Tag Archives: women

Women stand to lose a lot from Brexit

One of the amazing innovations with modern technology is being able to watch half forgotten programmes and films from bygone ages. Gainsborough Pictures conjure up an England of sunny summers, tea on the lawn and Saturday sing-alongs at the local theatre.

It is a charming, national picture of how things used to be – for a few. The power of cinema, however, gives the impression of life being like that for everyone. It most certainly wasn’t.

Along with many , I remember what it was really like in the 1960s and early 1970s. The three day week, when electricity was rationed. Or the strikes, dole queues, poverty wages, unsafe working conditions, slums and crumbling schools which were more the norm for most. Women had little status in society and many worked in poor, part time jobs, to keep the family fed.

For some, it was worse. Rented accommodation was the norm. The infamous ‘No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs’ sign on a London property was recorded for one television programme and not considered unusual.

Change began in the 1970s. That was when we finally joined the European Economic Community. It marked a change in our realisation of who we were as a nation and the creation of new opportunities – economic, social and civic.

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The Independent View: Invitation to Lib Dem Women – Be involved with research on women’s political representation

One hundred years after women gained the right to vote and to be elected to Parliament, women are still fewer than one-third of MPs. The Fawcett Society, with the support of the Government Equalities Office, is undertaking a landmark piece of research into the barriers to women being selected by political parties, and then elected to Parliament.

We are working with all major political parties across the UK, and we need your help. Have you at any time since 2010:

– Been selected as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate but not subsequently elected
OR
– Considered putting yourself forward for selection but, for any reason, decided against standing

If you fit one of these categories, then we would really appreciate if could attend one of our focus groups and share your experiences in a group of Lib Dem women. Our focus groups will be held weekday evenings in London over the 2-week period 14th – 24th May. We will be holding similar sessions with all the major political parties in cities around the UK.

All the information you share will be anonymised and treated in strictest confidence. Focus groups will be facilitated by a member of the Fawcett Society team. Food and refreshments will be provided.

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Scottish Lib Dems highlight “destructive” short prison sentences for pregnant women

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today revealed that dozens of pregnant women have served destructive short-term prison sentences in the last five years. He says that this einforces the need for the Scottish Government to press ahead with a presumption against jail sentences of less than 12 months.

He uncovered figures under freedom of information which reveal that since 2013 there have been 104 pregnant women in prison, of whom 31 gave birth while serving their sentence. Of these 104 women, 37 were given sentences of less than 12 months.

In 2012, the Scottish Government commissioned a report from former Prosecutor Dame Elish Angiolini highlighted the negative impact of custodial sentences on the children of offenders, something that affects many more women than men:

More women offenders have dependant children than men and only a small proportion (17 per cent) of children with mothers in prison live with their fathers while their mother is incarcerated. Approximately 30 per cent of children with imprisoned parents will develop physical and mental health problems, and there is a higher risk of these children themselves also ending up in prison.

Liam said:

The fact that 37 expectant mothers have been given destructive short-term sentences in recent years should have alarm bells ringing.

All the evidence shows that short-term sentences don’t work and are less effective than robust community-based disposals in reducing reoffending. Rates of reoffending amongst those who have served short stints in prison are sky high. That is why Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently urged the Scottish Government to introduce a presumption against sentences of less than 12 months, something Ministers now accept would be a positive step.

If in the process it means more pregnant women pay for any crime they have committed through robust means short of prison then that has to be in everyone’s interests.

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It’s International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world. The theme this year is #PressforProgress. One startling fact: the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report shows that gender parity is 217 years away!

And on to harassment in its many forms – our own Wera Hobhouse MP is calling on the government to make upskirting a criminal offence as reported by Caron on Tuesday. Wera says,

The fact that this is not a sexual offence in England baffles me, as much as it horrifies me. In Scotland upskirting was made an offence back in 2009. There is simply no excuse for ignoring this issue any longer.

Relying on outraging public decency is absurd. It should not matter how public it was or who else saw it. The law should focus on the individual victims and the crime committed against them. It is their body that is being taken advantage of without their consent.

