These are the Questions that we are putting to the candidates in the six Worcestershire constituencies. Thanks to WEPLewisham for creating them.
- A CARING ECONOMY – It has been estimated that economic value of the unpaid care provided by women in the UK is around £77 billion per year. Where care is paid it is underpaid, undervalued and the people who do it (mostly women) are not respected and are regarded as “economically inactive”. 82% of the professional caring workforce are women, many of them are engaged on zero-hour contracts and are unable to fulfill their duties in the time allotted to them. What will you do to support carers – professional and family-based – and how will your social care policy understand their work as a vital social investment rather than as a financial drain? What will you do to build a caring economy?
- The Impact of BREXIT: The pre-referendum debate ignored women. Now women risk paying the greatest price for Brexit – not only in monetary terms also in their security, autonomy and wellbeing – just as they have borne the brunt of austerity measures. What will you do to ensure that the voices of women by which we mean all women – white women and women of colour, disabled women, migrant women, LGBTQ+ women, younger and older women – are heard and their rights and needs are protected?
- WOMEN AND MIGRATION People migrate for many reasons. In the UK migrant women are often classed as “dependent.” The minimal income threshold is harder for women to attain (lower wages, part-time working, the gender pay gap) and the passport stamp “no recourse to public services” renders them unable to access vital services for maternity care or to escape domestic violence. Our migration system ignores the unpaid work of migrant women and their contribution to our society is rendered invisible. Our migration system sees men claiming asylum and their female relatives left exposed to all manner of dangers in under-resourced refugee camps awaiting “dependency” status. What will you do to restructure the migration system, so that it responds adequately to the gendered realities of migration, separation and multiple marginalization of women and girl refugees?
- EQUAL PAY 45 years after the equal pay act, for every hour they work, women still earn just 81p of every £1 earned by men. Are you tired of hearing this? So are WE: but we have to keep saying it and we have to add that this gap is wider if you are from a BAME community, are disabled, are over 50 or a combination of these. The pay gap also results in a pension gap causing women to retire into poverty. What actions will you take as Member of Parliament to close the gender pay & pensions gap?
- EQUAL EDUCATION – many people think that because girls out-perform boys at school, there is no issue with equality of education or that the pendulum has swung too far. Wrong. The subjects that girls and boys are encouraged to study and enjoy are gendered. Society’s expectations – even senior politicians’ expectations – are that there are girls/boys jobs. We all have unconscious bias. This conscious or unconscious bias affects the opportunities and life chances of all young people – female, male and transgender – and is detrimental to the formation of a truly equal society. What will you do to ensure gender becomes irrelevant in our education system and ceases to influence the life chances of all our children?
- EQUAL PARENTING. Our employment culture and pay gap still militates against men and women sharing parental leave or looking after disabled relatives, or siblings sharing elder or end of life care. WE have a fully-costed care package of nine months shared parental leave and free universal childcare of 40 hours from 9 months. How will you work with us to implement universal childcare and our other proposals to enable all families however constituted – and in employment or self-employment – to have a full and productive family and working life?
- WE require an end to violence against women and girls. Violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of women’s inequality. Rape Crisis England & Wales receives over 3000 calls per week – and this is just one form of violence that women experience. What will you do to ensure that women are safe in their homes, at work, study and in public, that they are believed when they report violence and harassment? What will you do to stamp out the culture that blames the victim and to reinstate vital women’s services that protect and support women and girls fleeing abuse?
- Equal Representation: WE are delighted to see so many women standing for parliament this year – BUT too many of them are standing in unwinnable seats. 8 million women did not vote in the 2015 General Election. On local councils, women are still under-represented in senior positions and over-represented on committees of lesser influence. On the boards of public institutions and private companies, women are the minority. A society is not equal where one group retains most of the power. What will you do as an MP to ensure that women are elected, appointed and promoted at all levels in politics, business, arts, culture, sports, education/academia?
- Equal Health – medical research too often ignores the physiological differences between women and men. Gender neutral healthcare harms all genders: men are less likely to seek healthcare and their life expectancy is shorter; women present with different symptoms for conditions such as cardiac arrest and have been misdiagnosed. Despite constituting 77% of NHS England workforce, women are missing from the decision-making processes. What are your proposals to create a health service that recognizes gender difference and offers equality of care and research for all?
- EQUALITY IN THE MEDIA – The UK is a world leader in the creation of arts, culture and our flagship media are world recognized brands. Our media both comments upon and forms public discussion across all of human endeavour and therefore has a responsibility to reflect the whole of society. And yet from sport to fashion, finance to music, the environment to science to politics, it is still working from the white, male gaze. Whilst the situation is improving in traditional formats, on social media platforms new threats to free expression by women and minorities proliferate. How will you hold the media up to scrutiny and challenge the reductive gender stereotyping which it perpetuates? How will you act to end the attempts to suppress women’s and minority voices on social media?
We hope our questions – put impartially to all candidates – will encourage the local candidates from all parties and independents to focus their thinking about women’s equality and how important it is that 51% of the population are enabled to participate fully in society. #WEPhustings
Read more information about the Women’s Equality Party objectives and our General Election 2017 Manifesto