Category Archives: Cardiff

Domestic Abuse [Wales] Bill

The Welsh government announced this week plans to introduce a Domestic Abuse [Wales] Bill as part of the new legislative agenda.

The Bill, the first of its kind in the UK, will introduce a statutory requirement for all local authorities to have a violence against women strategy in place on a local level.

The Bill will be introduced during the 2013/14 legislative year.

Addressing the National Assembly on Monday First Minister Carwyn Jones said:

“This Government wants to do more to tackle the social problems of domestic abuse. We will introduce in the next two years the Domestic Abuse (Wales) Bill, designed to place a duty on relevant public sector bodies to have a domestic abuse and ‘violence against women strategy’ in place.  The Bill will not seek to address criminal justice issues.  Rather the purpose of the provisions will be concerned with social welfare and the prevention, protection and support elements of a domestic abuse and violence against women strategy.”

[Statement in full]

A representative from the Wales Violence Against Women Action Group said:

“We are also absolutely delighted that the First Minister announced a Domestic Abuse Bill, and hope that it will seek to tackle all forms of VAW and ensure that all main VAW services are statutory at a local level.

“Carl Sargeant, the Minister for Local Government and Communities has clearly taken on board our representations that services to help women who suffer violence are a postcode lottery in Wales. He clearly agrees with us that these services must be protected, even when finances are difficult.

“His support is very welcome, and we look forward to working with him over the next year or two to help deliver better services and a new bill to better protect women in Wales.”

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Slutwalkers take to Cardiff Streets

More than 200 people took to the streets of Cardiff today to protest against a culture of rape and victim blaming.

This was the first Slutwalk, a trend which started in Canada and the US in April, to take part in the UK.

Chants of “two, four six, eight, love sex, hate rape” and “Yes means yes and No means no” rang out as the march progressed from the city hall to St John’s church, where Cathy Owens of Amnesty International, Helen-Mary Jones of  Plaid Cymru and Dr Emma Renold of Cardiff University made speeches.

Helen Mary Jones said:

“I thought we had done all this in the seventies and eighties, I thought we had got the message across.  It breaks my heart as an old feminist to see a third of young Welsh people, including women think it is ok for a woman to be hurt or abused because of what she is wearing.

“No must mean no and we must get that message across.  This is an issue for us all.”

A survey of Welsh students by NUS Wales and Amnesty International in 2008 revealed more than one third [36 per cent] of people questioned believed a woman is responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted if she had acted in a flirtatious manner, while a quarter [23 per cent] thought a woman is responsible if she is wearing sexy or revealing clothing.

In another survey by the Havens Sexual Assault Referral Centre, 23 per cent of men questioned thought even a women said “no” right from the start, sex from that point was not rape.

Here are some of the social media responses to today’s walk.

[View the story “Cardiff Slutwalk: 4th June 2011” on Storify]


Cardiff Slutwalks: saying No to victim blaming.

Photo: Anton Bielousov

Slutwalking may have got itself a controversial reputation but organisers of the Cardiff march are keen to emphasise there is much more to this latest trend than fishnets and short skirts.

The slutwalking movement, which has spread over several continents in just over a month, is meant to tackle attitudes towards rape and victim blaming culture.

Women worldwide, angry at comments made by Canadian police officer Michael Sanguinetti that “women should avoid dressing as sluts in order not to be victimised”, have taken to the streets to challenge rape myths and reclaim the word slut.

More than 650 people have already signed up on Facebook to take part in the Cardiff walk, which will take place on June 4.

The Cardiff organisers, Beccy Pert, 20, Leah White, 25, Hannah Caddick, 21, and Lemon Cottrell, 21, have been overwhelmed by people’s responses.

From Left, Lemon Cottrell, Hannah Caddick, Leah White, Beccy Pert.

Hannah, an English Literature finalist at Cardiff University, said:

“We saw an article about it and I thought it was really inspirational and made me want to organise our own march.  We started an interest group on Facebook and within an hour we had fifty members and so many responses.  It really just snowballed.”

But not all the reaction has been good.  Leah said:

“The reactions we have had proves how important it is.  Victim blaming is a massive problem and so many people have reacted against it saying things like ‘what do women expect?’  It makes it obvious what a big problem it is and why we need to have the march.”

A survey of Welsh students by NUS Wales and Amnesty International in 2008 revealed more than one third [36 per cent] of people questioned believed a woman is responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted if she had acted in a flirtatious manner, while a quarter [23 per cent] thought a woman is responsible if she is wearing sexy or revealing clothing.