But true equality is about resolving power inequality. Professor Mary Beard’s latest book, Women and Power, discusses the structures inherent in society which need to change. In discussions with a friend this week we realised that until we get most histories written by women, most laws written by women, society governed by women in the majority at every level, we will never achieve gender equality. The world is not only run predominantly by men but is also contextualised in books, histories, films, etc., by men. The whole world is skewed by a man’s perspective on everything. Living is framed by men.

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Layla Moran highlights period poverty in Parliament debate

On Wednesday this week, Layla Moran held a debate in Westminster Hall to highlight the issue of period poverty and the need to provide sanitary protection for those most vulnerable. It was an interesting debate, but there’s no good the minister making sympathetic noises and everybody agreeing with each other if the Government doesn’t do something about it. Layla pointed this out.

Here is her main speech but you can read all the interventions and the rest of the debate here. 

I am delighted to have secured this debate on an important topic that—let’s face it—remains taboo and is still a bit embarrassing for many people. It is precisely because no one wants to talk about it that I believe it is so critical that we do, so I will start by putting my money where my mouth is and telling the House one of my most embarrassing moments.

I was in the first week of a new school. I was 12. I was feeling very out of place and very lost. I saw a teacher beckoning me from the top of a stairwell. I walked towards her and said, “Yes, Miss? What did I do wrong?” I was convinced something was wrong. She said, “Don’t worry—everything’s fine, but I wanted to let you know that you have a stain of blood on your skirt.” Of course, it was not fine. I looked behind and on my light blue uniform there was indeed such a stain. My face went red, and then white. I remember going to the bathroom and crying, and when I stopped crying I called my mum. She came and we went home; I told the school that I wanted to go home to change. In fact, she had brought me another skirt, but I was just so mortified by how many people might have seen it and not said anything.

For me, that was a one-off and I was better prepared the next time, but for thousands of girls in this country, missing school because they cannot afford sanitary products is a regular occurrence. It is an outrage that in a country as wealthy as Britain we let that happen. Thanks to the double whammy of the stigma attached to both poverty and periods, we simply do not know the scale of the problem.

Food banks are now actively asking for donations of sanitary products. Teachers are dipping into their own pockets to keep supplies of sanitary products in their desks.

Many of us first realised that period poverty was such an issue for young women when it came to light that teachers in Leeds had got in touch with a charity called Freedom4Girls that provides sanitary products to women in Kenya and had asked whether it would be willing to give them a supply for girls in their school. They had noticed that girls were missing class at around the same time every month, like clockwork. Given the substitutes, including rolled-up toilet paper or old socks, that girls from low-income families are using, it is no surprise that they choose to stay home. Now, I admit that the rolled-up toilet tissue trick has served me well, but I can go and buy some products or go home. For these girls, it is a regular occurrence. It should not be.

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Christine Jardine remembers Dr Elsie Inglis

It’s 100 years this week since Dr Elsie Inglis, doctor, pioneer of women’s hospitals and suffragist died. During the first world war, her offer to establish a medical unit staffed by female professionals was rebuffed by the War Office who told her to go home and sit still. She didn’t give up and instead the French government took up her offer and set her unit up in Serbia.

Dr Inglis was remembered yesterday in a Westminster Hall debate. Here’s our Christine Jardine’s contribution:

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Visibility of Women (or lack thereof)

‘Their heads are full of cotton hay and rags’, according to Prof Higgins.

Walk in any British city or town and see if, as you walk, there are any commemorative works of art. War memorials you will almost certainly see. Royalty you will almost certainly see. Famous men you will almost certainly see.

Then, look to see how many women are commemorated. Queen Victoria and the Virgin Mary apart, few places have statuary of real women.

The statue of Millicent Fawcett, which will shortly be sited in Parliament Square, is, therefore, highly unusual and hugely significant. Of some 925 commemorative pieces in Britain, …

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What Brexit means for women

Recently, an event was held in London, to discuss Brexit, and its effect on the rights of women and what might change following its implementation. As a participant, I had arrived with the view that it would be difficult to change the law as it stood, but new laws might be affected.

