Archive for the 'Unheard voices' Category

Our inspiring women for International Women’s Day 2018

 

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Women, peace and welfare FCMarch 8 sees both the publication of Ann Oakley’s Women, peace and welfare and International Women’s Day.

In the book, Ann tells the inspirational untold stories of women who’s work and vision of a more humane way of living have influenced social reform and welfare.

Watch Ann talk about the lives of the following inspirational women from her book by clicking the links below:

Emily Hobhouse, a British welfare campaigner and international pacifist;
Emily Balch, an economist who was who was sacked from her university for engaging in the international peace movement;
Aletta Jacobs, the first female Dutch physician;
Rosika Schwimmer, a Hungarian pacifist feminist.

Following Ann’s lead, we asked Policy Press staff and authors who their inspiring women are. Watch the slideshow above and read on for their reasons for their choices.

Our free journal articles for March also focus on research about women and gender. Find out more on our website.

 

Win a suffragette pincushion

pincushion2

We have ten suffragette pin cushions to give away. Tweet the name of your inspiring woman with the hashtag #policypressforprogress to be in with a chance to win one.

 

Our inspiring women

 

Mary_Wollstonecraft_by_John_Opie_(c._1797)Mary Wollstonecraft by Alison Shaw

Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) said “It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world”.

I am not someone who really ‘feels’ history, and I am drawn to contemporary writing, but finding Mary Wollstonecraft’s book was a rare exception. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. She challenged the view that women were ‘ornaments or property to be traded in marriage’ and that they deserved the same fundamental rights as men. Mary argued that women were not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education and provided concrete plans for a national education service. Her stance is one of social justice, something that has been a major part of my world view since reading her work 35 years ago.

“Her stance is one of social justice, something that has been a major part of my world view since reading her work 35 years ago.”

Her influence has echoed down the ages and she inspired many critical thinkers from Virginia Woolf to Amartya Sen. She died young, aged 38, just after giving birth to her second daughter who became Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein  (Rebecca Tomlinson’s choice below!).

Image: John Opie [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Asma_Jahangir_Four_Freedoms_Awards_2010Asma Jahangir by Helen Kara

Asma Jahangir was an activist in Pakistan, a country with an appalling record of oppressing women. Born in 1952, she became a lawyer in 1980 and co-founded Pakistan’s first all-women law firm. She defended women facing criminal charges as a result of being raped, choosing their husbands independently, or seeking a divorce from a violent man.

Undeterred by police beatings or house arrest, she also fought against honour killings, child labour, and capital punishment. Jahangir co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and even found time to become an author of two books, one criticising Pakistan’s anti-women legislation, the other arguing for rights for Pakistan’s child prisoners. Very sadly, Jahangir died of a heart attack on 11 February.

Image:  By Lymantria (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

 

EttyEtty Hillesum by Sarah Bird

Etty was a young Jewish Dutchwoman, who died at Auschwitz aged 29. Her diary, started in 1941, contains the most inspiring, humane writing I have ever come across. Unbelievably she chose to go to Westerbork, the Nazi transit camp for Jews awaiting deportation, so that she could be with her people, and not hide. In her diary she documents everything, refusing to turn away from the horror of her experience, but also finding beauty and hope in what is around her, in an amazing personal spiritual transformation. She was sexy and spirited and unflinching.

“Her diary, started in 1941, contains the most inspiring, humane writing I have ever come across.”

 

Ann Oakley photo

Ann Oakley by Zoe Young

When Ann Oakley published ‘Housewife’ in 1974, women’s lives and labours inside the home had barely featured in historical or sociological accounts of work. Men worked, women did housework. Ann Oakley’s rich and vivid portraits of Patricia, Juliet, Margaret and Sally’s domestic lives, told in their own words inspired me to write women’s lives and experiences in the same way. Few women would call themselves housewives today, but the deeply gendered issues around how domestic and care work is shared within families have proved remarkably resilient. I am researching and writing about them forty-four years on.

 

Press_for_Change_with_Mo_Mowlem_-_1st_October_1997Mo Mowlam by Jo Greig

I wish I’d been a fly on the wall during some of the Northern Irish discussions, Mo Mowlam’s straight talking, non-nonsense pragmatism always filled me with awe.