In another survey by the Havens Sexual Assault Referral Centre, 23 per cent of men questioned thought even a women said “no” right from the start, sex from that point was not rape.

Images of women marching in bras and fishnet stockings on marches in places such as Toronto and Boston have dominated the media but the Cardiff organisers are keen to make it clear women do not have to dress up to take place.

“The really extreme images aren’t really representative of the movement as a whole,” Leah said. “We are not encouraging people to dress up or behave like sluts, we want people to be comfortable.  We do not have the right to tell people how to dress and neither does anybody else.  That is what this is all about.”

The controversial name of the walks has been one of the main talking points in the media.  The idea of reclaiming the word slut has caused a lot of debate, not least among feminists.

Beccy said:

“Reclaiming the word slut is definitely a secondary to our main aim but I do think it is quite important.  There is no real male equivalent of the word.  Words like seducer or womaniser are used but they have this sense of admiration, while women who are sexually promiscuous are made to feel shamed and degraded by being called a slut.”

Cardiff Feminist Network [CFN] member Molly Zacharias, 27, of Alma Street, Treherbert, said:

“I think reclaiming the word is either really brave or really miscalculated but personally I think it’s really great we are trying to reclaim the word, like gay people did with the word queer.  I don’t think a lot of people are going to get it though.

“I think this is a great opportunity for feminists but it might be wasted because people are spending too much time debating whether or not the word slut needs reclaiming instead of getting together a more positive campaign.”

But not all supporters of the walk are so keen to reclaim the word.  Deputy director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs [IWA] and Llandaff councillor Kirsty Davies, who will be attending the walk with her daughter, said:

“I would hesitate to call any woman a slut so I don’t think the name is very helpful, though at the same time is has been useful in getting the attention of the media.

“While I am not interested in reclaiming the word I do think the message of the walk is very important.  It is an issue which doesn’t really get the attention it deserves, really because it happens so often.”

The focus on attittudes towards rape was heightened recently as Ken Clarke, Minister for Justice, faced controversy over comments he made suggesting there are different types of rape, some of which are more serious than others.

The Welsh Government has already made its position on rape and blame culture clear and in December launched a Stop Blame campaign to tackle attitudes.

At the time of the launch last December former Social Justice Minister Carl Sargeant said:

“Victims or rape or sexual assault are in no way responsible for what happens to them. Apparent justification such as ‘she was too drunk’ or ‘she was asking for it’ just doesn’t wash. This attitude can be extremely damaging for the victims and we must put an end to it now.

“There is absolutely no excuse for committing rape or sexual assault and the blame should never be placed on the victim.”

In stark contrast to the reaction to the slutwalks campaigns like Stop Blame and other events focussed on eliminating violence against women like Reclaim the Night have struggled to reach a wide audience.

Cardiff Feminist Hannah Austin, who also works for Welsh Women’s Aid  said:

“I have worked with government campaigns and it is really, really difficult because they hardly get any media attention.

“All the feedback has suggested the Stop Blame campaign has been successful but it is difficult to know if it has changed attitudes.”


Art in Cardiff to celebrate International Women’s Day

As part of the Breaking the Waves feminist festival, there are a number of women-centric art exhibitions in Cardiff this week.

The celebrations for the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day are focused around women and art, and festival organisers are holding events such as life drawing workshops, craftivism and art exhibitions.

One of the exhibitions, Bodies and Selves in Milgi’s in City Road, shows work from both male and female artists and is an exploration of gender through various art forms.

The curator, French artist Emilie Collins said: “It was important for me not to exclude male artists, they can be feminist as well.  We should not exclude anyone or limit the scope people can reach.”

One of the main artists, Tomasz Zawistowski has produced a number of pieces which explore sexuality and the boundaries between what is considered erotic and what is considered pornographic.

Exploring the boundaries: work by Tomasz Zawistowski

His beautiful images show  various body parts in unusual ways.  Though portrayed in quite sexually, they are often not parts of the body generally considered erotic, and the boundaries between male and female are blurred as it is not always possible to tell which body is which.

Spike Dennis has also explored gender themes through a series of images called humanimals.  His merging of male, female and animal characters means the result is an interesting exploration of the bestial nature of human sexuality.  The use of Welsh mythological animals such as frogs, wolves and rabbits add an extra dimension to the work.

Iranian artist Diba Mehrabi uses her culture in her art to explore issues of gender and freedom.  Her work, Can I have freedom please?, uses textiles in a moving way to show the plight of many women in the Middle East.

Other featured artists are Lauren Foulkes, Paul Avis, Edel Cronin and Marielle Hogg.

