Thank you to Marjory Bissett & Sally Nall for responding to our questions. Marjory is the Chair of Worcester Green party responding on behalf of Louis Stephen Green candidate for Worcester.
1. A Caring Economy
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 Green Party has always been committed to equality of opportunity. We recognise that the burden of caring work, both paid and unpaid, falls disproportionately on women. In part one of our Green Guarantee 2017, we outline key manifesto points which would play a part in addressing this issue1.
- Take steps towards the introduction of a universal basic income, including a government sponsored pilot scheme, to increase security and avoid the poverty trap.
- Phase in a four-day working week (a maximum of 35 hours) and abolish exploitative zero hours contracts.
- Reduce the gap between the highest and lowest paid, and increase the minimum wage to reach a genuine living wage of £10 an hour by 2020.
- Support and promote small businesses, co-operatives and mutuals, and the roll out of high speed broadband.
Since women tend to take on the bulk of caring responsibility for sick family members, sometimes having to go so far as to take sick days themselves to provide emergency care, and very often taking on almost all the responsibility for caring for disabled children, elderly relatives and partners, we would vastly improve health and social care by properly funding our NHS. In part four of our Green Guarantee, we make manifesto pledges to this effect2.
- Close the NHS spending gap and provide an immediate cash injection, to ensure everyone can access a GP, hospitals can run properly, and staff are fairly paid.
- Major investment in social care for the elderly and all those who need it.
- Increase funding for local authorities so they can provide good quality public services and invest in our communities, creating thousands of jobs. A single budget covering health and social services, to make life easier for people who need to access several types of service.
- We will review the effectiveness of how public services are structured, sensitive to the needs of all people, including assessment of how care is provided at the transition age of 18.
- Redress benefits injustice with a social security system that gives everyone confidence they will get support when they need it, including disabled people.
In 2016, Worcestershire Mums’ Network organised a protest at County Hall against cuts to children’s centres 3. This protest was attended by Green Party candidate Louis Stephen, and was supported in the vote by county councillors Matthew Jenkins and John Raine 4. There was support for the protest from the local Green Party on social media as well as in person 5.
The Green Party would support parents by providing free universal early education and childcare from age one until the age the child starts school.
We recognise the value of work done by carers, and would significantly increase investment in social care and support for those (usually women) who take on this role 6.
2: The Impact of Brexit
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?
We think that BREXIT is not a foregone conclusion. The question posed in the referendum was very simple. We believe that once the terms of the deal are known, there should be a second referendum so that the people decide whether to take the deal or stay in the EU 7.
We would fight to keep the national debate honest.
- Take action to tackle racism and discrimination on the basis of faith, real equality for LGBTIQA+ people, equal rights for mixed gender couples to have a Civil Partnership 8
- Implement a humane immigration and asylum system that recognises and takes responsibility for Britain’s ongoing role in causing the flow of migrants worldwide 9
- Implement a UK-wide strategy to tackle gender based violence, including domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse, FGM and trafficking.
3: Women & Migration
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?
The Green Party campaigned to remain in the EU, and will continue to put pressure on those involved in Brexit negotiations to protect the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK and to seek reciprocal arrangements for UK citizens living in the EU.
This will protect people of all genders, but will be of particular importance to women, as it would resist the splitting up of families, and as women provide the majority of childcare, they will be in a precarious situation if the family is split and they effectively become single mothers 10.
We recognise that women are more likely than men to be trapped in abusive relationships, due to higher reliance on men (often part of financial abuse), and that the difficulties women face in finding any employment, let alone well-paid employment, can force women to stay in unsafe relationships by necessity.
Implementing a Universal Income would make it easier for women to escape abusive relationships, as they would have a guaranteed income. Our support for start-up companies, small businesses, and creative enterprises would make women more able to create employment for themselves, and our universal childcare from age one to the age the child starts school would help mothers to thrive, should they choose to find employment outside the home1112.
The Green Party will prosecute cases of female genital mutilation (FGM), but also prevent them. We would do this by implementing the recommendations made by the Home Affairs Committee to introduce compulsory PSHE, which includes FGM 13 14.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas tabled a Bill in Parliament to introduce PSHE in all schools, saying, ‘It is vital that young women and men are given education designed to end gender-based violence and that young women are empowered and given a framework within which to discuss their own fears and experiences of FGM’.
Caroline Lucas also wrote to the then Home Secretary Theresa May, to call on the Government to introduce mandatory training on FGM as part of child protection15.
