This Sunday (25 November) marks the United Nations (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls. It is vital that the day is used to highlight the scale of an issue that is too often hidden. Globally, 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner.
On our part, Bristol City Council is in the process of reviewing its domestic violence and sexual abuse strategy. But this is not an issue we can address in silos. In Bristol we are working collectively with a range of partners, including Avon & Somerset Police, NextLink, SARSAS, BAVA, and Women’s Aid to tackle domestic violence and sexual abuse against women. It is clear that a life course approach needs to be adopted, addressing the ways in which children are impacted by domestic violence and sexual abuse, and the intergenerational dimensions of this. I’m proud that Bristol is the only Core City with a Cabinet Member for Women, in the excellent Councillor Helen Godwin. Helen is addressing domestic violence across generations by leading on a city-wide campaign to make Bristol an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Aware city, which will be launched at a conference in January 2019. You can read more about ACEs and why breaking the cycle of harmful behaviours here. Helen and I recently visited One25 , a charity specialising in enabling women to break free from street sex-work, addiction and other life-controlling issues and build new, independent lives. What struck me the most was how vulnerable the women One25 work with are to violence. Their Pause programme, funded by Bristol City Council, works to halt the cycle of adversity by supporting women to keep children in their care and move on as parents.
To truly tackle the devastating impacts of domestic violence and abuse, we need to think long term. In 2015, a new UN global development agenda was accepted by all countries and is applicable to all. Through its 17 goals, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an agenda for global action for the next 15 years, addresses the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social, and environmental. The Agenda recognises gender equality and the empowerment of women as a key priority, pledging that “no one will be left behind”. Goal 5 of the agenda aims to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and includes specific targets to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. I see the sustainable development goals, including that of gender equality, as central to delivering a city in which nobody is left behind. This is why we are working to embed them in our One City Plan, which sets out our ambitions for the city with a clear action plan for how to achieve them to 2050. It is evident that there is a long way to go to achieve gender equality, but I am glad that Bristol is at the forefront of this.