Why 2016 is a big year for women | ActionAid UK

2016 marks the start of another important year for women. From politics and arts, to fighting for equal pay and an end to violence, we explore what the world looks like for women in 2016. How are we breaking the glass ceiling and what are the barriers still holding us back?

After receiving ActionAid training, Sabrina now runs her own ActionAid women’s group in West Bengal, India, where women learn about vital topics such as domestic law, violence law, sex and leadership.
After receiving ActionAid training, Sabrina now runs her own ActionAid women’s group in West Bengal, India, where women learn about vital topics such as domestic law, violence law, sex and leadership.

Women in politics

Women will play a huge role in politics this year. In Germany, Angela Merkel will continue to be at the forefront of many of Europe’s biggest political decisions of 2016. In the US we may see the first female president. Over nine million women failed to vote in last year’s UK general election, so this year the Women’s Equality Party have vowed to find them and get them to engage in the political system again. And in Brazil, as the country hosts the 2016 Olympics, eyes will be on Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s President and the first woman to hold the office. 

2016 will see these women, and countless others, bring the voices of women to the heart of politics. Several developing countries already have female presidents including Bangladesh, Nepal, Brazil and Liberia, and as ActionAid continues to help increase women and girls' access to education and positions of leadership in their communities, hopefully we will see the number of women in politics go up.

Actionaid Fellow Sukyi Khaing, 24, with villagers of Soe Taw village, Myanmar.

Women in the arts

Women look set to have another great year in the arts, with many using art for female empowerment. Take the two women in Pakistan who create beautiful outdoor murals to tackle gender violence. Or the Saatchi Gallery’s first all women exhibition 'Champagne Life', designed to reflect on what it means to be a female artist working today and redress the gender imbalance in the industry.

The gender pay gap

The gender pay gap will continue to be a huge topic for women in 2016. At the end of 2015, the World Economic Forum announced that, based on current progress rates, it would take another 118 years to close the gap. ActionAid's own research on closing the gap shows that women in developing countries could be US$9 trillion better off if their pay and access to paid work were equal to that of men. But despite this, women are speaking out against unfair wages and demanding more. With the debate over equal pay dominating much of Hollywood, we can expect the fight to continue to garner more attention throughout the year.

Shilpy (centre) an ActionAid-trained woman's leader campaigning for better workers' rights and equal pay in Bangladesh.

Violence against women and girls

Frankly, we’ve still got a very long way to go before we’ve really tackled the problem of violence against women. But the issue is becoming more high-profile and a bigger part of daily conversation, leading to greater awareness, higher profile campaigns and a greater level of political engagement in the issue. Only yesterday, acid attack survivor and activist, Laxmi, has become the face of a new Indian fashion campaign called 'Face of Courage', to stand up to violence and challenge standard perceptions of beauty.

With the Sustainable Development Goals firmly in place, including a stand-alone goal on gender equality, 2016 should be a historic year in the fight to end violence against women. ActionAid firmly believes that the best way to do this is put women in the driving seat and support local women’s rights organisations to tackle violence and attitudes towards violence from the ground up. ActionAid will be putting this at the forefront of our work in 2016, with the next stage of our Fearless campaign.

17-year-old Asegedech avoided child marriage thanks to ActionAid support.

Of course, we can expect so much more out of 2016. Malala Yousafzai alongside many others will continue to lead the fight for girls' rights to education. The Olympics in Brazil will offer more opportunities for women in sports. Humanitarian emergencies like the refugee crisis and El Niño will continue to affect women more adversely than men - as menstruation, giving birth and the traditional role of caring for children mean disasters hit women the hardest. But at the same time, we will continue to be inspired by the resilience of women in these situations. I could go on…

2016 will likely be another historic year for women - it will also be another incredibly challenging year - but one thing is for sure: it must be the year the world wakes up and delivers a safer and more just future for women. We all have a responsibility to ensure this. Let’s not let this opportunity go to waste.

Here’s to 2016!

Read more about our work on women and girls