Reporters Ruby, Elise, Daniel, Mathew, and Sioned wanted to commemorate 100 years since some women got the right to vote whilst exploring the barriers that prevent individuals from making genuine choices, free of any constraints imposed by their gender.
This year marks one hundred years since some women and more men got the vote. During the week in which the UK marked this important year, I headed to London to visit the Houses of Parliament. This opportunity gave me the chance to find out about women’s participation in Parliament. I knew very little about Parliament beforehand and even less about women’s engagement with it but I enjoyed it and learned a lot. I was mesmerised by the tour of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons and, as a young woman, I was proud to hear about the work of the Suffragists and then the Suffragettes.
During my visit, I discovered that Parliament begun in 1215 and by 1900 parliament was represented by far more of the population than ever before. Women, however, were not. Women tried again and again to get the right to vote properly discussed in parliament but each time they were blocked. By 1903 many women including Emmeline Pankhurst, had decided that words alone were not working: she leads a new campaign of action that included marches and demonstrations with big crowds. Women even chained themselves to statues and railings, outside and inside the Houses of Parliament and stormed the building and interrupted the MPs debates and discussions.
The First World War put an end to these protests but after the war ended Parliament passed the Representation of the People Act in recognition of the war efforts of both men and women: it meant men over 21 and women over 30 could vote. I was pleased to hear that all women over 21 were given the vote in 1928. I also enjoyed hearing about Nancy Astor. She was the first woman ever to take her seat in parliament in 1919.
In a few years, I’ll be able to vote when I’m 16 in my council election and at 18 in the Welsh Assembly and UK election. I recognise how lucky I am because during the visit to Parliament I was saddened to hear that many other women in different countries still don’t have a voice.
I was, however, a little surprised to hear that only 26% of the people representing us in the House of Lords are women and only 30% in the House of Commons. I do find this a little strange as women make up more than half the population. I think women might be a little frightened to put themselves out there because they feel they don’t understand the political system. Also, lots of them get negative and mean things said about them at work and online but I think it’s important that young women like myself realise that our voice is just as important as boys.
It’s not just politics either; women still earn only 81p for every pound earned by men, because of lots of different reasons including laws and cultural barriers. For example, it’s common for women to take on caring responsibilities for children and some women still feel some jobs aren’t accessible to them. I also think girls are still bound by cultural ideals and a focus on the way they look.
To make sure I can practice using my voice and that I’m not limited by gendered expectations, I’ve joined a group at school called ‘Our voice” or “Ein Llais” in Welsh. Once a week, I’m given the opportunity to talk about what matters to me and I get to write about these issues too. The groups have already met a female leader of a political party and we’ll soon be hearing from other inspiring women such as journalists, policewomen, firewomen and a project manager at a computer company.
Some of us are also part of the new school Parliament. What better way to practice using our voice so that we’re ready to do so when we finish school! After my visit to Parliament, I thought about the importance of marking the 100 years since the Representation of the People Act and how it is a great time to look back. But I also think it’s an important time to look forward and I can’t wait to see political structures that continue to evolve and represent us all.
Reporters Katie, Millie, and Romie took inspiration from the UN convention on the rights of the child and wanted to tell you about the importance of giving young people a voice in their communities.
Here at Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhondda, pupils and staff have come up with an innovative way of giving pupils the opportunity to contribute to school policy whilst learning about democracy and decision-making.
We’ve set up our own parliament which brings together representatives from five different committees.
We’ve already visited the Houses of Parliament to discover more about democracy works in the UK and soon we’ll visit the Senedd in Cardiff Bay to hold our first plenary.
Mrs. Carly Phillips, our English teacher said, “Young people must have a forum to voice what is important to them so that they have the skills to contribute to shaping the Wales of the future.”
Unconscious bias can sometimes dominate society: this affects both men and women. Society has made everyone believe that women are slim with no body fat, curvy, beautiful and have perfect skin whereas men are tall, muscular, strong, smart, brave and handsome. We need to make sure individuals are free to make genuine choices, free of any constraints imposed by their gender.
I interviewed Aimée Gilkes, former Women’s Officer of the University of South Wales, and this is what she had to say;
What are your thoughts on the gender pay-gap?
“I think the gender pay gap is an insult to women and shows that women are still seen as second-class citizens”
What effect does this have on women?
“I think it makes them feel undervalued”
How do you think this could be solved by women and men?
“I think men should use their privileged position to campaign for wage equality. I think women who are higher up should speak up for those who are underrepresented”
How would this affect the workplace?
“I would imagine it affects the morale of the women who know their male counterparts are being paid more than them. It might also reinforce the idea that women are simply worth less than men, which affects how they are treated by their colleagues/employer”
Finally, do you agree that everyone should be equal with almost everything, for example, boys are associated with football and being strong, but girls are shown as weak people who play with dolls?
“Yes. Feminism is about deconstructing gender stereotypes which make men and women feel they should look and behave a certain way”
One of the examples of this is more and more women are taking interest in the S.T.E.M. industry, S.T.E.M. stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. This is important to me because I personally take a lot of interest in this industry as I find there aren’t loads of women or girls are in this industry at the moment but I know there are girls in my class in school who want to be a marine biologist, sports scientist, and human biologist.
Our reporter Liam wrote about the need to change the International Symbol of Access in order to recognise people with invisible illnesses – disabilities and long-term health conditions that aren’t physically obvious.
I have a very close family member with a condition called chronic pain, the condition affects the nerves and puts him in constant pain and he isn’t able to stand for long periods of time. He is often faced with difficulties and says some people don’t believe he is disabled even after he shows his badge.