking the University of Iowa to divest from the banks connected to the project. Kristen is “dedicated to ensuring that our water, and the water of our children, is not polluted by oil,” and has begun escalating her campaign by reaching out to the school president.

In Alberta, Canada, Natasha Kornak is on a mission to get the Government of Alberta to include lessons on consent and sexual assault in its sex education curriculum for the province’s schools. Her petition has nearly 20,000 supporters, and now she’s setting her sights on the upcoming provincial election, asking candidates for the leadership of the Alberta Conservative Party if they support including consent in the curriculum. She’s also working at the federal level to advocate for a Bill of Rights for survivors of sexual assault.

This International Women’s Day, you can support the work of bold changemakers like these women by becoming a Change.org member. (In Canada, you can join here.) For less than $10 a month, your crucial funding will allow Change.org to provide free world-class campaigning expertise, press outreach and powerful organizing tools to the women who are changing the world every day.

Joshunda Sanders and Juliana Britto Schwartz

North America Campaigns Team