“We must send our solidarity to women in Palestine & call on our own government, & our own Party, to do all they can, including sanctions, to support human rights & bring justice to Palestine.”Yasmine Dar
The last time Labour’s Women’s Conference met was in February 2019 in Telford, and what a conference it was. A packed hall full of Labour women in all our magnificent diversity debating motions, sharing experiences and views, and telling our stories – raising the roof when we were addressed by then Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and his shadow Home Secretary, Britain’s first Black woman MP, Diane Abbott. What a weekend. And how proud we were to bring our motions on fighting austerity and the rights of migrant women to annual conference and share some of that energy, and our priorities as women, with the wider movement.
It has taken too long; but we will meet again as a Labour Party Women’s Conference at the end of June, this time online. Thinking back to our discussions in the NEC Women’s Sub-Committee last summer, what a good decision it was to commit to an online conference early on. Who could have imagined that, following the government’s prioritisation of profit over people, and such inadequate opposition, we would now be facing the Covid-19 third wave and no chance of replicating the vibrancy of Telford, even if other things had not changed so dramatically.
Nevertheless, there is room for hope. The Grassroots Labour Women – Ekua Bayunu, Mandy Clare, Tricia Duncan, Pamela Fitzpatrick and Chloe Hopkins, alongside Momentum’s Solma Ahmed – have the lion’s share of nominations, demonstrating that CLPs remain keen for representatives who stand for inclusivity, accountability and socialism. I understand a wide range of motions have been submitted on issues that matter to women and I look forward once again to women sharing their experiences on important topics, particularly on the impact the pandemic has had on them. We know that in the NHS, in Social Care, in education, in low paid and insecure work, and in the home, juggling work and caring responsibilities, women have borne a disproportionate burden and I have no doubt we will hear some powerful stories and hopefully pass some powerful policy that can be sent on the annual conference.
I am also supporting the left campaign for women delegates to vote for discussion on the topic of Women and Palestine and the Middle East in the Priorities Ballot. The recent violence, particularly the deaths of so many children, has been heart-breaking. This is surely one of the most important issues facing women in the world; and we must send our solidarity to women in Palestine and call on our own government, and our own Party, to do all they can, including sanctions, to support human rights and bring justice to Palestine. I took the opportunity of the recent meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee to call on Keir Starmer to make some noise on the issue, and stick to its policy. Disappointingly, his response was underwhelming.
While it will be difficult for our online conference to replicate the positivity of Telford, we still have a great opportunity to agree policy and create our new National Labour Women’s Committee, who can genuinely commit to building a democratic, grassroots women’s organisation and be able to take forward the motions that we agree. Not only is this important for ensuring women’s voices are heard, but also by leading the way in ensuring we build other equalities structures that are vibrant, democratic and inclusive. I look forward to taking part.