For the last 43 years, most if not all of our Equalities legislation has come through the European Union. For women in particular, that has changed both their entitlements and rights as matters from equal pay to maternity leave have been secured by that route. It is astonishing to think that women, up until that legislation was passed, had more rights in Anglo Saxon England than in the 800 or so years that followed the Norman invasion.

What transpired at the meeting caused much anxiety among those present. For it is the case that, as most if not all of our Equalities law emanates from Brussels. It has been adopted into UK law, so can be cut back by use of new powers currently going through Parliament.

There are several risk areas, according to the Fawcett Society, which cover rights at work, women’s economic life, safety from attacks and racism. Those explicitly protective of women such as the Pregnant Workers Directive, or indirect protection such as that provided by The Part Time Worker Directive and the Agency Directive, which protects pension rights, written contracts giving details of working hours and pay and parental leave. It matters for those working part time, where the majority are women.

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Come to the future women MPs weekend!

The Campaign for Gender Balance (CGB) and the Diversity & Talent Support Team are pleased to announce that this year’s Future Women MPs Weekend will be held on Saturday 4 – Sunday 5 March 2017 at the Jurys Inn Hotel in Milton Keynes.

Future Women MPs weekend is an intensive residential training weekend for any aspiring female MPs within the party; whether you are already an approved candidate or are yet to take that initial first step, this is the perfect way to kick start your journey to Westminster. Jo Swinson, Tessa Munt and Jenny Willott all started their successful quests for a seat in Parliament at a FWMPs Weekend, and so could you!

As well as expert advice on your political career you will also receive:

  • Information and advice on all aspects of the process from selection to standing for Parliament
  • Personalised advice and guidance from top party trainers and representatives
  • A chance to ask any burning questions and address any concerns you may have
  • A fantastic opportunity to network and make useful contacts with other aspiring women within the party
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And your problem with an innovative way to tell girls they don’t have to put up with violence is…..?

There are few things in life more irritating than the Daily Fail crowing. It is doing just that this morning after International Development Minister Priti Patel announced that funding for what the Fail called the “Ethiopian equivalent of the Spice Girls” was being cut from our international aid budget. In the same way as they pepper words like “bogus” around when talking about asylum seekers, or make it sound like every second person claiming benefits is doing so fraudulently (when the figure is less than 1%), they are trying to make it sound like all the money that we send overseas is being frittered away on frivolity.

What they don’t tell you is that the group Yegna is a brilliant, innovative and creative way of getting an important message about women’s and girls’ rights through to both men and women. It tells girls that they don’t have to put up with being beaten by their parents. It changes minds. Just look at this poster from the Girl Effect, who manage this project.

 

I’d particularly want to draw your attention to the changes in knowledge, attitudes and behaviours section. Almost all boys who were exposed to Yegna’s work would be moved to report it if they were aware of a girl being forced into marriage compared with just over half who were not. 59% of girls beaten by their parents who had listened to Yegna would agree that it should be reported to the authorities compared with less than a third who had not. 25% more girls who had listened to Yegna realised that it was wrong for men to hit their wives.

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Sexual harassment and assault of women on trains must be taken more seriously

I am rather embarrassed when I see members of my own gender rushing into comments threads about women’s rights/safety with “This is sexist against men”/”What about men/everybody”-type comments.

A) It’s boring. B) It’s embarrassing. Do they not realise how stupid they look?

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Video: The Liberal Democrat Women’s Manifesto

When I saw this yesterday, my blood was boiling for a bit. You have to stick with it, because it does actually get better.

There are a couple of things I’d have done differently. There was no need for body parts to come into the conversation at all. We need to think about all sorts of inclusion, here.

Secondly, I’d have liked a recognition that women face particular barriers and Liberal Democrats want to tackle those – but the way to do that is for us all to do that together. Gender discrimination is bad for everybody.

