Article by Carol Wilson, Women’s Officer, Tunbridge Wells Constituency Labour Party
Come and join us on March 8th in Tunbridge Wells when women from across the borough will be marching from the Pantiles to the Royal Victoria Place to celebrate International Women’s Day. The day will be a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and will be a call to speed up the time when women have true gender equality.
This year, the centenary of (some) women getting the vote, we also pay tribute to the heroic women, suffragists and suffragettes, who led the campaign here in Tunbridge Wells for votes for women.
Over a hundred years ago the women of Tunbridge Wells were marching for equality and social justice – and they have never stopped.
Women from our town campaigned in the 70s against violence to women through the “Take back the Night” campaign, and in the 80s joined the women of Greenham Common to protest against the siting of cruise missiles. Tunbridge Wells women have led the way in supporting refugee families and unaccompanied refugee children to find new safe homes in which to rebuild their lives.
Today when the call to action comes women are there doing what women do, providing a small volunteer army to fill the gaps caused by cuts in public services.
The fight for women’s equality is ongoing, and Tunbridge Wells Labour Women’s Forum continues to use its voice to raise awareness of injustice. Women bear the brunt of austerity, domestic violence is on the rise, women’s refuges are underfunded or closing, food bank demand has increased massively, child poverty levels are up and so called affordable housing is out of reach for many. Social care is in crisis. Over 60% of carers are women and 80% of the government’s tax and welfare savings have come at the expense of women.
In Tunbridge Wells despite there being more women than men of voting age women seem a long way from achieving equality. We have a male MP, Council leader and Chief Executive and only a third of our councillors are women. We have 42 commemorative plaques across the town of which only 7 are of women and among those only one a suffragist, Amelia Scott.
The fight for empowerment and equality is still not won and will only be achieved when women realise the importance of their vote – and use it. We owe much to those brave women who led the fight for us. We want better for our daughters and granddaughters.
This year the International Women’s Day pledge is #PressforProgress, a call to action in the fight for parity to transform women’s lives.
Local women from all parties and organisations, young and older respecting all identities and faiths, will walk together from the Pantiles to Royal Victoria Place starting at 4pm on March 8th. Many will be in period costume.
As women we will proudly walk for change in the footsteps of our suffragist sisters in their 1913 local Pilgrimage March for votes for women.
Come with us and make the pledge!