Times sketch writer Ann Treneman talks to Natascha Engel MP

http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio
March 8th 2011

“Face to Face Encounters”: Times sketch writer Ann Treneman talks to Natascha Engel MP who is Chair of the new Backbench Business Committee

So what are those “usual channels” that govern the House of Commons? Ann Treneman, sketch writer of the Times, talks to Natascha Engel MP who chairs the new Backbench Business Committee which was set up on the 15th June 2010.

This is the first Business Committee of any kind to be established by the House and Ann Treneman, who watches and reports on the debates in the Chamber from the lofty heights of the “Lobby” is more qualified than most to comment on whether or not it is helping to modernise the Commons and transfer power to the ordinary backbench MPs.

Ann told Natascha: “The tone of the debates are slightly different, they are less “yarboo and me you” they are much more thoughtful and you feel that people are heading towards the same goals, which is amazing in Parliament really!”

In this special interview, a series Ann is conducting on Reform of the Commons in her “Face to Face Encounters” series for http://www.wpradio.co.uk, Natscha told Ann as they sat in the lower library of the Press Gallery in the Commons:

• “People used to talk about the dark forces of the whips offices, and that really has changed. The Backbench Business Committee has made a massive difference to how we work in Parliament. People have to take responsibility for what is being debated and there are no whips to ask anymore and that really has made a big difference.”

• “People refer to the “usual channels “ in hushed tones that really is the whips offices and all the civil servants who work around that. It’s not as murky and dark as I thought it was, it is all about timetabling like at school and it is nothing more complicated than that!”

• “It is really very, very, different, the person who controls the time usually controls the agenda. It is an enormously powerful tool. There was civil war happening out in the streets during the Miners Strike, but it was never debated on the floor of the House, because it was in the interests of both sides not to have it happen. We have scheduled debates on the Big Society, on the Middle East and North Africa, and after we have scheduled it the Government has scheduled the same debate as it is more appropriate to be in Government time. We can really raise the profile of something and embarrass the Government into doing things.”

• “We are given 35 days a year, that is about one day a week, but it is down to Government to decide when that day happens, so the next debate we have is 10th March. We wanted to give backbenchers ownership over their own time so we meet in public and that is really, really important. It is not just eight of us sitting in a room together.”

• “It is all drop in and Ad Hoc and it is televised – so far nothing terrible has happened but I think it is really important that we meet in public. We go into private session afterwards and then say which debate has the greatest merit. We could be more open in saying why we have chosen one debate over another. “

• “Geoffrey Robinson MP scheduled one of the first debates on “Contaminated Blood” about the 1970s scandal, and the compensation package. He had to write the motion, put it down on the order paper, and find Tellers for the debate. He had to get organised and he said how uplifting that was and he had been the Paymaster General, a very serious minister. “

• “It is actually the longer serving members who are finding the way that the Backbench Business Committee works is really making a difference to the life of Parliament, while the new ones are using it as part of their campaigns. There is an interesting difference between their attitudes to the Committee.”

• “Most of the time actually ministers ultimately do welcome the debates that we schedule. It might be a pain to deal with things, but if we schedule it they have to deal with it, and make a statement and have a policy position, it actually helps them. They say how grown up the debates have been.”

• “What I thought was lacking here, you were either a backbencher or frontbencher, and you either became a Minister or sat on a Select Committee and the backbenchers were somewhere where you languished. I hope that in years to come that the Backbench Business Committee will be a forum for holding government to account in a way that is exciting. One of the things I find exciting is that when we have a debate and there is one in Westminster Hall too, there is a real buzz and a real excitement in the air and that is really good. Backbenchers can see the role of the “backbenchers” having a role in itself. Your hands aren’t tied by collective responsibility – it is really exciting.”

Strangely if you listen to the podcast broadcast on http://www.wpradio.co.uk “Face to Face Encounters” series you will find Ann agreed with Natascha most of the time!

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

International Womens day – two women MPs two issues!

PRESS RELEASE
http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio
March 4th 2011

Www.wpradio talks to Rachel Reeves MP about those women who are having to wait two years longer for their pensions and Fiona Mactaggart MP on her International Women’s Day campaign

Rachel Reeves MP, the Shadow Minister for Pensions for the Labour Party, is calling on the coalition Conservative Liberal Democrat Government to reverse the changes it has announced to delay the pension age for women by two years, in some cases.

