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What women want: part two

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What Women Want and why Labour should listenWhat Women Want and why Labour should listen.

By Fran O’Leary.

International Women’s Day shouldn’t be the only day when women’s voices are amplified in the media and politics. What women want should be right at the heart of policy making.

That’s why I welcome the campaign that Gloria de Piero and Kate Green are driving to encourage more women to register to vote.

It’s also why RegistHERtoVote is supporting What Women Want 2.0 – a new project using tech innovation to capture women’s views.

RegistHERtoVote, a non-party political grass-roots action campaign, was set up by Martha Dalton, David Wild, me and a broad range of campaigners, last year to encourage women to register and to vote.

During the 2015 General Election RegistHERtoVote, alongside a number of other campaigns and initiatives, helped to increase voter turnout among young women by 5 per cent. This represented a significant shift and means that young women are now no longer the group least likely to vote in the UK.

But with 34 per cent of women not turning out to vote at last year’s election, there is still a lot more to do.

RegistHERtoVote has been exploring what women want from politics and what would motivate them to get more involved.

One women told us “I’ve never felt like politicians want to know what I think”, while a 34 year-old woman from Cheshire said that politicians “need to be stronger and listen to the people”.

A 19 year-old student from London said she thought politicians “are meant to be for the people but their views aren’t listened to.”

Clearly there is a lot more that politicians, parties and other groups need to do to listen, and show that they are listening.

It’s for this reason that on International Women’s Day, we’re supporting What Women Want 2.0.

Back in 1996, a group of campaigners came up with a simple idea to capture a women’s vision for society. It was to ask the question “What do you want?” on a postcard.

Sue Tibballs OBE led the What Women Want campaign in the 1990s, which attracted the support of Anita Roddick, with The Body Shop distributing cards along with the Co-op Bank, Cosmopolitan magazine and many others.

More than 10,000 women took part, from across the UK, and it became the biggest ever survey of British women.

In giving a voice to women, it offered an unprecedented insight into women’s thoughts and opinions and had a significant impact on the gender debate at the time. The survey was not aligned with any particular political party and had wide-ranging influence.

Within the Labour Party, What Women Want was one of the things that helped to prompt renewed discussions on childcare, the environment and other issues. This, in turn, had an influence on the direction of travel for Labour Party policy at that time.

Twenty years later, What Women Want 2.0 aims to reach over one million British women to gain powerful new insights into their views and listen to what they have to say.

Launching on International Women’s Day, the new survey uses a ground-breaking digital platform that will provide new insights and data.

Appgree is a web and mobile application that allows groups of people to share their ideas and opinions and reach a consensus, using a statistics-based algorithm. Appgree is one of the digital tools that has been used by Podemos, the tech-savvy, left wing political party in Spain.

On a personal level, as a Labour Party member, I believe the labour movement could benefit from listening to the results of What Women Want 2.0.

After the 2015 General Election, one thing was clear. As the pollster, Peter Kellner put it “Nowadays, women are more likely than men to vote Labour.”

His analysis showed that Labour’s advantage was specifically among women under 50.

Meanwhile research from Ipsos MORI estimated that 44 per cent of 18-24 year old women would have voted Labour at the last General Election, while turnout amongst this group was very low at just 44 per cent.

This means Labour could have a lot to gain if we managed to attract the support of more women – particularly younger women – and encouraged them to get on the register and vote.

For Labour to continue to be relevant to the lives of women, the Party needs to listen. That is why I hope Labour listens to the results of What Women Want 2.0.

Fran O’Leary is co-founder of @RegistHERtoVote. A version of this article appeared on the LabourList website on 8 March 2016.

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