International Women’s Day

Today’s blog is by Councillor Helen Holland – Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Integrated Care Systems, with responsibility for Women’s Safety, and Labour Councillor for Hartcliffe and Withywood.

This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) seems to have a particular resonance, and at the joyous – and back in-person – celebration on Saturday, there was space for women from across our city to reflect on the last couple of years, and the current situation. 

There is no doubt that Covid and the pandemic’s ongoing impact has hit women harder. Women make up the biggest proportion of carers, both paid and unpaid, and were on the frontline during the worst of the crisis. Many women had to make the decision to live away from their families in order to protect those they cared for, and worked longer hours. Many were also expected to juggle working from home while home-schooling their children. 

Saturday’s events included a panel discussion discussing the ‘double disadvantages’ faced by disabled women. Bristol Women’s Commission are working with WECIL on some research on this, and we heard some fascinating insights from that. In the discussion everyone recognised the “intersectionality” of gender with other protected characteristics, and expressed our commitment to hearing more from those with lived experience to shape our policies, in everything from public transport to commissioning care providers. 

We also know that the incidence of domestic violence increased hugely, and it was good to hear our Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Shelford, reiterate the priority that this work is being given by Avon and Somerset Police, led by the Chief Constable, Sarah Crew. 

This past year has also seen the shocking murders of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, and over a hundred other women, so the work that we are doing, along with our partners, to make Bristol a women-safe city, feels as if it has never been more important. Next week will see the launch of the Women’s Safety Charter, and as this initiative progresses, we must draw on the experience and expertise of all women and women’s organisations right across our city. 

As we know, and as we heard in many of the discussions on Saturday at the IWD event, having more women in decision-making roles improves those decisions, and I have always been passionate about everyone’s responsibility in encouraging women to put themselves forward for all sorts of elected positions, and roles in public life, such as the magistracy, school governors, and health bodies. 

Our Cabinet in Bristol has women in half of the portfolios, leading on critical issues for the city: including climate change, equalities, public health, children’s and adult’s social care. It is a privilege to sit alongside these committed colleagues, who are working to #BreakTheBias every day, but we can’t do it alone. So when you see leaders in your community, those volunteers who always go the extra mile, the women making opportunities for young people, remember: #AskHerToStand