Author: Blog

Welsh Women and the First World War

Guest blog by Dr Dinah Evans

Dr Dinah Evans
Dr Dinah Evans

This year the Assembly will be welcoming Dr Dinah Evans to deliver our annual Remembrance Lecture on the subject of ‘Welsh Women’s response to the First World War’.

Dr Dinah Evans taught Modern and Contemporary History at Bangor University until 2016. She is a member of the committee of Women’s Archive Wales and has a particular interest in the impact of the two world wars on Wales and Welsh society.

Her research into the impact of the First World War on Welsh women was published in a chapter in the book ‘Creithiau’ in 2016 and at present she is preparing for the publication, early in 2019, of her research into the post-war reconstruction of Swansea.

Here she introduces some of the issues covered in her lecture, looking at the role and contribution of Welsh women during the First World War, marking the centenary of Women’s Suffrage.

It is so very important that we understand the part played by both men and women in the First World War, because only then can we appreciate the totality of their effort and sacrifice.

These last years have brought alive the horrors of the First World War for so many people in this country. Many schools decided to take their pupils across to France and Belgium to visit the vast war cemeteries so that they could appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifices made. The brutal reality of the war has also been shown in graphic detail in exhibitions, documentaries and films. Ceremonies have been held and, across the country, great memorial displays of poppies have been constructed.

Much of the attention has focussed on the wartime experience of the men, many of them little more than boys, but these soldiers, sailors and airmen had mothers, wives, sisters and daughters and their wartime history is very important too. Across the age groups and class barriers of the time, women also played their part in the war effort. Some doing jobs that freed up men to go to fight, others organising auxiliary hospitals or fundraising.  For many women though, their experience of wartime work was very dangerous. Thousands of women and girls worked in armament factories across Wales, risking their health, and lives, as they made and (usually by hand) filled shells with explosives. Other Welsh young women trained as nurses and then travelled out to battlefields across Europe as far afield as Alexandria in Egypt and Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) where they nursed the sick and dying, often in appalling conditions and at considerable personal risk.

Only by understanding the part played both by men, and women, in all aspects of the war effort can we appreciate the enormity of their effort and sacrifice, on the battlefields and on the home front.

L-R: Women's Freedom League, Cardiff branch; Suffragette Grand March, London 1918
L-R: Women’s Freedom League, Cardiff branch; Suffragette Grand March, London 1918

The Remembrance lecture will be followed by a question and answer session chaired by Dr Elin Royles. Dr Elin Royles is Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s Department of International Politics. The Department will also be celebrating its centenary in 1919, being founded shortly after Armistice day as a response to the extreme violence of the First World War.

The lecture is free to attend but attendees are required to register. Please visit our Eventbrite page or contact 0300 200 6565.

Afterwards there will be a short reception when there’ll be an opportunity to view the two exhibitions which complement our Remembrance lecture:

‘The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Wales’ exhibition and ‘The Soldier’s Own Diary’ by Scarlet Raven and Marc Marot.

‘The Soldier’s Own Diary’ is an augmented reality painting. Viewers can use a smartphone app to unlock the work, stripping away layers of paint to reveal the story beneath. How? Watch artist Scarlett Raven’s video to find out:

Painting by Scarlett Raven and Marc Marot: A Soldier's Own Diary
Painting by Scarlett Raven and Marc Marot: A Soldier’s Own Diary

Black History Month 2018: This year it will be 50 years since the Race Relations Act 1968 came into force

The Black History Month Wales’s logo

 

This year is significant, as it will mark 50 years since the Race Relations Act 1968 (the RRA 1968) came into force.

A picture of ‘No irish no blacks no dogs’ sign in a house window

The RRA 1968 succeeded the Race Relations Act 1965 (the RRA 1965), the first ever Race Relations legislation, which made it a civil but not a criminal offence to discriminate on the “grounds of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins” in public places such as hotels and restaurants pubs, libraries, public transport, and the like and legislated for the punishment of incitement to racial hatred. The RRA 1965 didn’t apply to discrimination within employment or housing, which were two clear areas where discrimination was prevalent, the infamous “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish” signs were still lawful after the RRA 1965. The RRA 1965 established the Race Relations Board to enforce the Act, however the Board’s only power was to refer the matter to the attorney general who could then do no more than seek a county court injunction to restrain future discrimination. For these reasons the RRA 1965 was criticised as ineffective and too narrow.

