On International Day of Happiness we look at some highlights for social and environmental justice in the last year. We’ve captured just a handful of big and small wins across the world that made us happy and inspired us. We’d really like to hear you additions too! 

Gay rights

Gay pride, Dublin

Marriage equality was the first answer everyone gave when we asked what moments of change made you happy in the last year. This was a momentous social justice win in Ireland when we became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage by popular vote.

Meanwhile Mozambique decriminalised homosexuality. The revised penal code drops the mention of ‘vices against nature’, a clause dating back to Portuguese colonial rule. Twenty-one African countries have now either decriminalised homosexuality, or do not legislate against it.

A smaller win for diversity came with the introduction of more diverse emojis, including same-sex relationships and multiple skin tones that over 2 billions smartphone users can now choose from.


The COP21 climate talks in Paris saw the world’s governments commit to limiting global temperature increases to below 2 degrees, while aiming to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. The Global Climate March saw over 2,300 events take place in 175 countries involving 785,000 people in the run up to the talks, sending a clear message for climate justice. Public pressure was key in achieving this agreement and will remain critical to ensure a fossil free future.


Solar cells near cargo terminal, Cochin Airport.

For for 285 days in 2015 Costa Rica powered its grid using only renewable sources. This has cut household bills by 12% in the country, showing that renewable energy doesn’t have to be more expensive. Costa Rica is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2021. 

Cochin Airport in the southern Indian state of Kerala, using over 46,000 solar panels, became the first solar powered airport in the world.


Refugees welcomed
Refugees welcome Cian Doherty

Refugees welcome protest, Dublin

In a wave of solidarity and goodwill countering racist undercurrents in Europe, volunteer efforts in Greece, Germany and Austria welcomed refugees on arrival, providing food and clothes to the newcomers.

An app similar to Airbnb called Refugees Welcome developed by a German couple to facilitate flat sharing for refugees has housed 577 refugees so far.

Meanwhile in Ireland, thousands of people joined protests calling on the government to do more and succeeded in increasing the amount of refugees we’ve committed to receive from 1,100 to 4,000.


2015 saw some inspiring grassroots feminist movements including a significant and moving success when former child brides succeeded in getting child marriage outlawed in Zimbabwe. They made the case that the minimum age to marry for girls of 16 year was discriminatory. It has now been changed to 18 years, the same age as for boys.

At home we saw the largest number of women ever elected to the Dáil last month. Smaller successes included the Waking the Feminist movement leading to a series of meetings with theatres and the Arts Council about making gender equality a reality in the arts through both policies and programming.

People power
tomorrow we disappear

Kathputli Colony, Delhi, India

Ongoing campaigns include the creative community of 3,000 people including puppeteers and artists in Kathputli Colony in Delhi who are resisting being moved of their land to make way for developers to build a shopping centre and offices. The community fear that their unique skills and talents will be lost if they are moved from their land.  

Communities across Europe are also mobilising and resisting. A campaign opposing TTIP and CETA, damaging free trade deals with the EU, US and Canada that threaten our food standards, our democracy and the environment is gathering pace. Communities and municipalities are creating TTIP free zones to show their opposition to these deals. Earlier this year Clare became Ireland’s first TTIP free zone.

What moment of change made you happiest in the last year? Add them to the comments section below or Tweet @stand_ie.

Author: Deirdre Kelly

Photo credits: Gay Pride Dublin, Iker Merodio, Solar cell near cargo terminal, Cochin Airport, Binu JayakrishnanRefugees welcome, Dublin protest, Cian Doherty, Tomorrow we Disappear, Joshua Cogan.

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