Oxfam Social Innovation Boost

boostIn February I took part in a 2.5 day innovation process to help Oxfam come up with some great ideas for how to solve women’s poverty. It was amazing, exhausting and emotional. You can see me in my various states of dress in this video below.

Big up to the women from SkillsNet, Marginal Voices and City Gateway Women’s Project. Also look out for my GENIUS idea on a post-it “more bloody money”….

 

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Gender Equality Charter Launch

Gender-Equality-585x275-300x141Whoop! Pretty excited about the Gender Equality Charter being launched on 10 March 2016… It’s been a year of consulting and talking, learning, persuading but I think this is pretty cool. Here is the press release from LBBD or you can read more here.

An east London council has made history by becoming the first local authority in the country to adopt a Gender Equality Charter.

The Cabinet at Barking and Dagenham, where the actions of Ford machinists Rose Boland, Eillen Pullen, Vera Sime, Gwen Davis and Sheila Douglass changed labour relations, last night adopted a Gender Equality Charter and called on local partners to support the initiative.

The charter will support everyone in achieving their full potential and have more influence over decisions affecting their lives. It places a strong emphasis on making sure that all genders have the same chance of success.

It has been developed through consultation with the community and focuses on four themes; access to power and representation in public life; economic inequality and impact of caring responsibilities; culture including gender stereotyping; and, violence against women.

It reflects not only the national issues that impact on gender equality but, more importantly, prioritises the issues and challenges identified locally.

Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Councillor Darren Rodwell, said: “I am proud to be the Leader of a council that is delivering ground breaking work on gender equality.

“Our borough has a proud history of promoting gender equality – from the 18th Century writer and philosopher, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the early suffragette movement, to the workers of Fords who helped secure the equal pay legislation we enjoy today.

“The charter will help make sure the council and its partners make a demonstrable difference to tackling gender inequality and support everyone to achieve their full potential regardless of their gender.  I believe this will inspire civic pride and help us to build one borough and one community.”

Councillor Afolasade Bright, the Council’s Equality Champion, added: “The council has a vision to tackle equality issues relating to each of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act, and is starting with gender equality – which affects everyone.

“In particular, tackling the issues faced by women, girls and the transgender community in the 21st Century needs the active support and participation of everyone, especially men and boys.

The Gender Equality Charter will be launched at an event on 10 March in Barking Town Hall, and will be the centrepiece of the council’s second annual, Women’s Empowerment Month.

Adventures at Unison Women’s Conference

Last month I was delighted to be invited to present at Unison Women’s Conference in

unwc15Southport on behalf of the Women’s Budget Group. Last year I also presented at the Local Government Conference and there was a lot of enthusiasm for my analysis of local government spending and the impact on gender equality. I also gave a similar talk to the Essex Feminist Collective who were the ones who recommended me to speak at Unison.

unwc15 2

It was a fascinating morning as the caucus passed motions. Much to my delight

one of these motions was a call to continue to work closely with the Women’s Budget Group on the ongoing impacts of austerity on women, which was an

excellent start to the day.

In the afternoon I was presenting in the main conference hall which was slightly terrifying. We first looked at some of the problems with economic theory which is predicated on the household male-breadwinner model and does not have any means for understanding how resources are split within the household. Secondly there is a total failure by mainstream economics to take into account the impact of unpaid care work. We then moved to local government and looked at equality impact assessments. These can be quite dry but they are a good tool to show how the basics of gender budget analysis works.

It was a fantastic day and I am looking forward to working with Unison more closely this year.

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Liberal Democract Councillor and candidate answers #Vote4Equality questions

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:

Cllr Lyn BartonThanks 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.

Colchester UKIP candidate Sarah Hardy answers questions on women’s rights

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

ukip

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.

 

Plan F – economic recovery for gender equality

tweet womens roomToday, the organisation I work for – the Women’s Budget Group released a briefing outlining how austerity in the UK is hitting women harder than men. Though there are signs of economic recovery they are not yet apparent in the lives of real women. The briefing outlines what is needed to make recovery benefit men and women – plan f.

The briefing was also covered by the Observer and was timed with the Labour Party Conference in Brighton where they were also discussing of the economy. I was delighted to be invited by Caroline Criado-Perez to guest tweet for the Women’s Room on this subject. The conversation was fascinating we covered free school meals (one of Ed Milliband’s announcements today), child care, unconditional basic income, investing in social housing and making social housing accessible, apprenticeships and much, much more.

Come join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #planf, look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Is it time for a new debate about gender equality?

