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A groundbreaking year for women

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts speaks at the National Action Network South Carolina Ministers' Breakfast in North Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 26. Warren suspended her campaign for president on Thursday. Credit: AP / Matt Rourke

This week, two more women in this election — Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — suspended their presidential bids after impressive runs that reminded us of the power of women.

The 2020 election cycle also witnessed campaigns by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California, and best-selling author Marianne Williamson; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is still in the race.

America has never had a woman president but the 2018 cycle kicked off a historic rise in the number of women running for public office and a record number of them taking office in the House of Representatives. Women also broke barriers in Maryland and Virginia to become statehouse speakers, joining House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who re-smashed a glass ceiling of her own.

Yes, we shouldn’t need a holiday to celebrate women, but since we have one — International Women’s Day, on Sunday — why not remind ourselves of progress?

Women soared this year, in the United States and around the world.

  • Christina Koch returned to Earth from space — completing three all-female spacewalks and setting a record for time in space: 328 days. She and Jessica Meir ventured outside the International Space Station, looking down on Earth, where women continue to gain power.
  • In the Middle East, Egyptian women fought against inheritance laws that discriminate against female property ownership, winning a court battle that confronted Islamic rules.
  • In Iran, women demanded their own inheritance rights and pushed for reform of Sharia law.
  • Across Africa, women insisted upon equal rights — from Kenya, where women activists helped overturn a ban on same-sex marriage, to Nigeria, where women spoke out against sexual abuse and harassment.
  • In India, four men convicted in a 2012 gang rape and murder in Delhi were executed amid a nationwide protest over tackling violence against women.
  • Latin America saw women demanding equal pay in Chile and gender-friendlier vocabulary in Argentina.
  • In Spain, the legal definition of rape is being amended.
  • In South Korea, protesters have demanded cultural equality and the end of misogyny. 

There is still more work to be done at home and abroad to advance the rights of women, economically, politically, and socially. But a global conversation ranging from gender-based violence to reproductive rights is thankfully underway. Girls born today are more likely to find fewer institutional barriers to success than in decades past. And that is worth celebrating.

Who knows? Maybe we will have a woman vice president elected in America in 2020.

Cheers ladies!

Tara D. Sonenshine, a former U.S. undersecretary of state in the Obama administration, advises students at The George Washington University.

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