Yesterday Evening at the Amersham Arms, WEP Lewisham held a fundraiser to raise money for our Local Council election campaigns in Ladywell, Lewisham Central and Brockley.

Three brilliant comedians treated us to take their take on the world and we hugely grateful to Ada Campe for setting it up and to Rachel Creeger and New Cross’s own Thanyia Moore for appearing. fb header comedy night_edited-1

Always up for a challenge, I took the straight woman slot and introduced what our WEP Lewisham campaign is about. Here’s roughly what I said.

Good evening everyone:

It’s great to get to speak at an event like this because:

1 –  I have to be brief

2 –  I don’t have to be funny

3  – I don’t have to learn my lines.

Thank you so much for coming to support the Women’s Equality Party Lewisham this evening. We’ve got a long way on volunteer power (see me afterwards or anyone in a WEP shirt to find out more about that ). But every now and then we need cold hard cash. So we’re very grateful for your contributions and we’ll be even more grateful if you share a bit more over at the merchandise stall and in the raffle.

On the subject of gratitude and donations, thanks to Amersham Arms for hosting us again, to Hannah Marsden and all the volunteers from WEP Lewisham for organizing, the donors to the raffle, and to the three terrific acts Rachel Creeger, Thanyia Moore and of course the inimitable Ada Campe! who you’ll be seeing after you’ve been shopping at the interval. These brilliantly talented women are doubly brilliant in our eyes for their generosity in performing for us this evening as a fundraiser. I work in arts – I’m sure some you do too or are self-employed, we know that this is a big ask and we are very grateful.

So. This is a very special event for us  because it’s our chance to announce and launch our triple bill of Women’s Equality Party Lewisham Candidates:
Kate Vang standing in Brockley, Mandu Reid, standing in Lewisham Central and me Rebecca Manson Jones, standing in Ladywell. Behind us is a super team of volunteers and we do need more of you to join us. The little or the lot that you can do in the next 7 weeks could make history.

Three years ago, I had no concept that I’d be doing this. Three years ago I was a carer, I was despairing about the state of the world facing a general election, and 3 years ago the Women’s Equality Party was formed. And in it, I found a space to talk and learn about grassroots and global issues that matter to me, in language that I could understand and be part of.

The Women’s Equality Party isn’t asking for much. We require equality. It’s quite simple. And we’re happy to work with other parties & allies to achieve it.

We’re doing politics differently because the old way hasn’t worked for women, not the policy nor the process – And in fact it’s only “worked” on a very simplistic level for a minority of men (plus a few very privileged women) according to a narrow set of “winning” criteria, designed by those men for those men. WE are here to disrupt and transform that system into one which sees all of us as citizens: a social and economic system that sees and values all aspects of our lives, all our work in employment and emotional labour at home, a system that recognises and supports all our rights to thrive in careers, in family life, in study, in arts and sports, and ensures our safety at home and in public spaces.

And on 3rd May, we have our next opportunity to make our mark for equality as voters in the local council elections. So if you live in an area where there isn’t a WEP candidate, ask the other candidates what they are doing to achieve women’s equality.

Lewisham is a progressive, multicultural community and it’s become my home in the last 7 years: I expect to grow old here. But not everyone accesses the arts, culture, the parks, the open spaces that I enjoy. Women in Lewisham are still more likely to be low earners, despite the London Living Wage initiatives, more likely to be the hidden homeless, housed in temporary accommodation. And Lewisham’s women & girls are more likely to experience domestic violence or sexual assault – or both – than other women and girls in London and the UK, and are more likely to be impacted by cuts to public services. As school governor, I see the inequality gulf opening up and this shouldn’t happen to our children, no less talented, committed or imaginative than other young people in London. The Women’s Equality Party knows that we can and must do better. WE know that women’s equality is better for everyone, partly because women and men tell us so. WE know that many men in Lewisham are also getting a raw deal under the current system, and that their disadvantage contributes to the picture for women that I’ve just painted.

Currently, Lewisham Councillors are mostly from one political persuasion and where one party remains unchallenged, scrutiny and consultation suffer. I want to see a diversity of perspective in the Council chamber. I want to see party politics removed from the decision-making, and to ensure through having a greater mix of view points, that we get rigorous scrutiny and genuine consultation.

And WE aren’t here to create a moaning opposition of one or two voices. For us, it’s not about opposition but it is about asserting the rights of 51% of the population with rigour, insight and imagination. And in so doing, we will make this borough fit for every woman, man and child to live and love in.

Three years ago when Catherine Mayer and Sandi Toksvig founded the Women’s Equality Party, there was a question about the need.

We were told that  women have equality because of the Equality Act OR If there was still inequality we were told it was

  • women’s own fault for lacking confidence

and/or

  • less important than other issues.

Now, 3 years on, most people understand that legal protections are not the same as equality (and can be reversed), but still we are told by the major parties that they are getting round to it.

WEP Lewisham, as many of you know, has used these first three years to march, rally, leaflet. We’ve reached out, leaned in, researched and contributed to policy & were the first-ever Branch to stand  a WEP candidate in a Council election in 2016. We’re impatient for change.

We don’t want to wait another 100 years to see Equality and with your help we won’t have to.