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Written Statement - International Women’s Day 2016

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The programme aims to increase the diversity of individuals standing for election to local government.
Leighton Andrews, Minister for Public Services

The rights of girls and women should be championed every day, but on International Women’s Day I want to take the opportunity to update Members on the actions across the public services portfolio to build a fair and equal society.  

As a White Ribbon Ambassador, I am pleased to be part of the global movement to eliminate violence against women and girls. The Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 received Royal Assent on 29 April 2015. It is a landmark piece of legislation, the first law of its kind in the UK.  

Good progress is being made with the implementation of the Act including the appointment of the first National Adviser for Violence against Women, Rhian Bowen-Davies, the publication of statutory guidance on our National Training Framework “Ask and Act”, and a number of award-winning awareness raising campaigns. We continue to work with organisations in the third sector who work with victims and survivors, to develop our shared approach.

We are also working to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage and honour based violence, focusing on sustainable longer term cultural change to tackle such issues. As part of our International Women’s Day activities, the Welsh Government, along with the NSPCC and BAWSO, will host a youth event ‘SPARK A CONVERSATION! Change starts with one voice’. The aim is to encourage and support young people, as leaders of the future, to contribute to the global youth movement on girls’ rights. This will include a focus on how young people can support a movement to end harmful practices such as FGM and honour based violence.

Every Local Authority in Wales has now put in place single status pay arrangements for men and women resolving long standing issues of back pay compensation for those women affected.

However, there are still issues to be addressed.  Research suggests women make up 60% of those earning less than the Living Wage so it is important that public bodies commit to paying the Living Wage to employees.  The Welsh Government is an accredited Living Wage employer and all NHS employees in Wales have been paid the Living Wage since January 2015.  

Likewise, research both UK-wide and in Wales suggests women are more widely employed than men on non-guaranteed or zero hours contracts in public services.  Working with our Workforce Partnership Council and the Public Services Staff Commission we are continuing to explore how to limit the use of zero hours contracts except where they can assist the delivery of excellent services through good 21st century employment practices.  

A further area where there is still progress to be made is in equal representation on elected bodies and public sector boards. I am pleased that an open process of recruitment for appointments to the Public Services Staff Commission has led to a female Chief Executive, a female Chair, plus 2 further female members, with an overall 50/50 gender balance. The gender balance of the Independent Remuneration Panel and the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales has also been improved through recent open recruitments.

In terms of elected bodies, the Diversity in Democracy project aims to increase the number of women, young people and minority groups who choose to stand in the 2017 local government elections.  The project works in partnership with local authorities, political parties, councillors and equality networks to raise awareness of local government and increase opportunities for women and girls by reducing and removing barriers.

A key element of the project is the mentoring programme.  This has 46 mentees, including 34 women, who have been matched with a councillor in their area, giving them the opportunity to shadow councillors going about their day to day activities. Mentors and mentees have access to comprehensive leadership and personal development training, provided by project partners such as Academi Wales.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the mentors for their support. Their contribution is invaluable. There are some early successes. For example, one mentee was recently selected to stand as a candidate in the National Assembly elections. She has stated that being part of the mentoring programme gave her the confidence to take this step.  

There is also a publicity campaign, using social media and video clips, aiming to increase the profile of the role of a local government councillor.  It forms a crucial part of the effort to ensure councils elected next year mirror their electorates more closely, in particular by achieving significant improvement in their gender balance.