George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, talks to us about his strategic vision
I passionately believe in the importance of striving for equal opportunity for all – regardless of gender, race or circumstance.
Whilst we accept that nothing is ever perfect, we do believe that, as a city council, we are highly progressive in trying to make that a reality in all areas of women’s lives.
On International Women’s Day in March 2013, we became the first council in the country to sign the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life. To implement the charter – a historic declaration committing Bristol to working to secure the equality of women and men – I proposed setting up a Women’s Commission. This Commission, now known as Bristol Women’s Commission, would be given the task of drawing up an action plan to address the principal areas of discrimination and disadvantage which women face.
Since then the Bristol Women’s Commission has met a number of times, set up task groups and is prioritising issues such as women’s safety which we can work on together as part of the council’s Equalities Plan.
High on the agenda around women’s safety is domestic and sexual abuse which is disproportionately suffered by women and girls. Fundamental to creating a society, and ultimately a world, that is free from violence and abuse is ensuring that respect and equality between men and women must start at birth and last throughout our lifetimes.
Again Bristol is leading the way nationally with the introduction of the ‘Bristol Ideal’ – a set of standards and guidance for schools to teach children respect and equality and the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships as part of formal, timetabled Relationships and Sex Education lessons. This whole-school approach has been shown to reduce the occurrence of domestic violence and sexual abuse in the future.
For many years now, the Council’s public health team has led a multi-agency campaign to stop the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). This year, Bristol City Academy student and teenage anti-FGM campaigner Fahma Mohamed and her group Integrate Bristol, have made global headlines with their efforts to raise awareness of – and seek to stop – the highly abusive practice of FGM regarded by the majority of people as constituting violence against girls and women.
The Council continues to support Integrate Bristol, working in partnership on the forthcoming event at City Hall on 20 June, with the aim of asking all parties to make the topic of Violence Against Women and Girls education statutory in all schools in their manifestos.
I look forward to continuing to work with and support the various causes of the women of Bristol in the coming years.