The RRA 1968 widened the scope of anti-discrimination legislation to include housing, employment and service provision. It empowered the Race Relations Board itself to seek redress in the county court. Redress could also include awards of damages as well as injunctions to restrain future discrimination.

As an employer we value diversity and inclusion and are committed to developing and maintaining an inclusive organisational culture.

“I believe it is important that the Assembly leads the way in promoting an inclusive organisational culture and that it is a modern, accessible parliamentary body with which people from a diverse range of backgrounds can easily and meaningfully interact. It is incumbent on us as the National Assembly for Wales to lead on this and share our experiences, ensuring that the values of equality, diversity and inclusion are respected and practiced by all,” Elin Jones AM, LLywydd, National Assembly for Wales.

It would therefore seem strange to commemorate Black History Month (BHM) and not reflect on the RRA, a piece of legislation that was a predecessor to the Equality Act 2010, under which we have a general duty to eliminate unlawful discrimination harassment and victimisation based on protected characteristics[1].

We are proud to be an accessible employer, that attracts and retains a broad range of talent, as well as an accessible service provider. We are committed to valuing diversity, promoting inclusion and addressing inequalities, not just because:

  • as a non-devolved public body we have a general duty under the Equality Act 2010 to: eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation; advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
  • research evidence shows that inclusive organisations, which attract and develop individuals from the widest pool of talent, consistently perform better;

but because it is morally the right thing to do, as Baroness McGregor-Smith CBE, stated in the McGregor-Smith review[2]:

“We should live in a country where every person, regardless of their ethnicity or background, is able to fulfil their potential at work”.

We are consciously ensuring that there is no room for discrimination in the recruitment process and there is a zero tolerance policy to discrimination being experienced by any of our of employees. We have a number of supportive policies for staff, such as our:

  • ‘Dignity and Respect policy’- which is underpinned by the concepts of fairness, dignity and respect,
  • ‘People strategy’ – which recognises that every staff member, irrespective of their background, deserves the ability to realise their full potential and progress in their careers,
  • ‘Recruitment policy’ – which outlines our commitment to recruitment on the basis of merit, fairness and openness.
logo for the Assembly's Race Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage workplace network
The Assembly BAME workplace network’s logo

We have an active Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage workplace equality network named REACH, which works closely with management to develop an inclusive organisational culture. We are very grateful to our staff for the work they do to help us to be an inclusive organisation. We know that our staff are our best asset and we want to make sure that they work in a supportive and safe environment.

We want to continue to be an exemplar organisation in valuing diversity, promoting inclusion and embedding equality, both as an employer and as a parliamentary organisation. Our vision is to be an organisation that is accessible and engages with, and respects the people of Wales. We engage with as diverse a range of groups as possible in the belief that this can only lead to a better democratic institution and legislature that delivers effectively for all the people of Wales.

For more information about working for the National Assembly for Wales, please visit our recruitment pages.

More information on our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion is set out in our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2016-21.

[1] Protected characteristics: Age, Disability, Gender reassignment, Marriage and civil partnership, Pregnancy and maternity, Race, Religion and belief, Sex, Sexual orientation

[2] The Time for Talking is over. Now is the time to act. Race in the workplace’

 

 

Accounts Scrutiny – What’s it all about?

The Public Accounts Committee will spend a significant part of the Autumn term undertaking accounts scrutiny for the Welsh Government, National Assembly for Wales Commission, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, and the National Museums Wales.

What is Account Scrutiny?

The annual scrutiny of accounts by the Public Accounts Committee involves the consideration of the accounts and annual reports of different public funded bodies, to consider see whether there are any unusual or unclear items of expenditure of public money.  In addition to looking at how these organisations spend money, the Committee also considers how they are run and whether their governance arrangements are appropriate and accountable.

Why do it?

