Louise speaking at SheFest
Louise speaking at SheFest
I was proud to be invited to speak at SheFest this weekend on what action we can take to work towards gender equality. Be assured that I will always fight to protect the rights of women and girls and fight misogyny and discrimination wherever I can. My full speech is below:

I’ve been a feminist certainly my entire adult life. I set up women’s networks in my workplace, I championed AWS in the Labour Party, as a union rep I represented women who’d been victims of sexual harassment or unfair treatment, I campaigned alongside sisters in the Labour Party for equal pay and countless other issues that we’ve made progress on over the years. 

I’ve learnt since first being elected nearly 3 years ago that we can never take progress for granted. That the rights that we’ve fought for together over many years are not set in stone and that they can be taken away in a blink of an eye. 

Cuts to legal aid and employment tribunal fees have impeded access to justice meaning sexual harassment cases have fallen by 90% .

Domestic violence referrals have fallen due to cuts to police.

The cuts to tax credits concluded an exception for a rape clause.

86% of the impact of austerity measures has been borne by women.

It’s true that we have more women in parliament than ever before – but still only 32%. We only just creep into the top 30 in the world, beaten in gender representation by Rwanda, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Sweden and South Africa. 

When I look round that chamber I see a sea of white, grey haired men in identical suits and yet I still get stopped all the time by doorkeepers who don’t realise I’m a Member.

But I’m proud to say 45% of Labour MPs are female and out of the 76 candidates selecting now, 46 in target seats are women 

Despite setbacks, we have things to celebrate and we are winning – Stella Creasy is fighting successfully for the abortion rights of Northern Irish women. Paula Sherriff is making steps towards the abolition of the tampon tax. Jess Phillips – having worked in women’s refuge before being elected – is campaigning for victims of domestic violence and funding for refuges. Harriet Harman is standing up for victims of rape and their rights in the criminal justice system 

And every day I meet amazing female campaigners who inspire me and drive me to continue fighting. Sammy Woodhouse, with Sammy’s Law.

All of the brave women in and out of Parliament standing up to sexual harassment. Aly Raisman, Larry Nassar. The tables have turned Larry, we are here, we have our voices. Survivors are here, standing tall. And we are not going anywhere.

In Parliament we have our first Sikh female MP. Our first Muslim Minister in the Commons. Our second female Prime Minister. But all of that is meaningless if women in positions of power don’t do everything they can to support other women, to hold out their hands and pull them up behind them, to let other women stand on their shoulders so that together we are all standing tall. 

In 2018 I want to see us out campaigning – for misogyny to be recognised as a hate crime, for the abolition of the gender pay gap, for women’s rights to be fully considered when government makes any policy, and for the end of gender based violence.

But I also want us all to commit to supporting other women in the every day, here and now. Championing our sisters for their achievements and catching them when they fall. Because we are here, we have our voices and we are not going anywhere. 
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