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From email (from the NE Women’s Network):

Please see below the content of a Press Release that is being disseminated to local, regional and national media. We have have confirmation that this will go in The Guardian as a comment piece on the society pages next Wednesday (24th October). This will come online on the evening of 23rd October at about 7.30/ 8.00pm - will those of you who Tweet please make a note to look out for it. We need as many people to Tweet about this (and put it on facebook as possible) before 7 am in the morning - this is so we can try to get coverage in the national media on the day - Thank you.

A report evidencing the impacts of the UK Government’s austerity measures upon women in the north east of England is being officially launched at the House of Commons on Wednesday 24th October 2012 as part of a Lobby of Parliament being organised by UK Feminista [1]. Representatives from NEWomen’s Network, an organisation that works to sustain women’s organisations and services and champion women’s rights are travelling to London to launch the report and present it to their MPs. “The report highlights the devastating impacts of austerity measures and welfare reforms upon already unacceptable levels of gender inequality in the North East of England,” says Sue Robson, co-ordinator of NEWomen’s Network and co-author of the report.

The report is based upon evidence from a series of participatory local events involving 304 women and 154 different organisations. Many women’s organisations in the North East also provided data, information, case studies and research to evidence the impact of the austerity measures. Statistical sources of data in the TUC Women and the Cuts Toolkit [2] were also researched for the North East report. However, although it was possible to access national data about women, June Robinson, co-author and researcher said, “a dearth of North East data that is disaggregated by gender severely hampered the research and the ability to monitor progress against discrimination, even the Office of National Statistics (ONS) does not break down public sector employment figures by gender on a regional basis.”

The report shows that rising levels of female unemployment in the UK are even worse for women in the North East and elements of welfare reform are expected to impact disproportionately on women and risk increasing women’s financial dependence on men. This is likely to have a detrimental impact upon children and lead to increases in family breakdown. “Women’s organisations could prevent problems from happening or from escalating, thus saving the Government money and relieving the burden on public services,” said Penny Remfry, a member of NEWomen’s Network and a participant in the research, “yet these organisations are dealing with increased demand and diminishing resources and many in the North East are facing closure.” The report also shows that the need for women-only space is even greater during challenging times yet not enough is being done by public bodies to protect women-only services from the impact of austerity measures.

In July 2008, the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women’s (CEDAW) examined the UK Government’s efforts to improve the equality and status of women. It found that although there were some advances, women’s rights are far from being fully realised in the UK. The Government will be examined again in 2013 and the report will be a case study example for the CEDAW shadow report, produced by the UK CEDAW Working Group.

Charlotte Gage, Policy Officer from the Women’s Resource Centre said, “The case study highlights the severe impacts of current Government policies on women in the North East which serves as a microcosm of women across the UK.” Cris McCurley, senior family law practitioner and partner of Ben Hoare Bell LLP in the North East of England and member of NEWomen’s Network said “the changes to legal aid that will come in to force in April 2013 mean that women will be disproportionately disadvantaged by being denied access to justice. If they cannot access equality before the law, then CEDAW Convention rights will be unenforceable by women in the UK.”

Dr. Ruth Lewis, a University Lecturer and contributor to the report said, “the impacts of the national austerity measures, together with long-term, ingrained inequality in the region mean that the prospects for women in the North East are likely to be bleak and urgently need addressing.” The report recommends that public bodies in the North East should value and encourage women’s active citizenship, as well as ensuring women receive the services they need. NEWomen’s Network will be lobbying elected members and MP’s and the Government to recognise and take action around the effects of austerity measures upon women in the North East because the measures reinforce gender inequalities in areas that have already been resistant to change.

For further information, case studies, requests for copies of the report or to arrange an interview with report or participants, please contact:
Sue Robson, Report Author, NEWomen’s Network- sue@newwomens.net or 07813 109 215

Ms Charlotte Gage, Policy Officer, Women’s Resource Centre - charlotte@wrc.org.uk or 020 7324 3042

Notes for editors

The official launch of the report will take place in Committee Room 11 at the House of Commons between 2 and 2.30 pm on 24th October 2012.

NEWomen’s Network was established in 2006 to strengthen the women’s sector and ensure its survival by encouraging and supporting collaboration between women’s voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) and building partnerships and alliances across other sectors.

The Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) is a charity which supports women’s voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) to be more effective and sustainable. WRC members work delivering services to and campaign on behalf of some of the most marginalised communities of women.

The United Nations Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women’s (CEDAW) was established in 1979 and is often referred to as the Women’s International Bill of Rights. The Convention provides a framework for States to take responsibility for tackling (often embedded and historical) discrimination against women and achieving substantive equality for women in both the private and public spheres. The Convention outlines a comprehensive set of rights for women in all fields (civil, political, economic, social, cultural and other fields) and is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the UK Government must fully implement the Convention, to ensure the practical realisation of equality between women and men in this country.

References

[1] http://ukfeminista.org.uk/event-details/feministlobby/

[2] This is a toolkit for trade unions, voluntary organisations, community groups and others who want to assess the human rights and equality impact of the spending cuts on women in their communities - http://www.tuc.org.uk/equality/tuc-20286-f0.cfm