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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re also really keen to hear from groups or organisations who’d be interested in collaborating on future Centenary Cities events.