Image:  By Plainsense (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

Ellen_Cicely_WilkinsonEllen Wilkinson by Diane Reay

Working-class, feminist and anti-racist, my heroine is ‘Red Ellen’. She was involved in women’s suffrage, and helped found the British Communist Party. Fiercely committed to the Republican cause in the Spanish civil war, she led the Labour Party’s anti-fascist campaign. Among many outstanding achievements was her leadership of the iconic Jarrow Crusade and her appointment as first female Minister of Education. In this latter role she oversaw the introduction of free school milk and raised the school leaving age from 14 to 15. But what characterised her entire career was a passionate commitment to the ‘working class man and woman’, a strong streak of non-conformity and a ferocious bravery that would brook no collusion with injustices of any kind.

Image: by Bassano Ltd [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

128px-RosaparksRosa Parks by Kalwant Bhopal

On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. For me, this single act was one of courage and strength and Rosa must have known full aware of the consequences this would have on her life; she and her husband both lost their jobs and had to move away from Alabama. I have great admiration and respect for her decision to take this single action which had a significant impact on the Civil Rights movement.

 

MaryShelleyMary Shelley by Rebecca Tomlinson

Apart from the amazing and enduringly popular book she wrote, Frankenstein, Mary spent most of her life in the shadow of her husband and the scandal he bought to their family. Despite being a great writer, she devoted most of her time to publicising her husbands work and caring for her family. Despite her life being full of tragedy (Percy Shelley’s untimely death and the death of 3 of her children) Mary carried on writing and only recently scholars have shown increasing interest in her literary output, particularly in her novels, which include the historical novels Valperga (1823) and Perkin Warbeck (1830), the apocalyptic novel The Last Man (1826), and her final two novels, Lodore (1835) and Falkner (1837).

Image: Richard Rothwell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Raid_on_Rise_-_Narrative_Creation_on_'Rise_of_The_Tomb_Raider'_-_GDC_2016_(25823811225)Rhianna Pratchett by Nick Levett

She’s inspiring to me for her work as a video game writer. The gaming industry is super male-dominated so it’s really cool to see a strong female presence doing great work on notable games and projects. Another reason she inspires me is that although she’s the daughter of Terry Pratchett, she refuses to live in his shadow or be defined by that – she’s forged her own career in her own sphere and that’s really impressive and rare.

Image: by Official GDC (_TXT6469) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

ursula-le-guinUrsula Le Guin by Danny Dorling

I found it very hard to read. I did not properly begin to read until I was aged eight, and then I read fiction. Ursula Le Guin’s books were different to other books that children read in the 1970s. They took your imagination further, they were not about reinforcing or returning to power a hierarchy, but overturning it. It was not until I was much older that I learnt that Ursula Le Guin did not ‘just’ write for children. But write well for children and you can change the way a generation thinks. After she died I learnt that she had written this: “You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” — The Dispossessed, 1974.

Image: Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” — The Dispossessed, 1974.

 

westerdijk.jpgJohanna Westerdijk by Liza Mügge

Johanna Westerdijk was a Dutch plant pathologist and appointed as the first female professor in the Netherlands at the University of Utrecht in 1917. Westerdijk supervised 55 PhD students in a period of 35 years, almost half of them were women. On top of her award-winning research she broke many glass ceilings and continues to be a role model for women in academia. “Even a mold dies from a boring life”, she said. She is known for her humor, loving to party, drink and dance. Her motto was: “Working and partying creates clean minds.” I couldn’t agree more.

 

lucy_parsonsLucy Parsons by Lisa Mckenzie

Lucy was an American mixed race, African and native American woman, her husband Albert Parsons was hung for the Chicago Haymarket uprisings, Lucy was a anarchist and understood class solidarity and the class war that was being waged upon working men and women, while the middle class suffragists were vote begging, Lucy was going around the US and Europe calling for a working class revolution, the Chicago authorities said that she was more dangerous than a 1000 rioters, the FBI ensured that Lucy Parson’s writing and her memory were lost to history.

“I have been carrying a banner around for the last 5 years with her quote ‘We must devastate the avenues where the rich live’.”

I have been carrying a banner around for the last 5 years with her quote ‘We must devastate the avenues where the rich live’. In today’s austerity, privatisation of public services and spaces, the housing crisis and the class cleansing of working class people out of the spaces the middle class value Lucy Parsons is more important and more relevant today than the vote begging and liberal reformism than our political leaders today or past.

