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From Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Danielle Rowley: the women making waves this week

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Susan Devaney
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Dropping every Friday, Women Making Waves is a series highlighting the women who rocked the boat, pushed for change and made history around the world this week.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ran for Congress – and won  

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a left-wing Latina from the Bronx, defied all odds this week by securing a chance at becoming the youngest person in Congress.

On Wednesday (27 June), Ocasio-Cortez, a former bartender, won and her historic feat went viral across social media platforms.

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In an interview on cable channel MSNBC she said: “Our campaign was focused on just a laser-focused message of economic, social and racial dignity for working-class Americans, especially those in Queens and the Bronx.”

“My mother cleaned homes and drove school buses, and when my family was on the brink of foreclosure … I started bartending and waitressing. I understand the pain of working-class Americans because I have experienced the pain.”

To succeed in the primary, Ocasio-Cortez had to defeat Joseph Crowley, a veteran Democratic politician and congressman of two decades who spent 18 times more money than her on his campaign. Under the US election system she’s not a member of congress yet; having won the Democratic primary, she’ll now have to face a Republican candidate in the mid-term elections in November.

And the best part? She stands for and represents everything Donald Trump is against. 

Women in Saudi Arabia celebrate as they drive off 

For years Saudi Arabia has been the only country in the world to ban women from driving.

But as the clock struck midnight on Sunday 24 June (the first day of the working week in the Middle East), women in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam got into cars and did victory laps around the city’s centre as the driving ban lifted for women in the Gulf kingdom.

Police officers gifted women flowers as they got into the driver’s seat, fathers and brothers gave their blessings as they cheered them on and women gained a little bit of independence in the conservative country.

Many women cheered as they got behind the wheel for the first time in the country, sharing photos and recording videos of the historic moment.

According to the Guardian, Samar Almogren, a talkshow host and writer, said: “I always knew this day would come. But it came fast. Sudden. I feel free like a bird.”

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MP Danielle Rowley breaks taboo by talking about her period in parliament 

It’s 2018 and women still can’t openly talk about periods.

Which is why Scottish MP Danielle Rowley seized the moment to break the taboo after arriving late for a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday 28 June.

“I would like to announce to you today and to the house, and perhaps you will excuse me for my lateness, that today I am on my period,” Rowley started.

She continued to break down what the implications of this have been, not just for her, but for most women, explaining: “And it’s cost me this week already £25. You know, the average cost of a period in the UK over a year is £500. Many women can’t afford this.”

Rowley, who’s a Labour MP in Midlothian, addressed the topic of period poverty in the UK: “What is the minister doing to address period poverty?”

Sanitary products are currently taxed as ‘luxury’ products – with one in 10 girls across the country unable to buy them, according to Plan International

BBC Editor Carrie Gracie wins her fight for equal pay 

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Since Scottish journalist Carrie Gracie published an open letter in January, accusing the BBC of harvesting a “secretive and illegal pay culture”, she’s received a wealth of support and witnessed progress – and she’s finally won the battle.

The former BBC China Editor has received an apology and a payout from the broadcaster, which she will donate to charity.

On Friday 29 June, the BBC apologised for underpaying Gracie and acknowledged the “specific circumstances” relating to her appointment in China, which it said had “now put right”. In a joint statement, the two sides said: “The BBC and Carrie Gracie have reached an agreement to resolve their differences.”

Gracie, who has always stated that this battle was never about money, but principles has announced she will donate the pay to the Fawcett Society – a charity that campaigns for gender equality, to set up a fund to be able to provide women with legal advice on equal pay. 

It’s an inspirational example of women helping women. 

Women Making Waves is part of Stylist’s Visible Women campaign to raise awareness of women who’ve made a difference. See more Visible Women stories here.  

Images: Getty