For Belle and Emmeline
This Sunday my daughter and I will be taking part in something significant. We will be joining thousands of women across the country marching to commemorate the brave women who came before us 100 years ago who marched, campaigned, starved and even died to get us the vote.
And whilst we can look back and think proudly of what these women did for progress, reflecting on how far we’ve come we will also be using this as an opportunity to build on a movement that has been growing in the last year and show how far we still have to go.
The #Metoo campaign has been key in highlighting the issues of sexual harassment, the difference in pay rates of male and female BBC stars and the pay gap generally, and crucially the 100 year anniversary of women getting the vote and how women continue to be under-represented around the decision-making table and in key (and well paid) sectors.
In education, men still dominate the fields of science and technology (66%). Women represent about three-quarters of tertiary students in education (78%), health and welfare (71%), and humanities and the arts (65%).
Further still one in four women will experience domestic abuse and 1 in 5 experience sexual violence. These have been published stats for many years and they’re not really getting any better. More recently a YouGov survey showed that 64% of women of all ages have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public places, while 35% have experienced unwanted sexual touching. For women aged 18-24 the percentages increased dramatically to 85% and 45% respectively.
When you look at the fact that refuge services and sexual assault services are still funded on a shoestring leaving women in the most serious situations with very few places to turn. The fact that we have statutory offences of hate crime on the basis of race disability or sexual orientation (absolutely needed) which in my experience in the police service are rigorously enforced, but no hate crime against women when the names they are called, the physical assaults they endure are just as offensive. What does that say?
Of course, the fact that people and politicians are now talking about this is progress. We now have in Wales a First Minister who wants to lead a feminist Government. I commend this but would question why it’s been so long in coming. These are not new issues, they’re not a scandal that has suddenly occurred, they’re a scandal that has been evolving over decades. So why does it take Hollywood and a hashtag to make us act?
So, on Sunday I will march. I will march as a proud feminist. I will march alongside thousands of amazing women. I will march to celebrate what they have achieved.
But I will also march for the 2 women a week who are killed through domestic violence. I will march for the women I know and the women I don’t know who have had their progress stalled because their set of skills don’t fit. I will march for the cleaners, the carers, the cooks, the ones who get paid and the ones who get nothing.
I will march with and for my four year old daughter Belle who’s middle name is Emmeline after the amazing Emmeline Pankhurst.
I will march because although she may not know it yet, soon enough she will demand and deserve action more than words in making the world one which is fit for all our future females.
To join the Procession in Cardiff, Sunday, 10th June visit the Processions website.