Baroness Greengross asks the government for a new Women's National Commission to enable women to have their voice heard on gender issues and to contribute to policy development.
Women’s issues have always been important to me and since the abolition of the WNC (Women’s National Commission) in 2010, I have been very concerned that the consequent lack of any representation for women in the UK has increased their marginalisation, and strengthened inequality. In the UK, women are now without the institutional mechanism that would enable their voices to be heard on gender issues and to contribute to policy development with government.
The WNC was never perfect, mainly due to it being significantly under resourced, but it did provide women, especially the most marginalised and often through NGO's, with a channel through which they could communicate directly with government and share valuable information on gender issues. During this recession women more than ever urgently need to be able to articulate their needs and inform government if the impact of present policies is to increase gender inequality or underpin discrimination in any aspect of their lives - family, child care, employment, health, pensions, access to justice, protection from violence etc.
Without any substitute mechanism to the WNC the government appears to be in breach of its obligations under the under the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), which requires them to have in place a mechanism that will enable women's organisations to communicate effectively with government. Recently women’s NGOs have submitted to the GEO a detailed proposal for a new "hub" to replace WNC which could act as an umbrella organisation for women's groups, but the GEO has not responded or sought to discuss this plan. I hope the Minister will be in a position to advise me how the submission to the GEO is faring and what arrangements are being made to work with women's NGOs to create a new and improved substitute for what has been lost?