The Green Party recognises that not all migration is legal, but that this in no way detracts from the fundamental human rights of the people who have come here. We would push for a humane immigration and asylum system 16.
Women claiming asylum can sometimes find themselves victimised by the very system which should be protecting them. Our 2017 Women’s Manifesto seeks to tackle the problems caused by immigration detention in these key ways:17
- Immediately act to protect the most vulnerable asylum seekers who have experienced rape, sexual abuse or torture, by allowing their clams to be processed in the community
- Implement a three-month maximum processing time for asylum applications
- Fund integrated support for asylum seekers
- Abolish immigration detention centres to enable all claims to be processed in the community
The issue of illegal immigration is complex, nuanced, and too large to go into in its entirely here, so the focus will be on one of the most insidious forms of violence against women – trafficking.
Fees demanded by traffickers often place trafficked people and their families in debt. In some countries, this extends to debt bondage. By placing trafficked people in debt bondage, or by exploiting their vulnerable status in a country in which they now live illegally and often without knowledge of local language, traffickers force those who have been trafficked into activities in which they would not otherwise engage. Some are forced to work for a pittance, some into domestic servitude, some, particularly women, into the sex industry, and some into crime.
The Green Party considers that such trafficking in human beings is a gross violation of human rights. Any proposals to deal with this problem should not further victimise those who are already its victims.
The Government should recognise that those who have been trafficked are the victims of human rights violations and potential witnesses to criminal investigations and prosecutions of the traffickers. Victims should not be subject to summary deportation or expulsion on the grounds of illegal or irregular entry into or residence in the country. Nor should they be prosecuted for any lack of identity documents or other minor offences which are directly attributable to their position as a victim of trafficking 18.
In our 2017 Women’s Manifesto, we introduced pledges designed to tackle the problems faced by women who find themselves in this situation. Although we would decriminalise all consensual sex work, in line with research from Amnesty International and the UN, not all sex-workers are willing participants and we must protect them too 19. We would amend existing criminal records held by sex-workers, and push for zero tolerance of coercion, violence, and sexual abuse.
4: Equal Pay
What actions will you take as Member of Parliament to close the gender pay & pensions gap?
We would end the gender pay gap, and require a minimum 40% of all members of public company and public sector boards to be women 20.
On pensions we would redress pension injustice, with a pensions system for everyone and action to enable older people to continue to be active members of society 21.
5: Equal Education
What will you do to ensure gender becomes irrelevant in our education system and ceases to influence the life chances of all our children?
The Greens pledged to end “period poverty” by providing towels and tampons to secondary school pupils5152.
Emotional literacy and well-being, social skills and physical well-being including education in sex and relationships which will build on existing good practice. This will be achieved through a broad learning environment and through more rigorous teacher training which focuses on these issues
We will teach practical life skills such as basic cooking, DIY skills, first aid, and managing of bank accounts. Children of all genders should learn these skills, rather than continuing to have skills segregated along gender lines.
We will provide education in social skills and relationships through cooperative and participative learning including group work in all areas of the curriculum and which encourages responsibility in young people, for example by enabling them to organise trips and activities.
Schools will be free from advertising and marketing, where the values and stereotypes employed in advertising and marketing can be explored, discussed and, where necessary, challenged.
As part of their duty of care schools will have strong and effective anti-bullying policies which will recognise the vulnerabilities of children from different backgrounds to the majority of pupils or who are LGBTIQA+ or have learning disabilities.
Equality and diversity will be monitored in recruitment and staff development for teaching and other educational staff.
In higher education, we require a commitment by employers to address the gender pay gap with immediate effect.
Universities will offer real support to mature students and students with families. There will be a minimum requirement for Universities and Higher Education Institutions to offer a free crèche to students and staff, nappy changing and breast-feeding facilities as well as religious facilities such as prayer spaces to cater for people from a wide range of ages, religions and ethnic backgrounds.
Accessibility will be addressed through a combination of these institutions offering Widening Participation Programmes and creating a series of firm targets which will ensure increased social diversity53.
The Green Party has consistently pushed for proper sex and relationship education (SRE). SRE should be age-appropriate, start at a sufficiently early age and continue throughout young people’s education. As part of the SRE curriculum, children should be fully aware of puberty before it happens, relationships should be taught as well as the physical aspects of sex and the potential consequences of sex before sexual activity begins. As part of SRE access to sexual health services should be made available in secondary schools, either on site or integrated with local young people’s sexual health services535455.
