This is a speech by Newham (born and bred) Councillor, Ellie Robinson
, at the Full Council meeting
It was a marvelous speech and it was a shame that at that meeting we voted to change our Constitution so that Council meetings in the future
can be filmed. Shame Ellie missed out on this.
"I am going to
talk about Newham’s wonderful women.
We have a proud
history of fabulous women here.
Yesterday was the birthday of Emmeline Pankhurst, born on the 14th
July 1858, who founded the women’s franchise league which
fought to allow married women a vote in local elections.
She later helped found
the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) whose members were
the first to be called the 'suffragettes'. Emmeline's daughters Christabel and Sylvia
followed in their mum’s footsteps and when the Union’s
headquarters moved to London, Sylvia Pankhurst moved into the
Canning Town Public Hall, now the home of Community Links on the
Barking Road. The first London branch
of the Women’s Social and Political Union was formed right
Today, we all continue
to come across fabulous women everyday - helping to run our
schools, our businesses, our voluntary organisations, and our
health services, and, of course our council services.
At the Mayor’s
Town Show over the weekend, there were some fantastic women and
girls performing, educating, organising, inspiring throughout the
day. On Saturday I went to the Forest
Gate Women’s Institute food festival which is a fabulous
family-friendly event organised by a great group who are currently
campaigning against female genital mutilation.
Last Friday, I was
very honoured to spend some time with our social
workers. The woman who let me shadow
her in the morning works all hours of the day, with a smile and
with incredible patience, changing families’ lives in
Newham. At the end of the day I was
privileged to meet with some of our care leavers and their key
workers. One care leaver spoke
confidently about our children in care council and how it had given
her confidence and ambition and new skills while bouncing her new
born, much loved, daughter on her lap.
When I asked the key worker about the best part of her job she told
me, without hesitation how proud she had been to be her birthing
There are fabulous
women doing worthwhile things all around us, yet this government
clearly does not respect the contribution of women. Women’s unemployment has risen to a 25 year
high whilst men’s has decreased.
The Government’s attack on welfare and plans for growth are
frankly leaving women behind.
In addition, women are
still underrepresented at the highest levels.
UK women have slipped from
33rd to 57th place since 2001 in the international power
22% of MPs are women
the legal system, only 14% of the senior judiciary
11% of UK bank CEOs are
5% of Editors of national daily newspapers are
This is made worse by
there being a real lack of black women, Asian women, working class
women, disabled women and lesbian, bisexual and transgender women
in positions of power and influence.
Ensuring that women
are equally represented ensures that issues which affect half the
population are understood and debated.
Last month, the very awesome Texas State Senator, Wendy Davis
electrified the pro-choice movement with her 11-hour
filibuster. Facing down condescension
and sexism, she stood and spoke for 11 hours to ensure the rigid
anti-abortion bill would not go through.
We all know that
important decisions affecting us all, men and women, are better
made when different experiences and perspectives are
heard. Not having women at the
table is huge waste of talent and potential which perpetuates
itself, reproducing a model image of what leadership looks like,
constraining and stifling the
aspirations of future generations.
100 years ago this
year Emily Davison was killed when she threw herself under the
King's horse as a protest at the government's continued failure to
grant women the right to vote. 100
years on, we can all vote but there is a long way to go.
said of the Suffragettes, ‘We are here, not because we are
law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become
law-makers.’ Emmeline broke the
law so that I and others could help make it.
Let us commit to
ensure that, in Newham, in all that we plan and all that we
deliver, ALL the women and girls in our care, in our schools, in
our workforce, in our community have the support and the
opportunity to be the best that we can be.”