Each year at The Women’s Organisation focuses its efforts to improve the lives of women from all sections of society and from every corner of our community.

We provide support, advice, consultancy, courses, training, and development opportunities for women and we are a vocal advocate for social and economic justice, both in the UK and overseas.

Our work is still necessary, particularly as Government and authorities continue to fall short in creating environments in which all women can thrive and feel safe and empowered. 2022 was, unfortunately, another year where unequal treatment was apparent:


Women’s economic empowerment under threat

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), this year, the gender pay gap among full-time employees in the UK increased to 8.3%, up from 7.7% in 2021.

Women earn, on average, 90p to every pound earned by men – and black and minority racial employees earn around 84% of that earned by their white colleagues in identical roles.

Recent research from The Fawcett Society reveals that what that looks like in reality, is that women take home £564 less than men each month.

Despite this, in their plan to accelerate growth post-pandemic, the Government has indicated gender gap reporting for businesses with fewer than 250 employees will no longer be compulsory – a huge backward step in terms of inclusion, diversity, and gender equality.

And as if dealing with the persisting and disproportionate impact of the pandemic weren’t enough, women are now bearing the brunt of the continuing cost-of-living crisis and the recession, or the ‘she-cession’, as it is often being referred to.

In real terms, the UK is currently facing the biggest fall in living standards on record, and it is women who are being hit hardest.

Women are primary caregivers and homemakers, principally responsible for managing family finances. They are the shock absorbers of poverty.

Women are the first to feel the burden of reduced spending. Even those on a fair to average income are visibly crippling under the pressure of endlessly rising food bills and scrupulously soaring energy bills. The task of simply keeping families warm and fed has become a terribly onerous one.


Women’s worsening welfare

And the cost-of-living crisis has been devastating for women’s welfare too.

An article published by Women’s Aid in August paints a grim picture of how women are feeling increasingly dependent on abusive partners, are being subjected to financial manipulation or coercion, and how thousands are feeling forced to stay in abusive relationships and households.

In real terms, the intensifying cost-of-living crisis has left thousands of women dealing with domestic abuse dangerously isolated.

What’s worse, is that those frontline service providers set up to support those women are also being gravely affected by growing costs.

In their statement back in August, Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid said: “This crisis is having an unprecedented impact on women and children and requires urgent action. While the government has made some positive progress in this area, more must be done. We urge the government to provide an Emergency Support Fund for Survivors to offset the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. We also ask that the government offers discounts on energy bills to domestic abuse services that provide lifesaving support.

“We are quickly approaching the winter months where the crisis will only get worse. Survivors have suffered enough, having been trapped in their homes during COVID: they must be offered the help they need to support their children and to be free from abuse.”


Impact on women’s health

More data revealed by The ONS earlier this month revealed the devastating impact of the cost-of-living crisis on women’s mental health.

More than one in three women in the UK (35%) aged 16 to 29 are right now experiencing moderate to severe depressive symptoms, compared with 22% of men of the same age.

And yet, according to the same report, men were almost twice as likely to have had a healthcare professional ask if they face financial difficulties than women (35% compared to 18%).

And this comes further to a string of reports that suggests the UK healthcare system, in its current form, is grossly letting women down.

The results of the Women’s Health Survey in March revealed concerning shortcomings in the healthcare system and exposed what is now commonly referred to as the gender health gap.

In recent months, we’ve also seen a stark increase in pregnancy-related deaths in the UK, sadly including suicide due to a lack of post-natal care and support. And gynecology waiting times have trebled in recent years, leaving thousands of women around the UK awaiting consultation and treatment in agonising pain.

The Women’s Organisation Chair Pat Shea Halston, said: “Urgent work is required to reset the dial on women’s healthcare and eradicate inequalities in the system. We cannot and must not stand for being a lower priority when it comes to our health.”


Women’s rights have been eroded

A woman’s right to abortion is not protected under UK law. And this was brought starkly to light in June, when Roe Vs Wade was overturned in the US, leaving women wondering whether we could see the same curtailing of abortion rights here in the UK.

Women’s healthcare has already been decimated by austerity and the pandemic, but now women are facing what Mandu Reid from the Women’s Equality Party calls “quiet, insidious unravelling of our reproductive rights”.

And women’s rights, or lack thereof, have been brought into focus sharply and shockingly, through the ongoing protests in Iran.

December marks three months of protests, prompted by the death of Mahsa Amini, who died while in the custody of the morality police, accused of flouting the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

Her death was “the spark that has ignited a woman-led revolution” in Iran and across the world. Time and time again, wherever there is oppression in the world it is women who suffer most.


Violence against women and girls

Violence against women and girls exists across the globe and extends to every corner of our communities. It is a historic and engrained problem that is showing no signs of going away.

Just this month, violence against women and girls has been brought forefront, as Jordan McSweeney was jailed for at least 38 years, and convicted of the brutal murder and sexual assault of London law graduate, Zara Aleena.

Her murderer, McSweeney, had a history of domestic violence.

WO SECO Maggie O’Carroll expresses her dismay, saying: “Only last year, around this time, we wrote to Government to voice our shock and outrage at the ongoing and systemic failure to protect women and girls from violence and abuse.

“We pleaded with them that we might not need to resort to using another face, another rape, or another death of a woman or girl to talk about and take action around prevention. Yet here we are.

“We have had enough of highlighting and raising consciousness. We need action and we need it now.”

The knock-on effect of conflict and climate change

Around 80% of people displaced by climate change are women. When women are displaced, whether through war, famine, or drought, they are made more vulnerable to violence.

In June the United Nations cited migration and forced displacement among the most serious impacts of the climate crisis that are already impacting millions of people around the world. Later that month, the UK delivered a statement following an annual discussion on women’s rights, acknowledging the adverse effect of climate change on their personal safety and security.

It read: “The UK recognises that climate change can… have a particularly devastating impact on women and girls, who are more likely to die or be displaced, or suffer from intimate partner violence during climate change-induced crises and disasters.”

And currently, concerns are being raised for the safety of women and children refugees and asylum-seekers, who are being left desperately vulnerable to gender-based violence and sexual exploitation.

Women are at risk of sexual and gender-based violence throughout all stages of migration – prior to fleeing their home country, during the journey, and even in camps or other ‘safe places’ set up to house migrants, including in the UK.

Migration in the UK is at an all-time high, with more than 500,000 immigrants – almost half of those are humanitarian and over 100,000 Ukrainian and Afghan migrants – making this a very real and present problem.


Our resolve will not waiver

Reflecting on the year, the chief executive of The Women’s Organisation, Maggie O’Carroll said: “We may have seen progress in recent years but with the global pandemic followed by an economic crisis and turmoil in Ukraine, Iran, and Afghanistan, 2022 feels like a year when many women have seen their lives change for the worst.

“Gains won over decades can be lost in an instant. At The Women’s Organisation we have been championing female empowerment, for individuals on the ground and in the corridors of power, for more than two decades. Our resolve to continue that in 2023 and beyond will not waiver.

“As a matter of urgency policymakers, both in the UK and overseas, must understand the need for a powerful response to drastically improve the lives of women. We will make our voices heard.”