 

kollantiAlexandra Kollontai by Michael Lavalette

Alexandra Kollanti (1872-1952) was a writer, a novelist, a theorist, a socialist activist and a Commissar in the early Soviet Republic.

She was drawn into public work in 1894 with the Political Red Cross – a radical welfare organisation. She gradually became a major figure in the Russian socialist movement, playing significant roles during the Russian Revolution, the Civil War and the formation of the socialist republic. An economist, a linguist and a social theorist, she is best known for her writings on women’s liberation and socialism and her views on human sexuality and freedom.
In 1918 she was appointed Commissar for Welfare. Under her leadership married women were granted more rights, as were children of single women; divorce was granted on request and abortion was legalised; homosexuality was legalised and free public child care set up.

 

256px-Pictures_of_English_History_Plate_IV_-_Boadicea_and_Her_ArmyBoadicea by Janice Morphet

Why Boadicea? When I was at primary school in Islington in the 1950s, our headmaster was a northern classicist who was never seen in anything other than a three-piece suit. However, there were many days when he came into our classroom to extol the virtues of Boadicea leading her tribes into battle and defeating those against her. She was a woman to be reckoned with and he said that this was celebrated through her statue outside Parliament on Westminster Bridge. Boadicea was the only role model our Headmaster’s offered … and girls always did well at our school…

Image credit: By Joseph Martin Kronheim (1810–96)[1] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

8 Women Social Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing The World

To coincide with the hundredth anniversary of some women first gaining the right to vote – and the recent release of the eagerly-awaited The Moral Marketplace: How Mission-Driven Millennials and Social Entrepreneurs are changing Our World – author and social entrepreneur Asheem Singh highlights eight women from across the globe, some well known, some flying below the radar, many of whom feature in his book, who are changing the world through fierce leadership and social entrepreneurship.

Betty Makoni was a child rape victim in Zimbabwe whose assault was hushed up. She grew up to become a teacher, advocate and researcher and set up the Girl Child Network, which lets girls share their experiences in classroom settings. GCN has spread across Africa and there is even a chapter in Basildon, Essex. Supermodel Adwoa Aboah recently set up a sassy, online, generation-Z variation on the network called Gurlstalk last year.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, born 1980, is an Ethiopian social businesswoman and inspirational speaker and the founder of SoleRebels, Africa’s fastest growing footwear company that now supplies 30 countries worldwide, and that is ecologically sustainable and ethical in all its production ‘to boot.’

Lily Cole is already well known as more than a supermodel. With a double first in history of art from Cambridge University, she has also set up the social enterprise platform Impossible. This year, she will help lead the celebrations to mark the bicentenary of Emily Bronte’s birth.

Laura Bates is the British grad who founded the everyday sexism website. A simple blog has become a global brand, the hashtag itself is an icon of our times and a testament to the accessibility and potential of social entrepreneurship in our time.

Talia Frenkel. A former photojournalist, she now makes condoms that women in developing countries are not afraid to carry around. One pack purchased here, sees one given free to a vulnerable person in an AIDs danger zone.

Eden Full. A young woman and an engineering and innovation genius. When she was 19 years old, Full dropped out of Princeton University to turn her high school science fair project, the SunSaluter, into a global juggernaut. It provides both clean water and electricity for poor communities being as it is a solar panel that tracks the movement of the sun across the sky, making it significantly more energy efficient than sedentary flat panels. It can now be found in 15 countries around the world and Full has no plans of stopping there.

Wendy Royskopp. A Princeton grad who realised that quality of teaching was essential to life chances. The social movement she founded, Teach for America, its British counterpart, Teach First and other chapters are revolutionising education.

Malala Yousufzai. She was oppressed, denied an education. She was butchered, she got up, she spoke out, she won the Nobel prize for peace. She now studies law at Oxford. And still she has so much to give. An enduring inspiration.

 

The moral marketplace by Asheem Singh is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £10.39.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

The reality of foodbank use #WeAreAllDanielBlake #hungerpainsbook

As Ken Loach’s new film, I Daniel Blake lays bare the reality for people who bear the human cost of the attack on our social security system, read this story from Kayleigh Garthwaite’s Hunger Pains.

kayleigh-garthwaite

Kayleigh Garthwaite

Like the film, Paul’s story reveals the complexities of life at the mercy of the system and forces us to question the ‘skivers vs strivers’ narrative. We must look at how we are treating the most vulnerable in a supposedly civilised society.

