Today is International Women’s Day. The 2016 theme is ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for gender equality’.
Here in Yorkshire and the Humber the TUC Women’s Forum is focusing on women’s health in the workforce.
And in Leeds North West Labour’s candidate in Headingley, Al Garthwaite, will be pledging to work to end male violence against women.
Al is a committed feminist, and has been taking part in IWD since 1971.
So it’s no surprise that one of her pledges as a candidate is to work to end male violence against women – a long-standing aim of the Women’s movement, and one on which she feels strongly.
As she writes
“I participated in the London IWD demonstration on March 8th, 1971. It was cold, very cold. Snow fell; the wind howled. Our street theatre group kept warm dancing and miming to the ghastly sexist 1933 hit, more recently recorded by Annie Lennox:
Keep young and beautiful
It’s your duty to be beautiful. . !
Other demonstrators held placards spelling out what were then the 4 demands of the Women’s Liberation Movement:
• Equal pay now
• Equal education and job opportunities
• Free 24-hour nurseries
• Free contraception and abortion on demand
Through the 1970s others were added
• The right of all women to legal and financial independence
• An end to discrimination against lesbians
• An end to male violence against women.
In 2016, in events taking place across the globe, we’re still fighting against many of these same problems – unequal pay, unequal representation in parliament (in the UK there are 191 women out of a total 650 MPs), lack of health care, poverty and disadvantage of all kinds that impact especially on women.
And we’re still campaigning against the continuing blight of male violence against women.
Campaigning recently in Headingley for May’s local council elections, I’ve been asking younger women if they feel safe going out at night, and about street harassment.
Most women say they would not go out alone at night. Can men imagine for one moment this huge restriction on their movements?
Young men are statistically more likely to experience violence on the street, but I doubt that many – any? – would stay home in fear, or avoid going out alone.
Harassment, and worse, of women from some men is a big problem in Hyde Park and the City Centre, and also within clubs and pubs.
One of my pledges as a candidate for Leeds City Council, and something that’s common to IWD aims the world over, is to act to put an end to this situation.
We’ve been holding Reclaim The Night marches in Leeds since 1977: it’s important to make that public claim.
But we also need other answers – perhaps self-defence (for both sexes) at school and in evening classes; whistles; an extension of pubwatch. . . . I’m asking the women of Leeds to share their ideas with me on this.
And I’m promising that, if elected, I’ll make this problem a high priority.
In the meantime, celebrate International Women’s Day 2016. May it empower us all for the year to come.”
You can contact Al via our contact page – or directly
Al Garthwaite, Labour Council Candidate for Headingley