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Questions to ask

AHEAD of the General Election, 32 equality and human rights organisations have joined together to publish a Manifesto for Women and Girls.

There has been progress on equality for women in the last 50 years, but there is so much more to do and far from being a women’s issue, women’s equality benefits everyone.

The manifesto highlights entrenched and widespread problems which make for uncomfortable reading. Behind the shocking statistics lies the everyday experiences of many women and girls.

The manifesto is designed to support voters in talking about these issues with their political candidates irrespective of their party.

One of the five priorities is lifting women and children out of poverty. You have reported recently on the rise in demand for foodbanks in the area and the latest figures from End Child Poverty show that in north Wiltshire constituencies, one in four or five children now live in poverty.

It also calls for an end to violence against women and girls in a year when nationally, domestic killings are at a five-year high and rape convictions are at a ten-year low, despite the number of reports increasing to almost 60,000 a year. The Home Office estimates the economic and social cost of domestic abuse alone is £66bn a year.

I urge people to read the manifesto which is brief and powerful, and to press their parliamentary candidates for policy changes which will support equality for women.

Caroline Barlow, Women’s Equality Party member, Chippenham

Christian vote call

THERE are many Christians who can be an influential force in the forthcoming general election. They have already been given a clear message from the Gospels to put themselves last and to place their neighbour first.

Can I therefore ask all who own an allegiance to a loving Christ to initially wipe clean their present political slate. Delete all past party or voting allegiance and attachments to any of the candidates.

Then begin to pray seriously, and in praying to look closely at the world and its people around you. Notice the needs of the many who have difficulty in putting food on the table to feed their family. See those, who because of poverty, cannot find a home to live in or are forced to live in appalling, cramped conditions.

Recognise those who suffer mental or other illnesses and find it extremely difficult to access treatment. Feel for those who need and give care every day but who are denied the resources, dignity and respite they desperately need.

Sleep with those many who have been made homeless who lay each night on cold pavements, or at best in a crowded hostel. Have a thought for those who have succumbed to an addiction to blot out their lives of despair and have no one to turn to for help.

Experience the fear of refugees who have fled from persecution or conflict who are treated by our authorities with contempt and live with the constant threat of being deported to an unsafe place.

When you have prayed and tried to stand in the shoes of such as these, and many more who currently find life so very difficult, please then, and only then, consider very, very carefully which of the political parties have in the past and is likely in the future to be the one which has some semblance of humanity and compassion in its veins.

Which party, by really sharing and caring, will definitely make a difference to those in our society who have needs so much greater than yours.

Alan Scotford, Marshfield Road, Chippenham

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