Saturday, 26 March 2016

UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination- Why Is It Important?

"The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an opportunity
to renew our commitment to building a world of justice and equality where
xenophobia and bigotry do not exist. We must learn the lessons of history and
acknowledge the profound damage caused by racial discrimination."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Living in a society that is tolerant of others, and free of hatred based on people’s identity is a subject close to my heart. I guess I wouldn't do the job I do, if it wasn't, and I have to thank my wonderful parents for being such a positive influence on me growing up. 

Although the UK has come a long way since the days of Enoch Powell and his ‘rivers
of blood’ speech in 1968, the sad reality is that racial discrimination, xenophobia and
negative attitudes towards other races, ethnicities, cultures and religions are still
prevalent in everyday society. You only have to look at the national statistics for Hate
Crime to realise this. Police recorded 52,528 hate crimes in 2014-15, up from 44,471
in 2013-14, with more than 80% being racially motivated. This is estimated to only be
a portion of the hate crimes committed, as research shows that it is vastly under

The recent refugee and migrant crises has led to a commitment by the UK Government to help relocate 20’000 Syrian refugees, who are fleeing the civil war in Syria, by relocating them from refugee camps in the Middle East to the UK.  The families will need support and compassion when they arrive, as it is likely they have been profoundly affected by what they have seen and experienced.

Where I live in the South Wales valleys,  we are renowned for our warm
welcome to others, and I hope this will be no different when these small numbers
of refugees arrive.

Unfortunately the crises has also produced a raft of negative headlines in our media
about our country being flooded with migrants who simply want to take advantage of
our benefits system, and live in luxury at the cost of the UK Payer. The facts behind
these sensational headlines are often very different but unfortunately facts don’t
always sell newspapers. This has helped result in a wave of anti refugee and migrant
sentiment, which could quickly increase if the majority allow it too.

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day was ‘Don’t Stand By’. The
Holocaust and subsequent genocides took place because the local populations
allowed persecution to take root. Whilst some actively supported or facilitated state
policies of persecution, the vast majority stood by silently – at best, afraid to speak
out; at worst, indifferent. Bystanders enabled the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and
subsequent genocides.

There is an important message to be taken from this theme. We are probably all
guilty of ignoring’ that’ racist Facebook post from one of our ‘friends’, or staying silent
when your family member makes an offensive remark about someone’s religion, or
overlooking a negative comment about refugees from a friend on a night out. If we all
‘stand by’ and do nothing, we are allowing the conditions for a future genocide to
happen. It takes courage to be the one that challenges someone’s comments or
views, but the more of us who do this, the more people will be confident to challenge

Stonewall have started a movement called #Nobystanders. It asks people to make a
pledge to ‘call out’ bullying and teasing language, and to stand up for fairness and
kindness. By signing the pledge, you are saying that you will not stand by and let

things such as racism and homophobia happen. Information on this important campaign can be found here. It really is a subject that is close to my heart, and I really think it is important that we talk about these things. 

Our Marriage Split, A Month On...

I still can't quite believe it has been over a month, since I split with my husband. Some people will say it is early days, but for me, it feels like a lifetime.

As the dust has settled, I have come to realise that generally I am happier now. I do have my low moments, and it does still feel slightly strange, but I don't really miss married life.

 I do miss the marriage that we once had, but not the marriage that we have had in recent years. Unfortunately the love that I once had for my husband, has diminished to the point, where it no longer exists, and that is sad but I have finally accepted it. 

It feels liberating to be in control of my life again, and the time I spend with my kids is more joyful than before. Obviously I have always enjoyed spending time with them, but previously there was an element of resentment-not towards them, but towards my husband as he left most of the parenting to me. Now, when I have them, I have no-one to resent, and feel a happier soul. 

The children have adapted remarkably well. There have been few questions, and they seem to have accepted the situation. My 6 year old daughter asked me a couple of weeks ago if we had 'split up'. I told her yes, and she looked sad for a few seconds and then said 'I don't mind, because you still love us'. They are both spending more quality time with their parents, which is a good thing, and I'm really pleased that the husband is doing his fair share with the kids. They remain important to him, and I really hope that continues for the kids sake. 

Even though I feel happier, and am enjoying being single at the moment, I know there may be rough times ahead. Our finances are a bit of a mess, and both of us are guilty of not managing our money very well. I am not sure what is going to happen with the house, but I really hope I can stay here. I know I will have the support of my family, and for that, I am very grateful. I know things will be tough for the husband, as he will find it difficult to pay for somewhere else to live, with the finances as they are, but I'm sure something can be sorted. 

