100 years ago some women in the UK first got the right to vote. I have been delighted to talk about this subject on a variety of media including BBC East Politics, BBC Radio Suffolk and have three articles appearing across the year in Suffolk Life magazine. Here I am standing outside Millicent Fawcett’s house in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, very early in the morning!
What better place to celebrate 100 years since some women first gained the vote than by running a workshop in Aldeburgh, the home of Millicent Fawcett who was instrumental to this hard-won right. Delighted as ever to be running workshops – my favourite kind of work – I teamed up with the Britten Pears Foundation and author and historian Viv Newman to discuss women’s rights past and present.
Viv gave an absolutely fascinating talk about the what the suffragettes and suffragists did in WWI, I was enthralled and immediately preordered her book on the subject. I then spoke about what has happened to women’s rights since 1918 – lots of good news of course. Things have improved dramatically! But there is also still some way for us to go before we have true equality. There was a lively discussion afterwards with a focus on what we can do to change the status quo.
Here is a word cloud of phrases that came out during my talk. The largest words are the words mentioned most often.
In November 2017 I ran a workshop at the Fawcett Society annual conference looking at how we could commemorate 100 years since this important event locally. We looked at engaging the unusual suspects, working regionally and heard about some fantastic ideas that are already planned! Fawcett have created some fantastic resources on suffrage have a look at them here.
It was fantastic to be involved in the project during my time at Fawcett and I am so pleased to see it published. It is an incredible in depth report looking at women in local government from councillors to staff. It is such an in depth piece of work.
Click here to read the the results of a year-long study led by the Fawcett Society in partnership with the Local Government Information Unit, which asked ‘Does Local Government Work for Women?’ and contains recommendations to help solve the issues faced by women in town halls.
Delighted to have been on LBC News this morning talking to Jim Diamond about the report I wrote for the Fawcett Society on sexism and local government.
Here is the press release from the report:
First and foremost I would say that we would not be looking at making cuts that impacted directly on any one group so the idea that we would be making local budget cuts to women directly is difficult to imagine. However if put in a situation where we had no option but to make cuts to any service, an EIA would always be undertaken.
If elected will you defend specialist women only services eg rape crisis centres and women’s refuges?
Absolutely – do we need to say more? Cuts to specialist services such as these need to be avoided at all costs. We will continue to work with the PCC in order to keep VAWG at the top of crime agenda.
If elected how will you improve representation of women on your council?
As a group we are aware that women can often be put off politics and that we do not have the proportionate representation in local politics. We have made a commitment to engaging people in politics at a much earlier age and that would include working with girls and encouraging them to think of politics as something they should/ could/would want to be involved in. We will work with our Equalities Officer and local women’s groups to identify ways in which we can make councils more inclusive.
If elected what will you do to re-open Sure Start centre that have closed and defend the one’s that already exist.
Sure Start Centres are funded by the Conservative run County Council and we are acutely aware that Essex County Council is looking to make budget savings of 2.5 million pounds in this area. We will continue to influence any decisions where at all possible and will campaign with families when fighting to keep services open. Fundamentally however we feel that these services will only be saved with a change of national administration.
If elected how will you ensure that women benefit from strategic/enterprise/
The Labour group acknowledges that women are the more likely to be users of public services and as such the current cuts are disproportionately effecting women (and in turn families) We are committed to defending public services and to working with unions and other organisations who also believe in the public sector.
If elected will you undertake a gender pay audit in your local council?
Yes, we agree that this would be a positive move.
If elected how will you improve your councils engagement with local women and women’s organisations.
We will work with our Equality Officer to look all possible ways of maximising engagement, we will work with local unions and their Women’s Officers, we will access appropriate training in order to our knowledge around these issues. We will engage with local women’s organisations to seek representation in all areas that effect women.
What will you do to tackle sexism and sex discrimination in your council.
We will acknowledge that it exists!
We have robust policies which seek to minimise any opportunities for such behaviour. We will also ensure that our policies do not disadvantage women
We will take all such accusations seriously .
We feel that sexism is far less likely to take place in a workplace where women are properly represented throughout the workforce and in positions of power so we would seek to get rid of any imbalances that exist in his area.
I asked all the council candidates standing for election in my ward Fawcett Society’s #Vote4Equality questions. Here is the response from the Liberal Democrat candidate and current Councillor Llyn Barton:
Thanks for the email which raises some key concerns. I have sent a letter to a fair number of women in the ward raising the issue of female representation on Councils. (I will put a copy through your door)
The Lib Dems have a good record for recruiting women but the Council overall has approximately 20 women to 40 men which I feel doesn’t reflect the population it claims to represent.
However as I said the Lib Dems have a good balance. We have a 19 year old female standing in Stanway who is engaging with 18 to 25 year olds to ensure they have a voice. The leader of the Council is a female Lib Dem. the Cabinet is half female.
My colleagues have recently ensured that CBC pays the living wage to all its employees.
We have done extensive work to ensure all staff are paid the correct rates regardless of gender by working with Unison.
Colbea which the council supports with grant aid has just won funding to run special courses to help women set up businesses in the Borough.
With regard to Surestart that was an ECC cut but my County colleagues are challenging such cuts. The scheme was very successful in Shrub End and helped numerous families on the estate. New initiatives such as the pupil premium are being used to good effect to target our most vulnerable families and give them that extra help and support. As a school governor I am now seeking the evidence of the impact of this initiative.
Rest assured I am constantly working to ensure women are well represented on our Council and that they champion women’s rights and keep the subject firmly on the agenda.
As part of my work for the Fawcett Society I have recently launched a campaign called #Vote4Equality. This campaign aims to engage people in their local elections and council candidate’s answers on how they will improve women’s rights in their local area. You can find out how to get involved in the campaign here or join the conversation on twitter here.
It provides the public with 10 questions to ask their local council candidate. Given it’s my own campaign I figured I should get on it. The first candidate to respond was Sarah Hardy, UKIP council candidate for Colchester.
If elected, will you do an equality impact assessment of all local budget cuts on women? #vote4equality
R: If the facility or opportunity is available to me, as your councillor, I would always assess the impact on women of budget cuts before I am called to vote on any issue at committee or council level.
If elected, will you defend specialist, women-only services e.g. rape crisis centres and refuges from cuts? #vote4equality
R: I will always defend such services from cuts, I believe these services are extremely important and should be funded appropriately.
If elected, how will you improve representation of women on your council? #vote4equality
R: I can only have an impact on such improvements if we have sufficient elected women councillors to increase representation.
If elected, what will you do re-open Sure Start Centres that have closed and defend the ones that already exist? #vote4equality
R: I would have to research the present position of Sure Start Centres at local level but I do believe they are a vital community resource.
If elected, how will you ensure women benefit from local strategic/economic/enterprise partnership funding? #vote4equality
R: Again, I would have to research the present position to ascertain what improvements are required at local level.
If elected how will you ensure the council and businesses in your local area become living wage employers? #vote4equality
R: I do not currently know what influence I would have on businesses to achieve compliance with a living wage, but I would research the current situation to enable me to understand what influence I would have with this issue.
If elected, will you undertake a gender pay audit in your council? #vote4equality
R: If my election to Council enables me to carry out such an undertaking I will certainly carry it out.
If elected, how will you improve council engagement with local women and women’s organisations? #vote4equality
R: This would depend on what position I am appointed to, but I would certainly champion such causes.
If elected, what will you do to tackle sexism and sex discrimination in your council? #vote4equality
If there are not such mechanisms to deal with sexism and sex discrimination, or any discrimination, already in place, then I would do my best to ensure that they are implemented.