Kirsty Davies says a new women’s movement is needed to tackle an underlying discrimination in Welsh life
According to the Fawcett Society Welsh women are facing a ‘Triple Jeopardy’. They are more likely than men to lose their jobs in the public sector as a result of the cuts, are more dependant on public services, and are more likely to be unpaid carers.
Last weekend 30 women from the Women’s Equality Network Wales met at the Metropole in Llandrindod to kick start a feminist movement to tackle these issues. The Network was set up in the aftermath of the demise of the Wales Women’s National Coalition in 2010. This had left a vacuum in women’s representation to the Welsh Government. The Network won support from the Welsh Government’s Advancing Equality Fund and in the last year has been working on single mothers and barriers to work amongst other themes.
The main focus of the Llandrindod conference was how to get the issues that affect women such as violence against women, caring responsibilities, and equal pay adopted by the Welsh Government as mainstream policy priorities. The Welsh Government’s Violence against Women Bill was identified as a priority for the coming year. It was decided that the over arching strategy would be to raise awareness of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and to campaign to have the Committee’s principles adopted by the Welsh Government. It was decided that a ‘wave walk’ would be held along the coastal path from north to south on the 21 June 2013 linked to a conference on the status of women in Wales in Cardiff Bay. This will be the culmination of a year of action to raise awareness of the issues being promoted by Women’s Equality Network Wales.
Zarin Hainsworth, a keynote speaker at the Llandrindod conference, provided an example of how organised women’s movements can make a difference. Zarin heads up the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations, a lobbying organisation working to help draft legislation around women’s rights – and putting pressure on governments to implement it. Her values stem from her strong belief in the Baha’i faith which stresses the equality of women and men and the principles of balance and partnership.
A recent, practical example of her work was bringing 16 young women and men to participate in the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN in February-March last year. She engaged the support of schools, the parents and families of the youngsters, trained them in preparation for their visit and for the presentations they made there. She enlisted the support of the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations and Widows Rights International. Together they chaired sessions on violence and education and employment.
Zarin engaged the young people in the problems women face and supported them to write and perform so that they came across as extraordinarily mature and well informed. None of the young people would have been present or made such an impact without Zarin’s imagination, belief and knowledge.
Zarin also achieved a considerable coup in enabling Cissa Yahumba, Secretary General, UNA Congo, to attend the UN and talk about the terrible experiences of women as victims of rape as a weapon of war and of the exponential growth in the numbers of widows in conflict-torn areas such as the Congo. Zarin went on to share these findings in the UK, at the Baha’i centre and the Houses of Parliament. This example of a man dealing with a major issue for women reflects Zarin’s practice of working with boys and men as partners to improve the status of women world wide.
These were practical examples of how the presence of a strong women’s movement can make a difference. Wales has lacked such a movement in its recent history. The Women’s Equality Network Wales intends to fill the gap.