Things seem to be ticking along at the moment, and things have remained amicable on the whole with the husband. He seems to have accepted the situation, and is now thinking more about the future which is a good sign. Perhaps he has realised, he is happier too?

I am not quite ready to formally end it yet, but that will come in time. I haven't got a clue about the world of divorce, so that is going to be a steep learning curve. Financially that could be tough too, as I can't really afford a solicitor but we will see. Sometimes you don't need the help of a solicitor and can do a DIY divorce, but it all depends on whether we can sort out the house situation, I guess.

I'm taking everyday as it comes at the moment, but generally I do feel positive about the future, and am looking forward to finding myself again. 

Friday, 4 March 2016

'Period Pay'- Good or Bad?

So this weeks, the headlines and social media have been full of stories of a Bristol Firm who are have a new 'Period Policy' which by all accounts offers women paid time off if they are suffering from period pain etc. This would not be treated as sickness absence. Actually reading between the headlines it appears what they are simply offering is flexible working i.e. taking time off when your period comes and working it back up through the month. 


The female director (coincidence- I think not!) is quoted in the press as saying:

 'I have managed many female members of staff over the years and I have seen women at work who are bent over double because of the pain caused by their periods. Despite this, they feel they cannot go home because they do not class themselves as unwell.
“And this is unfair. At Coexist we are very understanding. If someone is in pain – no matter what kind – they are encouraged to go home. But, for us, we wanted a policy in place which recognises and allows women to take time for their body’s natural cycle without putting this under the label of illness'
This all sounds really admiral, and many people will be will be applauding this policy, and how the needs of female staff are being catered for. After all this is unique to women! 
I am hugely supportive of women's rights, and have always classed myself as a feminist. There is no doubt in my mind that women have a raw deal in the world compared to men, and you only have to look at the gender pay gap, and the representation of women in senior roles to see that. Having said that, I am slightly sceptical about this whole 'period policy'.
There is no doubt that some women are hugely affected by their period, and that it can be greatly debilitating, but I would argue that for the vast majority we are able to function quite well during our period- shock horror! Apart from being a bit of a grumpy cow at my time of the month, and the occasional cramp, l tend just to get on with things as normal, and I don't think I am alone on this. Obviously I don't speak for all women, but having done some research, chronic period pain and blood loss affects about 20% of menstruating women annually (instances tend to increase with age) so the numbers of women affected in the workplace are going to be small.
The Equality Act does offer some protection to people who have disabilities. You have a Disability ' if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a 'substantial' and 'long-term' negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities'. I would argue that if someone does suffer with chronic period pain that stops them carrying out their normal day to day tasks, they would come under this definition any way.
The Equality Act states that if a person does classify themselves as having a disability, then reasonable adjustments should be considered. These reasonable adjustments. The duty to make reasonable adjustments aims to make sure that as a disabled person, you have, as far as is reasonable, the same access to everything that is involved in getting and doing a job as a non-disabled person. So for example, a reasonable adjustment may be to make changes to your sickness absence processes to allow a person more day off with sickness absence before taking disciplinary action. This is a frequently used reasonable adjustment, and I would argue, the more appropriate route to go down when someone suffers with chronic period pain.

This particular policy  is also just offering a way of flexible working which most employers should be offering anyway if they are supportive of their employees (not just women). We will all have occasions when we are unable to work our designated hours, due to a variety of reasons and the ability to work flexibly is crucial to maintaining a good work life balance. I am very lucky that I am able to work flexibly in my current role, and I think this is extremely important for any working mother. It is a shame that something has to be branded as a 'period policy' when it is something most employers should be offering anyway!
There is no need for a separate 'Period Policy' if you use common sense and adhere to the law as it already stands. The company in question has gained a lot of publicity from this policy, and I can't help thinking that it is all a bit of a PR stunt really. 
The director is also quoted as saying:
'For too long there’s been a taboo surrounding periods – I have women staff telling me they’re ashamed to admit they’re in pain. I want us to break down that shame and replace the negativity with positivity. Both men and women have been open to the ideas, especially from the younger generation'
Yes I agree that there is still stigma and a taboo around period pain, but I am not sure this policy will do anything to alleviate that. Surely it's your own business when you have to take time off because your unwell, and the fact that you are taking time off under the period policy, doesn't mean that this should be broadcasted around the workplace. I certainly wouldn't want all my colleagues knowing that I was having my period- I would prefer to tell them I had been unwell, or need to take some time off and leave it at that!

I also think that it adds weight to the label that is placed on women, that we are all weak, fragile and need to be treated with kid gloves. We are tougher than some people give us credit for!
I know that not everyone will agree with my point of view, but sometimes it feels good to have your say!