Call for better health service help with periods, menopause and substance abuse for women in Leeds

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The "hidden reality" of life for women and girls in Leeds has been highlighted as city leaders published a new report into female health today - the first of its kind in the country.

A comprehensive analysis of issues that affect females in the city - The State of Women's Health in Leeds - has been launched during an International Women's Day event at the Northern Ballet headquarters in Quarry Hill.

International Womens Day events in Leeds. Women's Lives Matter protest on Briggate.

International Womens Day events in Leeds. Women's Lives Matter protest on Briggate.

Civic and health leaders gathered to hear more about the report, which was commissioned by Leeds City Council and delivered by Women's Lives Leeds.

Among a wide range of findings, the document reveals how the city's median female full-time pay of £24,072 contrasts with that of £30,315 for males, that nearly 60 per cent of those devoting more than 50 hours per week to caring for another are women, and that life expectancy for women in Leeds is falling.
It was one of many events put on in the city for the international day of action.

The conference heard how solutions to experiences which are often simply put up with - including periods, menopause, substance misuse, obesity, caring and more - needed to be addressed more specifically by health services.

The impacts of economic austerity also disproportionately affect women for the worse, speakers told the room.

Campaigners in Leeds city centre.

Campaigners in Leeds city centre.

Kate Bratt-Farrar, outgoing chairwoman of the Leeds Women and Girls Hub, said: "It's such a privilege to launch the first report into the state of women's health in Leeds - not just a first for Leeds but due to the approach, the veracity, the detail and the including of women's voices, the first in the country."

She added: "For us, health didn't mean the big headliners. We're all aware of key issues such as breast cancer. Important as they are, we needed to look at other things too."

"Health meant and means 'What is it like for women to be born, to live and to die in Leeds?'"

She spoke of the importance of recognising the impact that regular experiences such as periods and menopause have on school, work and relationships.

A placard in Briggate during International Women's Day.

A placard in Briggate during International Women's Day.

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Coun Alison Lowe, the chief executive of mental health charity Touchstone, told the audience: "Women are the backbone of our communities. Sometimes not very nice things happen to us and sometimes the system does not work for us."

Referencing the new report, she said: "Things are bleak for women. Unless we as a city do something about that."

Coun Rebecca Charlwood, the council's Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adults, said: "Women's health and wellbeing is obviously pivotal to community wellbeing, to family wellbeing, and I really wanted to get from this piece of work the hidden reality of life for women in the city."

Speakers took to the stage before a panel discussion.

This Girl Can members take part in a flashmob at the Corn Exchange in Leeds.

This Girl Can members take part in a flashmob at the Corn Exchange in Leeds.

The line-up included Leeds and Yorkshire Partnership NHS Trust chief executive officer Dr Sara Munro, Progeny Group executive board member Alex Shaw, freelance PR specialist Susan Pitter and Leeds Dance Partnership director Shirley Lundstram.

Meanwhile, the Leeds Women's Strike Assembly organised an all-gender rally in Briggate at noon, protesting against issues such as the unequal division of domestic and caring labour and cuts to domestic violence services.

The "lively" crowd of around 150 people took the decision to march through the shopping centres because they wanted to get their message across to retail workers, many of which are women.

Co-organiser Amy Cousens, 23, said: "We want people to be involved that have never been involved before."

As well as building a coalition to fight global issues, the protesters were keen to voice concerns about policies felt locally such as Universal Credit, austerity, local authority cuts and more.

"We want you to be involved because we can't do this on our own," said Miss Cousens, of Horsforth.

Elsewhere, members of the This Girl Can movement performed a flashmob dance session at the Corn Exchange.