Visible Women

From New Zealand to Northern Ireland: the women making waves this week

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

The woman made a dame for services to the rights of sex workers 

Dame Catherine Healy at a UK symposium in 2015 

On Monday (4 June), activist, advocate and former sex worker Catherine Healy was made a dame in the Queen’s birthday honours list for her services to the rights of sex workers.

Healy founded the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, an organisation that supports sex workers’ rights, in 1986. The group’s initial focus was on HIV prevention, but it now advocates more widely for the health, rights and wellbeing of sex workers, running community centres and providing support and information for people doing sex work or thinking about doing sex work.

In the early 2000s, Healy helped develop a bill that decriminalised sex work and safeguarded workers’ rights in New Zealand. She is now a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

“I think that fighting the stigma of sex work remains our biggest battle,” Healy told the Associated Press. “I well remember somebody saying, ‘Oh, when are you going to stop.’ It’s just not what sex workers generally want to hear. It’s their work, it’s their job, it’s what they do. If somebody’s in a position where they absolutely hate their job, of course you want to support them to get out, and we do that.

“Hopefully my award is useful for every sex worker. We are not about fixing sex workers, we’re about recognising them.”

The woman set to be the first Native American congresswoman in US history

Many US states are currently in the grip of primary elections. These are vitally important, because they determine which candidates will go on to run in November’s mid-term elections – and if enough Democrats win in those elections, they’ll be able to seriously challenge the Trump administration at almost every turn.

On Tuesday (5 June), Deb Haaland won the primary election in New Mexico, meaning she will now run against Republican Janice Arnold-Jones in November. If successful, she will become the first ever Native American woman to serve in the US Congress.

Speaking to Time magazine after her victory on Tuesday, Haaland emphasised that she isn’t the first Native American women to run for Congress. “It’s not that native women haven’t tried. Ada Deer tried. Kalyn Free tried. Denise Juneau tried a couple of years ago,” she said.

If elected in November, Haaland plans to focus on the environment and climate change, preserve public lands and fight for affordable healthcare.

She wasn’t the only woman to triumph in American politics this week: of the 92 women who ran in primary elections on Tuesday, at least 36 were successful. 

The Northern Irish woman going to court over the country’s abortion law 

Sarah Ewart outside the Supreme Court in London on Thursday 

On Thursday (7 June), the UK Supreme Court dismissed a case about the legality of Northern Ireland’s abortion law. The case had been brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), which argued that current restrictions on abortion in Northern Ireland – which block women from terminating pregnancies even in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormalities – are a violation of women’s human rights.

Judges on the Supreme Court agreed that the law was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, they ruled they could not legally consider the case, as it had not been brought by a woman who was affected by the abortion ban.

Now, a woman who was forced to leave Northern Ireland for an abortion has said she will take the case to Belfast’s High Court, to seek a formal declaration that the law is incompatible with European human rights law. Sarah Ewart, 28, was forced to travel to England for an abortion in 2013 after a scan showed that her baby’s brain and skull had not developed properly and they would not survive.

“I’m not only doing this for me, but for every woman who may find themselves in my situation,” Ewart said. “We will not accept being forced on planes to access healthcare. What we need is compassion and services in Northern Ireland.”

Confused by the issues surrounding the Northern Ireland abortion debate? We’ve compiled a handy explainer of all the key points here

The politicians making up Spain’s first female-majority government 

Spain’s new cabinet, pictured in Madrid on Friday 

On Thursday (7 June), Spain’s new prime minister appointed 11 women and six men to his cabinet, making it the most women-dominated government in the country’s history.

Women now hold many of the most important positions in Spanish society. Carmen Calvo has been appointed deputy prime minister, while the other new ministers include María Jesús Montero (finance), Nadia Calviño (the economy), Dolores Delgado (justice) and Margarita Robles (defence).

On Friday (8 June), Calvo said the government “has to work to reduce inequalities and achieve great equality, which affects men and women”.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who describes himself as a feminist, said his new team “shared the same vision of a progressive society that was both modernising and pro-European”.

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 Images / The English Collective of Prostitutes via youtube.com