Feeling like it’s a case of new month, same feeling of existential dread? You’re far from alone.


Staying on top of the headlines might still feel like a thankless task in early 2021, but amidst the doom and gloom there remain some brilliant nuggets of joy and optimism – and every Tuesday, we’ll endeavour to find them.


So, without further ado, here are the stories giving us hope this week…


Three new vaccines clear trial stage

Image: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images


Three new vaccines have proven to be effective in preventing coronavirus, according to new trial data released over the last week.


Among the trio now being considered for authorisation is a vaccine by Johnson & Johnson which has proven effective in a single dose – making it easier to administer at scale.


The developments came as the UK upped its order from French pharma firm Valneva by 40 million doses, with production to begin immediately in West Lothian, Scotland.


It’s hoped the jab will be approved for use later this year, offering flexibility should some UK citizens require revaccination next winter.


Shell to pay compensation after oil spills in Nigeria

Image: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters


The Nigerian branch of energy giant Shell has been ordered to pay compensation to a group of farmers, after being found responsible for damaging oil leaks in the Niger Delta.


It’s after the case was heard before a Dutch appeals court, 13 years after the farmers first lodged a case complaining of widespread pollution.


At the time, Shell insisted the leaks had been caused by “sabotage”.


The judge ordered Shell Nigeria to pay an undisclosed amount to those affected, while parent firm Royal Dutch Shell is to install safety equipment to prevent future damage.


The judgment could also have wide-ranging implications beyond Nigeria, impacting the responsibility multinationals have to the local communities in which they operate.


Sri Lanka to offer free period products to schoolgirls

Image: Adbar


The Sri Lankan government has unveiled plans to provide free, locally-produced sanitary pads to more than 800,000 schoolgirls.


The initiative, which will prioritise youngsters in poor rural areas, will also aim to provide toilet facilities in 2,500 schools across the country.


Gender rights campaigners say the move could transform girls’ learning in the country.


Until now, only 30 per cent of menstruating women and girls had access to tampons or pads, leading many young women to miss school regularly once they reach puberty.


Muslim Council of Britain elects first woman leader

Image: MCB/PA Media


The Muslim Council of Great Britain has elected a female leader for the first time in its 24-year history.


Zara Mohammed, a development consultant with a masters in human rights law, won votes from across the UK to take office as the organisation’s secretary general.


The 29-year-old from Glasgow described her victory as “an honour”, saying she hoped it would empower more women and young people to consider leadership roles.


Her appointment has been welcomed by a host of public figures, including Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who described her victory as “terrific”.


Greta Thunberg and Alexei Navalny among Peace Prize favourites

Images: Ben Stanstall/AFP/Getty Images


Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg and the jailed Russian dissident Alexei Navalny are among the early frontrunners for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.


It’s after nominations, which come from thousands of lawmakers and previous winners across the globe, closed on Sunday, with the winner expected to be unveiled in October.


Both Thunberg and Navalny are on a list of nominees given by Norwegian officials with a history of picking the prestigious contest’s victor, as is the World Health Organisation.


Georgia’s voting-rights activist Stacey Abrams and the Black Lives Matter movement are also being tipped as early contenders for the laureate.


But the unceremonious exit from the White House of Donald Trump is likely to scupper the chances of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who received a surprise nomination for his work negotiating four Arab-Israeli normalisation deals.


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