Meet Mandu - Leader of the Women’s Equality Party
"Politics has never been in greater need of new ideas, fresh ways of doing things and creative leadership. We are the party that has those ideas in droves and I am bringing energy and creativity to lead us to electoral victory, to campaign victories, and to growth in our membership both in number and in representation. I am a passionate feminist. And to me, feminism is all about fairness and society fulfilling its potential."
In April 2019, Mandu became the first person of colour to lead a national political party in British history when she took the helm at the Women’s Equality Party.
Working at City Hall
Tackling period poverty
In 2015 she founded The Cup Effect - a charitable social enterprise, advocacy, and campaigning organisation that tackles period poverty in the UK and globally.
Top 100 most influential people in global gender policy
Success as party leader
Deputy Leader for Sustainability
Growing up on a council estate in Liverpool, society's expectations of what Tabitha could be were narrow. Add to this no formal education from age 10 and a strict religious upbringing, her options virtually disappeared. Books were always her window into the world, allowing her to see a future beyond her limited horizons and then to build this future. The knowledge that boundaries are only ever someone else's idea of what you can be, or a way to exert control, drive her activism. Tabitha believes that power is only useful if it’s used for the greater good. If you use power to make real changes so that the furthest in our communities are supported, that’s where the magic happens.
Today Tabitha is CEO of cross-party campaigning organisation More United where she has grown the organisation from a start up to a membership organisation of 150,000 backing 64 MPs from six parties. Her commercial knowledge was honed from 15 years in the construction industry and being the first woman to be on the UK board of her organisation. Tabitha has a track record of developing strong teams and robust income streams in both the private and political sectors.
Tabitha believed politics was for other people and saw activism and politics as two very different things. Joining WEP as a founder member turned these ideas upside down. She felt like she had come home. Part of a national movement of people who were not just calling out inequalities but actively working to dismantle them. So when the opportunity to centre ending violence against women and girls (EVAWG) in the 2017 Liverpool City Region Mayoral election meant running as a candidate, Tabitha stepped up. Her campaign resulted in the newly elected Mayor making EVAWG a priority and asking Tabitha to help write the strategy. Tabitha has had various roles in the party, including leading the Liverpool City Region Branch branch, Hackney Council candidate and she is currently a London Assembly candidate and Spokesperson for EVAWG on the Policy Committee.
Deputy Leader for Community and Connectedness
Christine is a child of Caribbean migrants, mother of two and wife. Her beliefs and value system have been shaped by her parent’s experiences, her inner-city upbringing and state school education. She has overcome the prejudice and the challenges of preconceived stereotypes and of being a woman of colour navigating every aspect of life whilst striving for professional recognition.
As a former family lawyer, Christine worked extensively in the area of child social care/child protection, advising and representing women on domestic violence and social care issues. She is passionate about fighting for women’s equality and improving women’s ability to be heard.
Christine became politically active when she joined the Women’s Equality Party in 2018. She wanted to raise awareness of inequalities and to help effect meaningful change via policies that impact women’s daily lives. She was elected as Waltham Forest Branch leader in February 2019, as a List Candidate for Greater London Assembly in March 2019, and to the Policy Committee as Movement Builder for ending violence against women and girls in January 2020. All of her current roles, including being on the BAME Caucus Committee, will complement her appointment as Deputy Leader responsible for Community and Connectedness.
Deputy Leader for Making Change Happen
As a disabled woman, Hannah is acutely aware of the many inequalities faced by huge swathes of our population. She campaigns fiercely for equality for all, regularly appearing in local and national media on a range of topics. She also loves a game of ‘Intersectionality Bingo’ - if politics isn’t intersectional, she will call it out! Hannah has built up a considerable social media following with her unique blend of wit, frustration and linguistic eyebrow raising.
Having created the campaign group “Junior Doctors - Our Lives in Your Hands” during her final year of medical school, Hannah went on to cut her political teeth as a trade unionist in the British Medical Association (BMA), where she is a member of their Council and the only junior on the national Gender Pay Gap in Medicine Review Steering Group. She is training as a GP in Leeds part time and, following her two TEDx talks, travels around the UK speaking about equality, Disability and inclusion. Through her work with the BMA, she has benefited from formal Leadership and Media training programmes and has gained a reputation for asking the difficult questions and coming up with unique solutions.
