The Beginning of ‘Equality Now’
Equality Now was founded in 1992 when three attorneys, Jessica Neuwirth, Navanethem “Navi” Pillay, and Feryal Gharahi decided that domestic violence, rape, and female genital mutilation could no longer be acceptable. They began to challenge cultural norms, recognizing that the best way to make the world at large care about their cause was to choose specific cases of abuse and focus all media attention on them. The three established a mission to use the legal system to promote and protect the human rights of women around the world.
Each year, the organization hosts a Make Equality Reality Gala to raise money to support their legal team. Dec. 3, 2020, marked the eighth annual Gala, though it had to be hosted virtually, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Make Equality Reality Gala 2020
The star-studded gala included special appearances from Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Jameela Jamil, Karamo Brown, Margaret Atwood, Aubrey Plaza, AnnaSophia Robb, Rob Reiner, and many more. There was also a tribute written by Gloria Steinem to the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away in September 2020.
The Make Equality Reality Gala opened with a few words from the actor, author, and producer Sheetal Sheth, and actor, writer, and producer Aasif Mandvi. They informed their audience of the mission of Equality Now, and that the best thing they can do to support their work is to donate to the cause. The video then cuts to snippets of interviews with the Equality Now staff, as they tell us what they have been doing throughout the year, and how they made the best of quarantine. Some of their responses were light-hearted, like learning how to knit and bake. Others were more serious, like working with other human rights organizations.
Jameela Jamil marks the first-star appearance to tell viewers that the future lies in the hands of young girls. However, she also notes that the future is at risk. Jamil tells audiences that 1 in 10 girls faces sexual violence in her lifetime. Three million young girls are victims of female genital mutilation in 92 countries, including the U.S., and that girls make up the vast majority of victims of sex trafficking all around the world.
There was then a presentation outlining the work that Equality Now has done since its founding, including helping young girls win rape cases in court or win back their freedom after being married away as a child. This organization has also helped women in Kuwait secure the right to vote. The organization works with governments in 193 countries around the world to create and change laws. This is done so that women and young girls are free to reach their full potentials.
A Call to Action and Awareness
Over the course of the rest of the Make Equality Reality Gala, there were performances from the cast of Netflix’s Grand Army, English singer/songwriter Jess Glynne and numerous speeches and calls to action from the biggest names in entertainment. There was also a performance of Two Girls, a play written by Katie Cappiello to raise awareness of the exploitation and abuse of women that occurs on the Internet. Meryl Streep also delivered a tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Glynne closed out the Gala with a performance of her song “I’ll Be There,” and a montage of photos and videos of frontline healthcare workers, women at protests, and women being in positions of power.
The Changemaker Award was presented by Gucci and Chime for Change to Nadeen Ashraf. Ashraf is a 22-year-old filmmaker from Cairo, Egypt best known for her work as the founder of Assault Police, an Instagram account Ashraf used to highlight the gendered injustices happening in Egypt. She began to gain notoriety through the Instagram account and was an instrumental part of the passing of an Egyptian law that protected the identity of sexual violence victims.
Ways to Show Support
The Make Equality Reality Gala raised over $380,000 in 2020 to continue to support the attorneys and other staff around the world who work tirelessly to promote equal rights for women. Please visit www.equalitynow.org/donate to support the work that Equality Now does to secure education for women and young girls all over the globe.