Activists in Residence, if someone had asked what that meant at the beginning of the year, we would have no clue. Fast forward half a year and that is now one of our roles.
Activists In Residence
A few months ago, two people reached out to us about an opportunity that had come up from the Centenary Action Group (CAG). The CAG is a cross-party coalition of over 100 women’s rights organisations, activists, and political parties, working to eradicate the intersectional barriers to women’s political representation. They were looking for someone that wanted to campaign to address the multiple barriers that limit women’s political participation. The TC duo are staunch advocates for not only the representation of historically marginalised people, but also for us being in seats and positions of power.
While we do need to have disabled Black women represented in the media, it will take more to make a positive impact on people’s lives. We must be in the rooms and on the boards where decisions are made. There are countless stats and numerous news articles that remind us of the precariousness of our existence. With this always in our minds, it is after all our lives that are always at stake, we went for the role. We are now two months in and wanted to share with you some things that we have learned.
Politics? It’s Probably Worse Than You Thought
As two Disabled, Black women, we are no strangers to the ways in which the lack of true representation in political harms people. Part of our role has been using online platforms to share the current realities of British politics. They are…not great.
The percentages of Disabled women in the UK and women MPs that identify as Disabled are miles apart. There can be no necessary changes made that will positively impact the lives of Disabled women if we don’t get a say. We are not engaging in hyperbole when we state that our lives are on the line. Disabled women are more than twice as likely as non-Disabled women to experience domestic abuse. These statistics equate to real people who need their needs championed. There is nobody better suited to do that than those with the lived experience.
You Are Needed, But It Is Not Easy
It would be remiss of us to advocate for more women in the political arena without being honest about how difficult it is. Time and again, news articles and reels are dedicated to the disgusting abuse that women in politics face. So much so, that they step down and leave politics completely. This is made so much worse if you are a Black woman.
In the lead up to the 2017 general elections, it was found that of all abusive tweets sent to female MP’s, nearly a third was sent to Diane Abbott. While heartbreaking, it is unsurprising. The world actively punishes Black women that dare to expect and demand more than what society feels they deserve. It was because of this, and so many other reasons, that it was especially heartwarming to see Ms Abbott during the ‘F**k Forgiveness’ panel at WOW festival.
Fear Not, All Is Not Lost
There is still hope. The action group has people and organisations that are working to make the British political landscape more representative. They are doing this by engaging in a number of different campaigns.
The first being the Enact 106 campaign. Currently, there is no legal requirement for political parties to gather the diversity data of political candidates. While some do collect this information, most don’t publish it. Without accessible, representative data, we cannot hold parties accountable for nomination discrimination. Everyone should have fair representation in the UK.
The Equal Power campaign ‘is a three-year campaign to get more women in all our diversity into politics at every level.’ The efforts for this campaign are handled by 7 different organisations that have committed themselves to this Herculean task. Just over half of the UK population is made up of women, yet only 34% of MPs and just 35% of local councillors in England and Wales are women.
In addition to the implementation of section 106, the reinstatement of the “Access to Elected Office Fund” would make a massive difference to disabled candidates. The fund covered disability-related costs as part of standing for election. Without this, it is near impossible for disabled candidates to cover the extra costs. As part of Equal Power, CAG are planning to do more to campaign for the reinstatement of this fund. Sign up for Equal Power to hear how you can get involved.
What Is Being Done
The action group has been working and fighting to tackle online abuse faced by women that dare to enter politics. They are calling for 10% of the proposed Digital Services Tax to be spent tackling online abuse. People that are further marginalised because of their race, religion, sexuality and other protected characteristics, are at greater risk of abuse. But it is these very same people that have been historically marginalised that we desperately need.
It is from those at the very edges of what society has deemed ‘acceptable’ that we must learn. People like the Triple Cripples duo who have had to navigate a world that was not built with them in mind. The resourcefulness, ingenuity and adaptability found in the margins are the kind of traits we need in parliament.
Organisations within the group also have a number of workshops and events available for those looking to consider a political career. The next round of Equal Power workshops will be launched end of September and you can find them on the Fawcett Society website. The Parliament Project team have a number of workshops available dedicated to answering your politics questions. Their next workshop on the 10th September features Marsha De Cordova MP and Helen Grant MP about how to become an MP.
A Final Message From The Activists In Residence
The TC duo are CAG’s Activists in Residence and we have never been ones to back down from a challenge. Least of all one that is this important. You can find out more about the resources that are available on the CAG website. We have been busy working in the background and can’t wait to share. This is a short term role, but it is one that we are very excited about for many reasons.
The fact that this position was created goes some way to showing a commitment to diversifying politics. We want other organisations and bodies in other field to consider this a necessary call to action. It is easy to claim that you want change every Black History Month, Pride or Disability History Month. It is the actions, initiatives and structural changes that you make that really show for what, and whom, you are fighting. Don’t just hide behind an empty gesture and proclaim that you have done the work. Too many lives depend on you making the world better, safer and more equitable.