As with every year, many memorable things happened in 2021 – both good, bad, and in-between. I’ve been taking time to reminisce on the 2021 events that filled our screens and captured our attention before rushing into the pandemonium that is 2022, or 2020 part 2 as some already call it.

Like many other current global advocacy goals, causes, and social movements, the movement to achieve gender equality experienced some progress and regress in 2021.

I’m sure we’re all too familiar with the 2021 news stories of worsened gender inequalities in many parts of the world, so instead, I’ll be focusing on what often gets disregarded or neglected – the moments that furthered gender equality. 

5 Highlights in Gender Equality in 2021

Notably, many pivotal moments advanced gender equality in 2021 by paving the way for women leaders, tackling gender disparities, or favourably shifting the public consciousness.

These are my favourites: 

  • In 2021, eight countries elected or sworn in their first woman Head of State or Government.
  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala became the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, making her both the first woman and the first African to hold this position in the organization’s 26-year history.
  • Tokyo 2020 Olympics kicked off with almost 49 percent of participating athletes being women, making it the most gender-balanced Games in history.
  • Chloé Zhao made history at the Oscars when she became the first woman of colour and the first woman of Asian descent to earn the best director at the Academy Awards.
  • The #GenerationEquality Forum Paris, which brought together governments, the private sector, and activists to launch a five-year action journey to enhance gender equality, concluded with nearly $40 billion of investments for gender equality.

3 Organizations That Advanced Gender Equality in 2021

Additionally, there are many vital projects, organizations and agencies working to advance gender equality in our lifetime from the grassroots to the international level. 

In 2020, when the pandemic exacerbated gender inequalities and related socio-political issues, these groups led continuous and admirable efforts to meet the immediate needs of people affected and work towards sustainable solutions.

In particular, I will be focusing on the work of UN Women, PLAN International, and Women Empowering Women. 

UN Women

The UN Women is the leading United Nations agency for gender equality. Their work entails developing and upholding standards to create an environment where every woman and girl can exercise her human rights and live up to her full potential.

  • Created 262 legal reforms to advance equality in 69 countries.
  • Supplied 101,000 rural women with life-changing assets, technologies, and tools.
  • Partnered with 590 women’s groups mobilizing Covid-19 responses in 50 countries.
  • Provided justice and recovery services for 98,700 gender-based violence survivors.
  • Enabled 51,500 women to have access to legal aid.
  • Trained 11, 500 justice personnel on women’s rights.
  • Provided 571, 000 women and girls with lifesaving humanitarian support.
  • Covered 107 million people with gender-responsive disaster risk reduction
  • Launched #GenerationEquality and reached 1.3 billion people. 
  • Raised 549 million USD in revenues to combat gender inequality. 

PLAN International

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organization that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. They strive for a just world and ensure that national governments can meaningfully implement and uphold laws that advance children’s rights and gender equality at a community level.

  • Supported over 26 million girls to learn, lead, decide and thrive.
  • Worked with partners, ministries of education and young activists through the #EducationShiftsPower campaign, which resulted in pledges of over $4 billion for the Global Platform for Education.
  • Provided innovative pandemic responses in several countries. 
  • Launched #FreeToBeOnline, in which 66,800 people worldwide – including the President of Malawi – signed an open letter written by girls to the major social media platforms calling on them to act on online violence.
    • Surveyed 14,000 girls across 22 countries about their experiences with online harassment.
  • Partnered with over 39,000 organizations and worked in over 60,000 communities. 

Women Empowering Women


Here’s a little bit about UAWEW. We look forward to bringing you informational content and raising awareness using this platform. IG | @ua_wew #fyp

♬ original sound – Women Empowering Women

Women Empowering Women (WEW) (us!) is a student group founded on the principles of education, advocacy and fundraising. WEW aims to raise awareness on issues of women fleeing domestic violence, poverty, homelessness or seeking asylum. In addition, they aim to promote wellness, empowerment, and self-sufficiency among vulnerable members of our community.

  • Received a student group award commemorating their Community Outreach from the University of Alberta’s Students Union.
  • Launched WEW Chats, a podcast hosted by Hermon Afowork and Eileen Oficiar, both internal committee members. The podcast aims to promote wellness, empowerment, and self-sufficiency to the members of vulnerable communities and society as a whole. They had honest and raw conversations with 8 empowering guests throughout 6 great episodes. 
  • Organized over 8 events, seminars, webinars, and initiatives to engage members of their community, raise funds, and share valuable resources and information. 
    • Hosted a free Women’s Health Seminar where experts discussed breast cancer, PCOS, and women’s accessibility to healthcare.
    • Conducted a webinar educating students on financial stability and literacy.
    • Collaborated with the UABSA on Blacklight IV to discuss the theme of (mis)Representation to raise funds for NotJustYou, a Sickle Cell support organization devoted to creating a support system for affected individuals and families.
  • Published 40 blog articles on various topics aimed at spreading awareness of critical issues, stimulating learning and discussion, and providing insight into social advocacy, especially regarding gender equality.
  • Posted over 96 content pieces on Instagram to educate people on significant gender equality issues and other intersectional topics and resources.
  • Held a silent auction featuring small & local businesses and raised over $1400 in support of Nisa Homes, a group of transitional homes for women and children fleeing domestic violence and homelessness across Canada.

Clearly, a lot has been accomplished on the individual and organizational level to foster gender equality and bring us a little closer to achieving gender equality.

Envisioning a gender-equal world by 2030 can sometimes be challenging, but the highlights noted above ignite hope and a desire to do what we can!

So, what next?

As soon as it came, the first month of 2022 was almost gone. While reminiscing on past highlights is nice, it is futile if it doesn’t light up the way for us to create similar, more significant progress in the new year. 

What are your gender equality goals for 2022?

How will you empower women and other marginalized communities in 2022?

What advances in gender do you want to see in 2022, and how will you demand it from yourself, your close circles, your community, your organizations, elected representatives, institutions, and government?

About the Author

Priscilla Ojomu is a Nigerian-Canadian 3rd-Year BA student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Sociology at UAlberta. Priscilla's work at WEW is fuelled by her passion for promoting awareness of the experiences of marginalized communities through accessible information and resources.

Literature, tea, podcasts, Studio Ghibli movies (Fun fact: she has 100+ collectible postcards of the feature films from 1984 - 2014), art, volunteering and advocating for equity keep her busy.