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Gender Equality is an Issue for the Critical 1000 Days


I spent the weekend at the Women of the World (WOW) festival on the South Bank in London. If you have never been, go next year. Many events are free. Some you need a day-pass or weekend-pass for and some are evening events that are open to everyone but for which a charge is made. You can have a great weekend without paying anything. And events you have to pay for are nearly always worth the money. (http://wow.southbankcentre.co.uk/)

The sheer scale of WOW (more than 2000 people attending) and the range of stories being told by women from across the world and from across the socio/economic/racial/cultural/political spectrum was staggering and uplifting and humbling and demanding. As the organiser, Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the South Bank Centre, said: this was an opportunity for every person present to learn something about lives very different from their own.

I’d like to share a few of the notes I made at various sessions – do visit our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/IJBPE/) to let me know what you think.

  • How can we lift children out of poverty if childcare costs are so crippling that women cannot afford to go out to work? (I think this is a rhetorical question but I’m sure many of you would like to add your voice to the outcry on this issue.)
  • Last year, 10% of children who were adopted were adopted by same-sex couples and 8.5% were adopted by single parents. Are you one of these families? Did you get and are you getting the support and education you deserve?
  • Those of us who were adults in the 1970s were talking about the need for shared parental responsibility then. Yet little seems to have changed. Policy doesn’t support it and it isn’t happening in most homes. Do you agree?
  • Fathers are still not being supported to take an equal part - or the major part - in parenting.
  • We need politics and politicians who are aggressively affirmative around women’s issues.

There was some angry debate about the fact that it is women who are being advised not to get pregnant in countries where the Zika virus is present with no acknowledgement of the fact that women don’t get pregnant on their own! Disgust at the ‘mother/women-blaming’ aspect of handing responsibility for stopping the spread of this appalling virus to just one half of the child-producing population was matched only by the reaction to the brilliant American Professor of Law (Kimberlé Crenshaw) reminding us that American presidential candidate, Donald Trump, had blamed the ‘roughing-up’ he received at the hands of a well-informed and challenging female broadcaster on her being on her period!

Women in their teens spoke at the Festival and women in their 80s – with everyone recognising that what is an issue for one group of women (be it equal access to education; childcare benefits; political equality; rape; media representation etc.) is an issue for all women.

And I think my own take-home message from the Festival was exactly that – namely: the focus of my own work on the very early days and on supporting mothers and fathers and co-parents, is part of a much bigger picture to ensure that our newest citizens can grow up in a world that is, or at the very least is more, a gender-equal world.

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