The MP for Leeds West, tells Women’s Parliamentary Radio, http://www.wpradio.co.uk that it’s about time the Women’s Minister, Theresa May MP and the Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone MP, stood up for women and called on the Government to announce a “U” turn on this issue as it has done recently on selling off forest lands.

Ms Reeve told Boni Sones OBE, our Executive Producer that women are being hit by a double whammy as they come up to pensionable age and that 33,000 women will have to wait for two years longer before they can retire:

“These changes are being debated now in the Lords and in the Commons in May and June. The State Pension Age will be equalised for men and women in 2018 rather than 2020 and the State Pension Age will increase to 66 in 2020 rather than 2026.

“The impact of this will mean 4.9 million people will have to wait longer before they receive their state pension. But 500,000 women will have to wait for more than a year longer, of those, 300,000 will have to wait for more than 18 months longer, and 33,000 women will have to wait for two years longer before they receive their State pension, these are the women who will be turning 57 this Spring.

“They have had very little time to prepare for the changes, which start in five years times in 2016 and they will now be 65 or 66 before they can retire. I believe these changes are unfair because this group of women don’t have the savings to compensate for the changes.”

She said that to add “insult” to injury these women have been told that they can claim “unemployment” benefit instead by the Pensions Minister Steve Webb:

“I asked the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb, what these women were supposed to do and I got quite an insulting response. He said these women could claim unemployment benefit, but they have worked all their lives, many have brought up children, they don’t want a hand out they want the pension they have contributed to all of their lives and they want them at the age they thought they were going to get it. In 1995 they were told the State Pension age would increase from 60 to 65, and now to heap these changes on top of those with just a few weeks’ notice is unfair. The unemployment benefits are £40 a week less than the pension they would be entitled to.”

Ms Reeve MP, said women were “disproportionately” affected by the changes compared to men, and that this group of women, turning 57 next week, will lose up to £5,000 a year:

“No man will have to work for more than a year longer as a result of these changes whereas half a million women will have to work for more than a year longer, women are disproportionately affected. Steve Webb has done a gender audit, but the audit done looks at the lifetime income of a man compared to women, and he’s said because women live longer than men they don’t lose out. But for those two years women are not getting their State Pension, they will lose up to £5000 a year and if they don’t get a job there is very little compensation for them.”

She said that these women were part of that “Big Society” and had not only worked but had cared for others too. Only relatively recently have they been able to join a proper pension scheme because part-time workers used to be prohibited from joining:

“This group of women are not really in a financial position to absorb these changes. The average 56 years old has £9,100 worth of pension savings worth £11 a week, whereas a man has a pension savings of £52,800 – that is nearly six times higher than women, we are not starting from the same base.

“Many of these women have taken time to look after their family, sometimes bringing up grandchildren too or looking after elderly parents, these women are the Big Society in action.

“Until the 1990s firms didn’t have to offer occupational pensions to part-time workers, so many of these women were not allowed to contribute to pensions throughout their life. Many were not paying the full stamp duty because they were in lower paid part-time work, so there is a huge inequality with their pension savings. Then there is the difference in average pay too between men and women so they have had very little time to prepare for these changes, it is not fair.”

Ms Reeve MP also pointed out that these women would lose out on the other benefits pensioners got and the poorest would be hardest hit:

“The other big thing is about prescriptions, so those who are poorer who have ill health lose out most, and also the housing benefits associated with it, so all in all this is a very raw deal for women approaching retirement. If you are having your State Pension age delayed for two years you will be losing £10,000 and if you are also claiming pension credit you will be losing around £15,000. There is also the loss of housing benefit, prescriptions and travel as well.”

She called on Women’s Minister, Theresa May MP and Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone to join the cross party campaign to reverse the changes:

“We’ve tabled an EDM, Early Day Motion, which has 70 signatures, with Lid Dems and Conservatives too, and we also have support in the Lords. I want to build up cross-party support for this.

“Theresa May and Lynne Featherstone do need to say what their views are on these changes and what conversations they have had. As Minister for Women and as the Minister for Equalities and in the lead up to International Women’s Day they really should be championing the case for women. The women most affected will be turning 57 this coming Sunday, and what a great birthday present to say to them across party we will reverse these changes.

“We have united the Trade Unions, Saga, Age Uk and the Daily Mail saying the Government should reverse these changes and I hope the Government, like on forests, will think again because they changes are not fair or proportionate and they will pay the price at the ballot box for this one!”

