Megan Senior will stand for election as a local councillor in Ecclesall Ward in May 2019. A fundraiser for a local charity, Meg came to Sheffield to study at the University of Sheffield in 2010 and lives locally. This is the first time that residents in Ecclesall will have the opportunity to vote for the Women’s Equality Party. Here, she tells us about the campaign. To get involved sign up to volunteer or email [email protected] to let Meg know what local issues are important to you.
Women's Equality Party is a new (and growing!) political party and we are doing things differently from the traditional parties.
The best way to sum it up is: Society is unequal and if we improve this it will be better for everyone. The people worst affected are women, especially women of colour, those living in poverty, with disabilities and/or identifying as LGBTQ+. I want to draw attention to the real-life disadvantages facing these women and challenge the council to do more for us all.
I feel quite strongly that in Sheffield local people's voices are not always heard by the council, and I want to help change that. My aim is to amplify women's voices and address gender inequality which is rife in our city. Just one Women's Equality Party representative on the council will drastically change the conversations taking place around this. I care particularly about equal parenting and care giving, closing the gender pay gap, and supporting organisations who work to end violence against women and girls.
Locally in Sheffield, there are lots of different issues which residents feel passionately about – equality, the environment, trees, cuts to education funding to name just a few. On the doorstep people are telling us that they feel fed up by the complacent approach of the older parties towards many of these concerns. Unless a political matter impacts gender equality, the Women's Equality Party nationally do not give a steer or a whip to members. This means that each elected person can represent the views of their constituents. I'm seeking input from people all across Ecclesall Ward about what issues are important locally.
I am standing for election as someone completely new to politics because I have had enough of the tribal and aggressive nature of the established political parties. I am campaigning for women’s voices and experiences to be heard on the council, and I will work with any local women and men willing to help me make Sheffield a better place to live and work, and to stamp out all forms of discrimination.
I will collaborate with others on the Council to secure more funding for to help support women and girls who have experienced violence and domestic abuse, and for more local training and employment opportunities for women and girls. I will fight for equal representation on Council committees to ensure policies and decisions deliver equality.
Ecclesall needs a voice that will champion local services that have been brutally cut by mainstream parties over the past decade, disproportionately affecting women. It’s clear that the only way to get change is to vote for a party from outside of the establishment.
When my husband and I got married, I'm pretty sure that we, and everyone else there that day, saw it as a joining of equals. We walked down the aisle together - no "giving away". We wrote and spoke our own vows, talking of shared interests and understanding, caring and a mutual respect.
We were then staggered by the impact that having our children had on this balance. First there was the expectation that everything to do with the children had to be my business: people would walk past my husband to ask me what the children would like to do, or what they want to eat, or if they are tired. Almost as if he didn't exist.
Then there was the idea that, the children were now the only thing that I was about. Meeting friends and family, they would ask my husband about himself, his work, the latest sporting events, what's going on in the world. Me, they asked "how are the kids doing?" Almost as if I didn't exist.
Added to that comes the assumption that my husband didn't know how to look after the children - that it would be me taking a day off work when they are unwell; that Dad-taking-the-kids-camping-for-the-weekend would surely end in disaster.
As if wasn’t bad enough, there were massive gender differences experienced by our children. Pink and blue clothes were just the start of it. What toys they are expected to play with and the things they might be interested in are all determined by their gender. People talk to them differently - they comment on her appearance “you look pretty” and ask him what his favourite football team is. They are even allocated different standards of behaviour – what is deemed as naughty in a girl is explained away by “boys will be boys” in her brother.
Don't get me wrong, I know they are different. But surely that difference comes as much from their individual preferences and choices, as it does from the number of X chromosomes they have.
Then one day, when my daughter was 5, we watched Mary Poppins. In the film the children's mother is a Suffragette, and they sing a very rousing song about it. My daughter asked me to explain what a Suffragette was, so I told her how it didn't used to be fair for women because they couldn't vote. She didn't understand. So then I said it was like if in school they were choosing what games to play, but only the boys got to have a say. She understood.
Then she looked me with her big, innocent eyes and said "but it's fair for girls now Mummy, isn't it?" And with profound sadness I realised that the answer to that was a resounding "No". And that, nearly 100 years after women got the vote, there is still a lot to be done to make things fair for our children.
Because otherwise how will we answer these tough questions that they ask, like:
- Does it come in a colour that isn't pink?
- Where are the good girl role models in books and films?
- Why did we spend ages in school learning about Brazil when the football world cup was on, but no one even mentioned the women's world cup?
- Why can't he wear his hair in a bobble?
- Why do they laugh at him for liking girl music? (Katy Perry, but don't judge him, he's 5)
And then later, the questions will get harder.
- Why isn't it safe for her to walk home late at night?
- Why did that guy on the bus grope her leg?
- And why is he earning more than her?
So the way I see it, we have a choice. We can try and find acceptable answers to these questions - try and explain away the unfairness - or we can do something about changing it. I choose the latter.
Because equality is better for everyone. Especially our children.
Because if not you, who? If not now, when?
Carol Keen, Sheffield Branch Data Manager
Charlotte Mead - Branch Leader
Ann Butler - Treasurer
Ann is self-employed, a mother and grandmother, and a lifelong political cynic, delighted to have finally found her political home with WEP, a refreshingly collaborative and forward-thinking party, and exactly what our society needs now
Isobel Thomas - Communications Lead
Isobel had never been involved in politics before WEP, but got to the point where she realised that she needed to DO something if she wanted to see change. She fits my volunteering for WEP in around my family and job at a national charity. It's busy and exciting and she loves the sense of purpose that comes from taking action on things she cares about.
Carol Keen - Data Manager
Always a feminist, but never an active campaigner until joining WEP, Carol got involved because she could see the how gender shaped the lives of her son and daughter from a very young age, and wanted them to have more choice in their lives. She juggles volunteering for WEP with family life and her work as a physiotherapist.
Philippa Willitts - Comms Team
An intersectional feminist, Pippa is disabled and LGBT. In her day job, she is a freelance writer and proofreader and, by night, she manages Sheffield WEP's Facebook page, along with other campaigning and rights work.