We will abolish the requirement for a compulsory daily act of worship. Schools which choose to continue to hold acts of worship will provide an alternative activity for learners who choose not to take part. Pupils who do not participate in worship will not suffer any form of discrimination.
Religious instruction, as distinct from religious education in understanding different religions may only take place outside of school curriculum time.
No publicly-funded school shall be run by a religious organisation. Schools may teach about religions, comparing examples which originated in each continent, but are prohibited from delivering religious instruction in any form or encouraging adherence to any particular religious belief.
Privately-funded schools run by religious organisations must reflect the inclusive nature of British society and become part of the Local Authority admissions system. This non-discriminatory approach will be extended to staff who must not be discriminated against in faith schools due to their own faith either in seeking employment or during employment.
Opt-outs from equality and diversity legislation will not be allowed for faith schools and they will not be permitted to promote homophobia or transphobia on the grounds of religion5356.
6: Equal Parenting
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?
The Green Party would provide free universal early education and childcare for all children, with formal education starting at age 722.
We would work to reduce the inequality in our society that holds people back. You can find many relevant polices in our manifesto, such as:
On the economy we would :
- Take steps towards the introduction of a universal basic income, including a government sponsored pilot scheme, as a means to increase security and avoid the poverty trap.
- Phase in a 4 day working week (a maximum of 35 hours) and abolish exploitative zero hours contracts.
- Reduce the gap between the highest and lowest paid, and increase the minimum wage to reach a genuine living wage of £10 an hour by 2020 23.
On housing we would implement:
A living rent for all through rent controls and more secure tenancies for private renters, an end to letting fees and the introduction of mandatory licensing for all landlords.
A major programme to build affordable, zero carbon homes, including 100,000 social rented homes each year by 2022.
7: WE require an end to violence against women and girls.
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?
The Green Party takes this issue very seriously. There are many connected reasons why domestic violence continues in the UK at high rates. One is the underlying high level of inequality in the UK. Studies have shown that violence is higher in unequal societies. The Green Party will fight for equality 24.
We have comprehensive policies for reducing domestic violence 25.
We will adopt a comprehensive strategy for reducing and ultimately ending hate crime, wherever it occurs 26.
We believe that education in the UK is inadequate when it comes to teaching children about emotional literacy and relationships. We would put this right 27.
8: Equal Representation
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?
The Green Party had a fine track record in this area, with our one MP, our one member of the House of Lords, two of our three MEPs, and our two London Assembly members all women. Our best hopes for winning new seats in this election are all women too. When we select candidates, we try as hard as possible to achieve a 50/50 balance.
The Green Party would improve female engagement and involvement in politics. We would:
- Introduce proportional representation (PR) for general elections and local elections. This in itself would increase the number of woman candidates, MPs and local councillors.
- Increase diversity in representative politics, with job-shares, a 50/50 Parliament, and replacing the House of Lords with an elected second chamber
- Enable every young person to take an active role in democracy, introducing non-biased political education and promoting active citizenship 28
By reducing general equality, we believe we would provide the conditions for women to thrive and compete equally. More equal societies tend to have more female representatives in politics, business etc. 29 Our education polices would also help to reduce the current levels of discrimination against women.
9: Equal Health
What are your proposals to create a health service that recognizes gender difference and offers equality of care and research for all?
Scientific research is vital for any society to flourish. Scientists and doctors are the grown-up versions of the children who took apart their toys to see how they worked, and never stopped asking, “Why?” Whilst great strides have been made in terms of representation of women in medicine and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) fields, we still have a gulf to cross if we are to see gender parity in these professions, and the way to cross that gulf is to encourage girls to maintain their interest in science and maths while they are still in school.
The Green Party is aware of the ways in which girls can be discouraged from pursuing an interest in science, perhaps feeling that science is ‘for boys’. In September 2016, The Green Party’s equalities spokesperson Sarah Cope campaigned for an exhibit in the Science Museum to be changed, as it showed ‘male’ brains and ‘female’ brains (naturally, they displayed these as blue and pink respectively), despite there not being enough evidence of gender disparity in brains to merit such a distinction. Cope stated that, ““It’s really disappointing to see the Science Museum reinforcing outdated gender stereotypes in this way. The idea of gendered brains is dubious science at best, and this kind of sexism – telling girls at a young age that they have feminine brains – is part of the reason why boys still dominate STEM subjects and less than 10% of engineers in the UK are women” 30.
