Friday, 12 October 2012

Brick Lane women’s group to play a leading role at the Lord Mayor’s Show

 East-End women’s community group Heba Women’s Project has received a grant of £15,000 from the City of London Corporation to take part in the prestigious Lord Mayor’s Show this year. 

On Saturday 10 November, the 685th Lord Mayor of London will follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and embark on a procession from Mansion House to the Royal Courts of Justice via St Paul’s Cathedral, and this year, the local Brick Lane group is creating one of the leading floats.

Heba is a women’s training centre, well known and loved in the community as a hub where isolated and disadvantaged women can come to learn skills, meet new people and increase self-esteem.  Heba supports women into training and employment and helps integration into UK society.

Anne Wilding, Heba’s manager explained:  “Our float is about women’s role in holding society together. The centrepiece is a bobbin with three embroidered panels representing the tools of women: strength, respect and balance.

“The Strength panel is grey, to represent steel, and tells of the World Wars when we women took on new jobs and adopted a ‘make do and mend’ attitude. The Respect panel is purple and green – Heba’s colours – in memory of the suffragettes whose struggle still continues in the home countries of many Heba women. The Balance panel is red, representing the urgency in women’s lives now. The panel shows women balancing the many activities and roles of every day

One of the ways Heba helps its members is by providing training programmes and courses in spoken and written English, sewing, garment production, and I.T. training. Courses are taught to a variety of levels and all lead to nationally recognised qualifications.

The enterprise programme also offers women production work through its links with new designers, and a small number of subsidised work spaces for those who want to try out new ideas and start up in business.

Anjum Ishtiaq, Heba’s sewing teacher and production manager, said: “Creating the designs for the float is a lot of hard work, but we’re very excited to have such a nice group of volunteers. We’ve never done anything like this before but we’re really progressing quickly, and working on the float has helped us to recruit new members.”

Heba was the winner of the 'Social Inclusion & Diversity' section of Tower Hamlets 2010 Third Sector Awards. The centre was recently chosen by the Women’s Resource Centre to feature in their report 'Hidden Value: Demonstrating the extraordinary impact of women's voluntary and community organisations', which had its launch in the Houses of Parliament last year.

John Park, Press Officer, City of London Corporation

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Harnessing feminist energy!

This weekend Bristol was buzzing with feminists from around the country sharing information, skills and ideas at the UK Feminista summer school. WRC was proud to take part on both days and also to attend some of the sessions to improve our own knowledge.

On Saturday our Policy Officer, Charlotte ran the ‘Save our Services: Feminist activism against the cuts’ workshop with Sam Lyles who has been the driving force behind the Save Coventry Sure Start Centres campaign Sam shared her experiences of starting and running a local campaign, with all it’s highs and lows! And Charlotte provided information on broader campaigning tactics and ways to build your campaign such as mapping your allies, which is part of our Raising Women’s Voices training. Then the participants got to have a go and in a very short time we had plans for a letter writing campaign on local sexual health education and a mass ‘faint in’ to protest about women’s sweatshop labour in high street clothing chains, among other brilliant ideas.

It was a really dynamic workshop with lots of people sharing their ideas and experiences as well as taking away information about our why women? campaign, and was a great way to start the weekend!

‘Protecting funding for violence against woman and girls services: Influencing Police and Crime Commissioners’ was the focus of the session on Sunday led by our Policy Officer, Annette. This was run more as an informative session, as we have found that many people and women's organisations are unaware of the Police and Crime Commissioner elections and their effect on funding to services working on violence against women and girls.

Annette outlined the issues, as well as the resources and information available, and ways to get involved before the elections on 15th November. Ideas for action at a local level included; holding a hustings, using template letters to write to candidates, and working with local women’s organisations to build awareness of local issues.

It was something that a lot of people knew nothing about and they were shocked at the impact that it could have on their local services and on women’s safety. Hopefully now they will be galvanised into action!

The open spaces for discussion, stalls and events at the summer school ensured that it was an active and energetic event with new ideas hatched and action plans made for the future of feminism, and it was great to be involved.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Safer Future Communities event: Supporting partnership working between the police and voluntary sector

Safer Future Communities and the Association of Chief Police Officers teamed up in June 2012 for an event titled, Matchmaking policing with third sector partners, how will the new partnerships and commissioning arrangements work? The event brought the police and the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Sector together to discuss partnership working and commissioning arrangements in the new policing landscape.

This event highlighted the good partnership working between the VCSE, police and other statutory bodies working in community safety that has resulted in positive outcomes for local community safety issues. It explored opportunities for further partnership work and funding arrangements in the future.

The event included presentations from Deputy Chair of the West Midlands Police Authority, and PCC candidate, Diana Holl-Allen, as well as senior police commissioning experts from across England. Presentations from the event can be accessed from the Safer Future Communities website here.

Why was this event important?