Fiona Mactaggart MP calls on the Government to set up a “Women and Equalities Audit Committee” on International Women’s Day

Fiona Mactaggart the Labour MP for Slough and Shadow Spokeswoman on Women is campaigning to set up a “Women and Equalities Audit Committee” on International Women’s Day.

Fiona will use the International Women’s Day debate on March 10th in the Commons to call for the Government to be made accountable on all women’s issue through the mechanism of a new Committee that will audit Government Departments on how they are treating women across the board.

“The Foreign Affairs Committee has just published a report on Afghanistan which doesn’t sufficiently address the concerns of women in Afghanistan, so what is the future for women in that Country? In the Democratic Republic of Congo women are being raped and re-raped as a weapon of war, so we need to focus on women around the World.

“We need to tackle the issue of women’s voice, and representation of women and one of the things we don’t do well enough in Parliament is to make sure that the Government is held to account on the issues of women and equalities. I have tabled an amendment to make sure we do that, to suggest that we create a “Women and Equalities Audit Committee” so that we can quiz any government department about the impact of their policies on women.

“This year we haven’t announced what we are going to give to the UN Women Committee, when 30 or so Countries have. Our silence will mean that some Countries will hold back too, so we need to make sure every government department is accountable on women, whether it is DFID on UN women, or DWP where women are paying for the pension’s crisis, or the Home Office on violence against women. On all of these things we need to hold Government to account and an Equalities Select Committee could do that.

“Spain has already pledged 22 million dollars to UN women, Britain has not pledged anything it is time for us to step-up.”

Fiona said she felt the government had “deliberately damaged” Labour’s Equality Act passed at the end of the last Parliament. She said she was shocked by the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb’s suggestion to cut back women’s pensions by as much as £10,000 with so little notice in his attempt to equalise the pension age for men and women:

“There is a lack of understanding in this Government about women’s lives. The reason for gender auditing was to make sure Government’s couldn’t be gender blind. The fact they are avoiding gender audits, and looking at dropping a number of equalities duties is evidence of this. The gay marriage proposals are a “cover”, it’s important, but not a radical change -a crime that is no longer a crime should be wiped off somebody’s record – , it is being “bigged up” to provide a smoke screen for the fact that the legislation being put in front of us in reactionary.”

Fiona said in the UK the new Equalities Act would need to be monitored by the appropriate Commission in order to ensure it was implemented effectively:

“If the Equalities and Human Rights Commission acts as a regulator in holding the government to account there is still a prospect the Equality Bill will make a difference to women and children’s lives and that is what we need to work towards.”

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

A film about “Emily” and how to juggle work-life balance issues!

http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio
March 1st 2011

http://www.wpradio.co.uk – a new film of the life of the Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison and juggling work-life balance even a small “tweak” will make a big difference

http://www.wpradio.co.uk is broadcasting two new podcast broadcasts – we take a trip back in time to the life of the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison and we talk to a life-coach on how women MPs and those who take up “vocations” can juggle work-life balance.

A film of the life of “Emily” – Emily Wilding Davison:

Film Producer Joan Lane of WildThyme Productions Ltd http://www.wildthymeproductions.com and script writer and producer Barbara Gorna are making a film of the life of the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, who became a martyr to the cause of women’s votes when she was fatally injured in the 1913 Epsom Derby. She ran onto the track in support of the women’s right to vote campaign and was knocked over by the King’s horse but as this film reveals for the first time “Emily” did not commit suicide, her death was an accident.

The scarf “Emily” wore when she was knocked down is on loan to the House of Commons from Barbara and forms part of a small display near Central Lobby Westminster called “Parliament and Votes for Women”. “Emily” also hid herself in a broom cupboard in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, in the crypt of St Stephen’s Hall, on the night of the census on 2nd April 1911. It will be 100 years on 27th March 2011, the date of the next census, since she did this.

Joan kick started the script for the King’s Speech and like that film script “Emily” resonated with Joan, whose father’s family come from Morpeth, where “Emily” is now buried. Our Executive Producer, Boni Sones OBE, spoke to Joan and Barbara as they stood under the “Emily” scarf and progressed to Central Lobby.
Barbara told Boni:

• “The scarf has become a totem for the women’s movement worldwide as Emily attempted to put it on the Kings horse in 1913, but she was knocked down by the horse and died four days later.”
• “She was imprisoned eight times, and she went on hunger strike together with the others, and they were force fed, which was a nasty treatment, it was a government approved torture.”
• “Several things have come to light in our research. Joan and I have been working on it for about nine months, and we have looked at things like where “Emily” gets her anger from, and we think some of her personal anger came from her family circumstances.”
• “It’s been a very interesting journey. The scarf was in my possession before it was in the Commons. There is a great presence about the scarf, and I often feel there is someone standing over my shoulder telling me what I should do. I have become very immersed in “Emily’s” character and I think with Joan I have got it right.”

