Guest blog from Ann Jones, Federation of Wales Chair and NFWI Vice Chair
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence started on 25 November (White Ribbon Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and runs until 10 December (Human Rights Day).
Alarmingly, one in four women in Wales will experience domestic abuse at the hands of a partner during their lives, and 150,000 women in Wales will suffer some form of gender-based violence.
As part of the WI’s commitment to ending Violence Against Women (VAW), NFWI-Wales engaged WI members in the Not in My Name Campaign for the fifth year. Established in 2012 in partnership with anti-violence campaigner Joyce Watson AM, the Campaign involves the recruitment of male ambassadors in speaking out against VAW and making a pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about VAW.
To mark White Ribbon Day 2016, NFWI-Wales hosted a stakeholder debate at the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff Bay followed by a candlelight vigil at dusk on the steps outside the Assembly. Members from as far afield as mid Wales joined us for the vigil as well as stakeholders such as VAW third sector organisations, Gwent Police, South Wales Police, South Wales Fire and Rescue and members of UNISON.
The heartbreaking stories we heard from domestic abuse survivors at both events will stay in our minds. Their experiences sent a strong message demonstrating why we are involved in this campaign and why we must continue to campaign to end VAW.
I am encouraged to see Not in my Name gaining strength every year amongst the membership. Candlelight vigils, organised by our members, were held in Carmarthen, Ceredigion and Llandudno as well as a Light a Candle Service in Usk organised annually by Gwent Federation. Pembrokeshire Federation dedicated their Council Meeting to raising awareness about the campaign and federations across Wales forged links with male ambassadors such as rugby clubs, male voice choirs and rotary clubs.
This year, NFWI-Wales launched a prose competition linked to the campaign and I was delighted that members in England as well as Wales took part. Congratulations to the winner Therese Casemore, Llandogo WI, Gwent. Therese’s prose, written from the perspective of a man, was read powerfully by Rhun ap Iorwerth AM at the Candlelight Vigil.
In 2015, the Welsh Government passed the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act. This legislation has the potential to make a huge difference to women’s lives but its implementation must be backed by strong guidance. NFWI-Wales is a member of the Wales VAW Action Group and, as a member of the group, we will continue to monitor the implementation of the Act and play our part in holding the Government to account. We will also continue to use the strong network of the WI to continue to raise awareness about violence against women everywhere.