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The Big Story  Feminism

Is there a feminist spring?

Women’s rights has got its mojo back – and not a minute too soon. Hazel Healy takes stock of the challenges ahead.

They cut a dash in the crowded hall: a gang of secondary-school girls in head scarves and bright red capes, which were emblazoned with faces of their heroes – Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou.

The girls, visitors from Mulberry school in Tower Hamlets, were taking part in Women of the World (WOW) festival earlier this year. They listened to 16-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai and presented their own views on why feminism is more relevant than ever. ‘We are standing on the shoulders of those great women who came before us and championed the rights we enjoy today,’ Maria Amrin, one of those given a platform, said solemnly. ‘It’s up to us to keep the torch blazing.’

These girls are part of what is being described as a new wave of feminism. Feminism never stopped, of course, but there is something in the air – a new surge of energy and interest. In Britain alone, the number of grassroots groups has tripled since 2010, according to advocacy network UK Feminista. It is now inundated with requests for talks and training.

After years in the long grass, feminist concerns – control over our bodies, opportunities and value, share of labour and freedom from violence – are gaining traction among young women, politicians and the media.

Women around the world are mobilizing, using a hotch-potch of different methods to make an impact. US feminist Jessica Valenti

Girls strike a pose for an advert for GoldieBox. One of the companies bucking the gendered toy divide, it makes engineering toys for girls.

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