On International Women’s Day 2018, Cerith Mathias talks to the campaigners who are saying ‘Time’s Up’ on sexual harassment and violence against women in Wales.
In the year that marks 100 years since some women were given the vote, the call for gender-parity in all aspects of society is being made loud and clear in Wales this International Women’s Day. The day, an annual event to celebrate social, economic, political and cultural achievements of women is celebrated across the globe. This year’s campaign theme is #PressforProgress, calling on women and men to unite in the promotion of gender-inclusivity, parity and female visibility.
With the Time’s Up campaign, launched in January by women in Hollywood calling for an end to sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace gaining support beyond the USA, and the #MeToo movement which has seen women across the world sharing their experiences of sexual harassment – the question of women’s rights is currently very much front and centre.
‘The international conversation that has been sparked by MeToo and Time’s Up in Hollywood and beyond has highlighted women’s daily experience of sexual harassment and other forms of male violence against women,’ says Eleri Butler, CEO of Welsh Women’s Aid, an organisation which represents the views and experiences of Welsh domestic abuse services and violence against women services across Wales.
Today the organisation has published a statement dubbed ‘Time’s Up Cymru’, signed by over 150 women from Welsh public life, calling for an end to sexual harassment and all forms of violence against women.
‘Violence and abuse against women and girls is not inevitable, it can be prevented and we can work together to eradicate it!’, says Eleri Butler. ‘It is damaging the potential of our society’s ability to thrive but we can take action. We must have an education system that provides our children and young people with the tools to have healthy relationships. We must create communities where the harassment, violence and abuse of women and girls is challenged.’
Writer and performer Sian Harries is an Ambassador for Welsh Women’s Aid, and one of those who has signed the statement, which she calls ‘vital.’
‘I think it shows just how many Welsh women are willing to stand up and say enough is enough when it comes to gender inequality,’ Harries says. ‘It’s 2018, a century has passed since some of us won the vote, yet we seem to be moving towards equality at a snail’s pace – we still earn less than men for doing the same job, more than half of us will suffer sexual harassment at work, two women in England and Wales are killed every week – EVERY WEEK – as a result of domestic violence. It’s just incomprehensible and it’s about time we stood up and made it clear we’re not going to take it anymore.’
On International Women’s Day 2018, Wales Arts Review is proud to publish Welsh Women’s Aid’s Statement in full:
Women in Wales Press for Progress – Menywod yng Nghymru yn Pwyso am Gynnydd
On International Women’s Day 2018, we stand united as women in Wales who are activists, campaigners, advocates, and survivors to Press for Progress and to say that time’s up for perpetrators of all forms of violence, abuse and discrimination against women. We stand together with the signatories of the letters of actors and activists who spoke out last month to call Time’s Up on the day of the Baftas in London.
Over the past six months, millions of courageous survivors of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, so-called ‘honour’ based violence and all forms of violence against women have raised their voices to say #MeToo in solidarity with their sisters across the world. The origins of this campaign can be traced to 1997, before social media dominated our lives, when Tarana Burke sat across from a 13 year old sexual violence survivor and felt she could not say ‘me too’, then a decade later Burke initiated “Me Too” as a grassroots movement to help survivors in Black and minority communities, highlighting the importance of intersectional understanding of women’s experiences.
#MeToo has shone a spotlight on the endemic level of these experiences. Some of those who have spoken out have been men and we acknowledge their experiences and call for the support of all survivors. However, the overwhelming majority have been women. This is because sexual harassment is a form of violence against women and is experienced disproportionately by women and girls at the hands of men and boys because it is a consequence – and cause – of gender inequality. Perpetrators’ behaviour stems from a sense of entitlement that is supported by sexist, racist, disablist, homophobic or other discriminatory attitudes, behaviours and systems that maintain and reproduce inequality.
1 in 3 women in Wales experience physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. We know that women can be nervous about speaking up about their experiences, concerned by what the response will be. We need to ensure that there is support for women to enable them to feel that they can speak out about their experiences, in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
Today, we raise our collective voices to say this:
- Time’s up on perpetrators’ behaviour going unacknowledged, unchallenged and unpunished.
- Time’s up on women and girls living with the everyday experience of harassment, intimidation, violence and abuse throughout our public and private lives.
- Time’s up on an era when survivors of violence against women are not believed, are victim-blamed, are asked what they were wearing and what they had been drinking.
Let us instead call out attitudes and behaviours that allow violence against women to exist. Let us press our Governments in Wales and Westminster to take action. Let us press our businesses, our schools, colleges and universities to create environments in which women and girls can thrive, dream big and reach their potentials. Where violence against women and girls has been eradicated for good. Where 64% of girls in schools do not experience sexual harassment. Where 52% of women are not sexually abused in the workplace. Where the image of a glass ceiling seems archaic, rather than a symbol of limitations in women and girls’ lives.