Joan told Boni:

• “”Emily” ducks underneath the barrier, and waits until the Kings horse is approaching and attempts to drape the scarf over the horse, and being knocked to the ground she suffered fatal injuries when the horse kicked her. As to suicide, it is very unlikely; she had brought a return ticket. It is not a way you would commit suicide, it is a very suspect reason for her being at the races.”
• “The stage play of the script of the Kings Speech arrived on my desk in January 2006 and I tried very hard to get a stage play and production mounted, deeming it worthy of big attention, and I showed the script to some film colleagues at Bedlam films. They took an option on it and I was able to help them kick-start it, with a reading of it too.”
• “When the script for “Emily” arrived on my desk it resonated with me as the Kings Speech had resonated with me for personal reasons. I had been a speech and language therapist and had also met the Queen Mother on several occasions. With “Emily” my father’s family came from Morpeth where she is now buried and I have been to that Church many times.”
• “Barbara has done a marvellous job on the screenplay. I am a little angry that young women don’t always go to vote knowing of this historical story. I don’t think young women know how women suffered to get the vote and perhaps with the film more young women will go out to vote. It is a story for women worldwide.”

Barbara’s short documentary film of Emily’s life can be viewed on http://www.wpradio.co.uk/facetofacevideos.html

How to juggle work-life balance: Does a “vocation” stop you taking a much needed break?

“A healthy selfishness” might just help us all juggle that “Work- life balance” question says Caroline Lloyd-Evans, coach, counsellor and relationship therapist. Here Caroline tells Boni Sones OBE, our Executive Producer how women have to work harder, compete harder and climb over their own complexes to navigate that obstacle course to achieve balance. “Tweaking a little” can make a big difference. Do listen, this advice is clear! http://www.cleconsulting.co.uk.

• “A healthy selfishness – I used to say you need to be self-aware, and women are more self-aware. We are much more honest and aware to start-with but we then have to work out how to apply it to ourselves and we have to look at our body and our mind and how we feel and how “in balance” we are. We then need to be practical to all the calls upon our time, because they are enormous.”

• “Women are always queried, women have to work harder and compete harder and climb over their own complexes, because they are tougher on themselves. If women love what they are doing, it is harder to get a decent balance between their work-life balance. It is like an obstacle course, if you put too much into your work your home-life might suffer and vice-versa. Helping people to say “no” is important, and working out how to get yourself support. Women are terrible at thinking they have to do everything.”

• “Westminster is about conflict – you notice it is always military phrases like “battles”. Parliament is about being challenging and confrontational but once you point a finger at somebody else you can hurt yourself, it can come back to yourself and make you feel quit uncomfortable particularly the more sensitive side of yourself.”

• “Healthy selfishness – you need to listen to your own body, and know that you can snap unless you do something to relieve the stress like taking a break or going to a class of some kind. You need to think “is this worth getting upset about?”. MPs see so many serious situations, it ought to help them to say we can “lower the temperature” and take a break when needed.”

• “We can tweak the obstacles, remove them, but those small differences we make for instance to relax a bit or step up a bit, it’s a bit like DIY, if you do something a little bit different it can make the stress get better. It’s about being more honest with yourself, if you keep pushing yourself, for instance drinking too much, not getting enough sleep, what use are you to others? You just have to start being more aware of yourself and know yourself better.”

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

www.wpradio.co.uk teams up with VSO and the UN “Godmothers”

http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

February 22nd 2011
For immediate release
http://www.wpradio.co.uk teams up with VSO and the UN “Godmothers” to hear how activists are challenging their local MPs to support the new UN Agency for Women

http://www.wpradio.co.uk VSO UN “Godmothers” documentary presented from Central Lobby, Westminster

1,500 women are dying a day in childbirth. Forced marriages, rape, violence, poverty, equal pay: Michelle Bachelet’s new UN Agency for Women has some vocal supporters in the UK who want to ensure it gets the funding it needs to make a difference. To make sure that happens, VSO has just launched the ‘Godmothers’ campaign http://www.thegodmothers.org.uk which calls on DFID to become a leading donor to UN Women by making a financial contribution of around 21 million dollars.

