By Vicky Boroughs, Regional Women’s and Equalities Officer
On 2 December 2016 Joanne Kaye, UNISON Regional Secretary, signed the Bristol Zero Tolerance pledge in the presence of a number of members from different Bristol branches and other UNISON staff. Thangham Debonaire MP was a guest speaker offering her passionate support for the Zero Tolerance initiative and drawing on her experience of working in an organisation with perpetrators of domestic abuse.
UNISON is proud to be the leading trade union for women. It has a membership of around 90,000 people who deliver services to the public across the South West. More than two thirds of our members are women working in care services, hospitals, town halls, libraries, police stations, schools and universities. UNISON women members campaign for equality in the workplace and for improvements to women’s rights in the wider community.
UNISON is opposed to all violence whatever the gender or age of the perpetrator or victim but violence against women is a major campaigning issue for us – “women are overwhelmingly the majority of the most heavily abused group” (Home Office on sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking). Despite significant social changes men continue to grow up within a deeply misogynistic, male dominated culture where violence against women is commonplace and acceptable. It also plays a part in limiting the participation of women in all areas of civil life.
UNISON campaigns for continued reform of the judicial process to improve reporting and conviction, a national violence against women strategy, and proper funding for Rape Crisis Centres. In this region we raise issues wherever possible at events and in training. UNISON South West provides training to raise awareness of domestic abuse and the tools for members to negotiate workplace policies with their employers. At our recent Regional Women’s Conference members heard from speakers on female genital mutilation (FGM) from Forward Bristol we and are committed to supporting their work, particularly the responsibilities for public sector employees. Other speakers and workshops included the Stop Porn Culture campaign, the links with violence against women being very clear, and domestic abuse.
The Bristol Zero Tolerance pledge is a fantastic initiative focusing a huge spotlight on the issue of gendered violence. It also provides an exciting opportunity for all employers and educational establishments to consider what they can do to really make a difference for women in Bristol. UNISON branches across the city are all urged to sign the pledge and work with their employers in partnership to improve the lives of women in Bristol.