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LibLink: Miriam Gonzalez Durantez: It is the duty of every woman of my generation to stand up for young girls

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez joined Jo Swinson to visit female apprentices at a motorbike manufacturer in Jo’s constituency:

She also helped Jo launch an action plan for gender equality which includes action to tackle domestic violence, more childcare provision, more opportunities for women in science and engineering and work on body image.

Miriam went for a chat with Bryony Gordon from the Telegraph who was daft enough to ask her if Nick had sent her to help female candidates. That was never going to end well.

Miriam has been writing about her Inspiring Women campaign for the Huffington Post.

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Brian Paddick on Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion: “We need a change of attitude in society and across the political spectrum”

brian-paddickBrian Paddick — former Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London’s Metropolitan Police Service, twice Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London and now a Lib Dem peer — spoke in this week’s House of Lords debate, ‘Women: Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion’. Here’s what he said…

Lord Paddick (LD): … As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester has already said, the issues of homelessness, domestic violence and social exclusion of women are linked. In particular, it is male violence against women that lies behind many of these problems. For example, as my noble friend Lady Tyler of Enfield said, the homeless charity, St Mungo’s, reports that half of its female clients have experienced domestic violence compared with only 5% of its male clients. Research already referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, shows that between 50% and 80% of women in prison have experienced domestic or sexual violence. Two-thirds of domestic violence survivors say that their problematic substance misuse began following domestic violence. The evidence is compelling, not only that women are disproportionately victims of domestic violence and abuse, almost always but not exclusively perpetrated by men, but that violence and abuse lies behind much of the homelessness and social exclusion faced by women.

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Olly Grender on Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion: “Housing supply lies at the heart of the solution of some of these complex issues”

olly grenderOlly Grender — former director of communications for housing charity Shelter, now a Lib Dem peer — spoke in this week’s House of Lords debate, ‘Women: Homelessness, Domestic Violence and Social Exclusion’. Here’s what she said…

Baroness Grender (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady King of Bow, for initiating this debate. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Rebuck, and the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, on their moving and inspirational speeches. We look forward to many more. I also take this opportunity to congratulate my noble friend Lady Garden of Frognal on her return to the government Benches. It will not surprise her to hear me, as a woman on these Benches, say the more the merrier—more please.

The noble Baroness, Lady King, has managed to take three complex areas of social policy and combine them in one impressive debate. They are complex in part because the reasons behind the homelessness of women are sometimes hard to detect and far too often hidden away. They are complex indeed, but at the heart of this debate is a very simple truth, which is that there is a terrible cost when a woman has no home, no escape from violence and no apparent way back from social exclusion, as was so movingly described by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove. It is likely that the cost is not just to her but to the children she may have with her, and to us as a nation as they grow up.

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Conference Speeches: Lynne Featherstone: I have been able to do über-Liberal things in Government

Lynne FEatherstone 2007 Brighton conference by Liberal DemocratsConference may have been a week or so ago but we still have some keynote speeches to post. Lynne Featherstone spoke about the work she had done to help the most vulnerable people across the world with great humility. She said she had been able to introduce über-liberal policies but was also keen to pay  tribute to Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg for getting the economy on track.

She spoke powerfully about what she’s dong to protect women and girls around the globe and talked with great humility, saying that whenever she meets people in desperate circumstances she’s very aware that that could have been her. “I didn’t choose where I was born” she said. Here is the video and the text is below:

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Lorely Burt to support female entrepreneurs

lorely-outside-parliament-1 lorely burtVince Cable has appointed Lorely Burt to a new role aimed at promoting and supporting female entrepreneurs. From the Yorkshire Post:

Liberal Democrat MP Lorely Burt will help women-led businesses to understand the help available to their new and growing firms.

She started her career in the prison service and rose to become assistant governor at HMP Holloway, a tough female-only prison in North London.

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Men, is your behaviour driving women out of politics?

Imagine you are in a meeting trying to make your case. How would you feel if, every time you opened your mouth to speak, somebody interrupted you before you had got to the end of your first sentence? Not just once. Every. Single.Time.

