Equal Power coalition launched to transform women's representation in politics

By agency reporter
December 27, 2019

In the general election, 220 women MPs were elected, pushing women’s representation in parliament up  from 32 per cent to 34 per cent - placing the UK 36th in the word between Belarus and Monaco.

The Fawcett Society says that while we must celebrate a record number of women taking their seats in parliament, progress is still far too slow and some groups of women are still substantially under represented. Women of colour, disabled women, women of faith, young women and women with caring responsibilities often face multiple barriers and levels of discrimination which prevent them reaching positions of power.

In response, a coalition of women’s and civil society organisations is launching Equal Power, a ground-breaking campaign to tear down the barriers that stop women’s voices from being heard at every level of politics and within their communities.  This campaign offers women the chance to participate in workshops, networks and support circles which will support their entry into public and political life.

The Equal Power coalition led by The Fawcett Society includes Centenary Action Group, Citizens UK, 50:50 Parliament, Muslim Women’s Network UK and The Parliament Project and is funded by a half a million-pound grant from Comic Relief.

Equal Power will engage with over 4,500 women over three years with sessions in London, Greater Manchester and Birmingham and the West Midlands:

  • Women who are interested in learning how to stand for election as an MP or local councillor can take part in ‘become a candidate’ training sessions and peer support circles.
  • Workshop sessions will include training on community organising to help participants understand how to make change both in their local area and nationally on issues they care about.
  • Women of colour will be invited to take part in ‘overcoming barriers’ sessions which are being run by Muslim Women’s Network UK, to help women of colour stand for election.
  • Women politicians can join the Equal Power network, and gain and give support for women in Westminster and beyond.

Fawcett Society Chief Executive, Sam Smethers says: “We know that getting women equally represented in positions of power has limitless benefits for society.  This project will enable us to tear down the barriers that we know prevent women from putting themselves forward or winning a place at the table, and enable us all to benefit from the skills and talents of a diverse range of women.

“We are delighted to have obtained Comic Relief funding for this project and to be working with such an impressive range of partners.”

Faeeza Vaid, Executive Director at Muslim Women's Network UK said: “Now more than ever we need public leaders to better reflect and represent the communities they serve. We’re so pleased that the Equal Power programme will address the multiple barriers faced by BAME women and help to empower more diverse women to be civically and politically active."

Helen Pankhurst, Convener Centenary Action Group said: “101 years and 28 elections since some women in the UK were first able to vote, only 220 of MPs are women. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women are chronically underrepresented. Moreover, up and down the country, many women feel that national and local government do not represent their interests. We can, we must do so much better. Equal Power is about ‘Deeds not Words’, a way of accelerating the rate of change, of working actively towards an equal and representative democracy in which women's voices and their interests are articulated and fully represented."

Frances Scott, Founder and Director of 50:50 Parliament said: “We want to build a better democracy that draws upon the widest possible pool of talent including the 32 million women who live and work in the UK. This is crucial because representation shapes policy and diversity leads to better decision making. We are taking action to create a Parliament in which men and women run the country and plan the future together in equal numbers. Westminster should be leading the way in showing respect for women, their experience and opinions." 

* Women can sign up to register for the project and receive updates on workshops, networks, peer support circles, campaign actions and news here 

* The Fawcett Society https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/

[Ekk/6]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.