13 Women Who Made 2016 A Better Place

From Iskra Lawrence to Nicola Adams...

23/12/2016 11:18 | Updated 23 December 2016

While some terribly unpleasant things happened this year, there have also been some small yet positive steps made.

Now that 2016 is finally coming to a close, we’re taking the opportunity to champion the women who helped to make 2016 a better, and more progressive, place. 

From promoting women’s equality and positive body image, to opening up about mental health issues and smashing glass ceilings, here they are. 

  • Iskra Lawrence, Model
    Emma McIntyre via Getty Images
    The 26-year-old has helped spearhead a body positive movement here in the UK, which was kickstarted by un-retouched photos of the size 14 model. More recently, she stripped down to her underwear on public transport to speak to people about why it's important to build a healthy relationship with their bodies. 
  • Sian Williams, Welsh Rugby Player
    Ben Hoskins via Getty Images
    At the start of 2016, Williams (red kit) became the first ever Welsh full-time female rugby player. Writing in a column for the BBC, the 26-year-old said that as a child she had dreamt of being a professional rugby player, but in the back of her mind she knew it probably wouldn't be possible.

    "As a female, you get to a certain age and assume it will not be possible, as there are not many opportunities," she said. "So it is a dream come true to be Wales' first female rugby player with elite athlete status and the Royal Air Force's first full-time female athlete."
  • Nicola Adams, Olympian
    YURI CORTEZ via Getty Images
    Olympic champion and bisexual boxer Nicola Adams had a fantastic year at Rio 2016, which was swiftly followed by her winning the ‘Paving The Way’ award at the Mobos. She said she hopes to use her celebrity status to inspire others and "do more for the LGBT community".
  • Dame Helen Mirren, Actor
    Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images
  • Laura Trott, Olympian
    David Davies/PA Wire
    After winning four gold medals at Rio 2016, Laura Trott became the most successful female British Olympian in history. Despite being born prematurely with a collapsed lung, the 24-year old has never given up on her dream and continues to inspire young girls and women everywhere.
  • Emma Watson, Actor And UN Woman's Goodwill Ambassador
    Pacific Press via Getty Images
    In September, Emma Watson launched a new #HeForShe initiative focusing on gender equality in universities. Being the UN Woman's Goodwill Ambassador hasn't been easy for Emma, who said launching a gender equality movement opened a 'Pandora's box of abuse', but hasn't stopped her from continuing the fight so young girls can grow up in a world that's equal. 
  • Dame Sarah Storey, Paralympian Cyclist
    Bryn Lennon via Getty Images
    Dame Sarah Storey, 38, rode her way into the history books at this year’s 2016 Paralympics. Her impressive performance at Rio earned her three gold medals and the title of most decorated female Paralympian in British history.
  • Adele, Singer
    Scott Legato via Getty Images
    This year, Adele revealed that she had suffered from postnatal depression following the birth of her first child. The singer said she didn’t take antidepressants and regrets not talking to anyone about her depression at the time. “I was very reluctant [to talk],” she said.
  • J.K. Rowling, Author
    Karwai Tang via Getty Images
    J.K. Rowling is a celebrity in her own right, but that doesn't mean she separates herself from fans. The 51-year-old author is incredibly active on social media and has sent numerous tweets of support to fans with mental health issues throughout the year.
  • Nadiya Hussain, Baker And TV Presenter
    Anthony Harvey via Getty Images
    After winning the Great British Bake Off in 2015, Nadiya went on to present her own two-part TV series 'Chronicles of Nadiya' and released a children's cookery book encouraging kids to get involved in the kitchen.

    Earlier this year, Nadiya was a guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. She talked about her struggles as a young mother and the social isolation suffered by some Muslim women. She described the racial abuse she still receives on the street and, determined to be a good role model to her children, told of how she responds with the “dignity of silence”.
  • Helen Skelton, Presenter
    Claire Greenway via Getty Images
    Earlier this year, Twitter users went into meltdown after Rio 2016 presenter Helen Skelton wore a short dress on TV. She rose above the sexist social media storm by not responding to the ridiculous tweets and continued to wear what she wanted, when she wanted. 
  • Theresa May, Prime Minister
    AFP via Getty Images
    While May became Prime Minister amid the controversy of Brexit and some may not agree with her politics, there's no denying the impact of having a woman at 10 Downing Street. She joins other women at the top of politics Angela Merkel, German chancellor, and Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister - a turning point for women perhaps?
  • Noma Dumezweni, Actress
    Matt Crossick/Matt Crossick
    Earlier this year Noma Dumezweni was subject to racial abuse following her casting as Hermione in 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child'.

    Responding with dignity and grace, Dumezweni told The Sunday Times: "It's ignorance. It drives me crazy. It's a limitation." She has continued to provide a stella performance of Hermione on stage.

    Emma Watson said meeting Noma and seeing her on stage was like "meeting her older self".
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