On International Women’s Day, the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, asks the people of Wales to choose to challenge and call out gender bias, inequality, and violence against women.
Jane Hutt said: “International Women’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate the achievements of women – and to take action against gender inequality.
“This year’s theme is Choose to Challenge. Stark evidence exists to show that women are still being treated unfairly, but from challenge comes change.
“This week is also No More Week, an opportunity to raise awareness of Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence, and to inspire change which will help create a culture of safety, equality, and respect in our communities.
“As individuals, we’re responsible for our own thoughts and actions. Today, I’m calling on Wales to choose to respect women’s rights, choose to change our behaviour, and choose to recognise and challenge abusive and discriminatory behaviour in others. We all have a part to play in making equality a reality.
“Evidence shows that being shut behind closed doors with abusers has increased the risk to victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence. The impact of the virus has not fallen equally, and we must make sure that the clock is not rolled back on the progress we’ve made to support women and girls in Wales.
“We have all had to spend more time at home. We know that not every home is a place of safety. Social distancing restrictions and self-isolation can be frightening for victims of violence and abuse, and can amplify abusers’ power and control, and increase the risk to victims.
“Wales will not be a bystander to abuse. We want to create a culture across Wales where people recognise the signs of abuse and know how to help safely. Our VAWDASV e-learning module is open for anyone to access – being informed can help to save lives.
“Today we launch another burst of our ‘Home shouldn’t be a place of Fear’ campaign, reminding victims, survivors and concerned individuals that services are still here to help. Our Live Fear Free helpline remains open 24 hours a day, every day, for support and advice.
“Together, we can stand up to domestic abuse and sexual violence, and ensure a future where women are supported to achieve and fulfil their potential, no matter what they choose to do.”
Gwendolyn Sterk, Head of Public Affairs and Communications at Welsh Women’s Aid, said: “An incredible sense of community has been felt during the COVID 19 pandemic. Communities have come together in an attempt to eradicate the virus and to support each other.
“However at Welsh Women’s Aid we know that it has also been a time of increased need for support for survivors of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.
“The community response and social solidarity COVID 19 has inspired is vital in tackling violence against women. Much like social distancing, this won’t be effective unless all of us commit to it. The pandemic has starkly highlighted the unavoidable truth that violence against women and girls is everyone’s business.
“This International Women’s Day we encourage everyone to come together to promote gender equality and to work together to prevent violence and abuse of women and girls, which remains at epidemic levels.
“During the pandemic we have welcomed the support of Welsh Government to enable us to produce guidance for our #StandWithSurvivors bystander toolkit. This will continue to help us support communities in challenging the attitudes that allow violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence to continue, and to offer safe responses and signposting to survivors across Wales.”