As we begin 2018 I have some key ambitions for equality today.
All public institutions including FTSE 100, FTSE 350 and local authorities, should publish their gender pay data, covering the gender pay gap between the average wage earned by men and women regardless of their position.
Progress towards the 30% target on boards is accelerating in 2018 as the value women add to boards and the system as a whole becomes self perpetuating. Gender equality has to be at the forefront of everything, and respect for men and women in all decision making is critical.
We mustn't forget that we are also in a year when more men, women and children have been displaced through no fault of their own. World leaders must accept the compelling situation and open their borders.
Everyone should be treated with respect no matter what their gender or religion.
This month I have included a number of articles which are crtical reading for all of these issues.
Technology will widen pay gap and hit women hardest – Davos report
Research into jobs finds men’s dominance in IT and biotech is reversing trend towards equality.
The gulf between men and women at work – in both pay and status – is likely to widen unless action is taken to tackle inequality in high-growth sectors such as technology, say researchers at this week’s World Economic Forum summit in Davos.
Tessa Jowell gets standing ovation in Lords after moving cancer speech – as it happened
Tessa Jowell, the former culture secretary, has given a moving speech in the House of Lords about her brain cancer diagnosis. Her address, which received a standing ovation, called for peers to support the Eliminate Cancer Initiative.
Launching The UK's National Action Plan On Women, Peace and Security
Brita Fernandez Schmidt Executive Director, Women for Women International - UK
From Syria to South Sudan, conflict continues to foster violence all over the world today, predominantly carried out by men and targeted at women. At the same time, progress on key women’s rights protections falls consistently short. It affects women’s lives every day - I see this in my work with Women for Women International. In Afghanistan, 87.1% of participants on our year-long training programme report never having attended formal education, earn less than $10 a month, and more than three-quarters report no knowledge of their rights. Meanwhile, only 2 of 23 rounds of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban formally included women, according to the Women and Foreign Policy Forum at the Council of Foreign Relations. Women’s voices are marginalised, so their experiences of violence, abuse and disempowerment are left unaddressed.
Against this backdrop, on 16th January 2018 the UK government launched its fourth National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security – a five-year strategy for how it will meet its commitments, under UN Security Council Resolution 1325, to reduce the impact of conflict on women and girls and to promote their inclusion in conflict resolution. The Plan was produced in partnership with civil society, including the Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS) network of UK-based NGOs, of which Women for Women International is a member, and of which I am currently Chair. To ensure the voices of women in conflict-affected states were included in the Plan, GAPS member organisations led consultations with women’s rights organisations in Burma, Somalia, Syria, and Afghanistan.
So why is the new National Action Plan important?
For me, it comes down to the words of Sosan Behbodzadah, one of the women who took part in the consultations led by Women for Women International’s team in Afghanistan. She said that, when it comes to matters of women’s participation, safety, and rights protections, “Regulations, resolutions and conventions were all accepted in Afghanistan, but unfortunately all of it has remained only on papers until now.”
Data and testimonies from our programme participants tell the same, devastating story of promises that don’t translate into reality. We need to change this.
That is why the Plan is important - it is a clear commitment to women and girls and to spend more aid in fragile and conflict-affected countries. And it is stronger than its predecessors: built on solid collaboration between government and civil society, and on consultations with local women’s rights organisations. It sets a clear direction for the UK government to work towards, which should enable more effective reporting and, crucially, learning. This is a promising and positive start.
But the Plan is only the beginning
What we will DO with it now is what really matters
As GAPS, we will focus on three areas:
- Policy coherence Against competing priorities, whether trade or countering violent extremism, the UK must ensure that efforts in other areas avoid undermining its vital support to women affected by conflict. For example, arms sales to countries like Saudi Arabia result in these weapons being used against civilians in Yemen, including women.
- Resourcing Successful implementation of the Plan is dependent on adequate resourcing, not only in terms of funding but also staffing and capacity-building across government.
- Continued engagement with women affected by conflictThe UK must continue to regularly talk to, and learn from, the very women who are intended to benefit from its work.
‘Where are the women?’
This last point is critical. Because we are still not asking often, or loudly enough:‘Where are the women?’
When I spoke at the launch of the National Action Plan, I told Ministers: every time you travel, ask this question: ‘Where are the women and what are they saying?’ Ensure that you meet with representatives from women’s rights organisations. Listen to what women have to say – and act on it. It is that, which will ensure that the UK has country-specific approaches that are well-informed and are achieving the intended impact.
But it’s not just government ministers who have a role to play in translating the Plan into action. We all have a responsibility to listen, and to act. Each of us here in the UK can now hold our representatives to greater account and make sure they fulfil their clear commitments to women in Afghanistan, Syria, and other countries affected by conflict. It’s an opportunity to stand with other women around the world and create real change, at a time when action is urgently needed.
We could begin by listening to the words of Khawla Dunia, a Syrian participant in our consultations:
“Recognise those brave women, who have been working without being noticed and acknowledged in these very difficult circumstances, whether in the neighbouring countries around Syria or inside Syria. I hope all exiled Syrian women will be able to return to their homes … I hope they will be active and able to contribute to the reconstruction of Syria just as they contributed to the revolution and showed their hope for change.”