Women from the Harwich and North Essex Labour CLP organised an event on Saturday 9th March to celebrate International Women’s day in Harwich. The conference brought local women together and was open to all regardless of whether they were members or not.
Women from across the constituency gathered to hear inspirational speeches and take part in informative workshops. The all-female organisers of the event strove to encourage women to gain confidence in speaking out about the issues that affect them, pursue ambitions and engage with politics.
They did this by bringing together inspirational personalities and speakers such as local politicians, Tina McKay, Rosalind Scott and Unite Organiser, Clare Lees. Whilst, also providing four workshops that tackled topics that women care about.
community campaigning, delivered by Holly Turner, who is a young mother fighting against Essex Library Closures. Her workshop sought to give practical skills to empower women to campaign.
Accessing and Exploring Adult Education delivered by Clare Hawkins and Sally Wilcox who work in adult further and higher education. This workshop provided opportunities to find out about courses for adults locally and most importantly, to discuss how to turn initial ideas about what to do next into realistic and achievable plans.
Victims and survivors of sexual violence delivered by CARA (Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse) This workshop discussed CARA’s role, supporting victims and survivors of sexual violence and child sexual abuse, providing independent, specialist support and promoting and representing their rights and needs. The Workshop sought to raise awareness of sexual violence and push for change.
Women and care delivered by Susan Hollinrake who has worked in the field of social work and education. The session provided an opportunity for those involved in providing care or considering becoming a carer – either paid or unpaid – to consider the effects caring has on them, how they manage the demands and to think in more depth about the way care is valued in this country.
Local politician and Labour candidate for Shrub End, Rosalind Scott spoke about what it is like to be a local councillor aiming to encourage more women into becoming local councillors. However, she felt that the abuse women politicians receive is off-putting and needs to stop. “My hypothesis is that most women don’t want to put themselves in the way of it, and if they are elected, they don’t stay long, because they don’t want to be worn down by it – there are more ways to help our communities.”
Rosalind went on to describe the responsibilities of being a local councillor “We are there to make sure the resident can get the council to work on their behalf” She went on to discuss the joys of being a local councillor “The best thing about being a local councillor is that you get to know your community. They know you, they trust you and you come to know and love them. You are working to purpose – you know you make a difference. If you cry together at the frustrations of the current situation, you also soar with joy together when a burden or barrier is lifted.”
Clare Lees spoke about how women can organise in the workplace, how we can fight for better rights and the benefits of joining Unions. “Until we have equality, women will need to fight. Unions bring people together as a collective, in solidarity, to fight for issues that are important to them. Whether it be period dignity, policies on flexible working or menopause or whether we have equal pay. We are stronger together. In equality there is unity and in unity there is strength!”
Tina Mckay Spoke about the women that influenced her life and led her on the path to becoming a politician. She highlighted the Labour policies that will benefit women and spoke about her disgust at the reaction of people online insinuating that if women were given 10 days paid leave due to domestic abuse that women would lie in order to have those days leave.
The day was a great success with a lot of positive feedback and a commitment to keep in contact with the participants and Labour’s local woman’s officer Anja Lyons who was among several women that helped to arrange the event, spoke of her keenness to repeat the event every year to celebrate International Women’s day and the wonderful women of North Essex.
Rosalind Scott said “It was a warm and genuine celebration of all women and a day sharing stories and experience. Everyone there was encouraging of their fellow participants and as a result, I am sure there will be many more women leading change in their communities.”
Clare Lees said “The event was wonderfully arranged and really welcoming. Our sisters should be proud to have organised such an informative and comfortable event. May there be many more.”