The obstacles thrown up in education do not end in school. When women enter higher education, they may be negatively affected by sexual harassment, which is why our 2017 Women’s Manifesto contains the pledge:
‘Make universities and colleges safe places to learn Higher and further educational establishments will develop clear student-led policies to combat sexual abuse and harassment. These will include the requirement to monitor levels of sexual violence, and training for both staff and to enable peer-to-peer support.’31
After completing years of training to become qualified in STEM and medical subjects, the next challenge is to find a job. Funding for research is woefully inadequate in the UK, with much of the funding coming from the EU. The looming spectre of Brexit has hit science hard, and the Green Party is committed to giving the British public a say on the outcome of Brexit negotiations. 32
Not only would the drop in funding hurt our science base, but it would have potentially disastrous consequences for collaboration on scientific research between UK and EU citizens. The Green Party is firm on our commitment to ensuring rights for EU citizens living in the UK 33.
In addition to this, the Green Party would increase funding for science. 34
Green party spokesman, James Abbott, who studied astronomy, said his party would double the amount that government spends on research and development, to about 1% of GDP – a commitment that, so far, no other party has made. “We are going to need the best scientists with the best technology in order to deal with some of the very serious issues we face as a society globally, so we are absolutely passionate – but also for learning about science and enjoying it in its own right”. 35
We would also Create Green jobs for more women in STEM in renewables and sustainability. Currently, just 5% of engineering apprentices are women. The Green Party would ensure that the roll-out of Green Jobs would be accompanied by specific initiatives to train and encourage young women to fill these roles.
As outlined above, appropriate education in schools is vital if we want our children to flourish, and that’s why we think that there should be compulsory Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) in schools.36
This will ensure children have knowledge of a variety of topics, including sexual health. Sex and relationship education is essential for all children, and especially for girls, as girls have the most to gain from all genders learning about birth control, abortion, sexual coercion, sexual violence, and consent.
We would also extend the HPV vaccine to include vaccination for boys.
Another obstacle girls can face is period poverty, which we would end by providing sanitary products in schools. Girls should not have to miss out of education because they can’t afford sanitary products. 37
The Green Party launched a dedicated Mental Health Manifesto in 2017, which will roll out of new school-based therapy to treat mental ill health earlier and awareness and empathy education to limit the likelihood of bullying.
We will also give mental health parity of esteem with physical health and make sure everyone who needs psychological therapy receives it within 28 days of being referred .38
Mental health is a gendered issue.
Women are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders, and are also more likely to be diagnosed with other common mental health problems.
Those who are trans, identify as non-binary and/ or express themselves in ways that challenge stereotypical ideas about gender also face high levels of mental health problems. It is estimated that 40% of non-binary people in the UK have attempted suicide.
Despite the clear documentation of the disproportionate impact mental health problems have on our wellbeing compared to other illnesses, funding is falling further and further behind.
The Green Party would:
- Bring spending on mental health care in line with spending on physical health care. Targets should be introduced for speed of access to mental health services, bringing mental health care in line with other serious health issues. This includes a maximum wait time between referral and initial appointment for psychological therapies. »
- Recognise the need for specialist services.
- We would ensure that community specific mental health programs for those who are LGBTIQA+ are well funded.
- We would also reduce barriers for people of colour receiving care by funding community specific outreach programs, focused upon raising awareness and reducing stigma of mental health problems.
Local candidate Louis Stephen has frequently spoken about the need to address mental health funding seriously, and co-leader Jonathan Bartley and deputy leader Amelia Womack chose Worcester as the place to unveil the Green Party Mental Health Manifesto. 39
Leading on from mental health provision, women are far more likely than men to be carers for friends and family, so we would support carers by progressively increase Carer’s Allowance, until everyone is given a basic income to support themselves. E would also increase funding for social services, both through central funding and an increase in funding to councils who provide these services. By providing enough funding for proper implementation of the 2014 Care Act, we will be able to provide disabled people with the support they may need to find and stay in employment, as well as providing much needed support to unpaid, mostly female, carers who are currently trying to fill in the gaps.
