mentees at bbc wales in cardiff

EPEV 2023-34 is open

July 24, 2023

Wales has never been so diverse but our public institutions do not reflect this – that’s why we need Equal Power Equal Voice 

Equalities organisations in Wales are calling for more Black, Asian and ethnic minority people, women, LGBTQIA+ people, and disabled people in decision making positions in Wales. As Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales, Disability Wales, Ethnic Youth Support Team (EYST), and Stonewall Cymru launch applications for the Equal Power Equal Voice mentoring programme, the spotlight is being shone on those who are underrepresented in Welsh political and public life and who often face additional barriers to reaching positions of influence. 

Only one woman of colour has been elected to the Senedd in over 20 years of devolution. There has never been a Member of the Senedd who is a wheelchair user and data is not even held on the number of MSs who identify as disabled. The Senedd has also fared poorly on LGBTQIA+ representation, with no openly trans or non-binary Senedd members elected.

It is clear that more action needs to be taken to ensure that our political and public institutions in Wales are reflective of the population they serve. Wales was once the first gender balanced parliament in the world, but that progress was fragile and representation has since slipped – currently, 43% of Senedd Members are women.

At the local level just 14% of candidates in 2022 were disabled compared with over 20% of the total population. Just 3% of councillors came from an ethnic minority background. These are voices with lived experience that must be heard in the corridors of power.  

Equal Power Equal Voice is a cross-equalities mentoring programme with a mission to diversify Welsh public life. During its first two years it has seen participants gain positions as councillors, MPs, and trustees, be appointed to public boards, and become school governors.

Mentees are paired with a mentor in their area of interest, from politics to the media, from the arts to the third sector. They gain access to a priceless network of peer-to-peer support, training sessions, and visits to seats of power such as the Senedd and the Houses of Parliament. 

The scheme has been transformative for Becci Smart, who was paired with Sioned Williams MS in the 2022-23 cohort of the programme. “Sioned has been incredible and really allowed me to take the lead on things that were important to me as disabled person in Wales that I believed needed highlighting. Not only did she guide me in new ways of doing this, she gave me opportunities to use my voice through her platform to do this too.”  

Through EPEV and her mentor, Becci built up her confidence to become a media spokesperson for Epilepsy Action, joined the Love Your Period Campaign as their PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder) lead, and applied for an internship at the World Health Organisation. “I knew I wanted to get into the field of influencing health policy and I’ve gained a great deal of insight on how to do this. Thank you to EPEV for giving me the opportunity to take part, pairing me with the best mentor possible, and presenting me with the opportunities that this programme has given me.” 

As Equal Power Equal Voice launches applications for the 2023-24 cohort, EPEV Project Manager Joys Njini is keen to build upon the experience gained and success achieved so far. “I am privileged to be in a position where I see the course of people’s lives change before my very eyes, as we work in collaboration with this partnership of equalities organisations to empower and equip mentees on their journeys into public and political life.

The programme supports mentees to develop strong networks, build up confidence and skills, and ultimately to become decision makers able to effect real change in Wales that benefits all our diverse population”.

Would you like to create change in Wales? EPEV could be for you and you can apply here now to become part of the upcoming cohort.”