ASSEMBLY MEMBER Joyce Watson joined the Duchess of Cornwall, Baroness Scotland and dignitaries from across the Commonwealth at the recent Women Leaders’ Summit.
In May, the Labour AM was elected by members of the British Islands and Mediterranean Region (BIMR) of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) to represent them on the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) international committee. It is the first time a member of the Welsh Assembly has held the prestigious position.
The London Summit, held at Marlborough House, London, last Thursday (Jul 14), brought together visionary women leaders in government, business and civil society from across the Commonwealth to discuss three themes: Violence Against Women and Girls, Women in Leadership and Women’s Economic Empowerment.
Reporting on the conference, Mrs Watson said: “It is a huge honour to have been chosen by my international colleagues to represent women parliamentarians from the Commonwealth’s British Islands and Mediterranean region.
“In light of Brexit, now is the time to re-affirm and refresh our Commonwealth connections. Irrespective of gender, race, religion or culture, we are united by a commitment to the rule of law, individual rights and freedoms, and the ideals of parliamentary democracy.
“However, some religious and cultural practices in Commonwealth countries victimise and marginalise sections of the population, minorities and females. Through the CWP we can come together to challenge discrimination, to identify and pursue practical steps to achieve gender equality and the protection and empowerment of women and girls.”
Joyce Watson is founder and chair of the cross-party group of AMs concerned with human trafficking. She is a leading anti-violence campaigner, working each year with the Women’s Institute in Wales to recruit male ambassadors to speak out against violence in support of the international White Ribbon campaign. As regional CWP chair, Joyce intends to take forward these issues at a Commonwealth-level .
The Duchess of Cornwall paid a surprise visit to the Summit. Camilla has won plaudits for speaking out about violence against women.
Commonwealth Secretary, General Patricia Scotland, vowed to be a champion for women and girls. She said action on gender equality and women’s empowerment is ‘core to the success of the Commonwealth’.
“As we move from aspirations to entitlements and from plans and intentions to actions, I thought it was necessary to convene this Women Leaders’ Summit,” she said. “It comes at an opportune time – a time that recognises women’s capacity and capability to take control of their lives and reshape the world they live in.”
Joyce Watson chaired the Wales branch – one of 13 branches that form the BIMR – of the CPA between 2011 and 2016. She was a member of the Assembly’s Women in Democracy group, established by former Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler. Mrs Watson won this year’s Chwarae Teg Womenspire Award for achievements in public life.