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For immediate release

November 9th 2009 talks to Baroness Margaret Prosser, Deputy Chair of the EHRC on equal pay and the city and finds out how parliamentarians have been helping VSO abroad

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Baroness Prosser, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Treasury Select Committee is spending the autumn asking prominent men and women in banking, finance, politics, academia  and the fields of equality, what their views are on whether a so called “Lehman Sisters” approach could have helped avert the financial crisis in the City.


The Committee is looking at how many women are in senior positions in major financial institutions, how widespread is the glass ceiling, pay inequalities, flexible working, and sexism in the City. One of those to give evidence was Baroness Margaret Prosser, Deputy Chair of the EHRC.


Our reporter Linda Fairbrother caught up with her and asked what she told the Committee?


Baroness Prosser said: “The collapse of the banking system was so dramatic, maybe with a good mixture of women it still would have happened, but there is evidence to show that if you have a mixed workforce men and women together then behaviours are modified,.. ….women are much more thoughtful much more grounded and so that mixture makes people check their behaviour.”


Baroness Prosser also spoke on the gender pay gap in the City, which stretches to a massive 80 per cent in some cases, saying the long hours are an issue for women.


“At the high earning end of financial services the employment is hugely male dominated, the age range of people operating at that high earning end goes from around 25 to 39, when women will be stopping to have children, and that is the time they want people to work all hours, so that is not suitable for women, and that alone shifts the emphasis and creates a pay anomaly.”

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Baroness Jay and Laura Moffatt MP help VSO tackle global poverty

Baroness Jay of Paddington and Laura Moffatt the Labour MP for Crawley have both done stints working as volunteers for VSO in  a bid to help tackle global poverty.

VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries.

Baroness Jay was among six parliamentarians to participate in the Parliamentarian Volunteering Scheme this summer, where they helped to advise community organisations on matters relating to advocacy and campaigning. In South Africa Baroness Jay ran a workshop on reducing the burden of HIV and AIDs care on women and girls. Last summer former nurse Laura Moffatt MP spent three weeks immersed in the health system of Sierra Leone, the poorest country in the world.


Linda Fairbrother spoke to them both with Katy Peach, Policy and Advocacy Manager at VSO.


Baroness Jay said: “The VSO project was extremely worthwhile, it is very short term, but it is extremely important. …..I must confess I have spent a great deal of time in Southern Africa, ….it wasn’t really a matter of being surprised but confirming some of the impressions I had before, but it was encouraging because from the people I met and spoke to I saw what changes are helping in Southern Africa.”


Laura Moffatt MP said: “It has been one of the most important things I have done it’s not only the experience of three weeks in Sierra Leone, either talking to ministers or  working with patients, …but it has since led to lots of contacts with different people. As a former nurse we are now empowering the nurse organisations there, so it is giving them some heart to put back into the profession of nursing values to make sure they are a powerful group and have something to say.”


For immediate release

October 13th 2009

Penny Mordaunt and Helen Whatley two PPC’s for the Conservative Party – say they plan to “win” their seats

Penny Mordaunt, is the Conservative’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth North at the next general election. Helen Whatley is the Conservative’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Kingston and Surbiton.  It’s the first time Helen, a consultant in healthcare, telecoms and the media, and a mother of a young son, has stood as a candidate, and she has to defeat a Liberal Democrat.  Penny, a media consultant, stood before for the same seat in the 2005 election which was won by Labour.


Penny and Helen say they are getting a warm reception on the doorstep and that so called “door knocking” to get the vote out is hard work but rewarding. But, they reveal, it’s the recession that is top of people’s priorities alongside schools and hospitals.


Both admit they have little time to go shopping for those “colourful” jackets women politicians wear to get spotted.


Boni Sones, Executive Producer of spoke to them at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester where they sung the praises of the Women2Win campaign and the Rt Hon Theresa May MP the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Shadow Minister for Women for the support they have been given.


Penny said: ”When we go door knocking I am getting a really positive reception, people are in a difficult place and you hear some really sad stories. Over the summer we surveyed 10,000 people and we didn’t speak to anyone who hasn’t been affected by the recession. What you hear on the doorstep can be quite worrying, but Cameron is keen that we offer practical help too, as well as developing our policies for when we are in government. “


Helen said: “It seems a strange thing to do to go door knocking for votes, but we get a pretty good reception and people are really glad you have made the effort to find out what their concerns are.”


Penny said crime, anti-social behaviour and health were all issues on the doorstep while Helen said education could be added to that list.


Helen continued: “There is no doubt we have to put in a lot of hours as a candidate, and I have a job and a family too, but we are fighting to win, and having a job as well means at least we have a normal life as well as a political one.”


Penny added: ”We spend every hour god sends working in the constituency and I have a full time job as well, holiday time is spent working for our communities. I go shopping for clothes just twice a year.”


Helen said: ”I don’t think of myself as a politician but as someone with a normal job who is trying to make the Country a bit better.”


Both agreed the Women2Win campaign had supported them. Penny said:”Women2Win has been tremendously successful, and the Conservative Women’s Association has helped to. If we do win at the next election I hope I will be part of a powerful group of women advocates in the House who will work together as the Labour women did, to get behind particular issues of importance to women in the Country. “



Helen said Women2Win had provided support and  “someone to talk to, and to help with everything.”


