On the morning of October 21, 1966 a slag heap for a coal mine operated by the National Coal Board collapsed and covered the local school. As a result, 28 adults and 116 children died.
Dr Daryl Leeworthy writes about the politicisation of the women of Aberfan as part of the emergence of green politics and female environmental activism. Anti-nuclear activism by Elaine Morgan; Greenham Common; support for the 1984-5 miners strike:
If the phrase “women’s liberation” was not on the minds of those who established the women’s support group in the village, what it ultimately became was certainly similar to those women’s liberation groups that were established in Cardiff in 1970 and Swansea in 1972. They actively thought in those terms.
But in their own way, the questions being posed by the members of that pioneering Aberfan group were very similar. What is to be our role in the modern world? How can we make the world a better place? How can we make it safer and more equal.
In the years that followed, the answers varied. For some there was the motivation to win equal pay for equal work.
For others it was the battle to provide a safe environment for women on the streets at night. Others sought a safety net for women who experienced domestic violence.
Still more worried about the threat of nuclear weapons. And there were those who grew up in the shadow of the coal tips who thought carefully about a sustainable future.
The ideas that that generation of women activists considered and ultimately embraced remain as strong as their memories of first hearing the news on October 21, 1966.
Cathy Newman writes in the UK Telegraph about the century and a half since Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Emily Davies organised a petition to be presented to the UK parliament calling for female suffrage. The fact that suffrage has not turned into a fair share of representation is disappointing. Cathy Newman backs the 5050parliament campaign.
Our campaign is bolder - it would require equal gender representation to be mandated in the electoral law in Australia. This is possible for the UK as well.
If suffragettes Elizabeth Garrett and Emily (Davies) were to turn up in the lobby of the Palace of Westminster today – as they did exactly 150 ago – you could forgive them for feeling a little disappointed. A century and a half ago - on June 7, 1866 - they arrived at Parliament to present a petition calling for women to get the vote. While many decades later that battle has been won, Ms Garrett and Ms Davies would no doubt be dismayed to see how unequal the political world remains.
Of 649 MPs currently in the House of Commons, just 192 are women. In other words, there are nearly 140 per cent more men than women. More men get to plonk their bottoms on those green benches right now than the total number of female MPs throughout history.
Time for another petition, then.
While campaigns are two a penny these days – their currency devalued when they’re hijacked by the trolls and those with a vendetta to pursue – here’s one which deserves to be taken seriously - 50:50 Parliament, a cross-party campaign to get more women into Westminster, has posted its clarion call here. It’s perfectly possible that a lot of women have looked at the antics of the current inhabitants of the Westminster village and decided to give it a wide berth. But it’s also perfectly possible that among the 51 per cent of the UK population, there are some brilliant women out there just waiting to represent us all - if only they got the chance.
Emily Wilding Davison was born in 1872 and was active in the suffragette movement in the later 19th Century and early 20th Century. Emily hid in a cupboard in parliament house in 1911 so that she could record her address as parliament house. Emily was fatally injured when she entered the Epsom racetrack in 1913 and was trampled under the King's horse.
JULIAN VIGO draws together multiple issues affecting women including the recent protests made by French female politicians; sexual harassment in the workplace; poor representation in professions; poor pay and priorities for spending. Julian finishes by supporting the UK parliament5050 campaign. The question at the end is how to achieve 5050? We reckon that our democracy5050 model is a truly democratic option to be considered.
Effects on health
All this comes as no surprise to women who have been dealing with pay and promotion inequality for their entire lives with the added bonus of sexual harassment. But what are the costs of pay and promotion inequality in addition to sexual harassment? We already know that girls who routinely experience sexual harassment are significantly more likely to attempt suicide, but little is said about these repercussions on women who suffer “widespread and often serious health, emotional, and economic consequences.” And the economic impacts for discrimination and harassment are little explored in the media which are often the major factor playing into the future mental and physical health of women.
Loss of earnings in a lifetime
According to data published by the Equal Opportunities Commission (now part of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights), “the average woman working full-time could lose out on £330,000, in comparison with men’s earnings, over the course of her working life.” Similarly, they investigated similar inequalities within the financial sector specifically where the pay gap was explained in terms of: stereotyping in the recruitment processes, the sector’s extremely young age profile proves a challenge to those with children, the sector’s long hours’ culture also affects those with children, the intractability of senior leaders to take action on sex inequality and the lack of enforcement of good practices. Also according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, female graduates earn up to £8,000 less than males who studied the same subject.
Pay gap and the burden of being the primary care-giver
If the Fawcett Society’s 2008 report on women’s pay inequality wasn’t shocking enough then their 2013 study is enough to bring one to tears: “New figures from the Office of National Statistics published in December 2013 show the pay gap widening for the first time in five years.” And the reasons the Fawcett Society gives for this widening gap are the same reasons for sex-based oppression of women throughout recent history: women’s work is undervalued, more women work part-time, the “motherhood penalty,” and more generally that sex-based discrimination has not gone away. Because of their decreased earning power, women use their money quite differently: they invest in their children, the home, and they save over investing.
Less to invest
RateSetter carried out research which showed that men are significantly more likely to own investment products (66% of men compared to 48% of women). Data suggests that women do not tend to move towards long or short-term investment products simply because, according to this report, they have 50% less of disposable income at the end of each month.
Link to 50:50
And when one examines those countries with a closer economic parity between the sexes, one thing is painfully evident: that salary equality is maintained in countries where there is a balance of political representation of females and males.
Recently there was a petition, 50:50 Parliament, to request a 50% representation of women in Parliament because shockingly, in 2016 in the UK as well as other western countries, females are not fairly represented. With less than a 30% female presence in the House of Commons, one can only wonder if the more equitable presence of women in Parliament might not begin to effect real social change. And in the US, the representation of women in the 114th Congresses is lamentable with only 20 female senators out of a total of 100 (a 20% presence) and 84 female congress members in the House of Representatives out of 535 (a 19.4% presence).
I have recently written my MP, Mark Field, to request that he take action to ensure a 50% presence of women in Parliament. The larger question remains: how to effect this change?
A UK MP, Henry Jones argues that:
'The Women’s Equality party are the new girls on the Westminster block. Chief among their political objectives is achieving “equal representation.” They claim that if the UK was to have more equal political representation, “violence against women and the specific needs of women in our health service would be taken more seriously”.'
The argument is that countries with high levels of female representation have high reported rates of sexual violence. Mr Jones suggests there is no need for equal representation.
This is a common fallacious argument where false comparisons are made using data that cannot be matched. The real issue is whether women are democratically represented or not.