Welsh MEP candidates will demonstrate their commitment to women’s empowerment if elected to the European Parliament.
Tonight’s hustings debate, named ‘A Woman’s Place in Europe’, has been opened to the public and is taking place in Cardiff Bay.
The event takes the form of a ‘Question Time’ styled discussion, sponsored by the National Assembly of Wales presiding officer Dame Rosemary Butler AM and is hosted by Chwarae Teg.
Chwarae Teg is a charity that works with women in Wales to develop their skills and build rewarding careers.
“Women face a range of barriers when entering and progressing in the workplace and tend to dominate in low paid, part time roles,” said policy co-ordinator for Chwarae Teg Anne Howells. “Women are also dramatically under-represented in political and public life. As part of our work to get more women engaged with public life we wanted to focus our hustings debate on what MEP’s will do to ensure that women are able to reach their full potential in the Welsh economy,” she said.
The panel will consist of representatives from each of Wales’s main political parties: Jill Evans MEP from Paid Cymru, Alec Dauncey from the Liberal Democrats, Jane Bryant from Labour, Pippa Bartolotti from the Green Party, and Conservatives candidate Cllr Aled Davies are confirmed to attend.
Domestic violence is a key issue that each panel member has said he or she would address.
Labour’s Bryant said: “Violence against women shames modern Europe. It is a shocking fact that in 21st Century Europe, seven women die every day as a result of domestic violence.”
Morgan Griffith-David, policy officer for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said: “All women should be able to enjoy a life free from violence.”
Nick Clegg has recently backed Eve’s Law to protect victims of domestic abuse. High-profile female Liberal Democrats such as Lynne Featherstone have campaigned against female genital mutilation (FGM).
Welsh Conservatives intend to target five key areas, besides domestic violence, including FGM; healthcare and emotional support for victims of rape; encouraging EU countries to share best practice to better empower women; protecting the rights of British older women who move abroad to retire; recognising and responding to changing demographics impacting women.
Cllr Davies said: “We will work with our national parliaments to ensure that the right balance is struck between where social and family policy is best made whether that be at the national or European level.”
Ms Bryant said she believed that violence against women, the gender pay gap, poverty, unemployment, precarious and part-time employment, are all social issues at which gender equality is at the heart.
“From maternity and paternity leave, protection for part-time and temporary workers (the majority of who are women), four weeks paid leave a year and of course, equal pay for equal work,” said Ms Bryant.
Jill Evans MEP also emphasised that women are still facing discrimination, that gender stereotypes persist, few of Wales’s top jobs are occupied by women and this is the case across Europe. Figures show that the gender pay gap is 16.4 per cent on average in the EU and in Wales the average hourly pay for women is 80 per cent of that for men.
Office for National Statistics shows that in April 2013 UK gender pay gap based on median hourly earnings for all employees (full-time and part-time) increased slightly to 19.7 per cent from 19.6 per cent in 2012.
Pippa Bartalotti is expected to say: “We are proud that the Green Party makes sure its representation is shared equally between the genders. Indeed, our National leader and Wales Leader are both women.”
Ms Bartolotti believed that a work-life balance should be understood as dynamic and susceptible to change over the working lives of women. According to an early draft of Bartolotti’s speech, she thought the Citizen’s Income policy from Green Party could allow workers to have both flexibility and security.
“Another option would be a six-hour working day – because for men and women, it is not making money which counts – it is having enough money to live a satisfying and happy life, and enough security to not have to worry.”
Ms Evans said: “Most parties speak positively about women’s rights. However, while most parties say that they are committed to making positive changes to improve women’s rights, when it comes to putting down concrete legislation they don’t stick to their word. ”
“The UK government is currently blocking proposed changes to the EU Directive on Maternity Leave, the changes that are proposed would provide for paternity leave not just maternity leave. Plaid Cymru believes that both men and women should have equal rights to taking time off work after the birth of a child.”
BY Xi Zhang
A Woman’s place in Europe
10th April 2014
Pierhead, Cardiff Bay