Make Equality RealityEquality Now was founded in 1992 in New York when three feminist lawyers, Jessica Neuwirth, Navanethem “Navi” Pillay and Feryal Gharahi decided that domestic violence, rape and female genital mutilation could no longer be acceptable. The lawyers began to challenge cultural norms, recognizing that the best way to encourage the world at large to care about their cause was to choose specific cases of abuse and focus all media attention on these cases. 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 the organization’s legal team. Dec. 3, 2020, marked the eighth annual gala, though the organization had to host it 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. Gloria Steinem also wrote a tribute 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 as well as actor, writer and producer Aasif Mandvi. They informed their audience of the mission of Equality Now and reiterated that the best way to support the organization is to donate to the cause. The video then cuts to snippets of interviews with the Equality Now staff explaining their activities 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. Other responses took on a more serious note, 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 one in 10 girls faces sexual violence in her lifetime. In addition, she says that 3 million young girls are victims of female genital mutilation in 92 countries, including the United States, and that girls make up the vast majority of victims of sex trafficking all around the world.

Organization Achievements

The gala included a presentation outlining the work of Equality Now since its founding, including helping young girls win rape cases in court or assisting girls in winning back their freedom after being married off as children. 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 so that women and young girls are free to reach their full potential.

A Call to Action and Awareness

Over the course of the rest of the Make Equality Reality Gala, the lineup entailed 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 in positions of power.

Gucci and Chime for Change presented the Changemaker Award 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 uses to highlight the gendered injustices happening in Egypt. She began to gain notoriety through the Instagram account and played an instrumental role in the passing of an Egyptian law to protect the identity of sexual violence victims.

Ways to Show Support

The Make Equality Reality Gala raised more than $380,000 in 2020 to continue to support the efforts of the lawyers and other staff around the world who work tirelessly to promote equal rights for women. Even an ordinary individual can make a difference by donating or fundraising to support the work that Equality Now does to empower girls and women across the globe.

Jessica Lyn
Photo: Flickr