Why are we still talking about women’s problems?
Research released by the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College suggests that there is a link between women being subjected to domestic violence in pregnancy and a host of problems affecting both the mother and child. The report is not yet online, but the available press release suggests that the study of almost 14,000 women found domestic violence in pregnancy to be linked to maternal depression, childhood behavioural problems and pregnancy complications up to and including foetal death.
What happens in people’s homes and their bedrooms affects the polis: you, me and the rest of the citizenry.
This is very significant in a country where an estimated 24% of women will be affected by domestic violence at some point in their lifetime; in a socio-political context in which women’s services are being slammed across the board. This highlights how the problems affecting women are not just ‘women’s problems’. The reason that ‘the private is political’ became such a rife slogan throughout the 70s is because, well, it is. What happens in people’s homes and their bedrooms affects the polis: you, me and the rest of the citizenry.
In international development it is widely held that to address socio-economic problems you need to focus on girls and women. As highlighted by the 5th Millennium goal, women’s issues are seen as being central to development as a whole. Cases to point are to be found in the Nike foundation’s beautifully animated if saccharine sweet ‘the girl effect’ project and the wonderful half the sky.
In the words of Helen Clark,who is currently leading the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),
“achieving gender equality is not only morally right, but also catalytic to development as a whole, creating political, economic, and social opportunities for women which benefit individuals, communities, countries, and the world”.
Indeed, at the international level, it is accepted that women’s education is the best predictor of child health and chances in life even across those organisations that are not inclined to identifying certain groups as needing specific attention or protection.
So if we know all this, if our development aid is feeding directly into a system that is aware of all this, that knows that there is a strong statistical association between such factors as maternal education and infant mortality, then why on earth are we not applying this at home? Devon’s Action Against Domestic Violence and Abuse partnership was cited as being one the best examples of the Big Society in action and was also a very well publicised ceremonial sacrifice to the cuts agenda, initially on the line for a 100% budget cut.
Public spending is not the answer to all our ills, but where a government invests is a clear indicator of its priorities. The government is cutting; yet cases of women killed by their partners or ex-partners are increasing. One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. The nature of her lifetime will affect her children’s lifetimes. Social norms and the behaviours they spread move through our networks from adult to child and friend to friend. Children from abusive families are more likely to become abusive adults, and peer influences peer with an apparent normalisation of abuse within teenage relationships.
Why are we still talking about ‘women’s problems’?