Due to new changes to police commissioning structures partnership working with the police is increasing important for women’s organisations.

WRC is working as part of the Safer Communities Partnership to support the engagement of Violence Against Women and Girls organisations with new police commissioning plans and to help them to understand what these new changes mean.

 As part of government reforms, the Home Office is reforming police commissioning processes to connect decision-making with local communities.

They will be introducing locally elected Police Crime Commissioners, which will replace Police Authorities from November 2012, to work in partnership with local community organisations.

 The Police Commissioners will have responsibility for:
  • Appointing the Chief Constable (CC) and holding them to account for the running of their force
  • Setting out a five year Police and Crime Plan (in consultation with the CC) determining local policing priorities. Setting the annual local precept and annual force budget 
  • Making community safety grants to other organisations aside from the CC (including but not limited to Community Safety Partnerships).
Therefore it is essential that equalities organisations are engaged in the changing landscape.

Over the next coming months WRC will be hosting a range of regional events and producing guidance to support women’s organisations engagement with the plans.

To find out more about our work visit our website.

Rebecca Veazey, Policy Officer, WRC

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Spotlight on Women’s Homelessness event: supporting partnership working on women’s homelessness

As part of St Mungo’s Action Week on Women’s Homelessness and to celebrate the launch of their Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign, Homeless Link, WRC and St Mungo’s held a Spotlight on Women’s Homelessness event on the 20th June.

The event aimed to promote partnership working between women’s and homelessness organisations and to improve knowledge, skills and highlight best practice when supporting homelessness women, many of whom have complex needs.

The event was a fully booked success and featured a variety of speakers including: Shadow Equalities Minister Kate Green MP, staff from the Department for Communities and Local Government and experts from the homelessness and violence against women sectors. Attendees participated in interactive workshops on topics including: sex trafficking and the Olympics, and joint working between domestic violence and substance misuse organisations.

Over the next 18 months, St Mungo’s will be continuing this great work and exploring ways to support homeless women through its Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign. As part of the campaign they are inviting organisations, front-line workers and especially women themselves, to talk about how best to prevent women’s homelessness and support their recovery. The objective of their campaign is to increase awareness, promote good practice and ultimately achieve policy change. 

Learn more about the Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign and how you can get involved here.

Find out more about WRC’s future training and events here.

Rebecca Veazey, Policy Officer, WRC

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Strong recommendations around women’s rights to the UK Government as part of the Universal Periodic Review

During the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) examination of the UK Government on May 24th some clear recommendations and areas of concern around women’s rights, and equalities in general, were raised by the 60 countries who questioned the UK.

Gender equality was at the core of the examination and these issues were picked up by a number of states from Australia to Angola. However, the Government failed to address many of these concerns in its response and hardly mentioned women’s rights at all.

More information can be found here and the agreed report will be available here. Below is a summary of some of the key recommendations:

Women’s rights
  • Continue efforts in the promotion of women’s rights (Indonesia)
  • Give priority attention to the questions of gender equality and discrimination against women (Uzbekistan)
Violence against women and girls
  • Sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (France and Australia)
  • Continue efforts to combat discrimination on any ground and violence against women and girls (Cuba)
  • Adopt a national strategy to combat all forms of violence against women and girls (Brazil)
  • Take more effective measures to combat all forms of violence against women and girls and to ensure that the perpetrators of violence are taken to justice and punished (Malaysia)
Forced marriage
  • Assess the impact of the minimum age limit for overseas spouses or fianc├ęs on the prevention of forced marriage and review its policy in this regard (Slovenia)
Human trafficking
  • Increase efforts to combat trafficking in persons, particularly to protect women and children (Spain)
  • Continue making progress in applying the strategy on trafficking in persons adopted in July 2011 (Colombia) 
  • Implement the EU Directive on trafficking in human beings by April 2013 (Australia)
  • Standardise anti-trafficking responses across the UK insofar as possible given the devolution of law enforcement powers, and appoint a rapporteur in each devolved authority to make critical assessments and improve the UK’s overall anti-trafficking response (United States) 
  • Take all measures to ensure that all trafficked people are able to access the support and services they are entitled to, including free legal aid and access to their right to compensation (Greece)
Women in prison
  • Consider incorporating the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders as part of its policy on the treatment of women prisoners (Thailand)
Reproductive rights
  • Ensure by legislative and other measures that women in Northern Ireland are entitled to safe and legal abortion on equal basis with women living in other parts of the UK (Finland)
Equal pay
  • Adopt government policies and legislation to address the pay gap between men and women (Sudan)
  • Consider policies and legal provisions to encourage equal pay practices (India)
  • Review national legislation to ensure equality and non-discrimination (Egypt)
  • Ensure that the reform process of the Equality and Human Rights Commission does not affect its independence in conformity with the Paris Principles
  • Strengthen measures aimed at reducing serious inequalities in access to health, education and employment, which still exist despite the adoption of the Equality Act (Spain) 
  • Consider strengthening policies to combat discrimination in all areas, notably in education and employment (Morocco)
  • Strengthen data collection and maintain disaggregated data to better understand the scale and severity of hate crimes towards women, immigrants, religious minorities, persons with disabilities and children (United States)
  • Provide more resources for reforming the welfare system in order to make it better able to tackle poverty and worklessness, and reduce negative impact on social vulnerable groups (Viet Nam)
  • Guarantee the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, particularly health, education and adequate housing (Cuba)
Other relevant areas
  • Publish the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry on the establishment of a regulatory regime for ethical media (Angola)
  • Share best practices of tackling the situation of the Roma and Traveller people through the EU Framework of National Roma Integration Strategies adopted in 2011 (Hungary)
The UK Government now has three months to look over the recommendations and decide which ones it will accept, reject or partly accept and are due to report back on this in September. This will then be an opportunity for the voluntary sector to present some clear ideas for implementation and action around the adopted recommendations.

