International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the strengths and achievements of women and girls and of the women’s movement across the globe. But it must also be a time to reflect on how far we still have to go, and the actions we can take, to achieve equality and the liberation from oppression for all women and girls.
This year’s International Women’s Day coincides with the resurgence of women’s protests against the increasing disdain expressed by global political leaders’ for civil liberties, and falls at a time when our hard won gains towards an equal future are not only fragile, but are in danger of being swept away.
Globally, women and girls still lack access to reproductive, health and education rights and entitlements, including freedom from violence and abuse.
Despite state action in the UK to promote equality and minimise the gender pay gap, we are far from achieving a gender balance in public life, gender stereotypes and norms still consign children and adults to a lifetime of limitations and discrimination, we have more evidence that the gender pay gap is in reverse, and equality laws are increasingly under threat in the run up to Brexit.
Despite state action in the UK to increase protection for survivors of abuse, women and children still experience a postcode lottery as to the availability of specialist services or responses they might receive from public services. In Wales, the future provision of specialist services, including refuges, for women and children remains insecure and services for children who are abused are severely depleted. Many domestic abuse and sexual violence services in the third sector do not know if they will exist from one year to the next.
One in three women in Wales will be subject to physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse at some point in their lives, and one woman killed every three days as a result of fatal male violence is the price we pay for not taking violence against women seriously. As long as violence against women and girls continues, as long as we condone, collude with, and fail to stop perpetrators of abuse, women and girls will never be able to achieve freedom from abuse and their human and political rights.
An equal future is hard to imagine, when we know so many women and girls face daily challenges caused by what feels like insurmountable systems of discrimination and oppression.
Yet violence against women, which is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men, is predictable and preventable. If we focus on ending violence against women, we will free women and girls from domination, power and control, and contribute to their liberation from the systems and culture that denies women and girls their autonomy and the power and capacity to claim their rights.
At Welsh Women’s Aid, we believe a different world is possible if we #BeBoldforChange. Our network of specialist services in Wales provide lifesaving and life changing support and protection for survivors of abuse every day and we work together to achieve prevention. Our work is founded on the voices and experiences and involvement of survivors of violence and abuse in relationships, in families and in communities, who are being bold every day.
So if you share our vision of a safe, equal, violence-free world, join us to #BeBoldforChange, not just today, but every day. Help us build a movement in Wales to end violence against women and children. Fundraise for us, support or donate to your local specialist services, or support the work of Welsh Women’s Aid nationally. Only by working together can we ensure that everyone in Wales will live violence free and fear free, and in doing so, women can be what we want to be, who we want to become, and live in a world where men and women experience equality and freedom.
Eleri Butler, CEO, Welsh Women’s Aid