Imagine you are in a meeting, trying to make your case, but the decision has clearly been made by a small cabal of powerful men who have reached their own understanding over dinner and some booze the night before, at an event that you were not invited to.

Imagine you are in a meeting trying to do your job …

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Kirsty Williams interview: “Scary” Paddy, women in the Cabinet and the reality of a Labour government

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has given a lively and often funny interview to Total Politics magazine in which she talks about everything from her success in persuading the minority  Labour government in Wales to implement the Pupil Premium.

What happened to the last person who said no to Paddy?

Anyone who knows Kirsty will know how down to earth she is and that comes across very much in the interview. She’s asked about whether she would move to Westminster and said that Paddy Ashdown has already asked that question:

Paddy says I should think about going to London,” Williams reveals. “He’s

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Nick needs to talk the talk as well as walk the walk on women’s equality

Some of the things Nick Clegg has championed in Government have been revolutionary for women. He’s spent years talking about shared parental leave, for example, and it’s now on the way to becoming a reality.  His interest in improving mental health and smashing the related stigma doesn’t just help women, but it does show that he’s willing to take a stand to challenge our long held assumptions. He quickly and vocally embraced equal marriage to the delight of those of us who have supported it for decades.

I know that Nick gets it on a lot of the barriers facing women …

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LibLink…Jo Swinson: Only women can help us now

Jo Swinson has been writing for Management Today about the importance of ensuring that businesses ensure that women have equal opportunity to reach senior and board levels of companies.

Women are vital to Britain’s economic recovery and we need to ensure we are making full use of their talents. That’s why the government is focused on removing the barriers that prevent women from getting ahead and achieving their full potential. We simply can’t afford to lose out on the talents and skills of over half the population.

She acknowledged progress on this but said that there was more to be done, outlining …

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Opinion: Gender quotas are the sensible way forward

laura-willoughby-encurages-women-to-become-council-candidates‘In every aspect of life in which women are undervalued, under-represented or exploited we are dedicated to achieving equality.’ (from the Preamble of the Constitution of Liberal Democrat Women)

John Stuart Mill would have been outraged that, in the second decade of the 21st century, women are still under-valued, exploited and under-represented, for it was he, speaking in the House of Commons in May 1867, who advocated votes for women.

Yet, here we are 150 years later, still trying to have equality in our society. Yes, we have women’s suffrage, but at the present rate of change, we will not have a gender balanced Parliament until 2050.

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Have YOU joined Liberal Democrat Women?

Liberal Democrat Women will formally come into being on 8 June, the culmination of 18 months’ work bringing together the party’s existing women’s organisations: Campaign for Gender Balance and Women Liberal Democrats. In launching Liberal Democrat Women we want to create a more powerful platform for all Liberal Democrats – male and female – who want to see gender equality in Westminster and beyond.

Liberal Democrat Women will focus on 4 core areas of activity: policy, campaigns, women’s representation and networking. It will do everything its predecessor organisations did, and hopefully much more.

To realise this bold ambition we need YOUR help. We need new talent for the first Liberal Democrat Women Executive, which will …

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The Independent View: Why the women-in-the-boardroom brand of feminism is limited

The government has reaffirmed its commitment to encourage firms to put more women on their boards in the wake of the launch of the first annual progress report on Lord Davies of Abersoch review of Women on Boards. In the run up to International Women’s Day last week various high profile women, from Cherie Blair to Jeanette Winterson, also argued that gender parity on company boards is the defining issue for women’s equality.

Much of the debate has centred on how to get there. The government favours a light touch approach, hoping businesses will see sense in response …

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Lynne Featherstone MP writes: How the Liberal Democrats are delivering for women

As we celebrate International Women’s Day tomorrow, I’m proud to represent Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government. I know that our involvement has made a positive impact on the lives of thousands of women in a range of ways.

We’ve got lots to shout about, so please spread the word: blog and tweet about it and forward this to your friends.

Here’s how we’re delivering for women –

  • When it comes to shielding women in need from the brunt of the economic squeeze, our policy to free the lowest paid from income tax has played a key role in protecting women. Women make

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