After she left the Labour Party, Hannah found a new home in WEP when she was invited to speak on a panel on ‘Women’s Health’ at the 2018 Conference. By the end of that day she had joined the party, and she has since thrown herself in as a Council candidate, an EU Parliamentary candidate and now Branch Leader in her hometown of Leeds. Hannah passionately advocates for intersectionality and collaborative politics, and sees the future of the party as one that combines guerrilla tactics with taking on the role of ‘critical friend’ in order to influence and shape the political landscape.
Why have the Deputy Leaders been appointed, how were they chosen, and how long will they be in position for?
What is the relationship between the Deputy Leaders and the Policy Committee and Steering Committee?
The Women’s Equality Party has achieved amazing things in the last five years - we have much to be proud of and to celebrate. But Covid-19 and the aftermath of it raises the stakes for women in ways none of us could have imagined. To meet the challenges that lie ahead we will need stamina, resilience and ingenuity at all levels of our party. Many hands make light work and diverse perspectives are a key ingredient of good decision making.
Where did the idea to have Deputy Leaders come from?
One of Mandu’s reflections after serving as interim leader for 9 months was that additional capacity would be of great benefit to the Leader and to the party. The idea for multiple Deputy Leaders was drawn from her experience of working for three consecutive Mayors of London over a period of 12 years. Once elected the Mayor of London is able to appoint up to 10 Deputy Mayors to support them with delivering their manifesto. Similar arrangements apply across the UK with devolved Mayors and Leaders selecting deputies that specialise in or lead on key areas to ensure the success of the region / country.
Why is this being introduced initially as a pilot?
Wherever possible, it’s really important when introducing changes such as this to do so on the basis of practice, not just theory. The pilot will enable us to test the model together, to find out what works, what doesn’t and why. So that when members get to vote at Conference on whether to formalise this model of shared leadership and make it part of the party’s future, they can do so on an informed basis.
The Steering Committee, which is the Party’s main decision-making body between Conferences, decided to implement this pilot following discussion of the original idea.
Supporting statement from the Chair of the Steering Committee:
“When Mandu came to the Steering Committee meeting in January of this year, I had already asked her for ideas on how she could best be supported as our newly elected Party Leader. After discussion and agreement at that meeting, I am really pleased that this pilot scheme, appointing three Deputies to the Leader, is now going ahead. The pilot has the full support of the Steering Committee. The Deputies will help to ensure Mandu, and the Women’s Equality Party more broadly, are given every opportunity to succeed. When we all come together at Conference later this year we will have the chance to evaluate the merits of this pilot scheme. In the meantime, on behalf of the Steering Committee, I wish Christine, Hannah and Tabitha every success.”
Bea Gare, Chair, Steering Committee
Who are the Deputy Leaders?
The new Deputy Leaders are Christine Dean, Tabitha Morton and Hannah Barham-Brown. They have all been Party Members for more than 18 months and Tabitha and Christine are elected members of the Policy Committee. With the Leader they bring a wealth of personal, professional and political experience to the leadership of our party. As a party we recognise that women are not a monolith and it’s a source of strength and pride to have a leadership team that, better than any other party in the history of British politics, reflects the diversity of women we are here to represent.
What will the Deputy Leaders do?
The Deputy Leaders will represent and serve the party - they will do so by supporting and advising the Leader or being deployed by staff to help to deliver the party’s mission, for instance by playing a role in fundraising or leading projects. When appropriate, they may deputise for the Leader as Chief Spokesperson. The call on their time will vary depending on the pressures and priorities of the Party, but as a minimum the expectation is that they will commit to at least 2 days per month of service in addition to any other roles they perform for the Party Each deputy will be paid a nominal ‘contractor fee’ for each period of service. They will also be expected to support and mentor party members.
How will the party benefit from having Deputy Leaders?
Having the Deputy Leaders on board will increase our capacity and provide our party with more resilience. They may deputise for the Leader as Chief Spokesperson when appropriate and will work with the leader to develop and achieve the party’s vision and strategy. The Deputies come from a range of different backgrounds and have a wealth of varied personal, professional and political experience to offer the party, thereby broadening our reach and appeal. If the Government’s response to the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that narrow perspectives make for poor decisions. Alongside the Leader our team of Deputies will set an example of how to break the mould of the macho, individualistic survival-of-the-fittest political leadership that excludes so many people, especially women.
