Towards a Gender Equal Wales

Chisomo Phiri outlines the inequalities that women face today and what the next Welsh Government should do to tackle them.

As voters go to the polls on Thursday, Chwarae Teg has published its manifesto for a gender equal Wales, a country where all women achieve and prosper. 

Women still face inequality in all areas of their lives. Wales still has a gender pay gap of 12% – and women are four times as likely as men to be out of work as they are looking after the family and home. 

There are fewer women in decision-making positions, both in politics and in the workplace, and women remain at significantly greater risk of living in poverty and experiencing violence, abuse and harassment than men. 

Two-thirds of girls in the UK have experienced unwanted sexual attention in public places, and one in eight had their first such experience when they were just 12 years old or younger. The list could go on!

This inequality cannot continue unchecked; that is why Chwarae Teg wants to see a gender equal Wales. A Wales in which women of all backgrounds and experiences can achieve and prosper and where we all work to dismantle the barriers that continue to hold women back and cost our economy billions of pounds. 

Better decisions are made by diverse groups of people, hence why in our manifesto for a gender equal Wales we recommend increasing the size of the Senedd to 90 members.” 

In our manifesto, we have set out clear recommendations for the next Welsh Government that will address the causes of gender inequality. Any approach taken must be intersectional from the outset and we are unequivocal about this.

 We are calling on candidates in this year’s election to support these recommendations and commit to taking action to deliver a gender equal Wales if they are elected in May.

Our main ask is for the next Welsh Government to commit to delivering the recommendations set out in the Gender Equality Review in full to achieve a fundamental shift in the way that Welsh Government functions and develops and delivers policy. 

This will ensure that gender mainstreaming and budgeting is embedded into every decision-making process within Welsh Government.

The pandemic has disproportionately impacted women, leaving many  economically inactive, taking up unpaid care work and bearing the brunt of home-schooling and other caring responsibilities. 

We are calling for the next Welsh Government to deliver free, good quality full-time childcare for all children aged 0-4 for 48 weeks of the year. 

The UN reported that 97% of young girls and women have been sexually harassed in the UK.”

We are also asking them to invest in wraparound childcare and holiday care to ensure it is available and affordable to all. We believe that this, if implemented, would be a driving force in closing the gender pay gap.

This would help women to enter and progress in the Labour market and continue to contribute to the Welsh economy.

The pandemic has also highlighted our reliance on and the importance of social care work, a sector that is mainly dominated by women. However, this sector is very poorly paid despite the work being so valuable and important. 

We are calling on the next Welsh Government to deliver a new deal for care workers that ensures employment terms and conditions are improved.

 This must include as a minimum: payment of the real Living Wage, limits on zero hours contracts, improved job security, improved collective bargaining, improved access to training and better progression pathways. 

It is crucial that this sector is properly regulated to avoid any exploitation of workers’ rights and to ensure that women are paid fairly.

Our current Senedd is not reflective of the diverse community that it serves. Better decisions are made by diverse groups of people, hence why in our manifesto for a gender equal Wales we recommend increasing the size of the Senedd to 90 members. 

We also recommend enabling people to run for election to the Senedd of the basis of job-sharing. This is to help break down the barriers that women might face when standing for election.

 It is crucial to have women in positions of power and policy to ensure that issues such as the gender pay gap, childcare and sexual harassment are at the forefront of conversation within Welsh Government.

The recent events of the death of Sarah Everard and, closer to home, the death of Wenjing Xu, has shown that violence against women is still a massive problem within our society. Sexual harassment and violence are also a massive, unsolved issues.

 The UN reported that 97% of young girls and women have been sexually harassed in the UK. We believe that it is critical that conversations on attitudes towards women start from an early age, to help mitigate negative stereotypes and promote a culture of dignity and respect.  

“We recommend that the Welsh Government creates a plan to embed tackling and preventing sexual harassment into any strategy for Wales’ night-time economy.”

We are calling on the next Welsh Government to challenge the cultural attitudes that allow sexual harassment to take place and educate and empower citizens to recognise and challenge sexual harassment. 

We also want to ensure that the curriculum is tackling harmful gender stereotypes amongst young girls and boys; nurturing conversations about masculinity, femininity and traditional gender norms, as well as facilitating and encouraging conversations about respect and consent from an early age. 

To add to this, we also recommend that the Welsh Government creates a plan to embed tackling and preventing sexual harassment into any strategy for Wales’ night-time economy, and to roll-out and incentivise campaigns like the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign, which was started in Lincolnshire and is used in some bars and clubs across Wales.

It is hard to predict what the next Welsh Government will look like; however, we are committed to ensuring that gender equality is on the agenda. 

We know that a fairer Wales is a more prosperous Wales, therefore it is important that the next Welsh Government takes our recommendations forward. 

Adopting our recommendations will ensure that Wales achieves the ambition of becoming a world leader in gender equality and a more equitable society.

All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

Chisomo Phiri is the Policy and Communications Partner at Chwarae Teg.

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