Many of the recommendations that came out of the UPR process will be useful for other treaty monitoring, such as the CEDAW Convention which is coming up in 2013, and it was useful to note that many countries had looked at the recommendations from previous treaty bodies when compiling their questions.

This included a specific recommendation to remove reservations to the CEDAW Convention from Greece and references to 2008 CEDAW concluding observations on women in prison and female genital mutilation (FGM). It was also good to see how many of the issues in the UPR submissions from the UK voluntary sector had been picked up and were reflected in the final recommendations.

Therefore, we can see that the UPR and other treaty processes can work closely together and reinforce each other to build stronger obligations and recommendations for action around human rights that government’s cannot ignore.

Friday, 25 May 2012

The CEDAW Working Group: bringing an inspiring group of women together

Over the last year, WRC have been gathering evidence from all over the country to feed into our CEDAW shadow report. The UK is coming under review in 2013, and the Government Equalities Office (GEO) has submitted their report to the Committee. It is our job in the women’s sector to ensure that the Committee gets a full picture of the state of gender equality in the UK, and so we at the WRC are bringing together a shadow report, which will be submitted in response to the GEO’s report.

To ensure the shadow report is as accurate and as inclusive as possible, in addition to using the Convention to its best effect, WRC set up the CEDAW Working Group in 2009, where women from a large range of organisations meet every four months for training, to work on the report, and to discuss how best to ensure that CEDAW is reaching everyone it needs to.

Last Monday’s meeting was the first that I had attended, and it was really exciting to be part of a group so committed to improving gender equality in the UK. And not just gender equality, but equality across the board. With representatives from ROTA, Eaves Housing for Women, BIHR, Sisters of Frida and the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain to name but a few, issues of multiple discrimination were consistently addressed. As a group, we have been working to ensure that no minority group is ignored in our report, and so have ensured that NGOs from outside the women’s sector also get a chance to feed into the report. This dialogue has given us the additional opportunity of ensuring that issues specifically affecting women are in the forefront of the minds of organisations writing shadow reports for other international conventions, for example the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Another way to raise the voices of women in the UK is involvement in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Some CEDAW Working Group members attended the CSW this year, and, while they reported that there were great elements to the event, the representation of women from the sector in the UK is very low. With strategic planning for next year’s event, where the focus is violence against women, we hope to be able to join forces with international organisations and maybe hold an event and will also use this global platform to disseminate information about women’s rights in the UK and how we are using CEDAW.

At a time when women in the UK are being given such a raw deal by the Government, it is really inspiring to be part of a group of such fantastic women devoting their time to maintaining and developing the gains in gender equality that have been won over the past decades. In the coming months we will be working to create a really strong shadow report for the CEDAW Committee, and using CEDAW, alongside as many other international conventions as we can, to ensure that the Government is fully aware of its obligations to protect and improve women’s equality.

Ava Lee, CEDAW Intern, WRC

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Women’s sector looks to the Universal Periodic Review to hold UK Government to account over its record on women’s rights

On May 24th 2012, the United Kingdom’s human rights record will come under scrutiny in the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This examination, established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 to improve the human rights situation in each of the 193 UN member states, is similar to a peer review in that it consists of other member states assessing the state under review and providing recommendations for improvement. As this will be the UK’s second UPR, there is now evidence that many of the recommendations from the previous review, particularly those relating to women, have been ignored. The UPR is an opportunity to highlight the disproportionate effect that the coalition Government’s austerity measures are having on women, and we hope that the Government uses the examination to prove it is genuinely committed to promoting women’s rights.

