05/03/2019 - Report from the National Women’s Conference February 2019
What a diverse conference, stimulating, motivating and empowering. I have never met so many women from different backgrounds and experiences and am so much better informed as a result. It was a packed weekend, definitely a left of centre gathering with absolutely no time for the Tiggers who have left the Party!
Conference opened with an introduction from Telford and from the Telford Parliamentary Candidate, Katrina Gilmann. Telford is a “new town” of 50 years and a target seat for Labour. Katrina is a very promising candidate, definitely one to watch. Dawn Butler, Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities spoke with great conviction of all the “phenomenal women” and the work they carry out, and the work that will be needed by a Labour Government to bring about a fairer society. Then a tumultuous welcome for Jeremy Corbyn, hot footing it from Broxtowe, Madrid and Brussels. Absolutely no doubt who the women at the Conference supported!
Following the priorities ballot from motions put forward from the CLPs and affiliates, eight subjects were debated: Women in the Workforce; Early Years; Pensions; Violence Against Women and Girls; Social care; Abortion Rights; Universal Credit and Rights for Migrant Women.
The debates highlighted so many problems including discrimination in the workplace, particularly for black women, cuts in childcare support hitting the most vulnerable, the impact on some older women through the way in which the pension age has been increased and the problems brought about by the closure of shelters. We heard heartrending tales of the wait for care and the very low wages paid to care workers. The urgent need to change the abortion laws in Northern Ireland, the absolute disgrace of Universal Credit and the dreadful situations faced by disabled people awaiting their PIP (Personal Independence Payments). Finally, the shameful way this country is treating migrant women.
In 2018 there were 25.4 million refugees of whom 85% are hosted in southern countries. In the UK there were 121,837 refugees, 40,365 pending asylum cases and 97 stateless persons in the UK - surely the UK, with the fifth largest economy in the world, can do better than this…
The list of horrors just went on and on and all the motions were agreed with the wholehearted support of conference. So much so that we felt we could have done with some argument! Then voting on the motions – one from the CLPs and one from the affiliates to go forward to conference in September. Also the voting for the members of the Women’s Conference Arrangements Committee with Gemma’s name on the “grassroots” slate.
Voting was a very hard call as all of the motions were extremely important and worthy of support. A very difficult choice. However, the “Labour Women Leading” group supported the CLP motion to prioritise “‘Rights for Migrant Women” and this was a clear winner. From the affiliates, “Universal Credit and Employment Support” easily carried the day.
We were absolutely delighted when the Grassroots Slate easily won the WCAC vote – congratulations to Gemma who is going to have a busy, but very interesting, year ahead! Many thanks to our CLP for putting me forward as a delegate – a real privilege!