It began with thousands of people in the Middle East rising up to demand an end to repressive government and a say in their futures.
That spirit of transformation continued throughout the year. The world welcomed the new country of South Sudan, the culmination of a years-long peace process. A global network of activists sprang into action to thwart a policy that threatened Afghan women. The United Nations launched a new agency dedicated to guaranteeing women’s human rights worldwide.
A campaign to make Istanbul's roughly 3,100 mosques more welcoming for women could set off a gender revolution in Turkey's places of Islamic worship - and one that may not be uniformly welcomed.
"This is about mosques being a space for women," declared Kadriye Avci Erdemli, Istanbul's deputy mufti, the city's second most powerful administrator of the Islamic faith. "When a woman enters a mosque, she is entering the house of God and she should experience the same sacred treatment. In front of God, men and women are equal; they have the same rights to practice their religion."
It feels as if, for 20 years, the only argument occurring about feminism has been whether or not it has a point – hadn't its purpose already been served, all its battles won? And when young women eschew feminism, thinking it to describe an uneven temper and hairy armpits, does it have any reliable meaning or future?
A gender perspective needs to be integrated into countries’ criminal justice systems to ensure women are not “ruled out of the law,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Gabriela Knaul said today.
His parents knew exactly what they wanted from their son: they called him Famiao, or "produce descendants". Yet when their first grandchild arrived, they refused to step across the courtyard of the family home to see the new baby. Qiaoyue was a girl.
When finally obliged to meet her, "they didn't even wash her face or comb her hair. I was furious," says their daughter-in-law, Chen Xingxiao.
"My father-in-law's friends would ask him, 'How come you haven't brought your grandchild out for a walk?' He would say, 'If it was a boy I would have done. She's a girl, so I won't.'"
Hundreds of women have set fire to their traditional veils in Yemen in protest at the violence used against anti-government demonstrators. The women, in the capital Sanaa, made a pile of veils in the street which they then doused with petrol and set alight.
Women have played a key part in the uprising against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
A Yemeni woman activist, Tawakkul Karman, was joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. She received the award for her role in the struggle for women's rights and democracy in Yemen.
FOR A FREE AND SECULAR MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
76 secularists and human rights campaigners, including Mina Ahadi, Nawal El Sadaawi, Marieme Helie Lucas, Hameeda Hussein, Ayesha Imam, Maryam Jamil, Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasrin, Farida Shaheed, Fatou Sow, and Stasa Zajovic have signed on to a Manifesto for a Free and Secular Middle East and North Africa.
We live in historic times. People in the Arab world are rising up against political dictatorship and corruption; they demand reforms and are organizing for freedom, human dignity and social justice. Women have been shouldering the responsibilities in all uprisings and their movement is an integral part of the democratic forces for social and economic justice. But they are systematically excluded from the decision making processes that shape the future of their countries. What democracies are then being prepared and negotiated?
The role of women in the new Tunisia has been a controversial issue throughout the transitional period, with some fearful that they would lose precious rights from the previous era, and others arguing for a return to traditional values.
Early on in the democratic transition, an ambitious gender parity law was introduced to ensure women would have a voice in the constituent assembly.
Fifty years ago, the Parisian police brutally suppressed a demonstration of 30,000 Algerian workers protesting against a discriminatory and racist curfew banning them from the capital’s streets at night. The march was peaceful, but by the end of the night over 200 Algerians were dead and 11,000 had been arrested and detained in horrific circumstances by French police units.
The date, barely known outside France, is undoubtedly one of the city’s darkest episodes, and survivors of the repression and relatives of those killed are still seeking the truth about what happened that night, and full recognition of the role the authorities played on October 17, 1961.