The Government’s submission provides a section on how it is ‘Promoting Gender Equality’ following a recommendation to “integrate fully a gender perspective in the next stages of the UPR review”, but it’s sole UK wide example of this is the Women’s Business Council and the provision of £2 million support for women setting up and expanding businesses in rural areas. Given that a total of £13.2 billion has been taken from women’s incomes already in the cuts to benefits and tax credits (more than twice as much than has been taken from men) £2 million directed at women in a position to run their own businesses does nothing to improve gender equality for the increasingly large numbers of women facing unemployment and poverty. We hope that the UPR will compel the Government to provide answers for this.

Another recommendation that came from the UK’s previous UPR, was “to set up a strategic oversight body, such as a commission on violence against women, to ensure greater coherence and more effective protection for women”. Unfortunately no such body has been put in place, and while the Government has adopted a national strategy to address violence against women (which does not cover the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales) there is no co-ordinated four nation strategy in place. On top of this, the lack of commitment by the current Government to provide ring-fenced funding for frontline women’s VAWG services is raising serious doubts about the sustainability of support currently provided for survivors of gender based violence; quite the opposite from providing “more effective protection for women”.

Additionally, the Government’s report does not sufficiently address the effect the changes to legal aid will have to VAWG survivors, even though new research has shown that at least 46% of domestic violence cases will be ineligible for legal aid because the evidence they will be required to present is dangerously restrictive. Further cuts to legal aid will force people to represent themselves in court, which will result in some women survivors having to face cross-examination by the perpetrator of the crimes committed against them. While the situation for survivors of domestic violence is clearly unacceptable, there is also grave concern that the commitment at policy level across all four nations only covers DV, leaving survivors of all other forms of gender based violence (including rape, FGM, forced marriage, stalking and other forms of violence) with little access to support.

And, even after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to sign the EU Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence on International Women’s Day, it is still yet to be signed and a long way from being implemented.

It is vitally important that these and other issues affecting women in the UK are raised at the UK’s Universal Periodic Review this May. Following the UPR, the UK will be examined by the UN CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women) Committee in July 2013. CEDAW’s sole focus is ending discrimination against women and we look to both of these examinations to call the Government to account on its current policies which are having a dramatic and disproportionate impact on women in the UK. 

Ava Lee, CEDAW Intern, WRC

Friday, 13 April 2012

There are too many women's organisations in London!

That was the conclusion of deputy mayoral candidate Kit Malthouse, who added that his administration feels that women's organisations in London are duplicating work.

This was one of several comments and statements by various deputy mayoral hopefuls on Thursday night at the EVAW Mayoral hustings, which focused on violence against women and girls (VAWG) in London and asked what the candidates would do about this if they are elected.

All the actual mayoral candidates 'regretted being unable to attend’ but sent their deputies instead to reveal their party’s line. They outlined their party positions and what they would do to tackle these issues in London, from Val Shawcross for Labour pledging to create a Victims Commissioner for London to prioritise all types of hate crimes to Caroline Pidgeon for the Liberal Democrat’s committing to sign up to the EVAW manifesto pledges to Natalie Bennett for the Green Party committing to funding for VAWG services and specialist provision.

Kit Malthouse in turn raised various actions the Conservative party have taken during their term, such as the London VAWG Strategy and funding to rape crisis centres. He also outlined further steps they would take, including setting up an Female Genital Mutilation taskforce and creating pan-London domestic violence and refuge provision.

Questions came from Rape Crisis South London, Daughters of Eve, FORWARD, Women’s Aid, AVA and others. There was often agreement amongst the candidates, for example on the criminalisation of forced marriage, the continued funding for rape crisis centres and the Havens and on the fact that they would renew and build on The Way Forward strategy. In terms of work with girls who are gang affected, Labour said they would provide specific youth services for girls while the Conservative plan is to look for funding for exit strategies.

All the speakers said that they wanted to work closely with the women’s sector as advisors and partners - until a woman asked if they would pay us to attend meetings and advise them - there was applause and laughter but no commitments! Indeed only the Green party challenged the cuts agenda and said that greater ‘efficiency’ does not support vulnerable people. The general feeling was that there is still no money to commit.

So, who will you vote for on May 3rd? Following this event there does not seem to be much between the different manifestos and in terms of women’s rights and tackling violence against women we still need to see more action and the candidates to put some money where their mouths are.

There are more hustings events upcoming in the next few weeks so do take the chance to go along and grill the candidates. The Fawcett Society are also holding a women’s hustings event on April 23rd – see here for more details.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Big Society and Equality event, Monday January 30th

There was a good and feisty turnout for this event, which was part of a piece of research that the WRC and Voice4Change England have been commissioned to do by the Office for Civil Society (OCS). This research will provide advice to Government on: the challenges that inequalities present to the Big Society agenda and how to address them; and the opportunities for tackling inequalities that the Big Society agenda offers.

The event was a chance to join together as equalities focused organisations to talk about how we, as a sector, can work in partnership to influence and engage with these programmes so that they benefit the vulnerable and marginalised groups that we all support.

