17 December 2019

In last week’s election, 220 women MPs were elected, pushing women’s representation in parliament up  from 32% to 34% - placing the UK 36th in the word between Belarus and Monaco.

While we must celebrate a record number of women taking their seats in parliament this week, progress is still far too slow and groups of women are still substantially under represented. Women of colour, disabled women, women of faith, young women and women with caring responsibilities often face multiple barriers and levels of discrimination which prevents them reaching positions of power.

In response, a coalition of women’s and civil society organisations is launching Equal Power, a ground-breaking campaign to tear down the barriers that stop women’s voices from being heard at every level of politics and within their communities.  This campaign offers women the chance to participate in workshops, networks and support circles which will support their entry into public and political life.

The ‘Equal Power’ coalition led by The Fawcett Society includes Centenary Action Group, Citizens UK, 50:50 Parliament, Muslim Women’s Network UK and The Parliament Project and is funded by a half a million-pound grant from Comic Relief.

Equal Power will engage with over 4,500 women over three years with sessions in London, Greater Manchester and Birmingham and the West Midlands: 

  • Women who are interested in learning how to stand for election as an MP or local councillor can take part in ‘become a candidate’ training sessions and peer support circles.
  • Workshop sessions will include training on community organising to help participants understand how to make change both in their local area and nationally on issues they care about.
  • Women of colour will be invited to take part in ‘overcoming barriers’ sessions which are being run by Muslim Women’s Network UK, to help women of colour stand for election.
  • Women politicians can join our Equal Power network, and gain and give support for women in Westminster and beyond.
  • Participants can join the campaign to tear down the barriers that are keeping women out of public life at every level. 

Women can sign up today to register for the project and receive updates on workshops, networks, peer support circles, campaign actions and news - https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/equal-power.

Fawcett Society Chief Executive, Sam Smethers:

“We know that getting women equally represented in positions of power has limitless benefits for society.  This project will enable us to tear down the barriers that we know prevent women from putting themselves forward or winning a place at the table, and enable us all to benefit from the skills and talents of a diverse range of women.

“We are delighted to have obtained Comic Relief funding for this project and to be working with such an impressive range of partners.”

Faeeza Vaid MBE, Executive Director at Muslim Women's Network UK:

“Now more than ever we need public leaders to better reflect and represent the communities they serve. We’re so pleased that the ‘Equal Power’ programme will address the multiple barriers faced by BAME women and help to empower more diverse women to be civically and politically active." 

Helen Pankhurst, Convener Centenary Action Group:

“101 years and 28 elections since some women in the UK were first able to vote, only 220 of MPs are women. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women are chronically underrepresented. Moreover, up and down the country, many women feel that national and local government do not represent their interests.

We can, we must do so much better. Equal Power is about ‘Deeds not Words’, a way of accelerating the rate of change, of working actively towards an equal and representative democracy in which women's voices and their interests are articulated and fully represented."

Hannah Stevens, Programme Manager, Parliament Project:

"As a core part of the Equal Power coalition The Parliament Project are excited to be providing workshops and online peer support circles with the tangible, hands-on training and support that makes the real difference to women putting themselves forward as candidates."

Charlotte Fischer, Senior Organiser, Citizens UK:

“We can't look at the low levels of representation of women MPs in Westminster in isolation. Women's leadership is missing and under represented in so many areas of our politics, industries and civil societies, and this grant will enable us to develop women's leadership across different domains of public life - in civic institutions, local communities, Local Authorities and in Parliament. By training participants in Community Organising - a method for social change shaped by the contributions of pioneering women such as Ella Baker, the Suffragettes,  Heather Booth, Rosa Parks, and Jane McAlevey – we look forward to equipping a new generation of women with the tools to become powerful agents for change”

Frances Scott, Founder and Director of 50:50 Parliament: 

“We want to build a better democracy that draws upon the widest possible pool of talent including the 32 million women who live and work in the UK. This is crucial because representation shapes policy and diversity leads to better decision making. We are taking action to create a Parliament in which men and women run the country and plan the future together in equal numbers. Westminster should be leading the way in showing respect for women, their experience and opinions."