With a 500% increase on outreach activities during the last 15 months, the WNC has consolidated its core commitment of staying in close and regular contact with its Partners, to hear your views and to share relevant news and developments on a range of gender issues. Over the last 12 to 15 months - our 40th Anniversary year - there has been a significant increase in our activity which has been overseen by our Chair and Board of 14 Commissioners who have either chaired or been personally involved in all of the activities and we want to thank all of you who have participated in these events. We would therefore like to take this opportunity to provide you with a summary of this activity in order to keep you informed of work. Click on the charts to see the full image.
We have recently completed the second series of International events around the four nations of the UK which was funded by the Government to enable women to learn more about International Institutions working on gender equality and how the decisions taken at the United Nations and the European Union affected women’s everyday lives. We have spoken to over 500 women as part of this exercise.
Thanks to all of you who attended these events in Belfast, Glasgow, Newcastle, Cardiff and London and who contributed your comments and views. These consolidated the views garnered from our consultation on progress on the Beijing Platform for Action in the summer of 2009 and which formed the basis of the WNC document ‘What’s Beijing Got To Do With Me?’. This significant range of comments were condensed into key domestic and international issues which were given to the Ministers for Women as the UK Government enters important negotiations with the EU prior to the 54th Session of Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) to review Beijing +15. WNC Partners’ views now form an important part of this process.
Also a big thanks to those of you who contributed to our new initiative last year whereby Partners could comment via email directly to our Director, Barbara-Ann Collins, as she fed your views through to UK officials negotiating the text during CSW at the UN in New York. This worked extremely well so we aim to repeat this process during CSW this year and we will for the first time be blogging from New York.
Thanks also to all of you who responded to our consultation which helped us produce our Shadow CEDAW report of 2008. A large number of you fed your thoughts to us, which meant that the final report we produced was a complete summary of the views of the sector and a useful briefing document. Our recent International programme has meant much wider participation from WNC Partners into CSW and enabled more voices to be heard on an International level.
Our Violence against Women team has also recently completed two series’ of focus groups with women and girls, both externally funded. The Home Office commissioned the WNC to organise twenty four focus groups across England to gather women’s and girls’ views on what would make them feel and be safer, and on proposals to prevent violence against women and girls. The Home Office also carried out a review of how to improve the criminal justice system response to rape victims.
As part of this review, the WNC developed and organised three women’s discussion groups in England with women who have been raped. The Department of Health also commissioned the WNC to organise and facilitate fourteen focus groups across England with women who are survivors of violence and who have recently used health services. The recommendations from these focus groups were fed into the Taskforce on the Health Aspects of Violence Against Women and Girls, which was set up to identify and improve the NHS response in relation to violence against women and girls in terms of prevention and treatment.
A diverse range of women and girls attended the focus groups including; traveller women, trafficked women, disabled women and girls aged 13-16.
The WNC would like to thank Partners who were involved in the focus groups, most importantly our thanks goes to the 547 women and girls who gave up their time to participate in the focus groups, who spoke so openly and honestly about what were often harrowing and poignant experiences, and who were clearly able to identify how their experience of using services could have been so much better. Their strength and perception was inspiring, and we feel privileged to have facilitated this consultation to end violence against women and girls.
We are now nearing the end of a programme of eighteen Women in Public Life events across the nine English Regions on behalf of the Government Equalities Office. The Ministers for Women are committed to increasing the number of women involved in public life because of the importance of ensuring that a diverse range of women’s voices shape decisions in our communities and at all political levels.
These events provided practical exercises for women to enter into a variety of public life positions. Guest speakers were inspirational local women who were magistrates or women who held a variety of public appointments. Chaired by a range of WNC Commissioners these have been informative and informal sessions to increase confidence and provide pathways into public life.
This was of course, in addition to our usual working group meetings, including violence against women, migration & asylum and Muslim Women’s Network (now an independent organisation) and the new UN and EU Advisory Forum, as well as producing the quarterly newsletter and regular e-newsletters and working to increase WNC Partners.
We recently sent out a consultation on single-sex services - services for women by women. This is because many of you had told us that you were concerned that many were closing down because the gender duty was being misunderstood and that you felt they were especially valuable to women, particularly vulnerable women. We have already received over a hundred responses and we look forward to sharing those results with you when the consultation concludes, in March 2010.
In 2007 we had 403 Partners and at present we have 565 Partners. This is an increase of 40% and also includes increased representation of some under-represented groups, such as a five-fold increase in partners with a focus on disability.
In total, by the end of March 2010, we will have held over 100 events since January 2009, this is an increase of over 500% from events held in 2007. In addition we have also produced eighteen publications in the same time period, including the well received ‘What’s Beijing got to do with me?’, ‘Still we Rise’ the report of the first series of violence against women focus groups and our 40th Anniversary legacy document which is of historical significance. This is an increase of over 300% on the publications from 2007.
As you can see our Outreach programme has been an extensive two way process and we hope to continue this and strive to provide more women’s voices to government in the coming year.
Our Chair and our new and strengthened Board of Commissioners are committed to working strategically to promote and protect the interests of women through a range of mechanisms. Our Board has highlighted the importance of recognising the multiple identities of women and is working hard to ensure that the needs of under-represented groups of women are included in all government and international activities. This has included chairing events, contributing to consultations and actively influencing legislation of particular importance to women. Most importantly this includes promoting the diversity of women’s lives in the Equality Bill.
Improving and modernising our communications framework to ensure we are communicating with all age groups, so thanks to those of you who are responding to us on Twitter and Facebook and we look forward to finding new and effective ways of maintaining our dialogue with Partners and letting you know the Government is doing to improve women’s lives. We look forward to building on those partnerships and welcoming your thoughts and ideas as part of the process.