Although this approach can appear a little dull, this is an important piece of work because it ensures that there is scrutiny of how public money is being spent. It also provides an opportunity to hold to account those tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the expenditure of public money.

Accounts and Annual reports not only provide an important snapshot of the financial health of these publicly funded organisations they also tell a story about how the organisation is being run and whether there are robust governance structures and working practices in place or not.

By undertaking this scrutiny annually, the Committee has been able to build a deterrence factor into its work, with organisations responsible for spending our money knowing they could be called before the Committee to face public scrutiny.

Does it work?

The Committee has been doing this work for a number of years now, and generally we have seen an improvement in the information available, and in ensuring that it is more accessible. In particular, many organisations have risen to the challenge of presenting this often complex information in a more understandable format.

In addition to the more general improvements, the Committee has also brought to light a number of areas of concern which have been subject to greater scrutiny and ultimately an improvement in practices – and have generated media coverage such as:

Why consider these bodies?

At the beginning of the fifth Assembly, the Committee agreed to consider the accounts and annual report of the Welsh Government and the Assembly Commission annually. It took this decision because the Welsh Government has an annual budget of over £15 billion, which is a significant sum of public money. While the Assembly Commission is the corporate body which provides support for the National Assembly for Wales, and its Members, (so ultimately the Committee) – and so the Committee felt it was important to not sit above scrutiny.

For 2017-18, the Committee will be considering the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Annual Report and Accounts and National Museum Wales.  The Committee has previously considered the Accounts and Annual Report of these two organisations.  Hopefully, the recommendations by the previous Public Accounts Committee will have helped these organisations to make improvements and there will now be a positive story to tell.

Get Involved

Do you have any questions you would like asked about how these organisations have been run over the last year?

Do you have any concerns about how funds have been allocated?

What question would you ask those responsible for spending public money?

Let us know: @seneddpac / @seneddarchwilio
Seneddpac@assembly.wales

Our Accounts Scrutiny starts on Monday 8 October 2018 when we look at the Accounts and Annual Report of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and the Assembly Commission.

Kyffin Williams at the Senedd

 

Image of Llanddwyn Beach by Kyffin Williams from the private collection of Eryl Nikopoulos

Our blog post comes from David Meredith, Chair of the Kyffin Williams Trust ahead of the launch of the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd. 

The Kyffin exhibition at the Senedd, through paintings and prints, represents Kyffin’s vast artistic output, is a fitting tribute to the genius of Sir John Kyffin Williams.

Painting for over 60 years, Kyffin became an expert in the use of the palette knife for his powerful creations, his landscapes, seascapes and portraits in oil. He was also a glorious and sensitive painter in watercolour as exemplified by his painting of flowers. Kyffin was also a keen exponent of prints.

An artist, a teacher and an influencer 

To Kyffin, the preparation and printing of black and white and colour prints of his oil paintings  – along with his masterly ink wash drawings, remarkably pleasing to the eye – meant that as many people as possible had access to art: the teacher in Kyffin was always to the fore. Before moving home to Anglesey in Wales in 1974 Kyffin had been the senior art master at Highgate School in London for 30 years. As an artist, Kyffin realised early in his career that painting was not just putting images down on paper or canvas, but that love and mood was involved in the act of painting.

Such was Kyffin’s artistic influence, status and appeal that the paintings exhibited at the Senedd are not only from galleries and museums but also from Government offices, from individual homes in different parts of Wales, from broadcasting centres (ITV Cymru Wales and BBC Cymru Wales) and from University Collections (Aberystwyth University). The glory of this exhibition is that most of the paintings featured here are a part of people’s everyday lives, paintings that surround people in the workplace and in the house as well as in academia and art galleries.

Kyffin Williams painting of Dr Huw T Edwards

A national treasure 

Sir Kyffin was truly a national treasure and a great benefactor to Wales, an artist by his own admission who painted in Welsh!

In a television interview in 2004. Sir Kyffin said that he ‘had painted thousands of paintings’. A few years previously, he had been criticised for painting too many paintings, only to reply to his critics with a remarkable limerick:

‘They said that enough was enough,
The output of work by old Kyff,
So they finally put strictures
On his output of pictures
So the output of Kyffin was nothing!’

