We don’t yet know everything 2017 will bring, but as we revisit the major events and cultural moments of 2016, it is helpful to consider what the past year has meant for women, as well as new opportunities for activism and advocacy in 2017.
This was a historic year for women in the United States, not least of all because of the first major party nomination of a woman for President, a significant achievement in its own right. We’ve seen women at the frontlines of #BlackLivesMatter, nationally and locally, and the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. 2016 also saw the election of the most diverse Congress in its history, with a record number of women of color elected to the Senate, including Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
Women’s economic security and health were front and center in the presidential campaign this year. Both candidates proposed paid family leave and affordable child care policies, and Hillary Clinton offered a stirring defense of reproductive choice during the third debate. The campaign also became part of a national conversation about violence against women, and the ways women experience assault and harassment at school, at work (even when your office is a comedy club), and at home.
In Illinois, the budget impasse cut services for over 1 million residents, many of whom are women. As I wrote in June, women have been disproportionately impacted by the State’s failure to pass a full budget. Nonprofit employees and their clients, both of which tend to be women, were among the hardest hit. Throughout the first half of 2016, funding was withheld for low-income college students, rape crisis services, prenatal care, and breast and ovarian cancer screenings for low-income women. The stopgap bill did not restore full funding and will expire at the end of 2016, leaving many women without critical services.
Locally, we witnessed victories for low-wage workers, two-thirds of whom are women, including paid sick leave, a minimum wage increase, and the Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which protects against sexual harassment and discrimination based on race or gender. Additionally, the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act increased women’s access to medical information.
2016 had historic highs and lows, but there are many reasons to be hopeful for 2017. Chicago Foundation for Women and our grantees have experienced a flood of support following the election. Women made it clear in 2016 that we are United, that we will not sit on sidelines, and we will not be silent. 2017 will be ushered in by the Women’s March on Washington and solidarity marches across the country.
We plan to build on this momentum to eliminate gender bias by 2030. After a successful 2016 launch, CFW will host a second round of Talk It Out in March 2017 to spark conversation about gender bias as part of The 100% Project. In the coming year, Chicago Foundation for Women will continue to advocate for women and girls, and invest in them as catalysts for change. We hope you’ll join us in making 2017 a great year for women and girls.
Follow K. Sujata on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ChiFdn4Women