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 Deputy Chief Executive Sharon Jones 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?
Not yet. However, we are moving in the right direction, albeit a bit slow. Too often we see news stories of successful women in business where the article focuses on how they have managed to juggle a family whilst running a business – we don’t see that about successful men. Women still remain in the majority as care givers and too often women’s opportunities are limited by a lack of family-friendly policies. As Hafal’s Deputy Chief Executive I am proud of our track record but we will not be resting on our laurels
What are the key mental health issues facing women today?
Our campaign highlights a number of these issues. One that comes particularly to mind is peri-natal mental health both from the mum’s perspective and that of the baby. We are learning about the impact of adverse childhood experiences and how that impacts upon people in later life, but surely if we support mums who are struggling, not only do we make mums’ lives more fulfilling – we also protect future generations.
Why do you think there is a need for the #DeedsNotWords campaign?
Part of the issue is that we have assumed that mental health services are based on equality, but when you look at these services which are most under pressure, e.g. eating disorder or peri-natal mental health services, these have a hugely disproportionate impact on women and it’s about time the Welsh Government did something about this by putting resources where they are needed.
What do you hope we will achieve with the campaign?
By raising the profile of these issues and getting a conversation going we hope this will increase the emphasis given by the Welsh Government to women’s mental health. The Welsh Government have shown that when they put their minds to it they can make a difference, so we are calling on them to make a difference to women. We also want the campaign to bring about change in our own lives. As women we are taking action ourselves and making changes to improve our own mental health – and reaching out to other women who may be facing mental health or caring difficulties.
What changes would you like to see in the way women are treated or perceived?
Women in Wales are still relied upon too much to be the primary carers for children and family members with disabilities; there needs to be a recognition of the value of this caring role and proper support provided so that women don’t need to make a choice of either/or – either being the carer or having a successful career. Some women manage to do both, but it should not be assumed to be a woman’s responsibility nor should it be so difficult for a woman to succeed.
Which women have inspired you, and why?
This is one that spans across three generations of my own family. My Mother was born in a time where opportunities were very restricted for women. She was sent in to service in London at 14 years of age to help support her widowed mother raise her siblings. She played a strong role in her local community ranging from supporting those in difficulty in practical ways to being keenly involved in local politics, trying to support an agenda where her daughters would have greater opportunities than she did.
Then we come through the generations to my Daughter who provides a normal happy home for her children while caring for my granddaughter who has required massive amounts of surgical intervention in her first four years of life, my daughter is always positive and despite the pressures on her finds to the time to raise funds for charities supporting children like her daughter.
The #DeedsNotWords campaign runs until World Mental Health Day on 10th October and includes 22 county events. Follow the campaign on our Facebook and Twitter pages or visit: http://www.hafal.org/deedsnotwords/