Kyffin had a wonderful sense of humour!

Luckily for us he continued to paint. As Professor Tony Jones, a fellow Anglesey man and Director of the Kansas City Art Institute said:

‘Kyffin’s way of painting, the look and the style of his work, is distinctive, personal, unique – but is also immediately accessible to a wide audience … he captures the hanfod, the essence perhaps even the DNA of the Welsh landscape and he put it all in the paint.’

Kyffin’s friend and fellow artist Gareth Parry once said of Kyffin’s liberal use of paint that it was good enough to eat! Gareth always encouraged people to practically put their nose in it and revel in Kyffin’s palette knife markings.

You can visit the Kyffin Williams Exhibition at the Senedd from 4 – 31 October 2018.

Find out more about visiting the Senedd here.  

David Meredith

Kyffin Williams painting "Cymglas"

 

Bi Visibility Day 2018

 

By Rhayna Mann

Twenty years ago I had just finished university. I was travelling, having adventures, meeting new people and beginning to consider my future. Doesn’t that sound idyllic? The other side of this story is that I was also coming out as a bisexual woman. Why do I put a bit of a negative tint on that? Because it was a confusing and challenging event that didn’t happen overnight.

As a youngster I was attracted to women as well as men, but growing up in a small valleys mining village these thoughts were seen as unnatural. To be gay was frowned upon and it was frightening to me as a young child to see how some gay men (because there were no visible gay women) were avoided and talked about. I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me, but the feelings I had towards men and women remained.

By the time I was eighteen, the public narrative around gay people was shifting. It was ok to be gay – as long as you lived in a cosmopolitan city or were famous! But what struck me the most were the people who were acknowledged in the media as being bisexual, people such as David Bowie, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Freddie Mercury and Janis Joplin. I looked up to these people, they filled me with inspiration and awe….and they were bisexual. To be able to identify with someone whom you can look up to is very powerful.

At the age of eighteen I came out. It was incredibly uneventful, I was a bit disappointed. My friends responded with ‘thought so’ and carried on being my friends. My parents however introduced me to my first experience of passive biphobia; they believed that being bisexual isn’t real or legitimate and dismissed it as being ‘just a phase’.

My second experiences of bi-phobia happened throughout my twenties; when starting a new relationship with a man they would often see my bisexuality as a threat or a novelty. When dating a gay woman, I would be seen as a fraud.

The final experience of bi-phobia has been my ongoing inability to keep some female friends. I have personally found that some straight women find female bisexuals threatening, and that has been one of the most upsetting things for me.

However, once I was comfortable with my own identity I found that, by and large, others were too. Over the past twenty years positivity and acceptance have overshadowed any negativity. Talking with friends about sexuality, their honesty and humour has been refreshing and has helped me to evolve from a bisexual woman into just a woman…who happens to be bisexual.

But the most significant experience I’ve had has been positive and non-judgmental acceptance from my beautiful children, friends, family and work colleagues. This has given me the strength to be happy and comfortable with who I am.

So happy Bi Visibility Day, let’s continue to question stereotypes and help create an environment where we have the opportunity to flourish and evolve into the people we truly are.

2018-WEI-graphic

Bi_flag

2018 top-employer-black-bilingual

 

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Steddfod at the Senedd

Eisteddfod outside the senedd

During August 2018 the National Assembly for Wales was proud to play an integral role in this year’s National Eisteddfod by hosting a range of exhibitions, discussions and events exploring life in Wales.

Dubbed the Eisteddfod with no fence, the Senedd became home to Y Lle Celf (the art exhibition) and the Societies Pavilion.

The Eisteddfod has hosted an ‘Art and Crafts’ exhibition in some form since 1865. Nowadays Y Lle Celf comprises of a multi-media exhibition of contemporary fine and applied art, and a celebration of architecture in Wales.

This year exhibits included Jin Eui Kim’s eye-catching ceramics, 2018 Tony Globe Award winner Philip Watkins’ paintings of Valleys life and 2018 Gold Medal and People’s Choice award winner Zoe Preece’s ceramic and wood pieces, alongside many other thought-provoking displays.

