The Women's Equality Party: Political Protest
by Rose Collard
On the theme of protest, the Women’s Equality Party (who use the shrewd appellation ‘WE’ on their website) cannot be overlooked. A real, active political party, this inclusive, collaborative group of women are using their voices to protest politically, practically, peacefully and persuasively.
Working under the guise of ‘equality is better for everyone’, WE do politics differently. Non-adversarial and non-partisan, they are happy to work with other political parties to achieve their aims – and for them to steal their policies in return if this results in their implementation. The tagline from their 2017 General Election Manifesto reads: ‘Politics is stalling. WE are the start-up.’ You can listen to WE’s mission statement here, or read the full WE constitution here.
WE was co-founded in 2015 by author and journalist Catherine Mayer, and author and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig. Famously, Catherine rang Sandi after the Women of the World festival 2015 proposing a Women’s Equality Party to hear that Sandi had intended to propose the exact same thing! They instantly agreed to work together on the project. Since 2015, Sophie Walker has stood as leader.
WE is founded on 7 core objectives:
- Equal representation
- Equal pay
- Equal parenting and caregiving
- Equal education
- Equal media treatment
- End violence against women
- Equality in healthcare and medical research 
In just over two years, WE have achieved a monumental amount. In 2016, Leader Sophie Walker ran for Mayor of London, winning an impressive 5.2% of the total votes. In the same year, the party held their first ever conference in Manchester, attended by 1,500 members and supporters. You can read the full list of conference resolutions here.
In 2017, WE fielded 7 candidates in the General Election, the first ever to stand for the Women’s Equality Party. They were: Nimco Ali, Sally Carr, Harini Iyengar, Sharon Lovell, Kirstein Rummery and Celine Thomas. Assenting to their policy of doing politics differently, WE also endorsed candidates from other parties who shared their values of equality, diversity and inclusivity.
Perhaps most impressively, leader Sophie Walker ran against Conservative Philip Davies for the Shipley constituency – a seat in which he enjoyed a comfortable 10,000 strong majority in 2015. Although not managing to knock him off the spot, Walker’s campaign reduced his majority by over 50%. The campaign helped to further oust Davies as an anti-feminist, sparking debate and contestation over his antiquated views on everything from domestic violence to so-called ‘feminist zealots’. You can read the WEPs full 8-point General Election 2017 Manifesto here.
In the same year, WE and BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) successfully campaigned for high-street drug store Boots to reduce the price of its emergency contraception, a surcharge they referred to as sexist, irresponsible and exploitative. Boots were called on to follow in the lead of Superdrug and Tesco, who have already reduced the cost of their contraceptives to £13.50.
On 6th February 2018, the day that marked 100 years since the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which granted some women the right to vote, WE sent a centenary message to Westminster. They projected onto Westminster three slogans: ‘This century is ours’, ‘Deeds not words’, and ‘We’ve been marching for 100 years, now’s the time to put our foot down’. You can see the footage here.
WE announced its Leadership Election on 14th February 2018. The next leader – either Sophie Walker or Magda Devas – will be announced on International Women’s Day 2018.
How can you get involved?
Join WE! From £4/month or £48/annual. WE also offer a £1.96/month low income membership. In line with their non-partisan policy, WE offer an affiliate membership, so you can support them even if you are a member of another party.
WE are part of Million Women Rise, a coalition of women and girls who want to see an end to male violence against women. On Saturday 10th March, Million Women Rise will march from Duke Street to Trafalgar Square, wearing red. Join in and support the work they do. Please note this is a strictly women and girls only event.
Title image sourced via The Women's Equality Party