Sheila Battersby, Policy Manager for the Local Intelligence Team at the OCS spoke first and gave an overview of Big Society policies and programmes. This was followed by presentations about 3 particular Big Society programmes. First up was Ian Beason, Programmes Manager at the Community Development Foundation, who was talking about the Community First Fund, then it was Victoria Westhorp  from the OCS and Martha Earley who were talking about Local Integrated Services and how this is working in Kingston. Lastly was Laurence Walker from Locality who was talking about Community Organisers.

There was plenty of opportunity for questions and discussions about the programmes (and the Big Society more generally) and the implications for equalities organisations. While the aim of the event was to come up with solutions and recommendations for overcoming the barriers to engagement with the Big Society, there was undoubtedly a lot of frustration and scepticism in the room that needed to be aired first– especially when it became clear that the Community First Panels and Fund would have no equalities monitoring, and the Community Organisers scheme was perceived to be untenable financially for many voluntary organisations that are expected to host them.

While the broader context of the cuts and the anxiety this was causing for the future of the sector was the spectre haunting all of the discussions, the resourcefulness of the organisations still shone through. Ideas for follow up actions included: linking up with and supporting unions and other organisations that have a solid anti-cuts evidence base; taking the issue of the cuts and the impact on smaller/equalities organisation to Government, perhaps with a formal Enquiry; harnessing the strength of the Equality Act to hold public bodies to account; recommending that the government create a Big Society action plan (like LGBT action plan) but which focuses on promoting equality; extend the timelines for the Transforming Infrastructure Fund;  and starting a campaign to encourage philanthropy for the equalities sector.

WRC will be using the recommendations from participants to inform their report to Government, as well as discussing how we can take forward some of the sector wide issues. We’ll keep you posted on any developments!  

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Women's organisations at Leveson - holding the media to account

While it seems much of mainstream news has been preoccupied with the media big guns appearing at the Leveson inquiry into media ethics, today was the chance for women's organisations to testify about the often sensationalised coverage of issues such as violence against women, rape, so-called 'honour killings' and stalking.
Marai Larasi from the End Violence Against Women coalition (EVAW), Jacqui Hunt from Equality Now, Anna Van Heeswijk from OBJECT and Heather Harvey from Eaves Charity all took part in today's testimony, providing excellent, compelling testimoney which was followed avidly in real time on social media by many women's organisations and individual women (and - eventually by the mainstream press, see BBC and Telegraph stories).

Those testifying pointed out how many cases involving the murder of women and their families by men often spoke of what ‘drove’ the man to it via the women’s behaviour – a fact that given a recent court decision permitting sexual infidelity to be a factor in sentencing murderers must give us all pause. The issue of treatment of women commentators online was also addressed, with Heather Harvey observing that misogynist insults to women online effectively stamped on women's access to free speech. "People should be able to equally comment on society but online misogyny curtails and limits women's freedom of expression, she said.

The tabloids came in for a particular drubbing from those testifying, with Anna from OBJECT noting a particularly repulsive article on a 15-year old Charlotte Church’s breasts in one newspaper, while others on the panel noted that coverage of rape cases was often sensationalist, using language more titillating than sobering.

Leveson himself acknowledged at one point that it could work if women’s organisationss had the right to raise such issues over coverage with relevant authority and adjudicated upon, and Marai Larasi from the End Violence Against Women coalition (EVAW) called for better training of journalists in covering violence against women issues and censure for journalists who breached guidelines.

It is encouraging to see the Leveson enquiry broaden its remit to include testimony on such vital issues as the sexualisation and objectification of women in media coverage, however as Anna from OBJECT observed, the questions directed to them should be directed at the media and politicians themselves, too. After all, they are the ones with the power to change for the better how women are seen, but too often not properly heard, in our media.

You can read a full transcript put together by our intern, Sarah Pollard below:

EVAW – Marai Larsai

Why have you come to the inquiry?

The media creates, reflects and reinforces attitudes. The media needs to be aware of this and not condone reporting that misrepresents women. Sensationalist reporting on violence against women reinforces incorrect views about women.

Submission from Marai Larsai.

The Daily Telegraph ‘Man murders wife after she changes her status to single’.

The tone of the story was that the man killed his wife because of her actions. The focus on her action and Facebook trivialises the murder of this woman and shifts the blame onto her. This is dangerous from a violence against women perspective. Responsible journalism for us would be 'this is how often a woman is killed, a woman is murdered twice a week by a partner or former partner' and the issue would need to contextualised more widely within a violence against women and girls framework. The fact that it became a Facebook murder itself is really symbolic, it was in fact a murder of a real woman by her partner.

Gang rape of young girls ‘an orgy’ Daily Mail.

