Sex Discrimination Still Rife, Says EOC

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Sex discrimination is still rife in Northern Ireland and needs to be attacked on a range of fronts, the latest report of the Equal Opportunities Commission reveals.

Last year a record number of people sought help and advice on their rights - and a record number of employers came forward for guidance on their responsibilities, the report published today reveals.

Chair and Chief Executive Joan Smyth said: ''No truly effective economic development programme can be blind to the fact that women make up half the workforce, but this is a concept which most policy-makers have yet to come to terms with. It requires abandoning, once and for all, the old patronising, limiting notions of women's abilities, and of their role in the labour market and in society.''

Pressure is being put on politicians to use their influence on to help women get a fair deal.

''Women earn 20 per cent less than men, and only 13 per cent of local councillors here are female,'' says Mrs Smyth. A survey we carried out shows that nearly 80 per cent of women and over 70 per cent of men believe that the political parties in Northern Ireland are failing women. We'll be continuing our contacts with local and national parties to press them to do more to involve women as candidates and at senior levels of the party structures. The dramatic increase in the number of women MPs is encouraging, but there's a long way to go before we reach equality.''

On the political front, the National Agenda for Action is one way of getting women's issues into the mainstream. The Agenda is a joint project between the EOCNI, the EOC in Great Britain and the Woman's National Commission. The three organisations produced 10 policy papers on key issues like childcare, violence against women, education and training. They then asked national and local political parties for their position on these topics. This was followed up by a checklist of 10 questions for voters to put to candidates in the general and local elections in May. …