13 Times Women Smashed the Patriarchy with a Signature

Every year on March 8, the world celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women with International Women’s Day. And there have been many.

Still, progress toward gender parity has slowed. According to

“The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.”

So, how do we make that gap close faster? We speak up.

For years, people on have been making strides for gender equality every day by telling their stories, signing petitions, and pushing until they reach victory.

So, to celebrate the achievements of our users — and International Women’s Day — we’ve gathered a list of the 13 most popular women-led victories in history.

What do you want to see change?

13 Times Women Smashed the Patriarchy with Signatures

1. When they demanded education for girls around the world
Country: United Kingdom
Date of Victory: October 23, 2015
Number of Signatures: 1,108,028

Malala Yousafzai is an activist for female education. She has seen the lengths that girls go to in order to be educated and the 60 million girls who don’t have the opportunity. She asked the Global Partnership for Education to expand its commitment to fund education for the poorest girls around the world from nine years to 12 years. They agreed in October.

2. When they saved Meriam Yehya from being executed
Country: United Kingdom
Date of Victory: July 24. 2014
Number of Signatures: 1,092,281

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Sudanese mother and doctor, was charged with adultery and apostasy on the grounds of  her marriage to a Christian man and her own Christian faith. She was eight months pregnant when she was arrested and gave birth to a baby girl in jail where she was also confined with her two-year-old son. While Meriam was imprisoned in Sudan, it was a UK petition that brought global attention to her plight and led to her release.

3. When they fought to free Ghoncheh Ghavami from Iranian prison
Country: United Kingdom
Date of Victory: March 31, 2015
Number of Signatures: 775,050

Ghoncheh Ghavami is a British Iranian dual citizen. She was in Tehran watching a men’s volleyball match when she was arrested over a misunderstanding. She was kept in solitary confinement from June 2014 and was not allowed to meet with her lawyer. Her brother started a petition asking the UK government to bring her home. In 2015, the Iran government wiped out the rest of her sentence and released her.

4. When they got a presidential pardon for Jacqueline Sauvage
Country: France
Date of Victory: January 31, 2016
Number of Signatures: 435,971

Jacqueline Sauvage was beaten and molested by her husband, who also raped her 3 daughters, for 47 years. One day, she decided it was enough and she killed him. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison because she wasn’t acting in her own defense, as described in the French law. The day after being sentenced, Karine, a feminist activist, and Carole and Véronique, two survivors of domestic violence, started petitions asking President François Hollande to pardon Jacqueline. They reached victory in two months.

5. When they helped pass an Acid Attack Bill in Uganda
Country: Uganda
Date of Victory: January 26, 2016
Number of Signatures: 278,910

Hanifa Nakiryowa lived for seven years with an abusive husband before she left him in 2011. But when he called her one day to pick up her children at his house, he took revenge by throwing acid on her face and body. But instead of breaking her spirit, the attack made her stronger and she became an advocate for other women who suffered from acid violence, which is extremely high in Uganda. She started a petition asking President Yoweri Museveni Kaguta to sign the Toxic Chemicals Bill into law, which would regulate of the sale of acid, enact tougher jail sentences for perpetrators, and raise awareness of the devastating impact of acid attacks. It passed in January.

6. When they changed the way girls are taught about FGM
Country: United Kingdom
Date of Victory: February 26, 2014
Number of Signatures: 234,374

Although female genital mutilation is illegal, 24,000 girls in the UK were at risk of FGM when Fahma Mohamed, a student, started her petition. She knew girls who had been cut and she was upset when the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills did not survey schools to see how they were protecting girls against FGM as it said it would. Her petition asked Education Secretary Michael Gove to get schools to teach about FGM before the summer break (when it often happens). After meeting with her, Gove agreed to write to all primary and secondary headteachers in England about female genital mutilation.

