A Feminist Manifesto For Theresa May
The Debrief: Theresa May is Britain's Brexit Prime Minister. Here's what she can do to make life better for Britain's women
For the second time in our country’s history a woman is in charge. Last week Theresa May became Britain’s Prime Minister as the Brexit dust finally began to settle. Today she chaired her first Prime Minister’s Questions.
At the dispatch box she reiterated everything she had said last week as she took over from Cameron outside Number 10: this country is failing many people.
Theresa May might be a woman but it would be wrong to hail this as a feminist victory. May has done some good work when it comes to supporting victims of domestic violence and was swift and clear in tackling FGM. She did also work towards closing the gender pay gap. However, the government she served as Home Secretary under brought in policies which made the life materially worse for many women up and down the country.She's known for being hard line on immigratiobn (see the 'Go Home' vans) and also presided over Yarl's Wood, where pregnant women are detained indefinitely.
Earlier this week Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted that she hoped seeing her stand side by side with Theresa May would inspire younger generations of women:
There’s no doubt that seeing women in positions of power sets an important example and sends a signal to younger women, however it’s not enough in its own right. It’s not as simple as saying ‘women need to see it to be it’ and considering the job done. Indeed, if Theresa May represents anything, it is a victory for middle class, university educated women.
How can Theresa May represent all women? We asked four different groups, who work to champion women’s equality what they want from our new PM:
Sophie Walker, Leader, Women’s Equality Party
‘Theresa May now has an opportunity to incorporate an understanding of women’s experiences and inequalities into the Conservative Party’s vision for Britain, after a Brexit campaign in which the impact on women of leaving the EU was barely considered.’
‘She must protect maternity rights, part-time workers’ rights and protection from sexual harassment at work and address the discrimination that keeps so many women out of work altogether. The government May now leads presided over austerity measures that hit women hardest because they work and earn less, have greater caring responsibilities and rely more on public services. Now she must grow the economy in a way that enables women to flourish: investment in childcare is long overdue and would make a huge difference. May must also, in negotiating new trade deals, consider the impact of trade tariffs on the public purse and the money for public services on which women disproportionately rely. Now is also the time to fully provide sustainable, sufficient funding for all specialist services working to end the epidemic of violence against women. And a new immigration policy with justice and equality at its heart would surely include closing Yarl’s Wood, where pregnant migrant women have been detained indefinitely.’
Dr Carole Easton, Chief Executive, Young Women’s Trust
‘Theresa May is to be congratulated for becoming Prime Minister and for rising to the top in politics, which still largely remains a man’s world – despite undoubted progress in recent years.’
‘When she was Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May rightly said feminism was about ensuring there’s a level playing field and equal opportunity, and she will never have a better opportunity to make this happen. There’s so much more to be done transform opportunities for women, especially for the million-plus young women who are struggling to live on low or no pay in England and Wales.’
‘As Theresa May said in her speech on Monday, people who are born into poverty die earlier, and people from a working class background have it harder than many think. We hope that as PM she shows an unwavering commitment to transforming opportunities for those who need them the most. Creating better routes into stable and properly paid employment must be a priority, especially for those who don’t go to university. So too must ensuring that women are not penalised in the workplace because of caring responsibilities.’
‘We would like also the new PM to bolster the Government Equalities Office, so that the equalities implications of new legislation and policy are at the forefront of decision-making throughout Government. And there’s also a real need for Government to do much more to engage with all those who feel disengaged by the political process, including many young people.’
Feminist direct action group taking action for domestic violence services, Sisters Uncut
‘We want to see the government supporting all domestic violence survivors to live a life of safety and freedom. This means having sufficiently funded domestic violence support services, enough social housing, and access to legal aid and mental health support. It also means abolishing the "no recourse to public funds" rule that currently cuts off migrant survivors of domestic violence from accessing lifelines of support. Access to safety should not be subject to your immigration status.’
‘As it stands right now, none of these measures are in place and austerity cuts have ripped the domestic violence safety net to shreds. And women are dying as a result. Our demands are very basic: that survivors of domestic violence are supported to flee abuse.’
The Fawcett Society
'We have just launched #FaceHerFuture, a coalition of women’s organisations across the UK coming together to campaign for women’s voices to be heard in our new post-referendum government. As we know, Theresa May has a huge job ahead of her, and with only a third of her cabinet being women, we need to make sure that women’s issues are still being discussed. Not only do we demand there is no weakening of women’s rights, we also need to make sure we keep moving forward.'
'We still need to continue and improve our work internationally and at home towards ending FGM, violence against women and girls and human trafficking, as well as further steps to ensure women are being treated fairly in the workplace; closing the gender pay gap, encouraging shared parental leave, ending pregnancy discrimination and better flexibility for part time workers are all major steps that still our government’s attention.'
'#FaceHerFuture aims to look forward by keeping these issues on the table throughout our departure from the EU, and not allow existing rights to be rolled back. We cannot emphasise enough that improving women’s lives and creating a more equal society is better for our economy and our society – men suffer under an unequal society, too. We’re in this together now; it’s not about remain or leave any more, but about today and tomorrow.'
We also asked you, The Debrief’s readers, what you’d like to see from Theresa May…
Something you’d like to add to this conversation? Join us over at Club Debrief.
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