There are a variety of aspects to the policy work undertaken by WSN. Some of our policy work addresses the ‘larger’ structural inequalities and discriminations faced by women in Northern Ireland e.g. inequalities in the pensions system, labour market, lack of female representation in public life etc. Other aspects of WSN policy work addresses the local needs or work undertaken by our member organisations e.g. childcare and training and education provision, funding, etc.
WSN responds to relevant government and public sector consultation processes, where public bodies consult with external organisations on draft policies. We also respond and liaise with government departments on high level government strategies.
The work involves reading draft policy and strategy documents and analysing
- if they have the potential to impact unfairly on women, for example, a policy which resulted in a reduction in the number of childcare places would have a disproportionate and unfair impact on women. Women are the main care providers in our society and this type of policy could lead those affected to lose their jobs.
- if government could utilise this opportunity to redress inequalities and discrimination currently faced by women, for example, while government are implementing a new training programme for young people to improve employability, they could use this opportunity to address early labour market segregation ie. where girls are concentrated in beauty and childcare sectors and boys are concentrated in the ‘male–traditional’ sectors such as plumbing, building etc. – areas that also attract higher pay.
To ensure a greater beneficial impact of our work in addressing gender discrimination and promoting gender equality, WSN also play an active role on external policy fora. These include the Gender Advisory Panel (OFMDFM), the Women’s Ad Hoc Policy Group, the Equality Coalition, the Human Rights Consortium and the Women’s Policy Forum.