Covering much of the Senedd’s floor, you can watch André Stitt’s huge installation take shape in this time-lapse video:

The Societies Pavilion saw the Assembly host discussions on issues including austerity, women’s role in politics, votes at 16, democracy and the arts, electoral reform and justice in Wales.

If you missed them the first time you can view them again here:

Democracy and the Arts: the effect of one on the other
Democracy and the Arts play a central role in the lives of Welsh people – but how do they affect each other?
Llywydd of the National Assembly, Elin Jones AM, chaired a discussion panel along with the Chair of the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, Bethan Sayed AM, Artist Elin Meredydd and leading dance, performance artist and presenter Eddie Ladd.

Democracy and the arts discussion panel
Democracy and the arts discussion panel

Ready for the vote?
An event in partnership with the Electoral Commission to discuss reducing the voting age to 16 at elections in Wales.
The discussion was chaired by Elan Closs Stephens, Electoral Commissioner for Wales with panellists Elin Jones AM, Llywydd, Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales and young people including Ethan Williams, Vice-President of Urdd Gobaith Cymru and Vice-Chair of the Syr IfanC Board, the Urdd’s National Youth Forum.

Women’s Role in Politics
Marking 100 years since the successful campaign to secure votes for women, Elin Jones AM, Llywydd, was joined by historian Dr Elin Jones to discuss the influence of women on politics in Wales, in the past and present. Journalist and TV presenter Bethan Rhys Roberts chaired.

Womens role in politics discussion panel
Womens role in politics discussion panel

6948 people attended events at the Societies Pavilion during the week.

For non-fluent Welsh speakers the Pierhead became the home of Shw’mae Caerdydd – the centre for information about the Welsh language – for the duration of the festival. Sessions included a discussion about Welsh dialects, alongside workshops from clog dancing to hat making.

Friday 10 August saw Llywydd Elin Jones among those honoured by the Gorsedd of the Bards, alongside Welsh rugby international Jamie Roberts and the musician Geraint Jarman, and was presented with the blue robe for her service to the nation.

Y Lle Celf at the Senedd, Ready for the vote panel, Elin Jones honoured by Gorsedd of the Bards
Y Lle Celf at the Senedd, Ready for the vote? panel, Llywydd Elin Jones honoured by Gorsedd of the Bards

Later in the week there was also the small matter of the homecoming event for Geraint Thomas, celebrating his remarkable achievement in becoming the first ever Welshman to win the Tour de France.

Geraint was welcomed by Llywydd Elin Jones at her annual reception at the Eisteddfod, before being greeted by Catrin Heledd, Band Pres Llanreggub, the band Siddi and finally the thousands of excited fans who had congregated on the steps of the Senedd.

Geraint-Thomas-Senedd
Geraint Thomas at the Senedd

One of the most popular activities at the Senedd during the week was the chance to visit the Assembly’s debating Chamber, where for the first time visitors were able to have their picture taken in the Llywydd’s seat. Over 5595 people took advantage of this unique opportunity to momentarily assume the role of the Llywydd, and experience what it might be like to oversee debates in the Chamber.

During the Eisteddfod we welcomed over 18,000 visitors to the Senedd, over half of which had never visited the Assembly before, and we hope they left knowing a little bit more about how devolution in Wales works.

A big thanks to our partners the Electoral Commission, the Arts Council of Wales, the Morgan Academy, the Wales Governance Centre, and of course the Eisteddfod for making the events over the course of the week such a success.

We’ll see you in Llanrwst!

 

This year’s Y Lle Celf artists were: Justine  Allison, Billy Bagilhole, Jo Berry, Kelly Best, Zena Blackwell, Steve Buck, Ray Church, Nerea Martinez de Lecea, Cath Fairgrieve, Mark Houghton, Gethin Wyn, Jones, Jin Eui Kim, Anna Lewis, Laura Lillie, Gweni Llwyd, James Moore, Marged Elin Owain, Zoe Preece, Glyn Roberts, John Rowley, André Stitt, Caroline Taylor, Jennifer Taylor, Sean Vicary, Adele Vye, Philip Watkins, and Casper White.