The Exhibition opened on Friday and will run until March 29.

The Off the Wall contemporary art gallery in Llandaff is also showing an exhibition for International Women’s Day, in conjunction with the Women’s Art Association and features more than 20 female artists.

One of the most striking pieces, Girl in red corset by Sue Rowe, is a painting of almost photographic quality and shows a wonderful balance between confident yet awkward female sexuality.

Contemporary art by Emma Coyle

Girl in Red Corset by Sue Rowe

Irish artist, Emma Coyle uses more of a pop art style and her pieces are certainly eye-catching.  Her bright colours and stylised images instantly attract interest.

On Saturday another exhibition opened in Milkwood Gallery in Lochaber Street, Cardiff which presents a group of contemporary women artists working in a diverse range of media, from the traditional to the digital.

The opening night included a performance based on the brownies by Welsh group Ffaf.


International Women’s Day

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and in Cardiff the first ever feminist festival to celebrate was launched with a “join us on the bridge” event in Bute Park.

I wrote this article for the Cardiffian:

The Cardiff Feminist Network is expecting more than 100 women to participate in their Breaking the Waves festival.

This will be the first ever feminist festival to celebrate International Women’s Day in Cardiff, with organisers hoping to make it an annual event.

Though the theme for the day is a celebration of women’s achievements over the last 100 years, the Cardiff group has decided to focus on women and art, and is organising events such as life drawing workshops, craftivism and an exhibition of contemporary women’s art.

Organiser Meg Kissack said: “We want to celebrate the achievements of women, including local artists and musicians.

“We decided to focus on creativity as one of the main themes of the festival as it can be used to explore feminists issues and encourage activism on an everyday level.”

The aim of the festival is also to celebrate the achievements of local feminists. Ms Kissack said: “Not only do we want to celebrate feminist achievements as a whole, we wanted to draw attention to the experiences, opinions and achievements of local feminists.

“We have an oral history evening where many women will speak about their involvement in the feminist movement across a span of decades.
“The festival is an intergenerational event, where we plan to break down the three feminist waves and focus on gender equality. We plan to continue and encourage dialogue between feminists of all ages and ethnicities in Cardiff.”

The festival started today with a “join me on the bridge” event in Bute Park. This event originated in Africa, where women from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda would meet on a bridge between their countries to stand up for peace and end violence against women.

Today, women gathered on more than 200 bridges worldwide, including 33 venues in the UK.

Candice Black, 26, who was at the event said: “It’s a great privilege to be part of something really big.”

Nina Langrish, 49,  who has been a feminist for 35 years, said: “I was quite active in the 80s but there was very little political activity in the 90s.

Now there has been a re-emergence of interest in feminism, especially from young women, which is really inspirational.”

The main event of the festival will be a conference held this Saturday, which will include an address by leading feminist Catherine Redfern, author of Reclaiming the F Word and a discussion of third-wave feminism.

Look here some of the events going on during the Breaking the Waves festival

Also going on:

  • the Daily Telegraph published some photos of women celebrating from around the world
  • The Guardian published a list of its top 100 women
  • The equality and human rights commission released a report called Who runs Wales? which shows the gender representation in Wales’ governing bodies.

Cardiff Woman Gives Life to African Mothers

Angela Gorman

Last month Cardiff based charity, Life for African Mothers was chosen by the staff of the Welsh Assembly Government’s [WAG] as charity of the year.

The charity, which was initially called Hope for Grace Kodindo, was founded in 2005, after local neo-natal nurse Angela Gorman decided to tackle the appalling rates of maternal mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa.

She was first inspired to set up the charity after watching a Panorama documentary, Dead Mum’s Don’t Cry, which followed obstetrician, Dr Grace Kodindo in her work  in the Hôpital Général de Référence in N’Djamena, Chad.

In Chad, where one in eight pregnancies ends in the death of the mother,  there is an expression “a pregnant woman has one foot in the grave”

Listen to what she had to say about watching the programme:

The charity’s strategy is simple; to supply drugs to combat the biggest maternal killers in Sub-Saharan Africa; eclampsia and post-partum haemorrhaging.

These two conditions are responsible for almost half of the deaths of pregnant women in Africa, but can be prevented by drugs which cost less than a chocolate bar.

Mesoprostol, which costs just 15p a tablet, is used to treat eclampsia, which kills 14% of pregnant women if Africa, while post-partum haemorrhaging, responsible for about a quarter of the deaths, is treated by a 55p dose of magnesium sulphate.

World Health Organisation statistics 2005

The programme, which initially began in Chad, has now been expanded to Nigeria, Somaliland, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda and most recently, Rwanda.

