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Nelis - Judge parties on commitment to gender equality

19 November, 2003

Sinn Féin assembly candidate Mary Nelis has urged female voters, when voting, to judge parties on their commitment to gender equality as they cast their ballot:

Mrs Nelis said:

Sinn Féin is actively committed to promoting and supporting women within our party and at all levels of society. We had the best representation of women MLAs in the outgoing Assembly, our ministerial representation was equally divided and we aim to have even more Sinn Féin women elected to the new Assembly. We have also, through the auspices of our Equality Department initiated a rolling training initiative designed to foster a culture in the party that is welcoming to women.

In the negotiations leading to the Good Friday Agreement it was Sinn Féin that argued strongly for a dedicated Department of Equality. The relegation of Equality to junior ministries within the Offices of the First and Deputy First Ministers (and the subsequent poor progress in implementing equality measures, including gender equality measures) vindicates Sinn Féin's position and calls into serious question the commitment of other parties to real equality for all our citizens.

In the Assembly, Sinn Féin led by example. The Education Department now has an approved equality scheme and Equality Branch to implement equality policies within the department and the schools system. Martin McGuinness appointed the first-ever female Chief Education and Training Inspector. He also issued new guidelines on relationships and sexuality education.

Bairbre de Brún's Department of Health implemented new, flexible, family-friendly working arrangements, gender-proofed policies and monitored their application. Nearly £1 million has been made available to women's groups over the last four years. The department has prioritised support for marginalised women, supported healthcare training for Traveller women to work within their communities, produced a strategy for carers, and worked in partnership to develop best practice in combating domestic violence.

Sinn Féin MLAs have been a voice for equality in all the Assembly committees, as time and time again other parties have prioritised business interests at the expense of the less-well-off, disadvantaged and the marginalised.

W have clearly demonstrated our commitment to gender equality. We are asking people to let us build on that work. In the next five years we will work to establish:

a) Targets and timescales for achieving equality of representation for women in public life, and equality of outcome in employment, education and training;

b) Gender-proofing in appointments, policies and resource allocation must be obligatory for all public bodies. Specifically, Sinn Féin will work to ensure that the introduction gender-proofing measures are a core aspect of the Review of Public Administration;

c) Women's groups in the community sector must be properly resourced.

To achieve this, human rights mechanisms are needed. There are no human rights without women's rights. Sinn Féin will ensure that all our rights are respected. ENDS

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