There are local elections on Thursday 6th May. 149 candidates are standing for 34 council seats across the 32 wards of Manchester City Council. The four main parties (Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Conservative) are standing candidates for all seats. There are a small number of other candidates standing in a small number of seats. We are encouraging voters to ask all 149 candidates whether they support our three #climate commitments.
However, Climate Emergency Manchester is NOT endorsing any candidates or any party. We believe voters have to make up their own minds. To help shine a spotlight on parties that might otherwise fail to get attention, we’ve asked the Women’s Equality Party for an interview. It’s below, unedited.
- Tell us a bit about the Women’s Equality Party and how/why you got involved.
The Women’s Equality (WE) Party was co-founded in 2015 by author, broadcaster, and presenter Sandi Toksvig and author and journalist Catherine Mayer.
The WE Party is a non-partisan force in British politics uniting people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, beliefs and experiences in the shared determination to see women enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men so that all can flourish.
WE are the first feminist political party in the UK and our Party Leader, Mandu Reid, is the first Black leader of any UK political party. WE won our first town council seat in Congleton in 2019 and, in the same year, stood female survivors of domestic and sexual abuse against five male MPs who had unresolved allegations of sexual harassment or abuse against them – not one of them remains as an MP.
When women fulfil their potential, everyone benefits. Equality means better politics, a more vibrant economy, a workforce that draws on the talents of the whole population and a society at ease with itself. The Women’s Equality Party (WE) is working towards such a society.
WE are pushing for equal representation in politics, business, industry and throughout working life. WE expect equal pay for equal work, and will look for ways to tackle the existing imbalances that leave many women, such as those who are unpaid caregivers or in low paid jobs, especially vulnerable. WE are pressing for equal parenting and caregiving enabling everyone to share opportunity and responsibility in the workplace and at home. WE urge an education system that creates opportunities for all children and an understanding of why this matters. WE aim to address the ways in which the portrayal of women in the media impedes progress towards equality. WE seek an end to violence against women and recognise physical and sexual violence as a public health problem. WE demand equality in healthcare and medical research to ensure better health outcomes for women.
Finding a party that puts gender equality at the heart of policy decision-making means so much to us. We got involved with the Women’s Equality Party because we experience and witness the inequalities faced by women on a daily basis, inequalities which have been laid bare by COVID-19. In the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, just a few weeks ago, our political leaders promised that this would be a turning point in how our society treats women but we are yet to see any clear actions for change. WE are determined to keep fighting in elections and campaigning for change until the main political parties adopt our agenda of equality and take action to achieve it.
- You’re standing as one of three candidates for WEP in the council elections on 6th May. What is it that Manchester City Council needs to do differently/better around women’s issues.
Our campaign priorities are not ‘women’s issues’ but societal issues where disproportionate responsibility falls on women – for example unpaid care – and women are often negatively affected by the consequences of our unequal society. Women bore the brunt of austerity and this has been further compounded by COVID where women have been furloughed, lost jobs, and undertaken significantly higher proportions of unpaid care and home schooling than men over the last year – to the detriment of their health and employment.
Manchester City Council (MCC) needs to Build Back Equal, addressing inequalities that existed before COVID-19, and providing solutions to newer challenges. This year we have witnessed first-hand the importance of caring roles yet care continues to be undervalued, un(der)paid and underappreciated. MCC must do more to support unpaid carers in our area, such as working with health and charity sector partners to increase respite support for unpaid carers and introducing a Local Carers Travel Pass, to make public transport free for all unpaid carers working in the area.
Ending male violence against women has to be a political priority, and MCC should seek to achieve White Ribbon accreditation. In Greater Manchester, 36% of all violent crime reported to the police entails domestic abuse, and there was a 12% increase in recorded domestic abuse cases between 2018 and 2019. During its review of Manchester’s domestic abuse strategy, MCC must commission services for older women as well as for minoritised women. They should directly fund refuge spaces for women with no recourse to public funds, overriding the UK Government’s hostile environment policy.
Women living with multiple forms of inequality and those experiencing domestic abuse are at increased risk of homelessness. Women are also disproportionately affected by hidden homelessness. MCC’s Homelessness Strategy should be updated to develop local support pathways for women, integrating housing and domestic abuse support, ensuring all women fleeing abuse are given priority status without the need to provide evidence, and establishing a forum for sharing best practice on supporting women at risk of homelessness.
MCC needs to ensure that a minimum of 5% of the local social housing stock is always available for women and children at risk of homelessness and to give single parents priority status for social homes, alongside other priority groups.
Childcare costs in Manchester are at least £1 more expensive per hour than the costs of nurseries and childminders in other boroughs of Greater Manchester. MCC should exempt nurseries from business rates and work with providers to ensure the savings are used to guarantee the Real Living Wage for all practitioners. They should also carry out an assessment of supply and demand for childcare provision and introduce a minimum level of council run nurseries and after school clubs. They need to review and assess their own land and assets with a view to re-purposing and improving outdoor space for childcare provision.
Public transport is a key priority within Greater Manchester’s 5 Year Environment Plan and yet women’s travel needs are rarely taken into account when planning and developing transport infrastructure. Women’s travel patterns often involve multiple trips rather than traditional commuter routes. Safety is a major concern, with women describing public transport as a ‘hotspot’ for gendered abuse and sexual harassment. Lack of inclusivity and accessibility creates a further barrier, as parents and wheelchair users are forced to compete for limited space.
MCC needs to increase and improve visibility of crossing locations, retrofit steps with ramps for wheelchairs and prams, widen pavements and increase pedestrian lighting. They should consult local communities and disability organisations on the introduction of Low Traffic Networks (LTNs) and develop a plan to introduce LTNs where they will benefit all residents. MCC should also prioritise increased parking spaces reserved for disabled people and parents of children, including electric vehicle parking.
- Climate change is of course a feminist issue, both locally and globally. What do you think Manchester City Council could/should do differently around climate policy?
WE recognise that the causes of climate change are inextricably linked to traditional economic systems, which exploit the environment and women’s work to maximise profit. In turn, the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect the poorest people and the poorest places, and particularly women. Yet women are excluded from developing the solutions. Women’s voices, priorities, knowledge, ideas, and lived experiences must help shape climate action. Any attempt to address the climate crisis without women will exacerbate inequality. Intersectional equality analysis must be compulsory in the plans to make Manchester a zero-carbon city by 2038. MCC must ensure that these plans include a net-zero carbon obligation for all new housing developments and all planning applications must include an Equality Impact Assessment, which must address the intersection between energy efficiency, carbon offset and gender equality.
- There is a climate hustings for representatives of Labour, Greens and Lib Dems on Monday 19th April. What question(s) would you like the candidates to answer?
What would you do to include women’s voices in the plans to make Manchester a zero-carbon city by 2038?
- Anything else you’d like to say?
WE believe in creating a socially just and environmentally safe place for all residents. COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the inequalities in our society. In order to recover from this pandemic, we must Build Back Equal. This requires rethinking how our communities work, and to do this we need a local government that is not afraid of radical change.