In this special Two Part 50 minute UN “Godmothers” documentary our Executive Producer Boni Sones OBE, caught up with Sharon Hodgson MP, campaigners themselves, and Anas Sarwar MP, as activists met their MPs in Central Lobby, Westminster.

Sharon Hodgson the Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West told Boni:

• “It will be a talking shop if it has no money to do anything with, other Countries have started to put up the money, Spain has put up £13 million, Australia £8 million and when I asked Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, what the UK government was going to do he said they were going to have a strategy review in June and they would look at it after that. We need this money now if not the UN Agency for Women will be a talking shop.”
• “There are many major issues that need confronting on behalf of women and we really need the UN Women to have some teeth to say what is acceptable and what isn’t and for the UK government to back that.”
• “We hear about landmarks but at this point in time with all of the changes in the World, the Middle East, Egypt and other revolutions, I think the UN Agency for Women can be a real revolution for women across the developing World.”

Anas Sarwar the Labour MP for Glasgow Central, who sits on the International Development Select Committee, told Boni:

• “More than three-quarters of the poorest one billion people in the World today are women. Women have to be at the heart of our development strategy as a Country and that is why I support the UN Agency for Women and that is why the UK has to commit to it.”
• “Some of the greatest challenges we face in the developing world is to champion the role of women on issues such as access to education, violence against women, land ownership, women’s representation, all of which will be championed by the new UN Agency. Spain has committed £13 million but the UK hasn’t committed a single penny to this new Agency and we need to lead from the front. I will press the Secretary of State, Andrew Mitchell on this.”
• “My constituents are natural internationalists; ordinary hard working people give generously to global disasters, even in the most difficult times. What people want is peace, prosperity and justice for every man woman and child throughout the World, and we as the UK most show leadership on this new UN Agency for women. We need to lead from the front on development.”

In Part 2 of UN “Godmothers” Boni talks to Lesley Abdela of Shevolution while she chatted with activists in Central Lobby.

Lesley Abdela told Boni:

• “The “Godmothers” has been set up to keep an eye on the British government and the UN Agency for women to make it work. This VSO initiative embraces a variety of supporters, ordinary people and organisations such as the WI. They want DFID to invest £21 million dollars, the same as it gives to UNICEF, a relatively modest amount.”
• “What I have seen time after time after time, women are in the front of campaigning for democracy, peace and progress but the moment it gets formalised they are pushed out. We are not where it matters at the top table; we are not opening the doors for women enough. In the Middle East talks for instance, there should be equal numbers of women.”
• “We are not asking for extra money into DFIDs budget, but for something like 0.2 per cent of DFIDs budget to be allocated to this. We either go full tilt and set up UN Women for success or why bother to do it at all?”

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

www.wpradio looks at post natal depression and empowerment

PRESS RELEASE
http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

February 18th 2011
For immediate release

Www.wpradio.co.uk looks at how one Conservative MP is tackling an issue she’s passionate about through the Big Society, and we talk to a Peer about how she thinks investment in business is the right approach to women’s empowerment in India and Africa


Infant Early Attachment and The Big Society
Andrea Leadsom MP talks to Linda Fairbrother

One in ten mums suffer from post-natal depression. Now Andrea Leadsom the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire is taking an issue close to her heart to launch a Northampton charitable venture, with patrons, donors and volunteers to provide perinatal mental health care for mothers and their babies. Andrea had a 25 career in banking and finance, and was a Trustee and Chairman of the children’s charity OXPIP ((the Oxford Parent-Infant Project), which offers intensive therapeutic help to parents and their babies in the first two years of life.

