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.