Ask Her To Stand

On Wednesday 18th July 2018, Sophia, Roxy and Kiran got a train into London to go and attend a conference put on by the Fawcett Society and 50:50Parliament, working on getting more women into Parliament by asking women to stand.

The Conference aimed to support women to run for political positions and work across party lines to tackle inequality.

The evening offered panel sessions and workshops giving practical advice to all those who self-defined as women and wanted to get into politics and public life.

Between the three of us we covered all 4 workshops, networked and bagged a bit of swag to give to Ele when we got back!

We sat near the front ready for the opening session and as we looked around we saw a huge room, full of women.

Representing every section of intersectionality.

Representing multiple layers of oppressions and privileges and united together, demanding change, wanting a different state of affairs.

We were so inspired and we were definitely in the right place.

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From L-R: Sophia, Roxy, Kiran

Plenary Session

This opening session was incredible. Chaired by Sam Smethers – Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society.

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We sat and listened to some amazing women:

Lib Dem: Baroness Sal Brinton

SNP: Alison Thewliss MP

Labour: Dawn Butler

WEP: Sophie Walker

Conservative, WESC: Maria Miller

Green: Amelia Womack

 

The audience asked questions and the panel gave us all some insight. The women of parliament collaborate a lot to work towards shared goals even when their politics disagree.

One audience member stood up, asking a problematic question. She wanted to know if the room and the panel would be happy if 50 percent of parliament was trans women to the 50 percent men.

To our relief the entire room replied yes.

Then each panel member spoke up, reaffirmed that transwomen are women.

One panel member pointed out that we are yet to even have one trans MP.

We were so happy that we were truly in an intersectional feminist space. We hope the audience member reviews her own prejudices now.

The panel continued to discuss the issues and solutions that they thought would help get equality for women.

Amelia Womack spoke about the need for job sharing options for MPs. It is the only job that does not allow this. Job sharing would ensure accessibility for anyone that had caring responsibilities. Sophie Walker passionately asked the room, “Are you honestly telling me that the world is run by white men because they are better than, for example, black women?! Are you kidding me?It’s about time we see all women’s lives reflecting on EVERY page of manifestos”.

Dawn Butler spoke about the standards we expect women to have to compete with men. She said she wanted to champion mediocre women. “I’ll be the champion of mediocre women, I want to see mediocre women in politics.” She went on to say that other women must help women to succeed. If you get up the ladder, lay foundations for an elevator. Help women behind you get up quicker. Support them.

 

We learned that a lot of the parties were using all women shortlists for roles, and that the Green Party extended nomination times if no women were put forward by another 2 weeks.

These are things we are going to keep in mind for the smaller project at Keele.

This panel session was beyond inspiring, just the room full of women with multiple experiences, the room was diverse and just as an intersectional movement would be.

It was truly amazing to be surrounded by so many women.

We felt really moved.

Summary of Workshops:

Why Stand? What difference do women make? (50:50 Parliament)

This workshop started with a presentation (that we are bringing back to Keele) to tell us the statistics that underlie the under-representation of women in politics. We then heard from three women. Two who had recently won their seats in 2017 Labour and Conservative MPs, and one lady who was heading up the #AskHerToStand campaign, offering support for any women that wanted to get into the Lib Dems.

We learned about what inspired them to stand, and found out it was a rather ordinary small action that led them to have an extraordinary change of career: Someone asked them to.

This simple task, a second human telling them, ‘You know, you’d make a good MP, have you considered running?’. It reassured us that the journey we want W.o.K.E to take is on the right path. We are so keen to empower everyone on campus, and remind them of how awesome they already are.

The second common point they shared was that they had looked around and realised, some of their male counterparts were truly awful at their jobs! They then realised they could do a much better job.

Something we learned all throughout the sessions is that representation shapes policy. Having women in the room and a diverse representation of women, ensures that policies that represent them are made and put forward.

This is what we want to achieve. Let’s get ourselves at the events, in the rooms and in the roles that will make a difference at Keele.

What’s Stopping You? Overcoming the barriers to getting into politics (Parliament Project)

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This was an energetic and awesome workshop with breakout groups of 3-5 women supported by a facilitator. There were flip-charts and marker pens and loud noises! We talked about the barriers to participation and split them into categories

Despite the breakout groups being small when we all fed back what was discussed there was so many common threads. All the women spoke about a lack of confidence, a feeling they weren’t knowledgeable enough and a worry that they wouldn’t be able to do the roles.

These women were strong, talented people and yet we all shared this imposter syndrome.

Building Your Political CV: How to build the relevant experience

This workshop focussed on helping women make the most out of the experience they already had. Focussing on the transferable skills and boosting the confidence of the women in the room. We already have the skills to do these roles, it is about realising it!

Political Careers: Working in and around politics

This workshop gave women practical advice and allowed women to talk to those who already had political careers.

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We came back energised and inspired and determined to take more Keele women to conferences.

The shared learning and the empowerment was fantastic.

The event was live streamed and recorded so follow this link to learn more:

Ask Her to Stand 2018 Video of Conference

We hope you join us on a conference soon.

If you find something you think others would enjoy going to let us know!

For upcoming events click here

 

 

 

W.o.K.E Two Weeks (ish) In

Read on for a blog post by Sophia Hayat Taha, co-founder of W.o.K.E

Just over two weeks ago we started the wheels in motion for the W.o.K.E project. 

We have speakers lined up, T-shirts available, a fabulous website (if I do say so myself), direction for writers, writers coming forward, a visible presence on social media which is growing quickly, and people talking about us, coming forward to work together.  Basically we are about to get some amazing changes at Keele actively happening.

It is awesome. It is scary. It is empowering. Clearly we all want change.

What we don’t have yet is our full collection of champions, we are sorely missing more people of colour, trans voices and non-binary voices.

We are lucky enough to have some champions for our mental health based volunteer roles and some faith W.o.K.E champions in the pipeline too (watch this space!).

The missing champion roles scare me, and yes I know we are in the middle of summer, and only two weeks in, but patience has never been a strong point of mine.

I am in a bit of a cycle of wondering what I can do to make the roles more appealing and keep people safe and supported. Please do get in touch with concerns or suggestions.

We want to empower everyone who is usually ignored and kept down by multiple structural oppressions.

After London Pride being hijacked by a problematic group of anti-trans voices we posted our support for our trans sisters and brothers on Instagram and twitter.

We lost a few followers,  had to report and delete comments, and block someone. We will continue to do this every time we see bigotry. We have our safe space rules and we will continue to update and improve on them so that everyone can participate.

W.o.K.E is an intersectional movement. If that troubles you, we have reading lists that will be live soon, we suggest you educate yourself.

Challenge your privileges and have a long think about why you think you can oppress someone else. 

We have many opportunities to learn over the next year, with workshops coming to Keele, external workshops being signposted and travel arranged for groups that want to go (watch this space), conferences, reading lists, activities in informal settings, and more formal speaker sessions.

This is a long journey that we all need to take. None of us is free from our own privileges. A few of mine are that I am a cis, white-passing, straight-passing woman. We all have our own oppressions and struggles. We can all learn. We can all do better.

Over the year we have workshops challenging white feminism and the white supremacy underlying white tears. We have workshops that are specifically for men to learn about intersectional feminism. We have workshops tackling how to be a better feminist in practice instead of just in words. We have practical help for those that want to put themselves forward when nominations open for elected positions on campus. We have well-being activities, collaborations with the careers services coming up and cooperation with Keele’s decolonise the curriculum project.

This year is going to be incredible.

I am so excited. I am so scared, but I hope that you will feel empowered.

In solidarity

Sophia