She added that like Penny, wearing the right clothes was important as a woman candidate:” I was told to wear a colourful jacket and I do, being short, it helps me to get noticed but like Penny I have no time to go shopping now.”


For immediate release

September 25th 2009

Antonia Cox PPC for the Conservative Party for Islington South and Finsbury – tells how she plans to win the seat from Labour

Antonia Cox , the official Conservative Party candidate for Islington South & Finsbury at the next General Election, says she is “ready to go” to take the seat from Labour’s Emily Thornberry MP who has a majority of 484 votes.

Antonia is a school governor, local campaigner and mother of three from central London. She is a leader writer for the London Evening Standard and author of the Policy Exchange publication, “The Best Kit”, which makes the case for better support of our armed forces.

Antonia recently went to Tunisia with the Conservative Women’s Organisation, one of the most advanced Muslin countries in the World in respect of women’s rights to look at what women bring to political and economic development there.

Antonia tells journalist Daisy Ayliffe, how she has been juggling her career, her political life here and abroad, and her family.

“Tunisia has a higher percentage of women in Parliament than we do, and they have also got very high levels of participation in the economy, in teaching and in the police. I think a lot of people would say about Muslim countries that there are few opportunities for women but Tunisia is different.

“We are going to have to look at institution building in Afghanistan and it is helpful to  look at the civil society institutions like they have in Tunisia, which has some interesting examples of how you can increase women’s participation in politics.”

She also told Daisy that she was getting a good reception on the doorstep and that the hours of Westminster did not daunt her:


“I just talk to people and it is immediately possible to show them you care about the issues and that is why you are in it. People like me are new to the game, we are the people who are going to do it differently and I think people respond to that, and they do respond when you talk to them about the issues they care about, and I haven’t found too much of a problem.”

On the issue of an MPs’ workload Antonia commented: “I think we need to have a bit more of a debate about what is reasonable to expect of an MP organising their time in Westminster and where their constituency is and their family life. “

She went on to say she was optimistic of victory: “I am not scared I am ready to go and I have a lot of useful experience to bring to the job and I am not intimidated by that. I think that it is a fantastic opportunity and it is a very great honour and I will get cracking.”

Antonia told Daisy she thought that the new Conservative women on the back benches after the next election if the Conservative party wins would be good at the job:

“There are going to be some very able new Conservative women on the benches and some new faces. I think they are going to do great things, I feel very confident about that.

“There are a lot of challenges of getting selected and campaigning and how much of a time commitment that is, people need to know that it is all voluntary work no-one is paying for it, people have high expectations of you, but you can manage all of that.

“I think there are some great women who have had all of that experience and they will be in Parliament. I think they are going to show the men a thing or two.” International talks to Philippa Reiss-Thorne Managing Director of Gone Rural in Swaziland

Philippa Reiss-Thorne the Managing Director of Gone Rural in Swaziland tells Executive Producer of Boni Sones, how her social enterprise has tripled the wages of the women who work with it.

Philippa is a 30-year-old social entrepreneur with a mission. She leads a community of 700 women from 13 different communities throughout Swaziland, marketing and selling their Fair Trade products all over the world and to top fashion designers and stores.

These rural communities now find themselves under more financial pressure than ever, having to pay for transport to clinics, school fees and to support more children.  80% of their women rely on Gone Rural as their sole income; each woman supports an average of 8 dependents; 82% of their husbands and partners are unemployed. Although extremely poor by western standards, these families will often take in neighbours children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

Boni Sones spoke at length to Philippa about Gone Rural, its ethos and how it had managed to treble the daily wage of the women who work with it in just three years. You can find out more:

Philippa said: “I have been managing directing the business since 2007 and during that time we have tripled the income of the rural women, and increased our sales by 15 per cent per year, product development is critical to our business.”

She continued: “Everything is connected. The women and their families have a beautiful culture, and we hope we can preserve that part of their culture but grow and develop and improve the parts of their lives that will contribute towards their sustainability.

“We have the Western values of Fair Trade in Gone Rural, but we don’t really have a hierarchy we are supporting each other and that is how we are really going to grow and develop. We welcome visitors and you can stay in a bed and breakfast near where we are working in Swaziland if you come and visit us, it is a beautiful valley.

“Next year we want to improve the women’s income, and we want to focus on our social programmes. We want to expand our mobile clinic to our other communities, we have water we are putting in a community, we have literacy programme we want to expand, so there is a lot of work to be done.”

Mrs Sherry Ayittey, Honourable Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, Government of Ghana

There’s still a lot of work to be done if the world is to reach agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen in December when the G20 countries meet.

But while politicians prepare for the UN “Road to Copenhagen”  talks, academics from all over the World met at Cambridge University to look into the impact of climate change on water resources in Africa.

“The Global Water Initiative, Implications of Climate Change and Variability on African Water Resources” conference heard from keynote speaker Mrs Sherry Ayittey, Honourable Minister for Environment, Science and Technology Government of Ghana.

A Bio-Chemist by training Mrs Ayittey, believes the issue of water resources is one of basic “human rights” and that in this inter-connected world the developed world needs to embrace the problems the developing world is facing.

In speaking up for the voice of the voiceless Mrs Ayittey says that with “trust” in each other we can work towards a dialogue of understanding in Copenhagen.

Thanks to Judge Business School for allowing us to broadcast this podcast.