PAUL’S STORY

“Paul was in his late 30s but looked much older than his years. He had been to the foodbank around nine times that I knew of. His clothes were filthy and hung off his skinny frame and his fingers were stained with nicotine. I watched as he put three spoonsful of sugar into his tea. His eyes were always distant, and there seemed to be a time lag between me asking him a question and him responding.

The first thing he told me was that he was OK, but sad that he didn’t see his 11-year-old daughter often enough, as she was in foster care. He was in care when he was younger and didn’t want the same thing for her, he said, but he and his ex-partner were both long-term drug addicts with alcohol problems, so social services had placed her in a foster home.

Can Paul really be blamed for the ‘choices’ he is or isn’t making now?

Paul explained how he was on a three-month sanction for failing to turn up to an appointment at a private sector welfare-to-work company in Middlesbrough. I asked why he’d been sanctioned, and he said to me: “I couldn’t be arsed to get out of bed.” I was a bit taken aback, as I’d never actually had anyone openly say that to me before. Paul had been given free bus tickets, so he would attend his appointments from then on. He told me he wanted to be a chef when he got sorted, but there weren’t any jobs going. He was getting a hardship allowance of £69 per fortnight. Paul told me he was bored. The main thing he does with his time is play on his Xbox 360, day in, day out. The only problem is, he keeps taking it to a retail pawnbroking company on the High Street. He bought it from there for £69. He sells it back for £50, then buys it back when he can afford it for £66.

He does this regularly and says, “It’s alright at the time cos you get the money, but it’s when you go to buy it back.” He plans on removing the ID strip at the back, as that way, the pawnbrokers won’t accept it and it will stop him from being in this cycle: “I’ve lost too many things to them”, he told me.

Paul showed me some photos of his dog and his daughter, on his battered old Nokia mobile phone (not an iPhone 6) and his eyes lit up a little. His dog, Benny, was a bull mastiff/pit-bulltype breed; he got him as a rescue dog, just skin and bone. Paul told me how his previous owner, a drug addict, had left him in the house all day, alone, and Benny had been eating the stuffing from the sofa because he was so hungry. Paul proudly told me how he had fed Benny up and got him back to full health by buying bags of cheap pasta to mix in with a 10 kilogram bag of dog food from Wilko for £5, adding tins of vegetables for vitamins. I joked that he was looking after Benny better than he was looking after himself and he simply said “He’s my best friend”.

We sat talking for just under an hour, before he filled his empty rucksack up with the tins from the heaving carrier bags. I helped him to hoist the rucksack onto his shoulders, and worried that his undernourished frame couldn’t quite take the weight of the food that he had to carry home, some three miles on foot.

I struggled with deciding whether to include Paul in the book at first, as I knew that on the face of it he fitted into many of the stereotypes surrounding foodbank (mis)use. He spent what little money he had on drugs, alcohol and his dog. He got sanctioned because he “couldn’t be arsed to get out of bed”. But Paul doesn’t have an easy life. He wasn’t exactly enjoying a lavish lifestyle on benefits. He was bored, but had no realistic job prospects. He thought his history of being in and out of jail over a period of 20 years didn’t help with that. He missed his daughter, but was aware that he would never have her back living with him again.

“Food is a basic human right that shouldn’t be denied”

Paul was brought up in care after being abused when he was little, and no longer had any family in the area. He was lonely, and in a rut. One of the reasons why Paul struggled to get out of bed in the morning was due to his mental health problems and tiredness, which were worsened by the heroin he has been taking for over half of his life.

I wanted to tell Paul’s story because, on the surface, it would be all too easy for him to be branded with the ‘undeserving’ label so favoured by many politicians. Food is a basic human right that shouldn’t be denied to someone just because they take drugs, smoke or drink alcohol. Paul’s story shows how he does not fit into the stereotype of someone ‘living it up’ on benefits. He has had a difficult life from a very early age, filled with abuse, drug misuse, mental health issues and countless periods in prison. Can Paul really be blamed for the ‘choices’ he is or isn’t making now? What Paul needs is support, not further condemnation from politicians, the media and elsewhere.