Mum’s the word? Parenting and employment in the Land of my Fathers

Today, the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee launches its report, ‘Work it out: Parenting and employment in Wales’. As part of the Committee’s inquiry into pregnancy, maternity and work in Wales, we sought the views and experiences of people from across Wales. Galvanised by the opportunity to influence change on such an emotive aspect of everyday life, the insights offered by the many women who shared their views and experiences were instrumental in helping the Committee form its recommendations to the Welsh Government.

Impassioned, sometimes distressing, often alarming, but always vitally important, the views shared were key in highlighting the varied experiences of mothers from across Wales.

This was not the time for keeping mum.

The current situation

According to research published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in 2016, 87 per cent of employers in Wales felt it was in the best interests of organisations to support pregnant women and those on maternity leave. However, it also found that 71 per cent of mothers reported negative or discriminatory experiences as a result of having children, 15 per cent reported a financial loss, and 10% even felt forced to leave their job.

The associated impact on the UK economy was highlighted in research published by the UK Government’s Women’s Business Council, which estimated that equalising the employment rates of women and men could grow the UK economy by more than 10 per cent by 2030.

As part of its work, the Committee was keen to gather the views, experiences and ideas on how the Welsh Government should tackle the issues within its control, such as employability support, economic development, the Welsh public sector equality duties, public sector workforces and childcare.

What we heard

“When I was pregnant with my first child, I was working as a cleaner and had to stop working at about 3 months pregnant due to high blood pressure. I wasn’t supported by my employer and they stopped paying me. My boss didn’t believe I was pregnant initially because I hadn’t had my first scan. The matter eventually ended up going to court, and even though I won, I was awarded a really low sum of money because my boss hadn’t been properly recording all the hours I’d worked.”

  • Mother, Carmarthenshire

Focus groups were held with mothers in Cardiff and an online forum was created using Senedd Dialogue – a tool which allows for open and frank discussion where participants can share their views and ideas, anonymously or otherwise. It also allows participants the opportunity to read, rate and comment on other people’s ideas and experiences.

The breadth of views shared – some of which were positive and highlighted areas of good practice by some employers – were reflective of the diversity of participants. Contributions were submitted by mothers from Blaenau Gwent to Carmarthenshire, and from Bridgend to Flintshire. They included young mothers, single mothers, mothers from low-income households – some of whom were employed, some were in part-time work or on zero hour contracts, and others were out of work. For those who were employed, views were shared by mothers working in the public, private and third sectors.

A number of key themes emerged, which informed subsequent evidence sessions as well as the recommendations made to the Welsh Government in the Committee’s report.

Along with gendered assumptions about childcare and widespread discrimination, inflexible workplace structures was a recurring theme cited by many women as a reason why mothers are more likely to be trapped in part-time, low-paid work with fewer opportunities for career progression.

“Part-time or flexible jobs are important for many parents so that they can juggle childcare and work. There is a severe lack of p-t jobs on offer, and the majority are low paid and low skilled. Many people with great skills and careers aren’t able to work because the jobs simply aren’t available.”

  • Mother, Cardiff

The views shared on flexible working informed Committee members’ briefings for formal evidence sessions, which followed the focus groups and conclusion of the online forum. This was best demonstrated during an evidence session at which Anna Whitehouse, otherwise known as Mother Pukka, founder of the eponymous lifestyle website for parents and staunch activist for flexible working, shared her experience and those of her many followers.

What did the Committee recommend?

The Committee made a number of varied and far-reaching recommendations that included reassessing the Welsh Government’s new Childcare Offer, encouraging culture change, ensuring that public bodies, businesses and charities in receipt of public funding take responsibility for eradicating  discrimination, and of course, promoting flexible working.

To read all the recommendations made by the Committee, you can access the full report here.

What next?

We will await a response from the Welsh Government to the recommendations made, before they are debated during a plenary session. You will be able to watch the session on Senedd TV.

If you would like to know more about getting involved in the work of the Assembly, visit our website, or get in touch with the Outreach team – SeneddOutreach@Assembly.Wales