Women's Equality Party (WEP) Mission
WE are pushing for equal representation in politics, business, industry and throughout working life. WE are pressing for equal pay and an equal opportunity to thrive. WE are campaigning for equal parenting and care-giving and shared responsibilities at home to give everyone equal opportunities both in family life and in the workplace. WE urge an education system that creates opportunities for all children and an understanding of why this matters. WE strive for equal treatment of women by and in the media. WE seek an end to violence against women. (Source: http://www.womensequality.org.uk)
For more iformation and background about the WEP go to their 'Story So Far' page at http://www.womensequality.org.uk/our_history
So because our Project is about tracing and sharing the roots of women's social-political activism, increasing the visibility and awareness of that history, we thought it would be remiss of us not to document and attend the historic inaugural Women's Equality Party (WEP) Conference, not because of party political politics but because the realisation of such a political party, is a tangible manifestation of the culmination of a movement (or set of movements) and actions over the last 100, or so, years. The rationale for going was in no small part affected by the Conference Programme which clearly indicated that homage would be paid to the various actions of women and men (both individually and in groups) which helped us to arrive at this significant moment in time. Party Leader Sophie Walker outlined the main remit of the Party and put the 'journey' up to and including the inaugural conference in context. Sophie vowed to defend the rights of non-white, working class women and promised to prioritise the needs of LGBT+, disabled and migrant women. The WE has attracted 65,000 members and supporters since it was founded last year by the broadcaster Sandi Toksvig and the journalist Catherine Mayer. The current WEP membership far out numbers that of UKIP(which in August stood at 39,000), yet unlike UKIP it gets very little 'air time'. Sandi Toksvig among other things, highlighted the issue of 'Women Missing from History' while Catherine Mayer, WEP President, focused some time on 'Putting Women into History'. See the Conference Launch outlined below.
Conference Programme Day 1 Friday 25 November
16.30 – 18.30 Registration
This can take a long time so please arrive promptly
17.00 – 21.00 Dinner time
Street food stalls serve food from around the world
19.00 – 20.30 WE are the Startup
Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party opens proceedings
Sandi Toksvig, M.C. asks Why Are Women Missing from History?
Catherine Mayer, WE President, on Putting Women into History
Music & film screening
20.30 – 23.00 WE Voices
Members & supporters are invited to speak up in this open mic session
20.30 – midnight Raise the Bar at the Bar
So our trip to Manchester was to document this unique event and provide an opportunity for up to 10 women and girls from Derbyshire to learn more about the 'Politics' in women's social-political activism.
In the end, eight women and girls ranging in age from 15 to 50+ took the journey with us. We arrived quite early and had an opportunity to have a good look around. The memorable moments just kept coming and coming. It was during this stage of the proceedings that we met, chatted with and took a photograph with a founder member of the WEP, Barrister Harini Lyengar. Harini Lyengar had previously stood for as a WEP Candidate for a London Council seat. She had not been successful but was going "to persist regardless". It was awesome to meet a founder member and hear a little bit about the ongoing struggle to get the WEP off the ground and what it had taken to actually 'get here'. We exchanged Twitter handles and all stood together holding the banner she had made before - a really special moment. Another memorable moment, which I (and maybe others) would later reflect, was the experience of staring into the almost empty main conference room, as technicians and others moved quietly around attending to some last minute details... and then later experiencing that empty hall fill up with mostly women with hardly any standing room once the Conference had begun....AMAZING! The energy, expectation and sheer historical significance of the opening moments were palpable. We clapped and cheered as each inspirational speaker, poet, and later on audience members took their turn at the lectern.
It was during the 'open mic' session a series of events also led to one of the second youngest women in our party, (aged 15) being escorted on stage by Sandi Toksvig and another attendee (who until that moment, at 21 had been the youngest speaker to take to participate in the open mic session). Flanked by support from these two women, our young attendee took to the stage to address a crowd of more than 1500 people! She was terrified but got to stage to utter the following
"My name is Soraya and I am glad to be here" and then like everyone else, who had taken to the stage, she added her piece to the growing Lego construction. She was met with rapturous applause of encouragement and support.
Leah Jewett's Huffungton Post article references Soraya's moment on stage
Afterwards I asked her how it felt to stand on stage and speak? Her response was "I was very nervous, but it felt like someone saw me"......I was so moved by how what she said managed to eloquently articulate this moment in women's social-political history. How much her stated feeling of 'visibility seemed like some kind validation for all the women and girls who had gone before us, who 'stood, sat and (to paraphrase the recent film of the Bronte sisters - who in order to get published, had to 'pretend to be men for much of their careers) 'walked invisible' Somehow, her being on stage and more importantly her response as she got passed her terror added to the momentousness of the occasion, and somehow, in that moment, the baton was being passed on to the next generation! The giants on whose shoulder she stood loomed very large indeed.
Everyone who went on the trip will be writing their own personal account of going to the WEP Launch...watch this space.
Check out the Women's Equality Party Policy Document at https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/womensequality/pages/279/attachments/original/1487934933/WEP_policy_document_2017.pdf?1487934933
Soraya (aged 15, she is the taller of the two women) on stage at WE event adding her contribution to the Lego Build after she had spoken......
Audio Recordings from Conference:
Sophie Walker Inaugural Conference Speech Nov 2016