It was not very often that people came to the foodbank as regularly as Paul did. The agency he was working with knew he was on a three-month sanction and was trying to help him through that. Paul said to me, “If it wasn’t for the foodbank, I’d have to go on the rob. Not from people like you or nowt, but shoplifting, from Asda or summat.” But Paul didn’t want to do that, as he wanted to stay out of prison. He hadn’t been in jail for three years, and he wanted it to stay that way.

One Friday afternoon, some few months before speaking to Paul, I was in the Sainsbury’s a couple of miles away from the foodbank. Just as I entered the shop, two security guards accosted a man leaving with a big carrier bag, and said “You haven’t paid for those”. The man, who looked in his 40s, didn’t try to protest, he just handed over the black carrier bag. The security guard pulled out a block of cheap, luminous orange Cheddar cheese, ‘Basics’ sausages and a 24-pack of Walker’s crisps and led the man away, head down, no resistance – not a word. In October 2014, Ian Mulholland of Darlington, 10 miles away from Stockton-on-Tees, was in court. After having his benefits sanctioned and spending nine weeks with nothing to live on, the 43-year-old had stolen some meat from the local Sainsbury’s and was sentenced to six weeks in prison. Are people so ashamed to use a foodbank that they would rather steal to feed themselves?

“How can this be right or just in a civilised society?”

Writing in the Guardian, Aditya Chakrabortty said: ‘A theft worth £12.60 means the taxpayer will spend over two grand to keep Mulholland behind bars.’ But why is our focus on ‘fraudulent’ behaviour always aimed at those at bottom of the income chain? The Guardian reported the case of a barrister who avoided paying thousands of pounds in rail fares for more than two and a half years but was spared prison. Yet someone who steals £12.60 worth of meat is imprisoned for six weeks. How can this be right or just in a civilised society?

#hungerpainsbook

hunger-pains-fc-4webHunger pains by Kayleigh Garthwaite can be purchased here from the Policy Press website for special 20% discounted price £11.99

Remember that Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – sign up here. 

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site. 

Unseen: What we do for our chosen charity #volunteersweek

Rebecca Tomlinson, Editorial Assistant

Rebecca Tomlinson, Editorial Assistant

In the spirit of #volunteersweek, we thought it would be a good idea to let people know about the great charity work that Policy Press get involved in. 

This year, we are supporting Unseen, whose main mission is ending slavery. By concentrating their efforts on three main areas – supporting, equipping and influencing – they are starting to tackle the issue in a way that really works.

If you haven’t before I’d definitely encourage you to take a look at their website, especially their case studies.

These have really brought it home to us at Policy Press the realities of human trafficking and the horrors that so many people are going through behind closed doors on our streets, vulnerable and enslaved.

Dorina’s story –  Continue reading ‘Unseen: What we do for our chosen charity #volunteersweek’

Policy Press: Women who inspire us #WD2015

International Women's Day in Egypt Credit:Al_Jazeera_English_(102)

International Women’s Day in Egypt Credit: Al Jazeera English

In the spirit of celebration for International Women’s Day we’ve been chatting in the Policy Press office about the women who have inspired us. Read on to find out who the women are we admire most and why…

Director Alison Shaw says that many women have influenced her at different times in her life, including too many feminist writers to even begin to list. She says:

“As for many people, my mum, Pat Shaw, and my grandmother, May Bottomley, were the first women to influence and inspire – both remarkably gentle, caring, selfless like so many women of their generations – yet mum was extraordinarily stoical when faced with cancer at 50 and showed amazing resolve and fortitude, characteristics that had always been there yet never given full expression until facing a true life challenge.

An inspiring political figure for me is Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, founding member and chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and now UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Change.

Her record on trying to make a real and lasting difference to gender equality, women’s participation in peace building and human rights internationally is amazing and her continuing work as one of The Elders inspiring.”

Crazy dreams

Editorial Assistant Rebecca Tomlinson is equally challenged by the notion of picking just one inspirational woman in her life! The two women she settles on from a long list of possibles are author J.K. Rowling and her ‘lovely’ mum. She says:

“I am very lucky in that I come from a family full of intelligent, strong and amazing women. Growing up, I was always encouraged to follow my passions and (often crazy) dreams, sometimes even if it was at the detriment of school or work.

I remember once telling my Mum that I was going to drop out of University, move to London and become a DJ. She just smiled and said “whatever makes you happy”. She has always actively encouraged my love of reading and writing and without that I probably wouldn’t have the passion for books that I do today.

