Julie James, Leader of the House and Chief Whip
On International Women’s Day in March, the First Minister announced a Rapid Review of the Welsh Government’s gender equality policies.
The First Phase of the Review, delivered by Chwarae Teg and the Wales Centre for Public Policy reported in July with a number of recommendations for the Welsh Government to consider.
The review found that, while much has been achieved in Wales, gender inequality remains a stubborn feature of Welsh life. The report lays the foundation for change based on three key themes:
• Vision and Leadership
• Policy in Practice; and
• External Scrutiny and Accountability
Phase 2 of the Gender Review is underway and is due to complete in July 2019 with the establishment of a roadmap to advance gender equality in Wales in the immediate, medium and long term, across all parts of Welsh Government. The work of the Gender Review will also have a positive impact on other areas of equality and will have a particular interest in intersectional characteristics which cause multiple barriers to women.
Chwarae Teg is taking forward Phase 2 of the review, to ensure that the recommendations and advice provided to Welsh Government are independent and representative of the views of stakeholders. This will build on the work they completed in Phase 1. Part of this work has involved consulting widely with stakeholders about the Vision, Language and Indicators for Gender Equality in Wales.
I have set up a Steering Group to oversee the delivery of Phase 2, which met for the first time on 8 October 2018. Its membership comprises the Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Future Generations Commissioner, Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales, Chwarae Teg, a leading academic in this field and the VAWDASV National Advisors. I am grateful to all members for their expertise and contributions provided to date, and I look forward to continuing to work alongside them as we progress with the Review.
To support the work of the Steering Group, Chwarae Teg has put together an Expert Advisory Group, comprised of organisations representing equality groups and specialist services. The Group will be Chaired by WEN Wales and met for the first time on 16th October. The primary purpose of the Expert Advisory Group is to provide expert advice and guidance to the Gender Review Steering Group, supporting the work of the project team and the delivery of Phase 2 of the review. The Group will provide advice and support engagement to ensure that the review adequately reflects the needs and lived experience of the diversity of women throughout Wales. The approach involves working across different equality strands, aiming to ensure that no one is left behind. We recognise that women and girls who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination are often excluded from progress. The Group will support Phase 2 by drawing on their experience of delivering specialist services to women throughout Wales.
During the summer, officials across Welsh Government have been responding to the Phase 1 recommendations. The majority of recommendations can be accepted either wholly or in part, and we are working with the Steering Group on the best way to take these forward. We recognise that a number of the recommendations need further exploration in Phase 2, and again, we are working closely with the Steering Group to understand these in further detail. A small number of recommendations are outside of the Welsh Government’s power, we will look to see what actions we might be able to take to influence at a UK level.
I am undertaking a series of bilateral meetings with my Cabinet colleagues to discuss how the Review links with the areas of work in their portfolios. I am encouraged by the level of commitment to the recommendations and to supporting the work of Phase 2 across the Government.
The Wales Centre for Public Policy report published in the summer recommended that the Welsh Government learn from the experiences of countries that have made the most progress towards closing gender equality gaps. I have asked the Centre to establish a Nordic Equality Exchange so that we can gain practical insights from the Nordic countries of Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Denmark, which feature highly in indices that measure progress. This will help us to ensure that all policy promotes gender equality. The event will take place early in 2019.
It is anticipated that once work has completed on Phase 2 and there is a clear roadmap for achieving gender equality in Wales, that the work of the gender review will continue beyond the formal end of the project. This is to ensure that the right things are being done to achieve gender equality in Wales and to lead the UK as the first Feminist Government.