Spurred on by International Women’s Day on Thursday a group of us from Dartford CLP headed down to Canterbury for this event.
Since becoming Kent’s only Labour MP last June, Rosie Duffield has become the pride of the Labour Party movement throughout Kent, with all of us feeling that she is ‘our Rosie’ .
The fact she worked in ‘ordinary, but important’ jobs such as a Teaching Assistant and for charities and juggled this with being a single mother has certainly been inspiring for the rank and file female Labour members.
Ive written before about how in my experience women often play down their skills and experiences and do not realise the value they could add to their communities as councillors https://theavengeruk.com/2018/02/28/a-womans-place-is-on-the-ballot-by-kelly-grehan/ ; so it was interesting to hear Rosie say that not so long ago she felt that standing as an MP was not a realistic option for her and that talking to a fabulous woman called Frances Scott from 50:50 Parliament had made the difference in her outlook.
Frances explained that she launched the 50:50 Parliament campaign which campaigns for gender equality at Westminster with the aim to inspire, encourage and support women in being elected to Westminster and is asking Parliament and all the political parties to work on solutions.
It is very exciting to know that this is exactly what encouraged Rosie.
Women are 51% of the population so it is indefensible that women make up just 32% of our MPs.
Frances spoke about how men can represent women (and vice versa) but are more likely to do a good job when there are women around.
All people use their experiences to understand the world, so it is no surprise that issues which primarily concerning women such as maternity, childcare, the wage gap and domestic abuse have not been priority issues within a male dominated parliament.
Men and women have different experiences – it is not that one is superior to the other – they are just different and all people benefit from those different experiences being valued.
Laura Cashman is Programme Director for Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University. She made the point that woman and men vote in the same proportions – yet the false narrative that ‘women are not interested in politics’ persists.
The idea that women cannot be good mothers and good politicians is a myth. Just look at the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern who is currently pregnant, and closer to home, in France last year; Senator Larissa Walters addressed the chamber whilst breastfeeding her baby.
Yet woman are sidelined in arguments, for example in the Brexit debate only 16% of media appearances to discuss the issue were women!
Given a choice of seminars I opted (after some deliberation it must be said) for Confidence In Campaigning; led by an inspiring woman called Fiona Crawford.
Like many Labour party activists Fiona came to prominence after feeling compelled to campaign on issues she felt strongly about such as racism and the ‘Save Broadstairs High Street’ campaign. This spurred her on to other campaigning.
Other women told of their campaigning experiences, with the message being that campaigning is so varied that there is something everyone can excel at – whether it be door knocking, designing leaflets, making displays and numerous other things.
Hearing women talk with passion about their champion of various causes was so motivating, and a reminder of how much woman have to offer.
What I am increasingly learning is that ‘inspired women’ inspire other women.
As women, we need to get better at telling others what we have achieved and what we value about them.
#AskHerToStand was a campaign championed by 50:50 Parliament.
The power of the movement was bought home to me speaking to one of the members of my group, Sarah Crook, attending her first political event.
Sarah commented “50 : 50 really struck a chord with me. It has seriously made me think about standing. I cannot believe in 2018 it’s still a 2:1 ratio of men to women in Parliament. Frances was so impassioned – she made me want to campaign for the movement”
I ask all women (and men) to join https://5050parliament.co.uk/ and ask friends to think about standing for parliament, council and all other public offices.
Together we can make a difference.
Kelly Grehan is a member of Dartford Labour Party and co founder and writer for The Avenger.