In my opinion J.K. Rowling is also a great role model and inspiration to both women and men. A single mum who struggled with depression, she managed to write Harry Potter whilst living on state benefits and has forged an incredibly successful career doing what she loves.”

Overcoming obstacles

Rebecca isn’t alone in her appreciation of J.K.Rowling. Production and Publishing assistant Ruth Harrison also names the Harry Potter author as her number one inspirational person. Ruth says:

“JK Rowling overcame many obstacles including the poverty she experienced as a single mother. She now supports a number of charities including Lumos, a children’s charity, and uses her success to help make the world a better place. Plus, my 12-year-old self will always be a Harry Potter fan.”

Writers have always had the ability to leave their mark on us as readers as was the case with Marketing Manager Kathryn King’s inspirational woman, Vera Brittain. Kathryn says:

“..she was doing it in an era when it was much harder for women”

“I read all 3 of her Testament books around the time I decided to do my degree. She really inspired me to make that step as she was doing it in an era when it was much harder for women.

Then, having fought to get to Oxford, she gave up her place to go and nurse in France so that she could understand what the war was like for those involved. That experience politicised her and she dedicated her life to pacifism.”

Marketing Executive Jessica Miles’ choice is decidedly political. Her inspirational woman is Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the suffragette movement. Jessica says:

“At a time when so many people are disillusioned by politics, I think we should remember how hard Pankhurst and the other women in the movement fought to get women the vote. For this reason alone we should vote, even if it’s a case of choosing the ‘best of the worst’.

“Pankhurt’s approach of protest and direct action is inspiring”

I think Pankhurt’s approach of protest and direct action is inspiring. It’s easy to sit back and moan about the world, but much more challenging to be proactive and get involved in making change happen. We should take these women as our lead.”

Courage and selflessness

A woman who was prepared to go to extreme places for the benefit of others inspired Journals Executive Kim Eggleton. Kim says she was about 10 when she first came across the story of a lady called Gladys Aylward:

Gladys Aylward

Gladys Aylward

“We watched a film at school called The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, about a woman from London who wanted to go to China as a missionary. I’ve been inspired by that woman ever since.

Gladys Aylward was turned down as a missionary because of her poor academic background and lack of Chinese language skills, but she spent her life-savings on a ticket and went anyway – completely alone on the Trans-Siberian Express.

Initially she worked for the government as a foot inspector, enforcing the law against foot-binding before later founding an orphanage. In 1938 Aylward led over 100 orphaned children across the mountains to safety from advancing Japanese forces. I find her courage and selflessness completely inspiring, what an incredible woman!”

History, both public and personal, is where Production Editor Jo Morton draws her inspiration from.  What connects the choices of Queen Elizabeth I and her nan, Alice Daniels, is the way both women defied the pressures of social convention. Jo says:

“I’ve always admired Elizabeth I’s determination to reign in her own right, in an era when women were expected to yield to male authority. She was not coerced (like Mary her sister) into contracting a marriage in order to appease her male councillers and secure the succession.

“…quietly but firmly stood her ground against social and family conventions”

Alice Daniels, 1940s

Alice Daniels, 1940s

On a personal level I would say my nan, Alice Louisa Daniels, was a real inspiration for me. She ran the family shop (during wartime when stocks were hard to maintain) while my grandad had a full time job elsewhere. She quietly but firmly stood her ground against social and family conventions that demanded she give up her job to take on the care of my grandad’s brother when his mother died. She knew that his challenging mental and physical health problems could be better cared for elsewhere. She was also a source of traditional wisdom – folklore, herbal remedies, proverbs, wise words – a connection with a disappearing world.”

Intelligence and expertise

Marketing Executive Susannah Emery takes her inspiration from a more contemporary figure, scholar Mary Beard, who received abuse for her opinions on immigrant workers in the UK. She says:

“I love her because she coped with the terrible social media barrage against her and, I think, came out of it acting as a of a role model for women being taken seriously for their intelligence and expertise rather than looks.”

The same spirit of standing ground on matters of social consciousness inspired Executive Assistant Sophie Osborne’s choice of singer-songwriter Patti Smith. Sophie says:

“It all began with Patti’s tribute to Kurt Cobain ‘About a boy’ and from that point forward I made it my point to be a little bit Patti. Beyond her breathtaking music and poetry Patti’s pursuit of social justice, her rebellious attitude and pure sassiness are something I hope to carry throughout my life.”