How will the membership benefit from having Deputy Leaders?
Having additional leadership capacity will mean greater connectivity between members and branches and the Party’s core operation. The Deputies will ensure the leadership of the party is more accessible to you. They will engage with and support branches across the UK. Specifically, for the duration of the pilot, each Deputy has pledged to meet with at least two branches a month to hear and learn from you and give you a channel through which you can shape and influence the direction of the party. All three Deputies have either served in the past, or currently serve as Branch Leaders - in Leeds, Liverpool and Waltham Forest.
Why have the Deputy Leaders been appointed, how were they chosen, and how long will they be in position for?
The Deputy Leaders have been appointed by the Leader. This model takes inspiration from how the Mayor of London’s administration operates - the Mayor is elected and is able to appoint up to 10 deputies to provide support and advice, and to fulfil particular remits that are essential to the success of the city. Our Deputy Leaders share the Leader’s vision and have the skills and experience to super charge our work of building a more equal world. They will do this by helping to: grow, strengthen and diversify our movement; ensure our financial sustainability; develop our people; and increase our influence and impact by running successful campaigns and winning elections. Being able to select Deputies with a variety of skills that complement each other is important to achieving the optimum balance that will make the team work. The intention is for Deputy Leaders to serve a term of up to two years, subject to decisions on this pilot being voted on at party conference.
What is the relationship between the Deputy Leaders and the Policy Committee and Steering Committee?
The Deputies will complement and support the work and remit of the Policy Committee, where a Deputy is on the Policy Committee they will not have any additional authority over other members. The Deputies will not be members of the Steering Committee. The pilot period will be used to determine any governance refinements that need to be made to support cross-working between the Deputies and these two groups.
Who do the Deputies report to and what authority do they have?
In the first instance, each Deputy Leader will report to the Leader and through them to the Steering Committee, but ultimately - they are accountable to you, the membership, and will report to you at Conference. Deputy Leaders will not be responsible for Party staff or have authority over them.
Will the Deputies be paid for these roles?
Each deputy will be paid a nominal ‘contractor fee’ for each period of service.
The Policy Committee is elected by party members to develop, champion and be custodians for our fantastic policies. They help the party raise awareness of, and support for, our policies; gather intel from and develop relationships with organisations and individuals working on our policy goals; create momentum around political opportunities for progress towards our policies; and, engage and inspire existing and prospective members to take action and win change.
While our Democracy Commission is underway and until our 2022 party conference, the Policy Committee will be working together on the following:
- Acting as spokespeople across the party’s seven policy areas
- Developing a manifesto for the 2022 local elections
- Preparing policy motions for conference and ensuring the coherence and consistency of other policy motions
- Coordinating our response to relevant national consultations
- Updating the Policy Document
- Supporting longer term policy development and helping the party work through policy conflicts
They will also work with the Democracy Commission to develop a blueprint for the next phase of the Policy Committee, based on input from members.
Kathryn is extremely passionate about tackling the Gender Pay Gap - she is a founding member of the Women’s Equality Party and co-leader of the Manchester branch. She finds it shocking that the UK still has a significant Gender Pay Gap, and many organisations still don’t believe that they need to try and close their Gap, as they believe it's due to women’s choices!
Kathryn is a qualified accountant and has several years’ experience working in senior management positions to effect organisational change. She is on the Board of a large, national charity, and is responsible for shaping strategy and ensuring good governance. She has worked with organisations on their Gender Pay Gap reporting and has run pop-up stalls educating the public on the issue.
A recent member of the WEP, Cheryl was spurred to join after years of frustration and fatigue as the same old excuses and barriers blocked true equality. She is both passionate and practical and is continually dismayed by the wasted potential in the world because women are held back.
Professionally she started her career as a lawyer before moving into tech and co-founding a creative education start-up. She is now a leadership coach working with entrepreneurs and leaders who want to change the world for the better. She has a young son and understands the constant juggle between parenting, work and the good old cognitive load. Her passion for equal parenting and caregiving comes from personal and professional experience of seeing women blocked and distracted from professional success because they are carrying too much of the burden.
