Simone Biles at the Rio Olympics. She is one of the highlighted women in the news
Photo by Danilo Borges/brasil2016.gov.br is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 / image resized to 1280 x 800
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Women in the News, August 2021: Celebration and Hardships

No matter the struggle, women will make their voices heard. Meet our Lionesses for August.

It’s been a tumultuous month. Soon after women athletes gave incredible performances at the Olympics, the Taliban took Afghanistan and threw the future of women’s rights there into uncertainty. Despite that, women continue to report, protest and step forward as thought leaders. These are the stories of women in the news this month.

Acknowledging the wins of Lionesses…

Alexya Salvador, one of the women in the news
Photo by Revda Alexya Salvador is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Alexya Salvador becomes Brazil’s first transgender pastor

Religion was always a major part of Alexya Salvador’s life. But before her transition, the homophobic and transphobic comments she overheard drove her away from the faith. She eventually discovered a chapter of the Metropolitan Community Church, one of the first churches to perform same-gender marriages.

With the support of the MCC and her husband, Salvador began her transition and became a deaconess. This is particularly notable for Brazil, where trans women face a high level of violence and harassment.

“The panic that lived in my head until I discovered the MCC was that I would go to hell, that I was God’s mistake,” she said. “While studying theology, I learned that I have flaws like all humans do but being a trans woman is not one of them.”

Leading the New Commonwealth Fund

Makeeba McCreary recently announced that she would be leaving her position at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to become the first president of the New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund. The fund, led by 19 Black and Brown executives, came together in June 2020. It was a response to the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd. So far, they have raised over $30 million for groups fighting against racism and societal disparities.

McCreary felt that she needed to step into the role and help the nonprofit grow.

“I have become very intent on how I spend my time and feel the urgency that comes from acknowledging Black and Brown leadership, and focusing my energy on supporting that leadership to get both our city and the Commonwealth to a place of not just healing, but really thriving,” she said.

Achievements at the Olympics: record-breaking and record-setting

The first women to perform in new Olympic sports:
  • Katie Ledecky won gold at the first Olympic women’s 1500m freestyle race, swimming 30 laps in 15:37.34.
  • For the first women’s surfing competition, Carissa Moore won gold with a score of 14.93.
  • Momiji Nishiya, who is only 13, won the first women’s street skateboarding competition.
  • For the debut of karate at the Olympics, Sandra Sanchez won women’s gold at the demonstrative sport kata.
  • Janja Garnbret won gold at the first sport climbing competition.
Women who set new records:
  • Hidilyn Diaz set two Olympic records in the women’s 55kg weightlifting competition.
  • Abe Uta, along with her brother, Abe Hifumi, were the first siblings to ever win gold medals at the same Olympics. They won their respective judo matches within hours of each other (though Uta was first).
  • Elaine Thompson-Herah broke a 33-year long record in the women’s 100m race, ending with a time of 10.61.
  • Sydney McLaughlin previously set a world record at the 400m hurdles with a time of 51.90. This year, she broke that record again with a time of 51.46.
  • Quan Hongchan, 14, set a new record in the women’s 10m platform diving competition with a score of 466.20.
Other notable achievements:
  • Gymnast Luciana Alvarado ended her floor routine by taking a knee and raising a fist in the air to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Lauren Hubbard was the first openly transgender woman to compete in the women’s +87kg weightlifting event.
  • Raven Saunders, who won silver at the shot put, used the opportunity to demonstrate on the podium. She raised her hands above her head in an “X”. This represents “the intersection where all people who are oppressed meet.” The statement was a moment of solidarity with other Black and LGBT athletes.
  • Gymnast Simone Biles previously stepped back from the competition due to mental health concerns. After reworking her routine, she returned to the competition and secured a bronze medal.

…and recognizing challenges to overcome.

Afghan reporters share their voices

The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan is a devastating loss for many, including the women and girls who will likely lose access to education, employment and other foundational rights. The situation is bleak – and local female journalists aim to cover the situation for as long as they can, even at the threat of their own lives.

“All my female colleagues in the media are terrified … All of us have spoken out against the Taliban and angered them through our journalism. Right now, everything is tense. All I can do is keep running and hope that a route out of the province opens up soon. Please pray for me,” wrote one anonymous reporter during the takeover.

In November 2020, Zahra Joya started Rukhshana Media to uplift female journalists within Afghanistan telling stories about other women. The name comes from 19-year-old Rukhshana, a young woman who was stoned to death in 2015 for trying to escape a forced marriage.

As part of its Rights and Freedom project, the Guardian partnered with Rukhshana Media to share stories from female journalists living in Afghanistan.

What can I do to help?

Mina’s List is a nonprofit working to advance women’s leadership and empowerment around the world. The organization is urgently gathering donations to help women leaders escape Afghanistan and receive life-saving support.

“With the Taliban now in control, the situation for these women is getting more dangerous by the minute. Women who have dared to speak out against the Taliban, or advocate for women’s rights, are at the top of kill lists.”

Visit Mina’s List to donate and stay involved.

In the midst of scandal, a new governor steps forward

On Aug. 24, Kathy Hochul became New York’s first female governor. It’s an important milestone, but it’s swept up in controversy. Hochul became governor after the resignation of Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo was accused of sexually harassing at least 11 women. He resigned from his position as the attorney general moved forward with the formal investigation against him.

Hochul told the media that she felt determined to take on the responsibility. “I’ll tell New Yorkers I’m up to the task. And I’m really proud to be able to serve as their governor, and I won’t let them down.”

Dismantling a toxic workplace

Video game developer Activision Blizzard currently faces a lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Women encountered pay disparity, a lack of promotions, comments about their bodies, jokes about sexual assault and attempts from executives to grope and kiss them.

Hundreds of Activision employees staged physical and virtual walkouts, asking the company to “improve conditions for employees at the company, especially women, and in particular women of color and transgender women, non-binary people and other marginalized groups.”

Experts hope that the scandal and demands for change will become a major turning point for the game development industry, which has historically struggled with sexism and racism.


Want more stories of women in the news? Be sure to read our other picks for Lionesses This Month!

About the author

Laura Grant

Laura Grant is a recent graduate of Western New England University with a bachelor's degree in English Literature. She spent her undergraduate term developing her writing and communication skills through internships, tutoring, and student media involvement. Her goal is to publish a novel one day.

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