If you’ve noticed the posters of smiling candidates gracing every lamppost in Northern Ireland, you’ll know that election time is fast approaching, with the people of NI due to go to the polls on 5th May to vote in a new Assembly.

With this in mind, women’s sector organisations have put our heads together and drawn up a list of asks for politicians for the next mandate. These asks cover a wide range of issues that affect women, including violence against women and girls.

We are asking political parties to:

• Commit to preserve vital Women’s Aid refuges, floating support/outreach and children’s support services for women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence

• Introduce Women’s Aid Justice Support Workers in all police districts to provide tailored support for domestic violence victims throughout the criminal justice process.

• Roll out the non-court mandated perpetrator programme in all Trust areas on a permanent basis, to tackle the abusive behaviours of domestic violence perpetrators.

• Introduce Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) to the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) process to advocate for and support high-risk victims of domestic violence.

• Establish an independently constituted inquiry on sexual and domestic violence during the conflict in Northern Ireland to give a voice to those who suffered this abuse.

If a canvasser shows up on your doorstep looking for your vote, you can use this manifesto to ask them what they will do for women.

Check it out here: http://www.wrda.net/Documents/Womens%20Manifesto%202016.pdf

Women make up 52% of the population of Northern Ireland, yet our concerns and needs are often overlooked or undervalued. Remind politicians of the voting power of women, and the importance of issues that affect over half the population, when you go to the polls on May 5th!