We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the women that have inspired some of us at Policy Press. If you feel inspired to tell us about amazing women in your life we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

#makeithappen #WD2015 #internationalwomensday #womensday

#MakingItHappen – International Women’s Day 2015

To celebrate International Women’s Day, which takes place this year on Sunday 8th March, we asked author of Women of Power: Half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide, Torild Skard, to share her reflections on where we are today in terms of political gender equality and the necessary conditions to enable women to take crucial leadership roles within politics. 

Torild Skard

Torild Skard

For more than a century women have spoken out, marched and demonstrated for equality and rights on International Women’s Day. And there has been progress, though it has been uneven and slow. Whilst the gender gap globally has been nearly closed in areas such as health and education, it continues to remain wide open in economic participation and even more so in political empowerment.

In 2014/15 only 22 per cent of the members of parliament and 17 per cent of the government ministers worldwide were women. Not more than 9 per cent of the nation states had a woman as head of state or government. This is a record high, but still very far from gender balance, even from the benchmark of 30 per cent women.

Gender equality roadmap

The UN theme for international Women’s Day 2015 is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!”. Governments and activists around the world will commemorate the 20th anniversary year of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic gender equality roadmap signed by 189 governments with the necessary strategic objectives and actions for achieving women’s rights.

The endorsement of the world’s governments of the Beijing Platform for Action in addition to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is decisive, but they then have to ‘walk the talk’. And follow up effectively.

Looking at steps that have been taken in the direction of equality – such as the increase in the number of women presidents and prime ministers worldwide over the past 50 years – can provide useful lessons to help us (and, perhaps more importantly, the politicians and policy makers) understand what conditions are necessary to achieve the goals they have agreed to.

“How could a woman cope with such a demanding task?”

Sirimavo_Ratwatte_Dias_Bandaranayaka_(1916-2000)_(Hon.Sirimavo_Bandaranaike_with_Hon.Lalith_Athulathmudali_Crop)

Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike (1916-2000), the modern world’s first female head of Government, Copyright: Anuradha Dullewe Wijeyeratne

In 1960 when Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the world’s first woman prime minister in what was then Ceylon, it caused international concern. How could a woman cope with such a demanding task?

Half a century later the woman president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, received the Peace Prize from an impressed Nobel Committee for her contribution to “ensuring peace, promoting economic and social development and strengthening the position of women”.

Attitudes evidently have changed – a bit. But all over the world national political institutions are still dominated by men. How did women manage to rise to the top, and what happened when they got to power?

HE_Ellen_Johnson_Sirleaf_(6011337236)

HE Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, HE Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Credit: Wiki Creative Commons

During the half century after 1960 about 40 per cent of industrial countries have had one or more women as heads of state or government, while this has been the case for only 20 per cent of developing countries. High living standards improving people’s health, education and income may contribute to broader participation in politics.

In fact, most of the women presidents and prime ministers during this period were very well educated. Many had long professional careers before they became political leaders and achieved very high positions. To be able to get to the top, more women top leaders had such positions than their male predecessors.

Industrial countries have also often been democratic. And the great majority of women presidents and prime ministers around the world obtained their positions in countries that were characterized as “democracies”.

But the type of democratic system makes a difference. For example: of the women national leaders most rose to the top in countries with both a president and a prime minister. There were two top positions and a woman obtained one of them as part of a “top leader pair”. Very few women acquired the top position where there was only an executive president or an executive prime minister.

If a democratic system is necessary to increase women’s representation in the national political leadership, it does not follow that this is sufficient.

“An active feminist movement was required to increase the participation of women and their access to power”

 

After World War II, Western industrial countries mostly had liberal democracies with political rights for women. But women were usually not mobilized and welcomed in established political institutions. An active feminist movement was required to increase the participation of women and their access to power.

The women presidents and prime ministers did not become top leaders primarily because they were women, but because they felt they should lead the nation. Some also acted in the same way as their male colleagues, fighting on their terms, without being particularly engaged in ‘women’s issues’.

But many women top leaders tried to compromise, looking after both men’s and women’s interests. And a certain number challenged the male domination and explicitly promoted women friendly or feminist policies. In most cases, it made a difference that a woman rose to the top instead of a man, but the difference was often limited.