This is very upsetting. Put the term orgy in something and what you immediately do is grab attention and it becomes titillating. Two young girls were raped, we are talking about unlawful sex and this whole story completely focuses on the girl’s behaviour, their attitudes, what the girls did and didn’t do, it even went so far to focus on their parents and not on the behaviour of the young men . There is an almost sympathetic approach to the young men, they talk about their 'career as footballers being ruined by the biggest mistake of their life'. Now you can report this if it was in a court situation but what happened to these young women is being trivialised. I would expect some scrutiny of the young men’s behaviour and this to be reported in a responsible way. I would also expect to hear that young women are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and this is what responsible reporting should sound like. They are putting words like 'orgy' and 'Lolita' into the public domain without thinking what impact this could have on the young women or on other young women who are in this position. Seeking out of expertise of professionals who are able to speak to the issues that are being reported is important in cases such as this.

But even if you are going to put the defence perspective is there not a further argument that what is critical is to put the perspective that you have just identified?

I'm not saying you can’t have a position where you say 'the behaviour of the young girl was scrutinised in court' but I would expect scrutiny of the young mans behaviour also. I would expect it to be reported in a more responsible way that put the violence in the context of the vulnerability of women. For example ‘The other woman was more reluctant and was raped by just one player’, that tone alone indicates that you are not focusing on that girls vulnerability and the way they say ‘just one player’, a rape is a rape, for that young woman there is likely to be a whole degree of trauma associated with that experience. There is also an importance of seeking out expertise in that field of professionals who are able to speak to the issues that are being reported for example a dialogue with rape crisis could look at the issues surrounding the case.

Honour based violence against and women and girls.

Honour based violence instances are reported in the press in gratuitous detail, language is inaccurate 'forced marriage' is called 'arranged marriage', they talk about these instances as being cultural or religious issues, not as 'violence against women'. The focus is on the culture and not on the issue of violence against women. Frequency of the news being reported as an Islamic issue which is not the case, this is happening in a number of cultures. Again, it is important to have a broad perspective of views from a number of professionals in a piece such as this.

Unpublished and unfinished MA dissertation reported in the Telegraph

The original press release said 'Promiscuous men more likely to rape' but the Telegraph twists their report and makes it about 'women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped'. There is a great concern about the editorial intent as it is misrepresenting the information, of the dissertation and presenting an unpublished piece as science.

Would a fair and responsible and comprehensive reporting about violence against women seek to bring in a number of strands of the story?

Absolutely, the other side of it is a context, men who commit violence are deemed as beasts, but they are the men around us. Men are demonised and the press take it out of the context of normal society, 1/3 women are abused so it is normal. Sensationalising the violence means that people disconnect it, and 'other' the violence, it doesn't relate to them. So people are less likely to report violence to the police as it becomes sensationalised.


The first point for us is a softer recommendation about journalists receiving training about the law and the way they report violence against women including the absolute and clear rule that the identities of victims of rape should not be disclosed. But also looking at violence against women and girls and helping them understand what the genuine issues are and some mythbusting so journalists are empowered as they have some accurate information.

Something around sanctions for journalists who break the law. At the moment free press seems to grant some journalists immunity.. We want a free press but we want an accountable press.

We also want to stop victim blaming. Looking at the situation and the victim is different from a tone which is 'she only has herself to blame'.

Regulatory system that has teeth, the current system does not have an adequate framework for redress. Women who have been wronged do not feel as though they can take out complaints. Have a system where a woman would feel like she is able to do that. System where groups would allow to complain also.

Equality Now – Jacqui Hunt

Why have you come to the inquiry

International human rights standards require the elimination of stereotypes against women and the media withholds these views. This is a huge issue for the international community; it focuses on the harms of this sexist stereotyping in the media. We don't have every diverse image of women in the media, BME, older women, disabilities do not exist.

Submission from Jacqui Hunt

Women in decision making roles have negative stereotypes, 'Blair's Babes' and 'Cameron's Cuties' are often the headlines of the article and even if the article makes very important points, the headline always trivialises the point.

There is a legitimisation and normalisation of sexism in society which may legitimise violence against women, which may have a consequence when it comes to access of justice for women. Any examples we have submitted come back to these points.

Freedom of the press is important, but we have to make sure that women are not sidelined and taken out of decision making in society.


Women's groups to be involved in setting the standards in a new press complaints commission because there are those headlines of discrimination and inaccurate reporting and there is also a carve out of good taste or tone and I think if you don’t understand the gender/equality arguments you might be persuaded in thinking this is about tone and not the substance of discrimination.

We don#t want just a group who is supporting an individual making a complaint but more like the CEDAW optional protocol when you are making complaints, both an individual who is directly effected by the complaint, either grave or systemic pattern of a abuse that we can then go to the media and say this is a pattern that constantly feeds into the sexualisation of women.

Anybody who can complain who has an interest, victims, groups, everyone has a legitimate right to raise a point. Sexism doesn’t start in the news room, it's in our society, we are asking our government to take a lead on campaigns to stop discrimination and promote equality.

