WED 24 OCT: ‘Suffragettes’ to descend on Parliament
Photo-call: Olympic Suffragettes, Helen Pankhurst and MPs taking part in photo-call on Parliament Square: 13:00, 24.10.12
As the child sexual exploitation convictions in Rochdale and other towns reveal widespread abuse of girls, and as evidence grows that Government cuts are hitting women hardest, suffragette leader Sylvia Pankhurst’s granddaughter, Dr Helen Pankhurst (1), will lead UK Feminista’s mass Feminist Lobby of Parliament (2) this Wednesday 24 October – 106 years after her great grandmother, Emmeline, did the same.
She will be joined by over 200 women and men from around the country who will meet face to face with their MPs to call for urgent action on women’s equality. The lobby will feature a performance by the ‘Olympic Suffragettes’ – a group of women who performed as suffragettes in Danny Boyle’s 2012 Olympics opening ceremony earlier this year (3), as well as speeches by Yvette Cooper MP, Caroline Lucas MP and Amber Rudd MP.
Women and men at the lobby will be calling for urgent action by MPs to stop a growing tide of attacks on women’s rights. These include the disproportionate and disastrous impact of Government cuts on women’s equality and moves to restrict access to abortion (4). Lobbyists will also demand a range of actions by their MPs to tackle violence against women; improve the representation of women across society; promote equality in the economy, work and family; and ensure justice and rights for women (5).
84 years on from women finally winning the right to vote and feminism today remains an unfinished revolution:
- Women are outnumbered four to one in parliament
- The full-time pay gap is 15%, and 40% of ethnic minority women live in poverty
- Up to three million women and girls in the UK experience rape, domestic violence, stalking or other violence each year
- The costs of childcare in the UK are amongst the highest in the world
Also taking part in the Feminist Lobby of Parliament are a broad range of leading women’s organisations, including: the Fawcett Society, End Violence Against Women Coalition, British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Women for Refugee Women, Daycare Trust and Object.
Dr Helen Pankhurst said:
“In the century since the Suffragettes lobbied parliament much has changed for women, yet age-old inequalities persist and new forms arise. Lobbying parliament today is as urgent and vital as it has ever been. Politicians and other leaders can and must do more to tackle the serious injustices against women that persist – and the human rights violations that they contribute to – and that continue to thwart our potential as a society. Women and men coming together on one day in a mass lobby of parliament is a perfect way to remind our leaders that we expect more from them – they can and must do more!”
Elli Moody, Policy and Campaigns Manager at UK Feminista, said:
“Progress in parliament on tackling women’s inequality isn’t just slow, in some areas it’s gone into reverse. Abortion rights are under threat and the Government’s cuts are eroding women’s economic independence. All too often women’s equality is treated as a side issue in parliament, yet it is fundamental to building a better society. Feminism should be at the heart of British politics. “The problem is not a lack of practical solutions. We have decades’ worth of research and evidence on how to drive forward progress on women’s rights. The problem is a lack of political will. On 24 October women and men from across the country will issue an urgent wake-up call to parliament: it’s time to stop the attacks and start pushing forwards.”
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Notes to editors
1. Helen Pankhurst is the great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/21/women-rights-march-on-parliament. On 19 February 1906 Emmeline Pankhurst led hundreds of women to the Houses of Parliament to lobby MPs on learning that the new Government had not included women’s enfranchisement in its programme – as announced in the King’s Speech.
2. UK Feminista supports people to campaign for a world where women and men are equal. Established in 2010, UK Feminista has quickly become one of the leading national voices of feminism and a powerful campaigning force: www.ukfeminista.org.uk. The Feminist Lobby of Parliament takes place on Wednesday 24 October. The order of the day is as follows:
- Rally: 11:00-12:30, Church House, 27 Great Smith Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AZ. Featuring talks by Yvette Cooper MP, Caroline Lucas MP and Amber Rudd MP, as well as a performance by the Olympic Suffragettes.
- Photo-call: 13:00-13:30, Parliament Square, City of Westminster, London. SW1P. Present at the photo-call will be Helen Pankhurst, the ‘Olympic Suffragettes’, supporting MPs and lobby participants.
- Lobby: 14:00-16:00, Houses of Parliament, London. SW1A
Towns and cities that constituents are travelling from to join the lobby include: Alnwick, Ashburton, Birghton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Doncaster, Dudsbury, Great Yeldham- Halstead, Leeds, Macclesfield, Newcastle upon Tyne, Norwich, Nottingham, Oldham, Oxford, Rickmansworth and Southampton.
4. The Coalition Government’s austerity agenda has disproportionately affected women and abortion rights have come under sustained attack in parliament over the past two years. Most recently, Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, called for a reduction in the abortion time limit and anti-choice MP Jeremy Hunt has been appointed Secretary of State for Health.
5. Constituents at the lobby will ask their MPs to take the following action:
Help ensure every school plays their part in preventing violence against women and girls: ‘Talk to schools in your area about the importance of tackling violence against women and girls in schools and write to Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, asking him to make prevention work in schools a priority in his department.’
Take action to end the stereotyping, objectification and sexualisation of women in the media: ‘When the Leveson Inquiry report is published in November, show support for action to ensure that the press does not discriminate against women.’
Take a stand for urgent investment in childcare for all: ‘Write to the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, asking him to restore the childcare element of Working Tax Credit to previous levels and to ring-fence funding for Sure Start children’s centres. Talk to your local authority about the need to invest in Sure Start and affordable childcare as a priority.’
Take action to ensure justice for women seeking asylum: ‘Show leadership in challenging the culture of disbelief in the UK Border Agency and call for free quality legal advice and representation for all women seeking asylum so that women fleeing persecution receive fairer decisions on their asylum claims.’
Protect reproductive rights and support an abortion law for the 21st century: ‘Commit to speak out in support of the right to safe, legal abortion for all women and for reform of the 1967 Abortion Act to extend it to Northern Ireland. Take action to prevent anti-choice protests from continuing outside abortion clinics where women’s safety and privacy is threatened.’