New coalition of women backs Harman’s quota
Last week, Harriet Harman announced controversial plans for a 50:50 quota for women and men in the Shadow Cabinet.
A new coalition of women’s organisations, the 50:50 Coalition, has formed to publicly back Harman’s move and promote gender parity in British politics.
The National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO), The Million Women Rise Coalition, Women’s Views on News, the UK section of the Women’s International League for Peace Freedom (UK WILPF) and The London Feminist Network together represent a vast number of smaller organisations, and millions of British women. They have joined together to campaign for women’s equal representation in British politics.
Following the recent election, women’s representation in the UK Parliament remains outrageously low at just 22%. The UK is now put to shame not just by progressive Northern European states, but by newly-formed post-conflict democracies such as Rwanda. Radical action is necessary if significant change is to be made.
Alison Clarke, Founder of Women’s Views on News said "Women are never going to have anything like equal representation if we just carry on the way we are. We saw that all-women shortlists had an impact and we know from other countries that quotas produce results. And we need results, not because the issue of equal representation is a numbers game but because it is a crucial reflection of the health of our democracy."
Annette Lawson, O.B.E., Chair of the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations said: “It is vital for democracy that there is equal representation of women and men in political decision-making: without the different life experiences and perspectives each brings to the table, policy formulation itself is biased. Essential issues are omitted and decisions made that will impact women differently – usually disadvantageously – compared with men. Sufficient numbers of each around a table also leads to different ways of handling discourse, of negotiation and of reaching consensus. These are all essential for the Shadow Cabinet and of course for the governing Cabinet too.”
Finn Mackay, Founder of The London Feminist Network said "Politics is part of life and affects everyone in our society and around the world. Decisions are being made in our names every day, often ones which disproportionately affect women and children, and yet our voices are not represented in positions of power. Indeed it is time for change, not more of the same, we should diversify and rejuvenate our political system and make it truly representative, this campaign is a start on that journey." Harman’s 50/50 split in a Labour shadow cabinet would signal a serious adoption of an effective measure to promote women's political representation. It would be an indicator of the party's high level of commitment to gender issues.”
Tracey Carboni of the Million Women Rise Coalition said: “Gender quotas can be viewed as a strategy that counteracts the bias inherent in mainstream parties towards men. Men remain in power, representing their own world view and interests.There is evidence from the Scandinavian experience that more women in positions of power will lead to a greater commitment to women's demands. This is supported by the willingness of the last Labour government, who had fewer but yet committed women in positions of power to legislate on issues impacting on women. One such area was that of prostitution, and the legislation here took account of the lived experience of exploited women. Increasing the quota of women in power will increase this potential.
"However any quota must also represent the diversity of women, otherwise it risks promoting policies that represent t he interests of only the more privileged groups of women and will therefore be counterproductive.
"Having more women in positions of power is just one aspect of what needs to be a multi-pronged strategy for achieving equality. Those in power also need to remain committed to having links with grassroots women's organisations” Pat Pleasance, President of UK WILPF said: “WILPF calls on governments internationally to give women the opportunity to gain the skills to be in the highest positions of decision-making, yet even in the United Kingdom we do not have equality in this area. It is time that more than 50% of the population has at least 50% of the influence”.
"Having more women in positions of power is just one aspect of what needs to be a multi-pronged strategy for achieving equality. Those in power also need to remain committed to having links with grassroots women's organisations”
Pat Pleasance, President of UK WILPF said: “WILPF calls on governments internationally to give women the opportunity to gain the skills to be in the highest positions of decision-making, yet even in the United Kingdom we do not have equality in this area. It is time that more than 50% of the population has at least 50% of the influence”.
Notes to Editors:
- The 50:50 Coalition is a newly-formed non-partisan coalition of women’s organisations and networks formed to promote gender parity and women’s representation in British politics.
- The National Alliance of Women's Organisations (NAWO, founded 1989) is an umbrella organisation for more than 60 organisations and individuals based in England. All members are concerned to ensure women gain access to their human rights, and to make equality between women and men a reality. Its diverse membership includes: single issue to specialist organisations, faith groups, health centres, arts-based organisations and others offering services and campaigning across a range of women's concerns. nawo.org.uk
- The Million Women Rise Coalition is a diverse group of individual women and women representatives from the Voluntary and Community Sector. The Coalition has no formal or informal links to any particular or specific feminist or political networks. The Coalition is not partisan and brings together women who want to highlight the continuation of all forms of violence against women and demand that steps are taken to put an end to this. millionwomenrise.com
- The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF, founded 1915) is an international NGO with National Sections in 35 countries. WILPF has consultative status with the UN to formally lobby the UN and its agencies on issues related to peace, disarmament and economic justice.ukwilpf.org.uk
- Women's Views On News is a daily, online women's news service set up to address the very real bias against women in the news. Our mission is to tell the stories written, by for and about women that are currently not told.womensviewsonnews.org
- The London Feminist Network is one of the largest, grassroots Feminist activist organisations in the country with nearly 1500 members. LFN is not linked to any political party. The aim is to unite Feminist individuals and groups in action, to campaign against patriarchy in all its forms and to empower women in their movement and beyond. ldnfeministnetwork.ik.com