Education a crucial element of any VAWG Strategy, says Alliance representatives, welcoming launch of consultation

Alliance Party representatives have welcomed the Executive Office’s launch of a strategic framework and initial action plan for consultation in relation to ending Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). They have also reasserted the necessity of restoring Stormont so that an official strategy can be passed and implemented.

Nuala McAllister Naomi Long Violence Against Women and Girls

There are 22 recommended actions in year one of the plan, which includes the convening of a forum to decide how best young people can be taught about healthy, respectful relationships in school, including in Relationships and Sex Education (RSE).

In 2021, Alliance leader and then-Justice Minister Naomi Long MLA brought forward a proposal for a dedicated strategy to combat VAWG, after expressing concerns that Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK to not have one. With further stalemate at Stormont however, a VAWG Strategy has yet to be finalised and implemented.

“Tackling violence against women and girls is one of the most pertinent issues our society is facing,” said Mrs Long.

“In reflection of that, it’s incredibly welcome to see the consultation on a much-needed and, frankly, long overdue Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy opened, and I’d encourage everyone to participate and make their voices heard.

“Every woman and girl in Northern Ireland deserves to feel safe, both out on the street and in their homes, and to live free from the threat of gender-based violence. These should not be lofty ambitions, but the bare minimum of what we expect from our society.

“Whilst news of the consultation is an encouraging step in the right direction, it’s simply indefensible however that we remain blocked from making any significant progress in the advancement of this Strategy by the DUP’s continuing boycott of Stormont."

Alliance Policing Board representative Nuala McAllister MLA added: “If we are to see the kind of long-term societal change that we’re aiming for when it comes to reducing rates of violence against women and girls, then we need to go right to the very foundations. Education is an absolutely crucial element of this Strategy.

“Unless we intervene early enough in the lives of young people and give them the support and the tools to recognise what is and is not a healthy, respectful relationship, we will continue to see the same traumas persist generation after generation.

“It needs to be science-based, evidence-led, and standardised across all our schools, so that every single young person has access to this essential education.

“Now is the time to take a definitive step forward in making Northern Ireland a safer place for women and girls, and we must do so without delay.”