Guest post by Emilie Mendham
Nottingham saw another local election on Thursday 2nd May, and the Women’s Centre community, as well as NTU students, helped put together a WoManifesto.
NTU politics lecturer Dr Katerina Krulisova and Katie Finnegan-Clarke from the Women’s Centre put together the event. The first one of hopefully many to come. A manifesto for the change in policy and promises from our parties to work together to make it safer to be a woman in Nottingham. I attended the debate last Monday at the Newton Building on city campus to learn more about what the candidates could offer if they were elected.
Dr Paula Black, a director of Nottingham Civic Change, was the chair speaker at the panel. I thought it was thoughtful that she allowed people that weren’t comfortable to speak to use their phones or post it notes.
The women’s manifesto, or womanifesto, has only four sections. Firstly austerity – the economic cuts to public spending continue to make women amongst others poorer. It proposes an Equality Impact assessment, flexible working and living wage, sanitary protection to be freely available, and training and funding for female start-ups. The second section spoke about violence, with the demand of more funding and training for all types of abuse facing women. The third part, equality, proposed 50% of councillors and executive board to be female and there to be no gender pay gap.
The panel first opened with some opening statements before asking questions from the audience.
One of the speakers on the panel Helen Voce, the CEO at Nottingham’s Centre, was inspiring with her opening comments, reminding us that since the centre opened in the 1970s the issues women face are still the same issues today. Affordable housing, childcare, and healthcare, and more. Helen acted as a reminder for the politicians that came to event of the agenda of the women behind the paper, the real lives that their promises affected.
The politicians on the panel began with Sue Mallender, the Green Party Councillor for Rushcliffe Borough Council who I met before the event started. She was quick to tell me facts about how currently with mostly men in power, but women statistically share a bigger interest in the environment. She also told me that the Green Party is mostly female. She had clear proposals, and it seemed she had a lot to get across in her small spaces to speak. She spoke for more social housing, as she gave statistics on how the government dropped affordable housing from 30% to 5% creating the housing crisis. She advocated for universal citizens income, the end of age discrimination in pay, gender wage gap closure and more legal aid.
The Chair of the Nottingham Liberal Democrats’, Rebecca Procter, was one of the more eloquent candidates – and also the youngest. Rebecca is 20 years old, and in her first year of university. She is an advocate for accessibility within politics, and society but her inexperience was slightly clear, although not an issue. She did, unlike the other politicians, provide information and preparation for her statements, saying the public – especially women – should see something in return following the 12% increase in taxes that went to the police this year.
Councillor Corall Jenkins, a Labour Party Councillor at Nottingham City Council, was also on the panel. She was strong in her beliefs and agreed with the women’s manifesto, offering valuable insight into life not only as a politician but as a woman in Nottingham. Although encouraging of many different policies and promises, she had evasive language to many women’s issues with no guarantee for change. Trade Union Leader Jean Thorpe spoke powerfully on the “1600 jobs and 180 million pound cuts the Tories made” that resulted in day centre closures and many others that left women hurt nationally and in Nottingham. The room was strong against the Conservatives for this, until Jean Thorpe targeted Coral Jenkins directly asking her to stand up against this and fight back against cuts. Councillor Jenkins remained evasive and non-committal to this.
Monica Monni was the fourth politician, a Conservative party town council candidate for Bingham Town East. Probably the most interesting candidate on the panel, but not quite for what she would like. Monica spoke in favour of the Conservatives stating how they had helped with lots of women’s issues, yet they were all debunked in front of her. The first being how the government had proposed and made upskirting illegal, to which Rebecca Proctor stated it was the Liberal Democrats that pushed this until it became criminalised.
The next was the tampon tax, after the leader of the Free Period Nottingham movement in the audience asked about the end of categorizing sanitary products as a luxury item. Monica was quick to point out this was an EU issue and not a Conservative government, and how the Minister for civil society announced charities could apply for over £600,000 in tampon tax so it can be redistributed for society. I was surprised at this and almost happy, until Helen Voce was quick to add this was not true. With incredibly strict regulations and “hoops to jump through” no women’s charity, especially local, is big enough to ask for the funding.
Overall the experience of the woman’s manifesto, #womanifesto19, was empowering and informative. It definitely awoke my love of both politics and women’s issues. It wasn’t at all how I thought it would be with gentle talk – it was full of important issues such as decriminalizing prostitution, abortion healthcare, landlords abusing women in the sex for rent scandal, and many other important issues.
More information about the WoManifesto can be found here.
This article was originally published in Platform Magazine.