Andrea, who suffered from post-natal depression herself, believes that many of the problems our society faces can be traced back to poor early attachment. She’s already held a Westminster Hall Debate on Early Attachment and says her campaign to mainstream this issue into social policy has cross-party support. Andrea thinks that if her Big Society launch of the new Northamptonshire project is a success it could be a template to “role out” across Britain. She’s not contemplating failure despite the public sector cut-backs!
Andrea told Linda:

• “Early infant attachment really is my passion. In 2001 I had two children and was quite postnatally depressed after having had my first child. I had worked in a senior role in banking and was experiencing this radical change but I had a supportive family and health visitor and I went back to work and that snapped me out of it.”
• “One in ten mums suffer from post natal depression, and some families have far worse problems where the relationship with the baby suffers massively as a consequence.”
• “Between six and 18 months the baby experiences a massive growth of the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that is not there when you are born and that grows as a result of a loving relationship. It is the social and empathetic part of the brain and it enables you to have the resilience to the things life throws at you and to meet disappointments. These pathways are laid down by the age of 2.”
• “The cycle of deprivation is the key to this, if you didn’t form a secure attachment when you were small that pattern is repeated and it becomes a cycle of deprivation that gets worse as you go down the generations.”
• “OXPIP – I was chairman from 2001 to 2009. We take referrals from families themselves, from health visitors, midwives and GPs and our therapists work with the family to help the mother to understand her fears and depression. It is a talking therapy and the results are astonishing, there is a once a week session, it’s very cheap £75 a week, versus the cost of a child on the child protection list and versus the cost of a chid that doesn’t form that early attachment in life.”
• “A number of front bench ministers are aware of the early attachment issue such as Iain Duncan Smith, and other MPs across party too like Graham Alan’s review on early intervention, and Frank Field. We want Sure Start children’s centres to provide perinatal mental health support services. In 2011 I am trying to launch a Northamptonshire parent infant project, working closely with the Director of Children’s Services there.”
• “I am hoping to start this Northamptonshire charity, with donors, volunteers and trustees to work with professionals from OXPIP, to document it as a template to roll this out across the country. I want to prove the value of it and to try and role it out nationally. Spending money on early prevention is a saving.”
• “From a hard headed financial point of view you would save a fortune by investing in early intervention. I am hoping that by the time we can look at a government role out the economic tide will be turning and certainly I am a huge fan of the Big Society and improving volunteering and this is a perfect example of how people can get involved in making the community around them a better place. This is not a party political issue.”

Linda Fairbrother meets: “The movers and shakers”
Baroness Shreela Flather, “Woman: Acceptable exploitation for Profit”.

Baroness Shreela Flather, the first Asian woman to receive a peerage, and known for wearing a sari, says her book “Woman: Acceptable exploitation for Profit” is meant to “tread” on a few toes by tackling the great taboo of children working for a living and the role of women in India and Africa. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Woman-Acceptable-Expoitation-Shreela-Flather/dp/1849950024

Baroness Flather says the United National Millennium Development Goals will not be met by the target date of 2015 and that only by shifting the focus to women themselves and enabling them through small business, technology and income generation can real progress be made. Family planning and education are key to harnessing their talents. Our http://www.wpradio.co.uk reporter Linda Fairbrother spoke to her.

“This House would not get Married!” – A Valentine’s day http://www.wpradio.co.uk Cambridge Union Society “partnership”

To celebrate Valentine’s Day http://www.wpradio.co.uk went to the Cambridge Union Debate “This House would not get Married”. Here William Longrigg, Partner at Charles Russell and President of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and Winston Preece, a Cambridge student, speak in favour of the motion while our Advisory Board Member Anastasia de Waal, Deputy Director and Head of Family Policy at Civitas and Anne Atkins, Author, Journalist, Agony Aunt and supporter of Christian values speak against. The Debate was Chaired by Francesca Hill, of Trinity Hall. http://www.cus.org will tell you who won!!

Ugandan elections and the voice of an 81-year-old activist – Rhoda Kalema

Ugandans hold their presidential and parliamentary elections on February 18th. This election is just the second since 1986 in which opposition parties have been legally permitted to campaign and it has been relatively free of violence to date. But there are concerns about how public funds are being used, particularly to support the campaigns of the ruling National Resistance Movement, led by President Yoweri Museveni. President Museveni came to power in 1986, following a protracted rebellion. Here in this special interview from our archives Rhoda Kalema, the “Mother” of the Ugandan Parliament tells her story of imprisonment in Uganda before going on to become an MP herself and helping to set up a Commission to help women and their families. She talked to Boni Sones OBE.

A documentary from Rhoda’s book:”A Rising Tide”, made in conjunction with http://www.screen-space.co.uk which tells the histories of modern women politicians there from the 1940s through to the present time can be found on our International Section
Good luck Rhoda.

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

End.

