Last autumn, I sobbed my way through 1hr 46m of the Suffragette movie, if you haven’t seen it please watch the trailer here, (yes even the trailer makes me cry!) The story shows the hard fought battle for women to win the right to vote and have their voices heard.
Why then nearly 100 year on, did women only represent 11% of the States of Guernsey from 2012 -2016? When in the words of Carey Mulligan’s Maud Watts – “we’re in every ‘ome, we’re ‘alf the ‘uman race!”
For the best part of the last year, I have been working to answer the question. How can we encourage more women to stand for election in Guernsey and how can the voices of the women of Guernsey be heard more clearly on political matters?
I am absolutely delighted that working together with a local group of Soroptimists, led by Cathy Bailey, the Guernsey College of Further Education Principal, Saboohi Famili and a number of current male and female politicians, we have been able to encourage a record number of 19 women to stand at the forthcoming election on 27th April.
What has been amazing during this process is the level of collaboration amongst the candidates we have been working with, not just across districts but also amongst those who will be standing in the same parish. From lifts to hustings, mass effort manifesto labelling sessions, to mentoring on current political issues, these candidates have been supporting each other, within the wider support network provided by the Power of the Voice and Women to Win teams.
For me it has been a really heart-warming project to witness how much these would-be deputies care about their island and what they are prepared to take-on on our behalf has been humbling.
To help me understand the whole process better, I accompanied one of the candidates door-stepping. What struck me was it was largely the women who opened the doors, the women who engaged in conversation, and the women who stood out in the cold to express their concerns for the strategic direction of Guernsey.
Questions on health, education and affordable housing for their children were top of the pile – the soon to be grandmother worried her daughter will have to move off island to be able to set up home, the concerned parent worrying about the disruption to her children’s education and the despairing pensioner wanting a second opinion on her health issue – all issues with no simple solution. But what struck me the most was how disenfranchised these people felt, feeling let down by those they had chosen last time to represent their interests and frustrated by not feeling they have a voice.
Undoubtedly, those who do get elected for the first time will soon realise (if they don’t already), the complexity of the task ahead of them. How we collectively secure a sustainable future for our island is not straight forward, but the one thing I am assured about is that those women who we have been supporting to stand for election will throw themselves into the challenge and give all that they can on our behalf.
It is often said in Guernsey, we don’t vote for policies, we vote for people and that is exactly what I will be doing on 27th April – voting for the people I feel I can trust with our island’s future.
And for all of us women, we owe it to the suffragettes to exercise our right to vote.
Please use your vote too.