Harriet Harman MP: Women MPs are still pioneers in male-dominated parliaments

Posted On: 
8th November 2018

Today the House of Commons will hold the first ever meeting of women MPs from 100 countries to mark 100 years of UK suffrage. Harriet Harman writes about the conference for PoliticsHome.

Green benches in House of Commons The green benches of the Commons will look very different from usual as women MPs from around the world gather for the first time as we mark 100 years since the first women in this country won the right to stand for election to parliament, says Harriet Harman MP.
Credit: 
PA Images

In an historic first today women MPs from 5 continents and 100 countries will be meeting in the Mother of Parliaments. The green benches of the Commons will look very different from usual as women MPs from around the world gather for the first time as we mark 100 years since the first women in this country won the right to stand for election to parliament. 

Women have fought their way into nearly every parliament in the world. But we are not yet on equal terms with men in politics. Women MPs around the world want not only to be in parliament but to share power equally and to be able to make change for women in our countries. As only relatively recent arrivals in politics women MPs are still pioneers in male-dominated parliaments.

So we will be getting together at this unique event to share our experience, our successes and setbacks. We’ll determine to fight yet harder to get equality for women in our countries. We’ll make links so we can work together in the future. We’ll strengthen our resolve to fight the backlash against women in public life and to get yet more women into parliaments, share experience of how to deliver for women in our countries, how to end violence against women and girls, counter harassment and abuse, and balance family and political responsibilities. 

Our countries are very different but as women MPs our goals are the same. We want to be on equal terms with the men in parliament, exercising power to deliver equality for women and nothing less.

The women MPs come from all backgrounds including law teaching and astrophysics. Many of them speak multiple languages. Spanish MP Zaida Cantera de Castro, is a member of the PSOE who took over the government in June this year and swore in 64% women in the new cabinet.

Dr Tamara Adrián, from Venezuela is a transgender; There are women from established parties, new parties and independents.  Princess Kasune Zulu from Zambia is HIV positive and campaigns for women and orphans. 

The Gambian MP Hon Ya Kumba Jaiteh is bringing her 5 month old baby with her to the Commons. Dr Hebra Hagras MP, a wheelchair user, is Egypt’s foremost disability campaigner. The Israeli MP is from an Arab-feminist organisation. We will be hearing from Shireen Sharmeen Chaudhury,  the first woman speaker of the Bangladeshi parliament.

We will hear how they are pushing forward for women in their countries. We’ll be telling them about our new laws to make organisations publish their equal pay gap and about how we’re introducing a system of proxy voting for MPs who are on maternity leave. Many of them are drawing up new rules to deal with sexual harassment in parliament.

Most global summits are male-dominated or even men only. Women in politics are a new force for change. The plan is that out of our conference will come a powerful global network of committed women who can work together for progress for each of our countries and all of our people. The sisterhood is global and this will be a historic event.

This historic conference is co-hosted by Harriet Harman together with the Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt MP, the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom MP, the Foreign Office, British Council, Westminster Foundation for Democracy and Wilton Park.

Prime Minister Theresa May hosted the conference opening reception in Downing Street last night.

Watch live at: https://www.facebook.com/WestminsterFoundation/

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