Dynamic women’s movement

To empower women then, woman-friendly democratization processes have to be actively implemented. A dynamic women’s movement is needed as a driving force and men with power must take their responsibility for reform of institutions and policies.

This means, among others things, that the political culture, the political parties and the media must ensure that women can promote their interests on equal terms with men. Parliament and government must become more representative, for example by changing the electoral system and adopting measures such as quotas to increase the recruitment of women. And “good governance” must entail emphasis on participation, protection of human rights and promotion of social justice and equality.

Women of Power Women of Power publishes in paperback on Monday 9th March. Copies are available from our website here & if you’re a subscriber to our newsletter you’ll receive a 35% discount on the website too (subscribe here if you’re not part of our community yet!)

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

What is it really like to be a juror?

Inside Crown Court: Personal experiences and questions of legitimacy by Jessica Jacobson, Gillian Hunter, Amy Kirby publishes today. It provides a vivid description of what it is like to attend court as a victim, a witness or a defendant; the interplay between the different players in the courtroom.

By sheer coincidence, our Editorial Assistant Rebecca Tomlinson, was called up late last year to serve as a juror in a crown court trial. We asked Rebecca to share her insights about the experience of being a juror. 

Rebecca Tomlinson, Editorial Assistant

Rebecca Tomlinson, Editorial Assistant

Nothing can prepare you for the moment you first step in the court room. All I could think about was not messing up my affirmation and avoiding eye contact with everyone possible. 

My initial feeling was one of dread. How could I be qualified to judge and possibly condemn someone for the rest of their life? It didn’t seem fair somehow – to the defendants or me – that something that could affect someone’s life forever could be decided by a group of strangers.

Once the feeling of dread had subsided however, I felt bound to my role and determined to do the best job I could do. I diligently took notes every day, even when things were happening so slowly it was hard to keep my eyes open. As a natural daydreamer I often had to fight the urge to drift off and think about my plans for the weekend or what I was going to have for dinner that night.

Harrowing

It wasn’t all dull though. Seeing both the prosecution and defence lawyers manipulate and explain the ‘facts’ was fascinating; when objections arose it was exciting. It was also, a lot of the time, quite harrowing and, all of the time, very sad.

As the weeks passed I became accustomed to listening to the awful details but the thoughts of what I had heard that day never quite left me once I got home. The hardest and most tiring thing about the whole process was not being able to talk about it once I left the courtroom. There is no other situation in most people’s daily lives where they are bound by law not to talk about what has happened to them that day. It’s such a strange feeling that becomes so ingrained into your thinking that even writing this now feels wrong in some way.

“…the thoughts of what I had heard that day never quite left me once I got home”

What I read in Jacobson’s book about the role of the juror being completely contradictory was my experience exactly. Every day we were asked to look at only the facts of the case, not to speculate and strictly not to let our emotions rule us in any way. Yet in the very next breath we would be bombarded with emotive language describing the victim or the defendant and asking us to imagine how we would feel if we or someone we loved were in the same situation.

As the weeks (and months…) passed my fellow jurors and I became gradually more hardened and emotionally detached and even found ourselves laughing and joking whilst waiting to go into court. I wouldn’t say that we forgot about the seriousness of the allegations but there was definitely a more relaxed feeling among us.

That is, of course, until it was time for us to retire and give our verdicts. During our 3 months together we had not always seen eye-to-eye and had, reluctantly, been drawn into arguments and debates that we should have all risen above. In the deliberating room, it was no different. As the days went by with still no decisions made, our tempers were frayed and our patience worn out.

However, that is the best thing about having 12 random strangers come together to make this type of decision. When we ran out of things to say and thought we were getting nowhere, someone who hadn’t spoken all day would mention something we’d all missed and everything started to become clear.

It took us 8 days in total to reach our verdict and, in the end, I was mostly happy with our decisions. As I sit here at my desk writing this post I can’t help but smile while reminiscing. If there’s one thing I can definitely say, it is that it was 3 months of my life I will never forget!

If you’d like to, you can also follow Rebecca on twitter @TPPrebecca

Inside Crown Court [FC]Inside Crown Court: Personal experiences and questions of legitimacy by Jessica Jacobson, Gillian Hunter, Amy Kirby publishes today. A launch event for the book is being held this evening at the Royal Courts of Justice.

 


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