When you vote on 8 June what issues will influence you? Brexit, war with North Korea, terrorism, immigration – or austerity, childcare, education, the NHS, social care and the basic unfairness of our society. Will politicians be campaigning on women’s issues, recognising that the economy does not work for the majority, and that the weakest – including women and children – are ignored by our political system?
We have a female prime minister but do we have equality? For decades, female MPs have made up less than 5 per cent of the total seats and today we have only 191 women MPs out of 650. And whilst women aren’t making political decisions, we’re definitely feeling the impact of them.
Over the course of this decade more than £66 billion will be taken from women’s pockets in tax rises and cuts in social security. Austerity has hit women twice as hard as men. Women pensioners will be 20 per cent worse off as their rights are specifically targeted and women will retire on an average income of £14,300 a year compared with £19,100 for men.
Women’s contributions to the economy as carers are not recognised and, as health and social care systems are continually underfunded, women are bearing the burden as their caring provision increases. An army of grandmothers provide childcare to support working parents. Women provide the backbone of the voluntary sector, filling roles that have been the victims of austerity: they staff the food banks and work for underfunded charities.
Women’s jobs have been consistently underpaid and women are further penalised for taking time out of full-time unemployment. It is time to recognise the economic contribution of women, both paid and unpaid, visible or invisible.
Men’s jobs are seen as a profitable investment whilst women’s jobs are an expense to be cut. A hard Brexit threatens to further disadvantage women by removing employment rights and cutting funding for vital social projects.
Politicians talk about GDP, trade deals, government expenditure and tax regimes rather than the impact of these decisions. Cuts affect households, Women’s Aid charities, Sure Start, which helps families, and public sector employment, where job losses impact women disproportionately. Millions of pounds are spent on building new roads while local public transport becomes increasingly expensive.
The Women’s Equality Party asked women what they wanted: a political system that meets all needs – young and old, rich and poor, disabled and able-bodied, regardless of our race or sexuality. We can only achieve a better society by working together.
We believe in a fairer society – equality for women, not at the expense of men, but to build a better country for us all – where women and girls can live in safety, where social media is no longer a dangerous place, where caring is valued: a truly equal society.
The Women’s Equality Party cares about electing politicians who listen to all. Our leader, Sophie Walker, is standing against Philip Davies in Shipley, who, just a few months ago, hit the headlines for trying to talk out a bill that will implement a gold standard framework for eliminating violence against women and girls.
The statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in Manchester’s St Peter’s Square will recognise the achievement of women in gaining votes, but history has shown that this was just the beginning of the struggle. Over the next month please ask candidates what they are doing to achieve equality. Make a difference this general election and give your voices and votes to equality.
Equality campaigner Anne Ryan is a supporter of the Women’s Equality Party
Main image: Emmeline Pankhurst