Object - Anna Van Heeswijk

Why have you come to the inquiry

It is clear Page 3 contributes to a culture where women are perceived as existing for the sole purpose of being sex objects. This is harmful as these images are in mainstream newspapers which exist at children’s eye level.

We are proposing very simple solutions to tackle the sexualisation of women in the tabloid press.

Submission from Anna Van Heeswijk.

The Sun.

Women are displayed as a sum of sexualised body parts within the press. The common theme is the page three feature of a topless fully nude woman who is sexualised and objectified.

Women are always accompanying the 'Dear Deidre' article in their underwear, reducing them to objects and there is also widespread trivialisation and eroticisation of the reporting of violence against women. This can be seen on the front page of the Sun where the headline reads, 'Bodyguard for battered TOWIE sisters', photograph accompanying the story is a picture of one of the sisters in her underwear. Trivialises the incident so it will not be taken seriously.

These newspapers are not displayed on the top shelf, they readily available and mainstream, adverts for the porn and sex industry are alongside an advert for free toy Lego, directed at children.

Despite the fact the images within the sun would not allowed to be displayed in the workplace because of sexual harassment laws and they would not be displayed before the watershed, they are shown in this 'family newspaper'.

Parents and teachers are trying to regulate this material, teachers have told us about their difficulties with this issue, they want to encourage children to read the news and engage. Teachers encourage children to bring in a paper and they bring in the Sun. The Sun is very easy to read and is attractive for children to buy. Teachers have to confiscate these newspapers from the children and then the children point out that they are able to buy them, they are at eye level. 'Page three' girls are on every page of the Daily Star. Imagery on the front page of the star is relevant; they are displayed at child's eye level and in the mainstream.

Another point to make is the assumptions they make about the male reader which are displayed in the star accompanying this article, 'we assume you are not even reading this because you are getting a pervy eyeful of that arse', (this text accompanied a woman athlete). Even when a woman is taking part in a sport she is still sexualised and reduced to a body part.

Charlotte Church at 15, commentary with the article is that 'she is a big girl now', ‘child singing sensation showed just how much she had grown up at a Hollywood party, chest swell'. The article on the next page is an outrage about a satire to do with paedophilia; there is a massive contradiction here.

The women are completely nameless and headless just focusing on one part of their body, completely objectified and sexualised. In vulnerable position, normalising up skirt photography, voyeurism, harassment and bullying. Young girls in schools are often subjected to this bullying in school.

We have to ask ourselves, what does this say to young boys and girls when they see men in suits, sports attire, who are active participants in society and women as sexualised objects, who are naked or nearly naked every single page.

What is the difference between Penthouse and the material we have just seen?

There is not a market difference between the content, the difference is how they are regulated. It is more harmful to have these images in mainstream newspapers because of the normalising and legitimating nature they have. They are never displayed on the top shelf, they are completely mainstream and available to everyone. Makes this portrayal of women unquestionable, normal and acceptable.

The images on our submission were censored, we are in a roomful of adults but they are not in the newspapers.


Images should be guided by legislation which already exists. Any messages and images which are not considered as appropriate for the workplace should not be printed or readily available in unrestricted newspapers.

Gender equality being the baseline for shaping the attitudes of children and young people about women and young girls.

We are not proposing any form of radical over haul of media regulations, just called for consistency with how other media outlets are regulated.

Eaves Housing for Women – Heather Harvey

Why have you come to the inquiry

We are grateful to contribute, we support freedom of expression but we have concerns that the press should challenge the status quo, hold people to account and we are concerned that our press reflects our society and reinforces it. If we do not keep power in check sexism will continue to exist.

Submission Heather Harvey

The riots over the summer will often be covered in a responsible way, they look at the wider patterns and the wider context, will usually involve asking commentators.

There were 4 instances of a man murdering his wife and children over Christmas, I would expect responsible journalism to look at these things, is there a common factor, is there any research, if there isn’t should there be, all these things should be asked. What we are concerned about is these cases are treated as a ‘one off’ nothing you can do to prevent it. Our position is that violence against women is linked directly to the public sphere; it is a cause and a consequence of inequality. It's a lack of contextualisation and a failure to ask the right questions. The press coverage causes us all to sit back and think that there is nothing we can do about it. A free press should and could be asking these more challenging questions about our society and the status quo.

We feel a lot of the coverage has a focus on the perpetrator in often quite a sympathetic way; it's amazing how little you know about the women who are actually the victim. We often know that the perpetrator has just lost his job, is depressed etc. These are valid reasons but ultimately he has been violent, but there is another half to this story, which is not being told. This tendency to obscure the victim or to scrutinise her very intently gives the impression that there is a validation, explanation or justification as to why this man committed this violence.

The media are not reporting all the cases that go to court, they report the most interesting, different or unusual. Only 8% of all rapes are stranger rapes, the rest are acquaintance, date or marriage and you would never know that if you read the paper. Women blame themselves and they feel like they should not come forward as they have heard in the discourse that they are responsible.