Emma thinks equality is not only better for everyone, but we need everyone to get this message loud and clear. She believes her media experience will help WE be part of creating this crucial narrative.
As a screenwriter and programme-maker, Emma has worked in the broadcast industry for almost twenty years. She woke up to the institutionalised sexism in the industry and became involved in campaigns to get more women’s voices on our screens, including the Writers’ Guild Equality Writes campaign, launched after a damning report with stats e.g. only 13% of primetime drama is written by women. She advocates on behalf of female BAME screenwriters for inclusion in writing rooms and has set up a film-making co-operative producing and supporting female filmmakers in the under-represented ‘genre’ creative landscape.
Rozina has worked for the Mayor’s Office (GLA) for almost 15 years on various strategies and policies delivering key cultural festivals and events -promoting equality, diversity, inclusion and social integration to a multicultural international audience.
She has also worked at the BBC in Documentaries & Investigation where she established extensive experience and knowledge of media law and key broadcasting guidelines.
Up until 2016 Caroline was a secondary school teacher. Her specialism was A-Level Politics but like most teachers she had to teach plenty outside of her comfort zone: Psychology, Sociology, History, Geography, IT and SRE were all part of her experience.
Caroline Hunt helped to run our parliamentary campaigns in Shipley and Lewisham East. She is the former leader of the Leeds WEP branch, and helps coordinate the Northern Branches Team
Caroline is passionate about WE’s fantastic Education policies (inclusive SRE, more men in primary and early years, more women in SLT, compulsory formal sexual harassment policies, free sanitary products in schools, gender free uniform options) and wants more people to hear about them.
Tabitha believes ending violence against women and girls (VAWG) is the most important of our 7 core objectives. While it’s still acceptable for women to be raped and killed, none of us will be free. She believes we must end this epidemic of violence to achieve true equality.
Tabitha currently leads WEP’s work to end VAWG:
• She has implemented an end VAWG strategy with the Metro Mayor of Liverpool.
• She is working with the branch in Manchester to do the same.
• She has introduced a campaign model for branches that takes activists on a journey to becoming experts on ending VAWG in their area.
Tabitha has a strong track record of both press and broadcast interviews for WEP and am often requested to comment both locally and nationally on VAWG matters, as well as receiving invitations to speak publicly at conferences and events.
Christine was the Waltham Forest Branch Leader, a List Candidate for GLA 2020 elections and a member of the BAME caucus. She is a former family lawyer with over 20 years’ experience representing women and young girls who were subject to domestic violence and abuse.
Her experience gives her a unique insight into the current problems and failings in the protection available for women and young girls today. Christine wants to play a part in shaping more effective and female-focused violence prevention policies. She has an excellent working knowledge of the party's policies on VAWG.
Ruth has lived in Scotland for over twenty years and as a founder member of WEP has been active in the Glasgow branch since its early days. After many years as a musician, often touring the country as a pianist with Scottish Opera, she is now mid-career change and doing an MSc in Applied Gender Studies at Strathclyde University. Her research is focused on two main areas: poverty, and particularly why Universal Basic Income would benefit women; and political representation, looking at what the political parties are doing to promote gender equality in the Scottish Parliament, and researching how ageism affects women in politics.
I’m an infectious disease epidemiologist and mother of two young children. For years I’d been turned off politics because it seemed that the main political parties were more interested in point-scoring and winning power than they were in using that power to make a fairer, healthier world in which everyone could thrive. Then along came the Women’s Equality Party, and finally I felt heard. The pandemic has highlighted why so many of our flagship policies are important – such as increased pay for careworkers, and the need for the government to recognise the value of childcare. But being proved right isn’t enough - what WE really need are seats in the room where decisions are being made.
Meet the WE staff team
We are a small and determined team who work hard to achieve the aims of the Party. We consider ourselves lucky to work alongside an army of volunteers who support us with everything from video-editing and website development to branch building and election planning. Find out more about volunteering with central office.
Cath Smith, Head of Campaigns
Cath leads on our national campaigns and elections. She is passionate about getting WEP representatives elected and driving change at a local and national level.
Hannah Peaker, Chief of Staff
Hannah is responsible for operationalising the Party's strategy, managing the central office team and is the Leader's right-hand woman.
