Find out what Nottingham has been getting up to in celebrating 100 years of votes for women! Why is it important to recognise the centenary? What lessons can we take from suffrage campaigners in today’s world? Our fantastic community of bloggers reveal their thoughts below…

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EqualiTeas 2018 – Katy Lewis-Hood

Katy Lewis-Hood, events volunteer at Nottingham Women’s Centre, blogs about their successful EqualiTeas event, exploring 90 years of the equal franchise and the hurdles still to be jumped on the road to gender equality…

Centenary Cities celebrates 100 years since some women got the vote, but it was actually this time 90 years ago, on 2 July 1928, when all women in Britain were given equal voting rights with men. To celebrate this and to discuss what equality means in 2018, we held an afternoon tea at Nottingham Women’s Centre on Thursday 21 June as part of UK Parliament’s EqualiTeas initiative.

Over (lots of) tea and cake, a group of women came together to chat about what has been achieved in terms of gender equality, and what still needs to change. Women with a range of backgrounds and experiences talked about issues that mattered to them – from challenging misogyny and sexual harassment at work and on the streets, to improving representation in parliament, to ending domestic and sexual violence.

We also discussed ways to bring about change on different levels, from small everyday actions through which women can support each other right through to effective campaign strategies for lobbying local and even national government. For inspiration, we looked at several examples of successful campaigns by women and organisations in Nottingham. These included Nottingham Women’s Centre’s work with Nottinghamshire Police to make misogyny a hate crime, Notts SVS Services’ push for anonymous voter registration for survivors of domestic violence and abuse, and Mojatu Foundation’s campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In each of these cases, local campaigners have had a decisive impact on attitudes and policies.

Throughout the afternoon, women were invited to jot down their thoughts about equality, democracy, and what they’d like to change in society on floral bunting. One woman wanted people to ‘listen to, believe and trust women’ and another wanted women ‘to feel empowered to vote the way they want’. Someone else noted that ‘in 2018, young women are missing school because they can’t afford sanitary products’, while another woman asked ‘how do we create a system of accountability so that we can see what decisions are being made?’ If you’d like to read more of the women’s comments, come along to the Women’s Centre where the bunting will be on display.

These conversations didn’t end with the tea and cake – we talked about putting together a Nottingham Women’s Manifesto to coincide with the local elections next May. Women had a lot to say about not only what should be included but also ways to present and promote the manifesto to ensure that women’s voices are heard. Leading on from this, we plan to hold a series of focus groups so that women can continue to speak about what matters to them. We want to build on previous campaign successes and push for gender equality in Parliament but also at home, at work, and out in the city.

All in all, this was a really fun, empowering afternoon – thank you to everyone who came along and joined us! We learnt about a history of women’s campaigning beyond the vote for a far wider understanding of what equality means. Perhaps most importantly, we got to spend time talking but also listening to other women – a vital aspect of making change.

If you’d like to get involved in campaigning or are interested in joining a focus group, contact Nottingham Women’s Centre by dropping in, calling 0115 9411475 or sending an email to We’re also really keen to hear from groups or organisations who’d be interested in collaborating on future Centenary Cities events.

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Women affecting change – Carli Snowball-Hill

Nottingham Women’s Centre caseworker, Carli Snowball-Hill, writes about the outcomes of a focus group which asked how women can follow the example of the suffrage movement and affect change in a modern world…

Whilst we can recognise that there has been such strides made in the progress of womens rights, there are still so many more ways to bring about change. I spoke to 18 women who came together to discuss their ideas about what progress was needed and how they felt it should take place.

At Nottingham Women’s Centre on 29th of March we held a focus group and asked; How do you affect change? Many women discussed their volunteering in the centre and their wider community. Women expressed their belief in modelling the change that they wanted to see.

In recruiting for the focus group, I wanted as wide a range of women as possible. We have many volunteers at NWC who are keen to affect change, women who attend the different clubs and groups we run and women with lived experience that care and want to make it better for the next woman that has to navigate challenges in life. Therefore, I advertised through our International Womens Day celebrations, newsletter and posters in the welcome space. In all 18 women attended. They came from a broad framework of lifestyles and all were keen to get stuck in.

Gathering in the welcome space before being invited to come into the room gave everyone a chance to get to know each other and the excitement was contagious.

We started off with a list of questions all aimed at asking the women if they felt the need for societal change in relation to womens experiences; and if so did they already do something to bring this about?

If they did what and if not where they would go to have their voice heard. It was acknowledged that there were not very many places. The women all expressed that being in the womens centre was a unique experience. That this is why they liked coming here because they felt they would have their voice heard and that they mattered. One woman said she felt that ‘The further away the problem was from the experience of those in power the less you felt you were heard.’ This for me really emphasised the importance of a woman focused way of working.

This was especially prominent for women who had families or had supported their friends over the years navigating statutory services that are full to breaking, where time is money and not something that anyone has very much of.

Many women were passionate about justice being done, expressing their frustration at how systems within wider society routinely let them down and brought about more difficulties. When discussing this a rumble of agreement spread throughout the group. It was clear that these women felt strongly about bringing about change for women locally, nationally and internationally but they felt that often the louder they shouted the less people heard.

This led to a great consensus being drawn that change and progress had to start with small steps but that if we all took them together then we could go along way.

I felt very honoured and encouraged to listen to these views and felt that we could be confident in working together to make the press for progress a stronger and effective voice.