Gorman estimates the charity has saved at least 13, 000 lives since it began work in 2005, and believes in the last 15 months 9,000 women have been saved across the seven countries in which it operates.

Dr Grace Kodindo

In May 2008 Dr Kodindo was able to tell the European Parliament that as a result of the charity’s work, rates of deaths from eclampsia in Chad’s biggest maternity hospital were reduced from 14% to 2.3%, while neonatal mortality was reduced from 23% to 7.3%.

This success is due in part to the limited scope of Life for African Mothers, and the strong links Gorman sets up with the hospitals she supplies. This ensures medication gets to the women who need it and supplies are maintained.

The programme is not the only South Wales charity to be involved in Africa.  In 2006, as part of the WAG’s initiative to achieve the UNs Millennium Development Goals [MDG], Rhodri Morgan, then First Minister of Wales gave funding for Wales for Africa, a group of over 20 health organisations which provide aid in Africa.

Life for African Mothers is particularly focused on achieving MDG number 5, maternal health, but as Gorman points out:

“By tackling maternal mortality you can improve the first four goals as well; women create about 70% of the wealth in these countries, which means if we can keep more women alive we can help reduce poverty.

“Keeping mothers alive also means children are more likely to go to school, and child health will improve, so the second and fourth goals can be reached as well.”

Gorman has established links with other charities in the Wales for Africa group, such as PONT, which led Life for African Mothers to expand into Uganda, and the Swansea Gambia Link [SGL].

Last month she addressed a group of medical students involved in the SGL, and hopes as a result the charity may be able to make future links in Gambia.

One of the students she talked to, Ed Soans said:

“Her [Gorman’s] story is quite inspirational.  She is using very simple resources and ideas, and is applying them in effective ways.

“The drugs are really cheap, but very effective”

The charity has been funded through a combination of small donations from individuals, fund raising events [including a Cycle to Africa last month] and larger sums given by organisations.

In 2008 Good Gifts gave a grant of £29,000, which has helped  to send medications to Africa, as well as trained NHS workers.

In October OXFAM invited Gorman on a trip to Sierra Leone with a group of Cardiff health care workers, including Peter Lindsay, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at Llandough Hospital, Penarth.

A decade of civil war has destroyed any health care system that was previously in place. Dr Lindsay told me about the difficulties of providing health care in a post-war country:

According to the World Health Organisation, Sierra Leone is the most dangerous place in the world to give birth, with one in every seven pregnancies ending in the death of the mother.

However, there is evidence the charity’s work is making inroads.  In 2007 the Princess Christian Hospital in Freetown delivered 1,500 women, 143 [or almost 10%] of whom died.  From June to September 2010 this was reduced to 3% as 100 women out of the 3,600 who were delivered had fatal complications.

There is clearly much work to be done, but slowly things may be improving.


Candlelit Vigil to Mark International Day to End Violence Against Women

This evening Cardiff North Labour Women’s Forum organised a candlelit vigil to mark the UN’s International Day to End Violence Against Women.

Around 20 men and women gathered at the statue of Aneurin Bevan in Queen Street to light a candle and remember women victims of violence.

Former Labour Assembly Member Julie Morgan made a short address to mark the occassion.

She said: “It’s a very important thing to do, to show solidarity with women.  It’s also good to see some men here as well”

Julie Morgan addressing the crowd

 

Ann Cox of the Cardiff North Labour Women’s Forum, who helped to organise the event was pleased at the turn-out.  She said:

“It’s good to have a little bit more awareness.  People have stopped to see what we’re doing, that’s why we  wanted to have the vigil here.”

Ann Cox and Sheryl Chetcutey with their candles

Sheryl Chetcutey, who attends a ‘women in political life’ course said she came to the vigil “to draw attention to the violence perpetrated against women.”  She added

“I’m worried about the effect of the economic situation.  Women are hit harder and the extra stress of the recession might make men more abusive.”

Here are a few pictures from the event:

Today the Welsh Assembly Government promised to protect the £4.4m investment it had put aside to help female victims of domestic violence.

Social Justice Minister, Carl Sargeant said:

“Tackling domestic abuse and violence against women is one of my top priorities and that is why I have protected this crucial area of work in the draft budget,

“We have come along way in tackling violence against women but I recognise more needs to be done to eradicate this heinous crime.

“This is a big challenge but by protecting the budget we can continue to work with our partners to make women and children safer.”

The money will go towards funding a six-year strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women in Wales, including rape and sexual assault, domestic abuse, honour based violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.