The members' assembly will be run by an independent third party, managed by WE staff, with guidance from our advisory group. The brief for this work was sent out to tender, and we have appointed NatCen Social Research to carry out the work, based on the proposal they submitted in response to the brief.
The members' assembly is based on the citizens' assembly model, which has been used to tackle a range of issues and policies including abortion, Brexit, climate change and social care.
What is a citizens' assembly?
Typically, a group of people are chosen at random using certain additional information to ensure they are representative of the general population (such as age, geography, race, ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability status etc.), and their views on the topic are assessed to ensure a broad range. They are asked to read evidence and/or hear presentations from experts, lobby groups and people with lived experience of the issue/s at hand and are asked to deliberate on a question or series of questions based on the information they hear. It is often a three-stage method, with citizens spending the first part learning about the issues and context, the second part deliberating in small groups on their own understanding, opinions and questions, and finally the third part coming to conclusions and recommendations. For more information about citizens' assemblies and deliberative methods online see:
How will members of this assembly be chosen?
We sent out a survey of all our members on the 13th August, asking about their demographics (including age, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, and where they live) as well as some general attitudinal questions on how much they know about the Gender Recognition Act, and whether or not they agree that people should or should not be able to legally change their gender without taking the steps they currently have to.
Participants are being selected to represent a range of attitudes in relation to changes to the GRA; age groups and geographical locations. Those selected also included at least 20% of people who said they had a disability or long-term health condition and at least 15% who said they were lesbian, gay or bisexual. All respondents to the survey who said they are trans and non-binary, and those from ethnic minority groups are being invited, as their total responses made up a small proportion of the overall number.
An invitation has been sent to people who, as a group, meet these criteria and quotas. The information we have sent to members being invited is available at https://www.womensequality.org.uk/members_consultation_assembly_participant.Participation is entirely voluntary, and members are free to turn down the invitation or withdraw at any time.
The names of participants will be published after the assembly has taken place.
When will the assembly happen?
There will be sessions on Wednesday evenings for three consecutive weeks from 5pm until 8:30pm on the 16th, 23rd, and 30th September. The first two weeks will be informational, and we will make as much of the evidence presented to assembly members available as possible for all our members.
Parts of the first and second week and all of the third week are confidential, as the members of the assembly will meet in small groups to ask questions, deliberate, and make recommendations. They will be guided by moderators from NatCen, using questions and guidance determined by the advisory group.
Members of the advisory group will observe the small groups without taking part in the discussions, to ensure the moderators' impartiality and to be clear about how the recommendations are reached.
Audio recordings of the deliberations will be made available to WE staff and the Policy Committee.
What will members of our assembly be asked to do?
Members selected to participate will be asked to listen to witness testimonies from people with a range of views, expertise and experiences, read a selection of documents, and take part in small group discussions before collectively making recommendations about whether or not the Party needs to add or change any of its policies in light of the evidence they have heard.
How will witnesses and evidence be elected?
We have now selected a full advisory group of eight people, more information about the advisory group is available at https://www.womensequality.org.uk/members_consultation_advisory_group.
The advisory group will work together to compile a list of witnesses for the assembly, who will be invited to present evidence to the assembly members.
Participants will hear about the legislative context of the debate at conference 2018 (Gender Recognition Act, Equality Act and/or other relevant legislation) and listen to a range of testimonies relevant to the motion. These may include, but are not be limited to, the following cross-cutting topics:
- Service provision, e.g. services that support survivors of male violence, health services;
- Single sex spaces;
- Data collection and categorisation; and
- Language around sex and gender in terms of services and inclusion.
They are also likely to cover our seven policy objectives:
- Equal Representation
- Equal Pay & Opportunity
- Equal Parenting & Caregiving
- Equal Education
- Equality in and by the Media
- Ending Violence Against Women
- Equality in Health
We expect to invite witnesses who will speak to their professional experience and views, as well as witnesses who will provide testimony of their own experiences, some of which may be distressing or traumatic. The advisory group has provided options for people giving testimony anonymously if needed, including written testimony, audio only, or having their experiences read out by someone on their behalf.
Witnesses for the first week are as follows:
|Data collection||James Morton||Manager of the Scottish Trans Alliance|
|Data collection||Alice Sullivan||Quantitative sociologist|
|Media||Ruth Serwotka||Trade unionist and co-founder of Women's Place UK|
|Media||Anonymous testimony||Academic with expertise in 'the study of culturally induced ignorance'|
Witnesses for the second week are as follows:
|Education||Zed Lomax||Non-binary trans teacher|
|Education||Dr Shereen Benjamin||Senior Lecturer in Primary Education, University of Edinburgh|
|Ending violence against women||Karen Ingala Smith||Chief Executive of NIA, which runs services for women and girls who have been subjected to sexual and domestic violence and abuse|
|Ending violence against women||Tabitha Morton presenting summary of Women's Aid & Cornwall Refuge Trust||Witness testimonies from evidence session of the Women and Equalities Select Committee about the exemptions in the Equality Act in relation to single sex services|
|Representation||Dr Jane Clare Jones||Feminist writer, philosopher and activist|
|Representation||Sam Gilmore||Former Green party policy coordinator|