Last week, many Londoners celebrated the achievements of women on International Women’s Day, with events taking place across the city to mark this year’s theme, ‘Press for Progress’ on gender parity. There are still many barriers facing women and girls in reaching their potential and the inspiring #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have shown that violence against women and girls is part of this, with so many women coming forward about their experiences of sexual violence, abuse and harassment.
To coincide with International Women’s Day, London's Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy - ‘Safer City for Women and Girls’ - was also launched last week, alongside a call from the Mayor to take urgent action on sexism and misogyny.
As co-chair of the London VAWG board, I welcome this drive to tackle the root causes of violence against women and girls and to make London a safer place for women and girls - whether at home, in the workplace, on transport or in public spaces. The strategy draws on some of the important work that has already been taking place across London boroughs to prevent VAWG and make communities safer, such as prevention work in schools and perpetrator intervention programmes.
I have made VAWG a long-standing priority for the borough of Lambeth and my work with London Councils, so I am heartened to see this strong commitment from City Hall to tackling violence against women and girls at its root and challenging the harmful attitudes which underpin these unacceptable crimes.
The strategy presents some concerning statistics about the current prevalence of VAWG in London and the high proportion of women and girls who say they do not feel safe in their own city. While these figures show the scale of the challenge, they remind me why VAWG is such an important issue for communities across London.
I look forward to working with MOPAC and other partners on delivering the strategy through the work of the VAWG board, so that it responds to local needs and brings meaningful change for women and girls in communities across London.
I am also glad to see that Government has now launched its consultation on the draft proposals for the Domestic Abuse and Violence Bill. This vital and long-awaited piece of legislation offers a real opportunity to drive forward progress on tackling domestic abuse.
It is essential that this new legislation is backed by sufficient resources. Lambeth is joining the call by Harriet Harman MP to press the government to guarantee funding for Violence Against Women services in a new clause as part of the Bill.
London Councils will be submitting a response to the consultation, alongside individual boroughs, so the issues facing London boroughs are heard by the Government. We want to ensure local authorities are engaged in the consultation and the development of the legislation.