The local Green Party opposed cuts to children’s centres. The protest in 2016 was organised by Worcestershire Mums’ Network, attended by Green Party candidate Louis Stephen, and was supported in the vote by county councillors Matthew Jenkins and John Raine. 40
Children’s centres can offer a lifeline to parents, and are a vital resource for mothers, as workers can offer support with many issues such as breastfeeding, as well as identifying health issues such as post-natal depression and post-partum psychosis 41
The Green Party will properly fund maternity services, and work to normalise breastfeeding, including improving education in schools, public awareness campaigns, and reassurances given by breastfeeding counsellors regarding the legitimacy of public breastfeeding 42.
Green MP Caroline Lucas has consistently voted in favour of women’s reproductive rights.
As Green MP Caroline Lucas said, “In the male-dominated fields of politics and science, Petra Kelly and Rachel Carson influenced – even shifted – entrenched patterns of thought. They didn’t ‘step outside the box’: they re-formed it from within”43.
10: Equality in the Media
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?
Sexism affects people of all genders throughout their lives, which is why the Green Party would seek to tackle this early on in schools. In our 2017 Women’s Manifesto, we pledged to:
- Promote discussion of the gendered and racial stereotypes employed in the media and wider society, to allow children to better understand society and themselves.
- Address gender stereotypes, homophobia and transphobia in society, initiating public education programs both in schools and wider society.
- Connect schools with community-led education initiatives to tackle the causes of prejudice and to increase awareness of the value of diverse cultures and genders 44.
The Green Party has a proud history of holding the media to account for sexism.
Green MP Caroline Lucas has campaigned for an end to sexism in the media for years.
“From the Sun’s regressive Page 3, the Daily Mail’s dissection of women and girls into ‘curves’ and ‘pins’, or rape and abuse cases being reported next to pictures of half-naked women, our media routinely sends out damaging messages about the place of women and girls in society.
“With violence against women taking place on such an alarming scale, the Government and the industry must now take action to challenge the cavalier attitudes within the media industry which often lead to the trivialisation of sexual violence and abuse.
“This should involve the restriction of the sexually explicit and objectifying images which have become unacceptably commonplace in our newspapers and magazines, as well as specialist training for journalists on the reporting of violence against women and girls.
“Given the scale of the problem, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee should also carry out a full inquiry into sexism across the media.”45
In 2013, Caroline Lucas debated former Sun and News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis on the BBC’s Daily Politics, speaking against the, “daily drip drip objectification of women”, and said it was not appropriate for children to see the topless pictures. 46
In a House of Commons debate on sexism in the media, Caroline Lucas was told to cover up a T-shirt displaying the slogan “No More Page Three” in large lettering during a Commons debate.
She defended her support for the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign by saying, “It does strike me as a certain irony that this T-shirt is regarded as an inappropriate thing to be wearing in this House, whereas apparently it is appropriate for this kind of newspaper to be available to buy in eight different outlets on the Palace of Westminster estate.” 4748
Amelia Womack, Green Party deputy leader, submitted a formal complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation over the Daily Mail’s ‘Legs-it’ headline. 49
She accused the newspaper of breaching the Editors’ Code of Practice by discriminating against Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May because of their gender, stating:
“Female leaders deserve to be treated with respect, not contempt, and I call on the editor of the Daily Mail to apologise to the Prime Minister and First Minister, and to all of the young women aspiring to be politicians who want to be recognised for their knowledge and achievements, not the shimmer of their legs.” 50
The Green Party will continue to fight sexism in the media, and to promote equal and fair representation of women.
- https://www.greenparty.org.uk/green-guarantee/a- green-economy- for-everyone.html
- https://www.greenparty.org.uk/green-guarantee/our- nhs-and- public-services.html
- https://www.greenparty.org.uk/green-guarantee/membership- of-the- eu.html
- https://www.greenparty.org.uk/green-guarantee/a- citizens-democracy.html
- https://www.greenparty.org.uk/green-guarantee/a- safer-world.html
- https://www.greenparty.org.uk/green-guarantee/membership- of-the- eu.html
- https://www.greenparty.org.uk/green-guarantee/a- green-economy- for-everyone.html
- https://www.carolinelucas.com/latest/prevent-and- prosecute
- https://www.carolinelucas.com//caroline/parliament/letter/letter-to- rt-hon- theresa-may- mp-fgm
- https://www.greenparty.org.uk/green-guarantee/a- safer-world.html
- https://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2017/05/13/green-party- pledges-to- end-immigration- detention-at-womens-manifesto- launch-at- yarls-wood/
- https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/cj.html. See paragraphs CJ352-CJ359.
- https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/cj.html See paragraph CJ350
- https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ed.html See para ED041