Violence and abuse against women and girls is not inevitable, it can be prevented and we can work together to eradicate it! It is damaging the potential of our society’s ability to thrive but we can take action. We must have an education system that provides our children and young people with the tools to have healthy relationships. We must create communities where the harassment, violence and abuse of women and girls is challenged. We must see zero-tolerance to sexual harassment enforced by our educational institutions, our workplaces and in our UK Parliament and National Assembly for Wales. We must ensure that support services for survivors are sustainably funded across the country so that the lifesaving services of these specialist third sector organisations are accessible when and where survivors need them.
Together we Press for Progress, in solidarity with the International Women’s Day movement across the globe, acknowledging our diversity to enable equality for all women and girls in Wales, so that we do not have to wait another hundred years for a society where women and girls can live free from misogyny and fulfil their potential without the threat of being silenced. So that women and girls can live free from violence and abuse, and can thrive into healthy, ambitious and equal members of this society.
Adelle Kedge, Powys County Council
Ali Morris, Swansea Feminist Network
Alison Hamlington, Welsh Women’s Aid Wrexham
Angharad Elen Blythe
Ann Williams, Welsh Women’s Aid (Live Fear Free Helpline)
Anna Grace Rogers
Bethan Mai, Rogue Jones
Bronwen Burgess, Domestic Abuse One Stop Shop – Neath Port Talbot
Carys Eleri Evans
Catherine Fookes, Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales
Cathy Owens, Deryn
Catrin Mara Eiry Thomas
Catrin Ms Davies
Cerith Mathias, Wales Arts Review
Cerys Furlong, Chwarae Teg
Charlie Arthur, RCT Women’s Aid
Cheryl Waters Jones
Claire Thomas, Welsh Women’s Aid Colwyn
Claudia Boes, Cardiff Sisters of Solidarity
Corrine John, University of South Wales
Dawn Lynne Jones
Diane Nicholson-Wright, Affinity Female Voice Choir
Donna C M Williams
Donna Lynne Davies
Dr Alison Parken
Dr Christina Papagiannouli, University of South Wales
Dr Helen Davies
Dr Sam Edwards
Eirian Griffiths West Wales Domestic Abuse Service
Elena Blackmore, Women & Equalities Officer, Machynlleth Labour Party
Eleri Butler, Welsh Women’s Aid
Elinor Wyn Reynolds
Emily Underwood-Lee, University Of South Wales
Fflur Emlyn, RASASC
Gail Richards-Hemming, Port Talbot and Afan Womens Aid
Gwendolyn Sterk, UK Expert on EWL Observatory on VAWG
Gwyneth Sweatman, NUS Wales
Hannah Bayfield, Tiger Bay Brawlers
Helen Jones, Atal Y Fro
Helen Rosser Davies
Helen Swain, Cyfannol Women’s Aid
Jane Gebbie, Unison
Jane Ruthe, RASASC
Jaqueline Pierce Owen
Katie Dalton, Cymorth Cymru
Kim Griffiths, Threshold DAS
Lisa Heledd Jones
Lisa Jên Brown
Llinor Ap Gwynedd
Lucy Reynolds, Port Talbot and Afan Womens Aid
Lydia Parry Jones
Lynne Sanders, Swansea Women’s Aid and Swansea Women’s Centre
Maggie Simpson, Cardiff County Unison Labour
Michelle Phillips, Soroptimist International Anglesey
Michelle Pooley, West Wales Domestic Abuse Service
Miriam Isaac Georgia Ruth
Morgan Fackrell, Cardiff Women’s Aid
Natalie Poole, Newport Women’s Aid
Nerys Evans, Deryn
Nesta Lloyd Jones
Nia Lynne Roberts
Nicola Mahoney, Safer Merthyr Tydfil
Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, Surviving Economic Abuse
Nikki Giant, Full Circle and Girls Circle
Professor Amanda Robinson, Cardiff University
Professor Charlotte Williams OBE
Professor Emma Renold, Cardiff University
Rachael Eagles, Calan DVS
Rachael Nicholson-Wright, Action on Elder Abuse Cymru
Rachel Minto, Cardiff University
Rebecca Zerk, Aberystwyth University
Rhian Davies, Disability Wales
Rhiannon M Williams
Rhiannon M Williams
Ruth Marks, WCVA
Sarah Rees, Women’s Equality Party
Sarah Thomas, NFWI Wales
Sarah Wydall, Aberystwyth University
Shavanah Taj, Welsh Secretary, PCS Union
Sian Harries, Writer-Performer
Sue Roberts, Stepping Stones North Wales
Susan Roddick Owen
Tania Russel Owen
Tracey Sutton Postlethwaite
Uzo Iwobi, Race Council Cymru
Victoria Pedicini, Threshold DAS