I’m delighted to have my piece on this issue published on the Society Women at the topCentral blog at the University of Essex. It is reproduced here:

‘Check your privilege’ is a phrase that increasingly crops up in equality debates and no more so than in feminism. It aims to hold to account the white, educated middle class women who spearhead the feminist movement, asking them to consider their narrow breadth of experience before speaking on behalf of ‘all women’. It has been a divisive concept, but the idea that feminism is only for the elite is nothing new.

A report from Institute for Public Policy Research  (IPPR) suggests that recent feminist campaigns are on the wrong track and the movement should, in essence, ‘check its privilege’ in order to change things for the many rather than the few.

The report, Great Expectations – Exploring the Promise of Gender Equality argues that a focus on ‘women at the top’ – that is to improve female representation in politics and on corporate boards – will not produce the changes needed to empower all women. Campaigns such as the Fawcett Society’s ‘Women and Power’ focus on getting already educated and privileged women into powerful positions rather than transforming the economic and social landscape that keeps most other women lagging behind.

Flexibility should occur at the bottom as well at the top of the labour market and we should aim to raise the status and pay of the jobs that women do, especially care work.

The report combines statistical analysis of the National Child Development Study, the British Cohort Study and Understanding Society with interviews of women in 50 families to examine progress on women’s equality across three generations.

Through this, the researchers examine the barriers to equality that women in the UK still face and conclude that legislation can only go so far. Women have gained legal equality in most areas and whilst this has helped reduce discrimination in the workplace, for example, there are other hurdles it won’t address.

Research released in July from the Economic and Social Research Council concluded that despite the increase in female breadwinners, women still do most of the housework and IPPR’s own research discovered that the burden of children and the elderly is still very much the female domain.

How fairly care work is organised is heavily correlated with women and men’s educational and class background. The more educated a woman is, the longer she waits to have children, which tends to result in a more equitable split of housework and childcare. Fathers too are increasingly spending more time with their children but these fathers are also more highly educated.

Listen to a podcast about the research with Glenn Gottfried, IPPR

Little has changed for women with no higher education or who work in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. These women tend to have children earlier, in their teens and twenties, but the impact this has on their potential earnings is actually worse than for the previous generation of women. Those born in 1958 who had children early would expect to earn 17% less than women without children. For those born in 1970. the figure is 20%. Read more

CEDAW – what have budgets got to do with it?

First published on the Women’s Resource Centre Tumblr

cedawNext week the government comes under review by the UN to see whether they are complying with the catchily-named Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The government must report to the committee about the steps they have made towards women’s equality in key areas such as health, employment, education, representation, social and economic benefits, sex role stereotyping, trafficking and marriage and family law.

Just three weeks prior to this, the Chancellor announced his spending review for 2015-16 detailing government spending cuts and increases in advance of the 2015 election. But how and why are CEDAW and the government’s economic policies connected?

How governments spend and raise money have different implications on women and men. When the some of the Women’s Budget Group, a network of over 200 academics and experts, met to discuss the Chancellor’s spending review, it was clear his announcement held significant disadvantages to women.

Though CEDAW makes no specific references to public expenditure, it does ask the government to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against and ‘ensure the full development and advancement of’ women (Articles 2, 3). They must achieve this not only through active government policy to improve gender equality but also to ensure that their policies don’t unintentionally discriminate against women.

Read more

Turning back the clock on women: Northern Ireland and the recession

‘The model of society being held up for women is, “go back to the home, pick up the unpaid caring role that we, the governments, cannot cover and we will focus on incentivising your husband to support you”.’

(The Northern Ireland Economy: Women on the Edge, Women’s Resource and Development Agency 2011)

This is the message being sent by the government to the women of Northern Ireland according to a new 160 page report on women and the recession – The Northern Ireland Economy: Women on the edge? – a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the financial crisis on women.

It examines a range of issues including childcare, lone parents, older and younger women, migrant women, pensions, welfare reform, debt and housing.

The report, published at the beginning of July by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency and funded by the Office of the First Minster and Deputy First Minister,  provides evidence that women are being disproportionately impacted by the financial crisis and ensuing budget cuts.

The dry statistics of job losses and low wages are brought to life by quotations from interviews and focus groups held with a range of women across the region. One said, “my wages are not going anywhere. Diesel has gone up. I’ve had to use the tumble dryer in bad weather. The cost of nappies has gone up. And I’m expecting another child.”

Another said, “I go and stay with my mum 2/3 nights a week because I cannot afford to keep the heating on. The price of oil is terrible and I have to cut back until I get paid again.”

Read more