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Saturday 23

Women’s concerns are not a side issue. They’re of vital concern to the whole movement, writes RUTH HAYES

Austerity is not gender neutral. The Labour Party’s analysis indicates that 86 per cent of the burden of austerity since 2010 has fallen on women; not only through attacks on services for women and girls such as those experiencing domestic violence, but cuts affecting all aspects of women’s lives.

Tory policies lead to many women being in dreadful situations — unable to make their wages stretch, they turn to foodbanks in ever higher numbers.

School holidays mean holiday hunger. Many women, juggling caring for children and support for older relatives with multiple paid jobs, are exhausted. Women stay in exploitative relationships because they have nowhere else to go.

Women at university are in huge debt while Waspi women are plunged into poverty. Hate crime such as Islamophobia is rising and many women face multiple discrimination.

The UN’s recent findings that the government was guilty of “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities should have triggered positive change, but the Tories have simply dismissed them.

In contrast, the last Labour Party manifesto offered real hope to millions of women, with transformative policies.

A £10 an hour minimum wage, investment in housing and childcare and real rights at work are policies which would change people’s lives.

Ending student fees and lifting the public-sector pay cap would enable women to reach their full potential, and to continue to play a vital role in public services.

There is huge surge of interest in politics, with the Labour Party now the largest party in Europe. People want to be involved, to campaign and to build a more just society.

Ensuring that women from all backgrounds are heard, and that their priorities are central to debate, is essential. This not only benefits women, but the whole movement.

Not all Labour Party structures yet facilitate engagement and support people to be more active, but members are demanding change to ensure that the party becomes genuinely democratic.

We are profoundly disappointed that the arrangements for this year’s Labour Party’s Women’s Conference have been badly communicated.

It does not have the resources and standing that it ne. It cannot consider resolutions and has no mechanism to have an effect on the main conference.

We hope that this will be addressed next year and that Jean Crocker and Teresa Clark are elected to the women’s conference arrangements committee to help ensure this happens.

The NEC’s recent decision to make nearly 50 of Labour’s top target seats women-only shortlists is great news. The left now has to provide support and encouragement to women who will argue for policies which address the core concerns of women in those constituencies.

The recent general election saw some outstanding women elected and they need to be joined by many more. If this opportunity is not taken, we will let down the millions of women who need urgent change.

Our politics looks to tackle economic injustice, to engage with people on estates, in insecure work, who feel that they have been ignored by politicians of all parties in the past.

Women now make up the majority of Labour’s supporters, and their voice matters. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, party policies have broad popular appeal. We need to involve women in campaigning and to take up leadership roles at all levels.

A number of activists who support the party’s policies have been developing the Labour Women Leading network, to enable women to share experiences and provide support.

Critically, we want to ensure that women understand party structures and can play a full role across the movement.

A very successful event was held in the spring, and there is a fringe meeting in Brighton with women MPs and trade unionists speaking.

Change is in the air across Britain. Women are involved in disputes such as the BA Mixed Fleet, the McDonald’s strike and the campaign against the public-sector pay cap.

We have a proud history of tackling sexism and discrimination and we are fighting to ensure that there is a Labour government in power which will deliver genuine justice and equality.

The fringe meeting is from 5.30pm- 7.15pm today at the Brighthelm Centre, North Road BN1 1YD. Speakers include MPs Diane Abbott, Cat Smith and Emma Dent Coad as well as Christine Blower, Liz Davies and Claudia Webbe.

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