INTERVIEW: WOMEN'S EQUALITY PARTY
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party shares her ideas in the run up to the party conference…
If I could create a fragrance for women I would capture the essence of freedom.
Imagine being able to bottle the good things from a little girl’s life. Running flat out or flying down slides or up in the air on the swings; imagining superheroes; learning in classrooms full of possibility and inspiration.
Imagine being able to distil the freedom of a young woman’s night out in any city; revelling in food and drink, celebrating among old friends and enjoying the pleasure of meeting new ones; laughing and joking, then walking home under the stars in appreciation of the world and her place in it.
Imagine stoppering the freedom of motherhood – the fragrance of a small person post-bath further scented with the joy of shared care responsibilities and the delight of a unfettered work life – and consider also distilling the freedom to not be a mother and feel valued and loved as an individual.
If only the lives of girls and women could be transformed by a spray of magic. If only our girls and young women and mothers and women of all backgrounds and experiences could live so freely – as people rather than gender stereotypes, as creators rather than primary carers; valued by a society in which everyone is equal – innovators, dreamers and leaders without limits.
The next best thing to magic? Welcome to the Women’s Equality Party – a movement of active, imaginative women being the change they want to see.
We decided that rather than wait for mainstream political parties to understand that women have waited too long for freedom, we would build our own road to revolution, write our own policies, stand our own candidates and contest elections.
We are the political party we waited so long for the others to be. Because there is no more time to wait. Male MPs in the House of Commons outnumber women MPs by two to one. Only seven of the UK’s top one hundred companies are headed by women. Childcare in the UK is the most expensive in the world and the median pay gap remains stubbornly around 19 percent. Two women a week are killed by a partner or former partner. Sexual harassment and violence is at epidemic levels. Young girls are experiencing mental ill health in numbers hitherto unrecorded.
And all of this in 2018, a year when so much time has been devoted to celebrating the suffragettes whose dauntless activism won women the right to vote. What use is a vote if we cannot use it to vote for a party that sees, hears and represents us? If black and minority ethnic women, disabled women, working class women, lesbian and bisexual women are still seen as ‘other’?
We are climbing on the shoulders of the suffragettes and the vital work they did in fighting for women’s rights to stake a claim to politics for all women. And we are doing that work with a laser-like focus on the structural inequalities that act as barriers to all women. We have seven core objectives. Our focus is on achieving an equal education system, equally shared parenting and care-giving; equal pay and opportunity; equal representation at work and in politics; ending violence against women and girls; achieving equality in the media; and equality in health.
As the Leader of the Women’s Equality Party the question I am asked most is: What is the one thing you want? It’s one that always makes me laugh because you’d think was clear from my job title. But in fact it masks another question which is: What is the silver bullet to solve all of this?
My answer is always the same. There is no silver bullet. This requires hard, thoughtful, collaborative, dedicated work. If you insist on asking me what one thing I want I will tell you: to stop being told we can only have one thing. I want everything, all of it. For all of us. I want every girl to grow up without the limits of patriarchy defining her choices. And while I’m there, I want every boy to grow up without those limitations too.
In a couple of weeks’ time WE will be holding our second Party conference, from September 7-9 in Kettering. In a room of a thousand feminists, dreams will become concrete and political plans will be hatched to build the next phase of women’s equality.
Our conference theme is Making Change Happen. Our focus in on what is practical and real. We offer training and support for new activists and speakers – the first night is always an open mic night to give every single delegate the opportunity to find their voice – as well as workshops, panels and inspiring speakers on everything from Brexit to Big Data.
Tickets are selling fast. But I’d love you to come along, be that as a member, supporter, observer, activist or feminist of any age, race or background. You can come with hope and know that we are a place for women to flourish. WE are YOU. And YOU have a place with us whether you joined from the start, joined along the way or want to join right now.
Tickets for the conference: https://ti.to/womensequality/conference-2018