Interview: Nicola Thomas, Director of Corporate and Public Affairs, talks #DeedsNotWords

A hundred years ago women won the right to vote through campaigning and direct action, calling for Deeds Not Words. This summer Hafal is celebrating that centenary with a campaign on a new front line for women – the right to mental health and well-being.

Hafal’s Director of Corporate and Public Affairs Nicola Thomas who is on the panel leading the campaign gave us her views on the issues women with mental health issues face today, 100 years after suffrage.

A hundred years after suffrage, do you think we have achieved gender equality?

I think we’ve made significant progress, but there’s still a long way to go!

In all areas of life including healthcare, education and employment, women have to make choices or compromises that men don’t have to consider.

In 2018 women are still not fairly represented in government or at board level in businesses and we still have to fight to have our voices heard in a number of arenas.

 

What are the key mental health issues facing women today?

#DeedsNotWords highlights the key mental health issues facing women today.

Speaking to Hafal Members over the last 20 years the key recurring themes have been the lack of support for carers; poor services for young women and girls, and the lack of perinatal services in Wales.

If we are going to make a real difference for future generations, young women and girls must have access to timely and high quality services which are appropriate to their needs.

Specialist perinatal services have to be made available across Wales – services that deliver a combination of effective mental health support, physical healthcare both during and after pregnancy, and a service which recognises the importance of the mother and baby relationship.  It is only through this combined specialist approach that new mothers will have the mental health care they deserve and need.

 

Why do you think there is a need for the #DeedsNotWords campaign?

We already have ‘words’ in a number of formats including the Human Rights Act (1983), the Equality Act (2010) and the Mental Health Act (1983) Code of Practice: what we need to see now are ‘deeds’ – actions that demonstrate and evidence that women don’t have to make compromises, that we haven’t got to settle for ‘second best’ or, worse still, have no options available to us.

As women we need to make changes ourselves; to have the courage of our convictions and confidence in our rights and abilities.  Women around Wales – and the world – need to believe that we are entitled to the right to mental health and well-being.

 

What do you hope to achieve with the campaign?

The campaign sets out 10 clear action points and Hafal is already either delivering services or campaigning for services and improvements in all of the ten areas.

I hope that the campaign empowers women to make changes themselves, to advocate for change, and to inform everyone about the need for change.

The final campaign report will highlight to the Welsh Government what the women of Wales need and propose how these changes can be implemented – and hold them to account for a response!

 

What changes would you like to see in the way women are treated or perceived?

No person deserves to be treated less favourably because of their gender. I want to see services and choices available to women in Wales which are first and foremost appropriate to a person’s needs, irrespective of that person’s gender.

I hope that #DeedsNotWords helps to inform and educate and to challenge gender stereotyping in society to ensure fair access to appropriate, quality services for women in Wales.

 

Which women have inspired you, and why?

A number of women have inspired me over the years.

My mother has inspired me greatly; she has instilled a solid set of moral principles in both my brother and me and shown that she is a strong, independent woman!

As a teenager considering career choices I was inspired by Florence Nightingale, not just for her work providing nursing care to soldiers in the Crimean War, but also for her work in training future generations of nurses.  Nightingale is quoted as saying “I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought to be distilled into actions which bring results”, which resonates greatly with the #DeedsNotWords campaign.

Over the last 20 years the women I work with have continued to inspire me with their dedication, integrity, empathy and courage.

 

The #DeedsNotWords campaign will run from July to September 2018 and include 22 county events. Follow the campaign on our Facebook and Twitter pages or visit: http://www.hafal.org/deedsnotwords/