Director of Agenda: the alliance for women and girls at risk
Katharine became the Director of Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, in May 2015. Prior to this, she was Head of Policy and Campaigns at Crisis where she built and led a new team which delivered change for homeless people. She has previously worked in public affairs and parliament. Katharine regularly speaks at conferences and in parliament. She has written for the Guardian, Independent and New Statesman. Katharine is a trustee of Bail for Immigration Detainees and the TDS Charitable Foundation. weareagenda.org
This girl, and the many thousands like her across the country, deserve better. They should be not be left in situations where their lives are at serious risk, but instead should be able to expect care and treatment to deal with the underlying trauma they've faced, to get well and to build a future for themselves.
As the dust settles after the General Election, it is crucial that Government does "get on with the job" - and that must mean not only dealing with Brexit but also not ignoring pressing social issues at home. We can't afford to put on hold the reforms so desperately needed to transform women's lives.
When we see women with addictions, in prison or having their children removed by social services, we can be quick to judge with little thought as to the traumatic experiences that underpin so many of these women's lives.
Princes William and Harry's work in highlighting how men can struggle with mental health problems is hugely welcome and will no doubt play an important role in raising awareness and helping to tackle stigma.
Ten years ago a radical change was called for in the treatment of women in the criminal justice system... This will not only change the lives of women at risk of offending and their families, but will also benefit society as a whole.
If we get this right, it is women at the sharpest end who most stand to benefit. But of course gender inequality benefits us all. We are all stronger when we are more equal. And equality has to mean leaving no one behind.
Specialist women's centres are a vital resource for women often when they are at their most vulnerable and most in need of support. It is possible to realise lasting positive change for the thousands of women experiencing multiple disadvantage. But that can only happen if the existing organisations, those already providing holistic women-centred services, are able to survive.
If we want to ensure that women's life chances aren't narrowed by gender, that girls born today won't face the limitations and closing off of opportunities caused by the combination of poverty and abuse, we've got to start joining these dots.
What's less well recognised is the relationship between suicide and being female. Perhaps surprisingly, women are three times more likely than men to attempt suicide, even though, for many reasons, men are more likely to die from it.
Women involved in prostitution cannot wait for support until after a final report is published. The Government must take urgent action now to ensure women involved in prostitution have the support they need. Otherwise, more women will lose their lives or experience even more awful and unnecessary suffering.
It's encouraging that we're having more public conversations about gender inequality. But we're not yet talking enough about women who are at the sharpest end of this inequality, whose needs are the most complex: those who face the most disadvantage.
Our obsession with scandal and high profile abusers obscures just how much of an epidemic child abuse is. Instead of only focussing on the latest juicy story we must pay more attention to the signs that could help us interrupt and prevent child abuse. When children run away from home or care, they are often running from something. Theirs are childhoods blighted by abuse, violence, family instability, and parental drug or alcohol misuse. For girls particularly, running away can be an attempt to escape sexual violence and abuse.
We've got to get better at reaching all of these women and girls. At recognising the ways in which gender, trauma, poverty, race, and other forms of inequality combine together to trap them. We need systems and services to recognise when women are experiencing these multiple forms of disadvantage, and to provide safe, effective, trauma and gender informed support.
The women and girls Agenda campaigns for are particularly vulnerable to mental ill-health. Our members work with the most excluded women and girls: those who have experienced extensive abuse, and whose lives have spiralled off course. They are often traumatised, have low self-esteem, and struggle with serious mental health problems. Many turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.
There is no need for girls who have been abused as children to end up as abused adults. We can and should step in to protect vulnerable girls. In order to achieve that, we need leadership from national and local government to make sure women and girls who experience the most extensive abuse get appropriate support, wherever they turn for help.
This holistic response, from frontline to specialist support, is what Agenda has been formed to campaign for. We can't keep consigning these women to lives of abuse and exclusion. More than three-quarters of the 1.2million women affected by this kind of abuse are mothers: for their sake and that of the next generation of girls, we've got to start getting this right.
The safety and welfare of children must be paramount: there can be no compromise on that principle. But in many cases, a child's welfare is best served by staying with its mother if she can be supported to parent well. Today Nicky Morgan announces a new approach to children's services. But if we really want to improve children's welfare, we need to make sure there is support available for mothers too.
16/12/2015 10:27 GMT
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