Last week was International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate on the progress that has been made towards women’s equality, but also to reflect on how much more work still needs to be done, writes Helen Hayes, MP…
I am always grateful for the hard work of women MPs including my Southwark neighbour, Harriet Harman, to reform Parliament and enable more women than every before to become MPs through initiatives like all women shortlists, and reforming the hours that Parliament sits, there is still more to do to ensure that our Parliament fully reflects the communities across the country that it serves, including tackling the abuse that many women politicians are subjected to online, so that women are not deterred from standing for public office.
The impact of nine years of Tory and Lib Dem austerity has been felt most keenly by women. Whether as mums, carers, in work or in retirement, women have borne the brunt of the cuts to our public services and welfare system. A Labour government would ensure that WASPI women born in the 1950s who are being denied years of pension payments; carers who lack support and working mums struggling to cover the cost of childcare, are receive the help they need.
Larger companies now have to publish their gender pay gap – the difference in the amount that men and women are paid at work. This is helpful in shining a light on pay inequality, revealing a shocking gender pay gap in some industries, although as yet there is unfortunately no mechanism to address this.
The ‘International’ in International Women’s Day is also important. It is a day to remember women and girls across the world who still don’t have access to the basic rights and freedoms that we take for granted, like healthcare and education. Access to education and healthcare, participation in democracy and freedom from harassment and violence at work and in the home must be secured for every girl, no matter where she lives.
Back in the UK it is important that we tackle period poverty. The estimated average cost of basic period products over the course of a woman’s life is £4,800, and last year 137,000 girls in the UK missed school last year because they couldn’t afford period protection. No young woman should miss school for this reason, so I’m supporting a campaigning led by one of our unions, the CWU to make period products free to everyone who needs them, so that every girl can fulfil her potential.