Clementine Forster, Chief Operating Officer
Clementine is responsible for the strategic operational and financial management of the party. Clementine has a second full time job (sadly unremunerated) called ‘being a mother’. Before she had two full time jobs, she enjoyed not realising how much free time and money she had. She is now determined to support the party in delivering political solutions to the inequalities still faced by women in the UK, including the lack of recognition of, or support for, unpaid care work.
Amy Killen, Campaigns Manager
Amy began her involvement with the Women's Equality Party as a grassroots activist right from its beginnings in 2015. Since then she has brought her experience and expertise to the Central Office team as Campaigns Manager where she focuses on developing and managing campaigns including elections, electoral strategy, electoral compliance and national campaigning.
Eleanor Leone, Finance and Operations Co-Ordinator
Aimee Williams-Maynard, Members and Supporters Officer
Aimee is the members and supporters officer. She manages the day-to-day work of recruiting, engaging and retaining the party's members and supporters and responding to member enquiries and requests.
Alice Larden, Director of Fundraising and Supporters
Alice leads on fundraising for the Party, raising income from a number of channels to ensure the Party can deliver its key aims and activities. She also ensures that all members and supporters of the Party feel valued, included and inspired by our work.
Jess Gelsthorpe, Fundraising and Events Coordinator
Helena Moody, Digital Communications Coordinator
Helena is responsible for the party’s digital communications including the paid and organic social media strategy, website maintenance, email schedule and content design. She is passionate about building our online profile to raise awareness and drive interest in the party.
Monika Radojevic, Policy and Communications Officer
Monika supports campaigns and elections work and is responsible for coordinating the Party's policy-related communications. She is also a writer and award-winning poet.
Deborah Fiorin, Members and Supporters Manager
Deborah manages activity to recruit, engage and retain our valued members and supporters.
Bea is a former British diplomat who specialised in multilateral security policy and international negotiations. She holds a doctorate in Biological Sciences. She is still learning about everything.
Catherine Mayer, President
Catherine is a bestselling author and award-winning journalist with a career spanning The Economist, the German news weekly FOCUS and TIME magazine. Her most recent book 'Attack of the Fifty Foot Women: How Gender Equality Can Save the World!' includes the story of why in 2015 she co-founded the Women’s Equality Party. She served as elected president of the Foreign Press Association in London, is on the founding committee of WOW - The Women of the World Festival and was a judge for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction. She is the Executive Director of the think tank, Datum Future.
Catherine is the President of the Women’s Equality Party.
Chris Paouros, Chair of the Executive Committee
Chris is a highly strategic business and charity leader, specialising in the growth of small organisations on a global scale. Chris is a Trustee of Kick It Out, football’s Equality and Inclusion organisation; Just Like Us, an LGBT+ charity for young people; is on the Board of the Football Supporters’ Association and Non-Executive Director of Leaders Unlocked, a social enterprise giving young people a voice.
Chris is of the firm belief that the Women's Equality Party is the only answer to our broken political system and a feminist analysis and solution-focus is the way to fix it.
Leila is a mixed-race London resident, a dedicated charity worker for over 20 years and an avid equality rights campaigner. Leila recognises the deprivation, racism and sexism she experienced in her childhood does not have to be the reality. Society can, and should, be equal. She dedicates her spare time to WEP canvassing and sitting on the Executive, Steering and BAME Caucus Committees. She has also stood as a WEP councillor candidate and is currently standing as a GLA candidate.
Annie has spent a long career in media and advertising ultimately running a global business.
She is passionate about womens' rights and equality, and believes in the importance of supporting and mentoring young women. the Women's Equality Party is a natural home.
Francesca lives by the sea in Mid Wales and has twin daughters. She reads avidly, she writes badly, and she plays hockey with a level of aggression usually reserved for rugby. She loves live music and the theatre.
WEP is her only political home; until WEP she felt as if she was just screaming into a political abyss - now she's found her crowd...she's much louder!
As a Town Clerk, Francesca project-manages virtually everything for their town; from Summer planting to Christmas lights, allotments to skate parks. She also makes sure the Councillors stay on the straight and narrow.
The Steering Committee is made up of the Party Leader, The Party’s Life President and Life M.C, ten members elected by Party Conference, five members recommended by the Steering Committee and appointed at Party conference, and five members randomly selected.
Your Steering Committee members, as of September 2018, are: