I represented 50:50 Parliament at Femedic’s first live event, ‘How Does Austerity Affect Women’s Health’
We too often see women’s lives and experiences not prioritised by our policy makers. This is evident in women’s health. 145 women a week in the UK die of gynaecological cancer, yet it receives only 0.4% of research funding. Maternity services report overwhelming pressures and understaffing, and abysmally the UK still has one of the highest stillbirth rates in Western Europe. During the austerity years, it was women’s services that have been cut. Contraceptive services have faced up to 50% cuts in their funding; in 32 local authorities services have closed. Under-resourced gender-based violence services are not able to meet demand. In 1 day last year, Women’s Aid had to turn away 94 women and 90 children due to lack of space in their refuges.
Emma Williams from the Women’s budget group explained their research showed that 80% of the burden of austerity fell on women. Kimberly McIntosh from Runnymeade Trust explained the disproportionate impact on ethnic minority women, in turn leading to worse health outcomes.
The lack of understanding or prioritisation of women’s health is less surprising when we consider who is making the decisions. Since women got the vote, there have been 4801 men elected to parliament, verses 489 women. In our current parliament, the most diverse to date, men still outnumber women more than 2 to 1. We see a similar picture in NHS leadership. Despite women making up 77% of the workforce, on boards where the decisions are made they make up 35%. 75% of Medical directors and 74% of finance directors are male.
At 50:50 we believe that our parliament needs to be truly representative of the diversity of this country. Women need to be at the table, making the decisions. Only then will we see change, and the lives and experiences of ALL women prioritised.