If you would like to get involved further please contact NWC for details about opportunities to have your voice heard locally and how that can be a positive impact nationally. Nottingham Womens Centre: 0115 9411475.

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Marking International Womens’ Day 2018 – Megan Pain

#ThrowbackThursday to when Nottingham Women’s Centre volunteer Megan Pain wrote about her experience supporting International Women’s Day and the Centenary Cities project…

Today marks 6 weeks into my placement and more importantly it marks International Women’s Day 2018! Happy IWD everyone! The preparations up to this day have been fairly hectic to say the least. The past 6 weeks have definitely flown by, and although it’s been slightly stressful getting everything done in time, I’ve definitely enjoyed all the hard work involved in planning such an exciting and important event.

Today I will be spending IWD at the Centre which is very exciting! I will be helping to register women to vote and creating social media content of the day. I also hope to be lucky enough to participate in some of the other amazing activities: boxing, drumming and poetry workshops. I definitely feel fortunate that my placement has provided me with such a great opportunity to participate in this event, meet new people and expand my knowledge of the importance of this day. This will be my first year properly celebrating IWD and if I’m honest I feel a bit silly for not doing anything for it before.

This year IWD is especially important, as 2018 marks 100 years since Parliament passed a law allowing the first women to vote. The significance of this is immense and to mark this importance myself and the other volunteers have been working on a stairway exhibition for the Centre focused on the idea of the 100 years. We were pretty much given free reign on how we wanted to do this exhibition. I came up with the idea of doing a timeline up the stairs from 1918-2018, which I’m rather proud of! This timeline consists of Nottingham women ‘firsts’, for example the first female Nottingham MP, and other significant events which have occurred in the past 100 years which have changed and impacted the lives of women massively. Learning about this was fascinating and I can’t wait to see the finished product!

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#Vote100 women and democracy – Cllr Jane Urquhart

Cllr Jane Urquhart, Nottingham City Councillor for Sherwood ward and Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage, writes about the significance of #Vote100 and the work we still have to do to achieve gender equality in politics…

Democracy and the right to express your view on who should  govern are basic rights that all of us are entitled to. I remember casting my first vote in the general election of 1987, a vote that some might have seen as ‘wasted’ living then in a Tory stronghold, but knowing clearly where my allegiance lay. I voted, and I felt it meant something, to know that when the votes were counted there would be some that did not endorse the government of the day. Voting itself and being registered to vote are so important, women should be heard, their voices counted and their views known, which is why when I am talking to women on the doorsteps in the city and further afield I always encourage participation.

As a woman politician I have spent a lot of time in rooms full of men, rooms where getting my voice heard has been difficult, and where a woman’s perspective has (even in the 21st century) been missing. As the politician responsible  for the tram,  and now for housing in the city I can think of scores of occasions on which I have had to wear a hard hat and protective boots to a site visit, and there has been a scramble to find something small enough, women’s sizes are not that well catered for on construction sites! Our political model still favours masculine forms of  oppositional debate, women have a role to play in changing that mode of discourse to a more inclusive, participatory one. Passionate about the issues that impact on our lives, and driving change through democratic engagement, rather than reliant on old models of power and influence.

I have been a voter for 30 of the 100 years that women have had the right to vote, so much has been achieved, but so much more remains to be done to ensure that our democracy reflects all of its citizens. I am proud to be part of that drive for continuing change.

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Celebrating Centenary Cities – Cllr Linda Woodings

Cllr Linda Woodings, Nottingham City Councillor for Basford ward and Executive Assistant for Communications and Community Safety, kicks off our Centenary Cities blog by telling us why the centenary of women’s suffrage is important to her…

My mum died last week, at the grand old age of 95 (she had me very late in life!), and so I’ve spent the last week trying to get in touch with her friends and acquaintances. As my sister and I went through her address book we realised she was the last of ‘her’ generation.

Born in 1922 to farm labourers, neither her mother nor her grandmother had any right to vote for the men who made the law at that time – laws that affected every aspect of their lives.

So it’s with great poignancy that I celebrate the women, some middle class, some working class, who fought for me and all other women to have a vote.

On the 6th of February 1918 the Representation of the People Act came into law giving all women over 30, who owned (or their husbands owned) property, a vote for the first time. One reason for limiting this to only certain women was that, because of the toll of lives in the Great War (the First World War), if all women had been given the vote they would have substantially outnumbered men. But there was also a deeper more fundamental reason; women were not seen as clever enough or important enough to have a vote – they were second class citizens.

Looking back it’s very hard for us, let along young people, to understand the sense of privilege women felt in going to the polling station to vote. My own mum made sure I was on the electoral register, took me down to the local polling station, told me what to do when I got there (although she would never dream of telling me who to vote for). It was a matter of principle.

In the 21st Century most of us can only imagine a time where women had no legal status, no rights over their own children, no ability to divorce except for the wealthiest (and only in the cruellest of circumstances).

But the passing of the Representation of the People Act started to change all that.

Getting the law through was not an easy thing to achieve. Thousands of women campaigned and fought, some peacefully, some with acts of civil disobedience, some with acts of violence (and suicide). Many were imprisoned, went on hunger strike, were force fed, beaten by the police, condemned by their neighbours and friends.

One hundred years on we commemorate and give thanks to those courageous women. Today we fight new battles, for equal pay, equal representation in parliament, fairer pensions, more women on the boards of companies and respect and dignity in the workplace.

So much done, so much more to do – but it’s good to stop for a moment and say ‘THANK YOU SISTERS’.

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