Today marks the 102nd International Women's Day where people from around the world will celebrate female success and achievement. Over a hundred years ago Emmeline Pankhurst helped women win the right to vote and even though Women's Rights have progressed somewhat since these days, a stark fact remains that only 19 per cent of women hold the world's parliamentary seats.
The theme of this year's International Women's Day is calling for action to end violence against women. The UK Government has taken this on board and on Wednesday announced a series of initiatives that will help to reduce female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide within a generation.
Closer to home, the Government has provided nearly £40 million of ring-fenced funding for specialist domestic and sexual violence services, and national support helplines. They have also invested heavily in changing attitudes and behaviours towards domestic violence, including tackling online abuse through social media. Recently, legislation has been reformed by introducing two new stalking offences. These tough measures send a clear signal to better protect victims and support the police and prosecutors who bring about justice.
However, despite these provisions more still needs to be done to eradicate violence against women. A shocking, sad fact is that 1 in 4 women in the UK will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime and on average two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner. According to the Walby formula the estimated total cost of domestic violence to society in monetary terms is £23 billion per year and in Croydon is estimated to be £37.4 million per year.
This is why I am proud to announce that Croydon Council has supported the newly formed Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Forum (DASV) that will provide an opportunity to reduce domestic violence across the borough of Croydon. It is important that local community groups and organisations work in partnership with DASV to take a stand against violence and encourage people to help themselves and each other using community based initiatives such as community coaching. Today, Croydon's women will come together to pay tribute to their strengths and understand what opportunities lay behind the most difficult situations.
It is important to remember that International Women's Day is not about promoting stereotypical feminist views or giving a gentle nod towards the sisterhood, it's about women coming together to understand, share and make positive change in their local communities. Sadly there are no quick fix solutions for stopping domestic violence, but working together, we can all play our part in eradicating this horrific serious problem, wherever and whenever it occurs.