#WE never get bored of the Question – Why Women’s Equality

Our mayoral candidate and Women’s Equality Party leader says she never tires of answering the question. We are the Women’s Equality Party because nowhere in the world do women enjoy complete equality … the legislation may exist, the will may be expressed but it simply doesn’t happen yet. #WE are here to change that.

Last month, I was invited with fellow #WE activist, Alison Proud to meet with another political party committed to make change -Lewisham People Before Profit. They may be small but they are effective locally. We had been told that their membership is predominantly male so I’d prepared a presentation of what a gender equal London could look like. In the event, the turn out was mixed. Did #WE fail to attract the men, or did #WE succeed in engaging women with the London politics?

Here’s what we shared:

In 2016, nowhere in the world is there gender equality. (Even the Scandinavian states haven’t managed it – although we have plenty to learn from them). Women and transgender people still bear the brunt of society’s ills. BAME women and transgender people even more so and London is one of the most unequal cities – WE want to change that.

I’ve been told that women have enough equality – and in principle and in law, yes, we do.So I’ve been thinking about what Women’s Equality would mean on the ground and how WE are setting about achieving it .

To me, it would mean that women can move around this city in safety at any time of day and night for work, for worship or for pleasure wearing any form of dress from Burkha to bikini, at any age: in a buggie or silver-haired. To me it would mean being able to go out without worrying that I might be one of 15 women reporting a rape tonight – and not – paying a transport tax and contributing to pollution by using taxis or a car to stay safe. It would mean safe cycling with bike parks, showers and changing facilities in work places.

Women’s Equality would mean having the time to enjoy the wonders that London offers, not having to work 3 part time low-paid jobs to pay an unaffordable rent, or top up child care provision. There is a 23% gender pay gap in London 45 years after the Equal Pay Act came into being.

Women’s Equality would mean that a woman could afford to live somewhere decent because she’s not earning £8 to her male colleagues’ £10. It would mean she and her partner could choose equally how to manage their caring responsibilities with flexible working for all genders, childcare provided in places close to home or close to work.

Women’s Equality would mean that a woman doesn’t – after years of devalued and invisible caring work – find herself dependent on the state or a partner because she’s ended up without a decent pension, or she’s ill or deskilled, and struggling to re-enter the workforce in her 50s. If Women earned at the same rate as men and were recognized for all the work (up to 60 hours per week) in “free” caring they do, WE would contribute £70 million to the Treasury every year:

Women’s Equality means equal pay, means equal pension, means a decent place to live.

We’re aiming to work with the other parties and WE think that Equal Pay and affordable Housing is so important in all of this, it has to be a cross-party solution and a strategy that lives longer than a 5 year term. It needs to be about people and to be community centred, not about the developers’ dividends.

One thing we do know and the Mayor can do: A Woman’s Equality is knowing that if her partner gets violent she could go to a Women’s refuge, ring-fenced from the London Mayor’s budget, keeping London’s most vulnerable safe, offering them a future.

Women’s Equality would be: both parents being at ease telling their employer they’re pregnant – in a recent poll 75% of women reported being discriminated at work during or after pregnancy – how are we supposed – in that climate – to encourage the many men who want to take up their parental leave entitlement?

The Government and the current Mayor are really proud to have a growing self-employment culture. They talk about enterprise and entrepreneurs but they don’t look at how many women are struggling to survive in under-employment, in insecure freelance roles, with no minimum rates enforcement, without recourse to benefits and secure pensions.

It’s a time bomb.

Women’s Equality in London would mean teachers, employers and parents encouraging all our children to study everything without gender bias. WE want to see girls encouraged into sciences, and boys and girls not shunning arts.

It would mean young girls and boys growing up without seeing hypersexualised images on advertising hoardings, warping their understanding of what women and men grow up to be and how they should be valued.

It would mean women being called upon to appear in the media for their knowledge, wit and expertise, not their looks.

And in public life, Women’s Equality would mean – a balance in public & political leadership –and on the boards of institutions and companies, in business, culture, sport, the police.

Only by gaining seats at these tables of power and influence can we have our voices heard. WE are 51% of the population, society needs us to be part of the process, putting our core objectives into the mix at every opportunity.

And our message is working. In Westminster and in City Hall, they are blowing the dust off their policies and saying “oh look – look at all this Equality we’ve legislated for and haven’t made happen. Look at these 47,000 people who want us to do something” (and remember 47,000 members of UKIP became 4 million votes in 2015).

Whilst it’s natural and not surprising that the bulk of our membership currently is female, the WE Party is not a party just for women – far from it. The female vote is a tricky concept: I didn’t find anyone jumping on a pink bus or responding to Cameron’s attempt to capture the “women’s” vote in 2015. Health, education, childcare, violence against women are not women’s issues – neither to my mind is Feminism.

WE are small and WE are doing things differently because WE don’t want to have to exist. WE are non-partisan. WE want to work with whomever agrees with and can progress our core objectives. Women are people; we care about the same things as men: housing, taxation, welfare, the environment.

WE are offering the opportunity – through achieving Women’s Equality – for a better safer, fitter, greener, affordable London for everyone.

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