On the issue of debate in the general public, the level of abuse that women get, when they comment on issues of public policy, is very sexist and gendered abuse. There is a language 'you should be raped' 'you should have your tongue ripped out'. Focus is on your looks comments such as you're ugly and you're a lesbian (as if this should be a bad thing). The women themselves recognise that this is about resenting women’s right to comment on public matters, if she is talking about women's rights or policy there is a challenge to their own right to have an opinion. Women's voices and issues are being silenced, not covered properly, fairly and not a true representation of how women experience life. The way women are portrayed, prevents women from being involved in the conversation.

My colleague Larsai said most of what I wanted to say. Guidance and training for the media. Quick and affordable access to remedies.

Proactive power to undertake investigations when the media receive complaints

Would like some sort of strong sanction. Means of bringing a complaint as a member of a community as this is the only way you can bring in the less tangible but just as harmful effects of the media.

Closing comments…

Anna Van Heeswijk - It is a shame that the people who wrote these stories were not questioned about these issues. These newspapers have created a culture of fear which silences politicians and others who speak out against women being objectified. The vilification and targeting of Claire Short is an example of this, who initiated a campaign against Page 3 in the 1980s.
Claire Short's face was superimposed onto a page three model and the headline is 'fat jealous Claire brands page three porn', they likened her to a back of a bus and said making her into a page three girl would be a 'mission impossible' - the effect has been close down free speech, making people feel they cannot speak out against newspapers. This is the same point my colleague was making earlier when she spoke about bloggers. I think this sort of abuse is very alarming and something which continues. Harriet Harman has been vilified for the position she has taken on Page 3, Dr Evan Harris was named 'villan of the week' in the Sun also. Clearly a bullying tactic, because the editors themselves were not questioned on this issue it is essential politicians can speak on the experiences they have on speaking out against the Page 3 phenomenon.

Leveson - 'the start would certainly be to permit bodies such as yours to be able to take up issues of press standards with whoever would be responsible to regulate it'. The length and the breadth of what I can do with this enquiry, how much further one can go without raising all sorts of other issues is not entirely straight forward, so I’m not discouraging you but am merely asking if I understand the absolute priorities.

Anna Van Heeswijk 'We do not see this as a real drastic ask, proposal or recommendation to recommend that this generally accepted policy is applied to all broadcast media.'

Friday, 20 January 2012

Putting a value on women's services

Show your worth.

This is a request often made by funders or by government to organisations working with people in need. For women's organisations, this leads to difficult questions – how can you put a number on the invaluable support you have provided a woman in terms of her mental health and wellbeing? On the confidence you have enabled her to find, on the fact she can now cope with aspects of life previously unfathomable?

Two years ago Women's Resource Centre, in conjunction with the new economics foundation (nef), set out to, essentially, quantify the unquantifiable, thanks to funding from Trust for London. Using pioneering social return on investment (SROI) techniques and working with five women’s organisations, WRC and nef spent months sifting through data, conducting interviews, crunching numbers and compiling data for analysis.

Our resulting report "Hidden Value, demonstrating the extraordinary impact of women's voluntary and community organisations", focuses on the outcomes created by women’s organisations across a wide range of service areas and highlights the need to support and sustainably fund essential women's services.

It found at the culmination of two years of work that for every pound invested in women's services, between £5 and £11 of worth is generated. This extraordinary figure highlights the broad range of benefits created by women’s organisations for service users, society, families and the state, from combating violence against women to improving health and educational prospects.

Evidence showed that women's organisations increase skills and support entry into employment, improve mental health and wellbeing and reduce risk of self harm and suicide. Crucially, the support given by women's organisations did not end with the woman who went to them in need - it was passed to their families.

Overall, it was demonstrated that by comprehensively addressing the causes and consequences of women’s problems, women's organisations both support individual women's well-being and reduce their need for state-funded services.

"The impact that these charities have goes much further than those women that they seek to help, but as much impacts on wider society because of the crucial role that women still play in raising the next generation even today," said Jenny Rouse, nef consulting analyst.

"Hopefully this SROI report will demonstrate to funders the value that organisations specifically focussed on women’s issues have for society."

Ultimately, the most important finding is that women's organisations' work saves lives. Analysis of violence against women organisation Women and Girls Network (WGN), who participated in the project, predicted that the service prevented at least one suicide a year through its work.

"They made me feel like I was worth something,” one client told the researcher about WGN. "I had 20 years of being told I was useless, worthless."

Now the important part is to build on the research. WRC has sent copies to government, funders, stakeholders, the media, and anyone who could - and should - have an interest in the remarkable work undertaken by women’s organisations. After all, we think we have more than shown its worth.


The organisations involved were Ashiana Network, Women and Girls Network, Heba Women's Project, South Sudan Women's Skills Development, Rape Crisis South London