Voscur provides direct support services and specialist advice to voluntary organisations and social enterprises across Bristol. We met with Chief Executive, Wendy Stephenson, to find out why Bristol Zero Tolerance resonates with them as an organisation and for her personally.
Voscur exists to support, develop and represent Bristol’s voluntary and community groups and social enterprises with over 600 members representing just some of the approximately 1,500 voluntary sector organisations in Bristol, alongside many more informal and community groups doing work locally in the city. Voscur gives the voluntary sector a greater voice in the local decisions that matter; provides practical advice and guidance; helps with volunteering; and keeps organisations informed so that they can remain strong, sustainable and fully responsive to community need. Voscur facilitates cooperation and collaboration within and between the public, private and voluntary sector, to inform and influence local planning and policymaking.
This makes Voscur a perfect partner for Bristol Zero Tolerance in terms of supporting campaigns and action around gender-based violence, an issue which many of their members will work on directly or indirectly and feeding into the aim to create Bristol as a city with a Zero Tolerance to gender-based violence. For Wendy, “a Zero Tolerance City would mean that the whole city had signed up to Bristol becoming a city free from gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation, so that it was something that the whole city was committed to. Men and women need to get behind this pledge to ensure that Bristol is a Zero Tolerance City.”
Therefore, signing up to Bristol Zero Tolerance is a way for Voscur to support this aim and feed into the work of the initiative, as Wendy says “it is about momentum and increasing understanding, knowledge and awareness so that more people understand and know about it – so we do that in our organisation and we have 600 members and if we can talk about that and be proud that we have signed up to it then it is leading the way and being an example to others.”
Being able to raise awareness with their members and start conversations about gender-based violence within organisations is also key to being part of Bristol Zero Tolerance: “it is a tool to be able to talk about an issue that is otherwise hidden and something that can be taboo and that people are afraid to talk about, it’s a way of bringing that into the workplace and enabling people to talk about it and for that to be part of our culture. The fact that gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation is not over there somewhere and normalised as being something that people don’t talk about, it’s bringing it into dialogue.”
Voscur has already included information on Bristol Zero Tolerance in its Thrive magazine and we look forward to working with Voscur to further promote the initiative and engage with the voluntary sector in Bristol.
For Wendy this is also an important issue personally “I just think that every woman that I know has got some story about gender-based violence, abuse, harassment or exploitation, and if it had been easier to talk about this kind of thing a long time ago it could have helped a lot of people… More and more people are talking about it so there is a much bigger understanding of how widespread it is.”
Creating a Zero Tolerance City is also about addressing certain behaviours and activities that are normalised, linking these to gender-based violence, and challenging them as part of wider negative attitudes towards women. For example, the licensing of Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEVs) in the city, as Wendy says “for me it links to SEVs because I think that there is a way that we could be seen to be leading the way in not tolerating the objectification and exploitation of women in that way and show a clear role model… So [as a city] we should show the way in thinking about how they are licensed or not licensed in the city. I think we ought to get organisations such as sports clubs and other places where men gather, for example football or rugby clubs, to sign up to Bristol Zero Tolerance and make that explicit in the policies and procedures that they have within their organisations [in terms of] what they accept… or images that are promoted. I think that there are lots of things that we could do and that it should be led not just by women, but everyone should be joining in and leadership should come from many different places.”