Councillors have rejected calls to set up a working group for black and mixed ethnicity woman, saying that existing council groups can help solve the issues they face.
A motion was brought forward on Monday evening (December 10) for Northampton Borough Council to form the group, with three women speaking out in favour of the idea by Labour councillor Rufia Ashraf.
Councillor Ashraf said: “Black and minority ethnic (BAME) women are disadvantaged, economically, socially and politically. They are also subject to increasing levels of domestic slavery and domestic abuse. There is a growing issue with women and their children without recourse to public funds. We know there is an issue with female genital mutilation. We, therefore, call on Northampton Borough Council to establish a working group with and for BAME women to examine the issues, and with partners, to suggest solutions.”
Speaking about the three women who spoke from the public gallery, the councillor added: “I can remember when these ladies came forward to report their domestic abuse. Back then it was a taboo subject. They didn’t know they had a voice. Women’s issues have gone unnoticed due to a lack of funds, but things have changed about how these people feel they can communicate.”
The motion was supported by Liberal Democrat leader Sally Beardsworth, who said: “It’s absolutely necessary to support women going through ordeals. Women do suffer and have suffered while things are kept under the radar. Anything that brings this out into the open and makes people realise that these things need a way for women to be supported is a good thing.”
But Conservative councillor Anna King said she was ‘a little disturbed’ that the women had not been signposted by the opposition to the council’s existing women’s forum or the diverse community forum.
“I can’t support this motion because it’s work that we are already doing,” she said.
But Councillor Ashraf responded: “I’m a little disturbed about how they feel what’s there is working, because if it was these ladies would be sitting in these meetings.”
Labour leader Danielle Stone also supported the idea, saying: “I was so sure this was one where we would have cross-party agreement. These people want to be in charge of finding their own solutions, and this is not a big ask.”
But deputy leader Councillor Phil Larratt said: “There’s an awful lot going on. Why don’t we all get together and engage with these meetings that happen. Please come along and get involved and see if we can meet what you are asking for and go above and beyond that. We can’t just keep creating group after group. Engage with what’s happening and we will do what we can, and if necessary, we can always form a smaller group.”