7. When they fought to end FGM
Country: United States
Date of Victory: July 23. 2014
Number of Signatures: 221,181

Female genital mutilation affects 130 million women worldwide. Jaha Dukureh is one of them. She knew that she would never subject her own daughter to FGM and that she couldn’t stand by and let other girls be subjected to it, something that numerous women across the U.S. have experienced despite legislation passed in January 2013 aimed to curb the practice. She started a petition asking President Obama to address the FGM problem by commissioning a report on the prevalence of the practice in the U.S. And after more than 220,000 people signed her petition, the administration announced that it would start a study.

8. When they convinced Verizon and Sprint to change policies to keep domestic violence victims safe
Country: United States
Date of Victory: September 27, 2012, and November 1, 2012
Number of Signatures: 194,815 and 175,113

These two petitions addressed the same issue. In 2012, two women came forward to tell stories of domestic abuse — one was personal and one belonged to the petition starter’s sister. In both cases, women had fled abuse relationships, only to be charged enormous fees when they tried to uncouple the phone contracts they shared with their abusers. Women who have left abusive environments are often left without money and the fees were crippling, yet separating their phone bill was necessary so their abusers would not be able to track their movements. In both cases, Verizon and Sprint revised their policies for victims of domestic abuse.

9. When they stood up for victims over pro athletes
Country: United Kingdom
Date of Victory: March 17, 2015
Number of Signatures: 171,193

Jean Hatchet was outraged when Ched Evans, a professional football player, was going to be reinstated as a player for Sheffield United F.C. after being convicted of rape. “The message given is that men who commit such atrocious crimes will suffer only a small penance whilst the women they attack suffer for the rest of their lives,” she wrote in the petition she started. The club neither signed Evans or allowed him to train there.

10. When they convinced the UK to deny entrance to Julien Blanc
Country: United Kingdom
Date of Victory: Nov 19, 2014
Number of Signatures: 158,246

Caroline Charles petitioned the UK government to deny entrance to Julien Blanc, a dating coach and pick-up artist, and his group, RSD (Real Social Dynamics), who had already been denied entrance to Australia. “[They] have made a living by teaching men how to violate women through physical and emotional abuse,” wrote Charles. They were denied entrance to the UK after more than 158,000 people signed the petition.

11. When they fought against abortion legislation
Country: Spain
Date of Victory: September 23, 2014
Number of Signatures: 147,221

Carmen Eguren is a woman with a disability living in Spain. And as she wrote in her petition to the Minister of Justice Ruiz Gallardon, being “disabled does not prevent me develop a satisfying life.” But she was outraged when the Organic Law on Protection of Rights Conceived and pregnant women, the so-called Abortion Act, was proposed by Gallardon. “Give birth to a child knowing that it will fight and suffer difficulties from malformation is a decision that should always be personal.” She fought more than two years before the bill was withdrawn.

12. When they fought for midwives
Country: Germany
Date of Victory: June 26, 2014
Number of Signatures: 133,798

German mother, Anke Bastrop, relied on midwives before, during, and after the birth of her two children. But the rising costs of insurance and the low pay in the field meant that fewer midwives would be available when she decided to have a third child. Anke asked the government to make sure other women would have access to midwives in the future. It agreed to monitor the field of midwifery to ensure adequate compensation was provided.

13. When they made sure native women had access to emergency contraception
Country: United States
Date of Victory: September 19, 2013
Number of Signatures: 130,916

Sunny Clifford is a Native American woman who lives on a reservation in South Dakota. When she went to Indian Health Services to get emergency contraception, she was told she would need to drive to a clinic an hour away to get it. Finding it was a common problem on reservations, she started a petition. Her work resulted in the IHS directing all of its facilities to make Plan B and its generic versions available to patients 17 and older without requiring a prescription or doctor consultation.


Is there a women’s rights issue you are passionate about? Or is there gender inequality that you can see and want to change?  


Image courtesy of Giphy.

Written by
March 5, 2016 7:03 pm