Ann Treneman talks to Caroline Lucas MP/Jo Swinson MP in South Africa

PRESS RELEASE
http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

February 4th 2011
For immediate release

http://www.wpradio.co.uk Ann Treneman, The Times sketchwriter, has a “Face to Face Encounter” with Caroline Lucas MP on her Parliamentary Reforms and “Guest Editor” Jo Swinson MP hooks up with South Africa and one woman MP’s battle to end violence against women

Ann Treneman “Face to Face Encounters” series.

Ann Treneman, sketchwriter of The Times starts off our new “Face to Face Encounters” series of interviews talking with Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and Leader of the Green Party on her proposals for the reform of Parliament.

Caroline’s report “The Case for Parliamentary Reform” has just been debated in Westminster Hall. It includes measures for “electronic voting”, changing “the parliamentary language”, ending the “talking out” of Private Members Bills, and publication of the “Speakers List” so MPs know when they are going to be called to talk in the Chamber.

Caroline, an MEP for ten years, estimates that just queuing up to vote accounts for around £30,000 a week in MPs’ salary costs, and 250 hours of their time each Parliamentary year. Here Ann – renowned for her portrayals of Westminster as a series of “playground spats” between “bickering children” – finds out if Caroline is a modern day “Mary Poppins” and destined to fail?

Caroline tells Ann:

• “The culture is an old boy’s club, that is the feel of it. One of the reasons I hold out some hope – because I do appreciate others have tried to reform Westminster – is that there are a lot of new MPs from professional backgrounds who are still reeling in shock about how this place works. I hope these voices get heard, because there really is quite a groundswell for saying there are things we could do, fairly simply, to make this place operate more efficiently.”

• “The Speakers List suggestions, some are for and some are against! There is a worry that fewer people will be in the Chamber, but there are safeguards you can build into this, so you keep the spontaneity but you wouldn’t have the situation where you sit through say six hours of debate, not being able to go to the loo, in case you lose your position on the list, if you knew you were on it. It’s like Alice in Wonderland.”

• “….it does feel like a little island of madness, I agree with you, it is a very different World. I think the work home-life balance is so difficult, ask my two kids, anyone with a responsibility for kids particularly young kids has a real struggle, particularly for the all-night sittings. That mystery you speak of, because you don’t know when things are going to happen, does make operating here incredibly difficult.”

• “There has been less opposition than I thought, things are changing it is exciting to be here, and there has been less old style patronage than I had expected. I do just get the sense there is an appetite for some change, but maybe over optimistically.”

• “I am not expecting this is all going to go through swimmingly first time round, but it does just open the doors for other people’s ideas and I hope that we can get some momentum behind them. Some of them that are easy wins, like some explanation of what an amendment is trying to achieve, that is not revolutionary and it would mean that more MPs would know what they are voting on, the Whips power would be less, and somebody trying to follow this from the outside would understand what is going on here.”

Jo Swinson MP “Guest Editor” and Lindiwe Mazibuko, MP South African Parliament

Jo Swinson the Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire, PPS to Business Secretary Vince Cable, sits in our http://www.wpradio.co.uk “Guest Editor” Chair this week. She recently meet Lindiwe Mazibuko, the opposition Democratic Alliance Spokesperson in the South African Parliament and the Shadow Deputy Minister of Communications. Lindiwe is one of the Parliaments youngest members, as was Jo herself.

In this special “hook-up” to celebrate 100 years of International Women’s Day in March 2011, Jo asks Lindiwe about how she was elected and what the impact of apartheid and the ANCs 1996 Constitution has been? Lindiwe told Jo how the women in the Parliament were progressing the pressing issue of young women being kidnapped and raped as some sort of marriage courtship practice, and to stop women being treated as “objects” culturally. Here Jo is co-founder of “The Campaign for Body Confidence”.

Lindiwe told Jo:
• “I was elected in 2009 in the last General Election for the Democratic Alliance, we have a full PR list system and I was number three on the list. I had been working for the Party the Democratic Alliance for some time, they were looking for people who were competent and diverse and who could represent a better mix of South African’s and as a young politician I made the cut. The Party was looking to diversify and I was ready and waiting.”

• Almost half of the MPs in the National Assembly are women and the same is true of the ANC’s Cabinet, almost half of them are women. In the governing party certain positions are sometimes reserved for women and some for men but in our Party it is a far more open approach and we have a female leader. Women’s issues are everyone’s issues is our approach, the challenges that face women in South Africa stem from the rich culture of patriarchy. The representation doesn’t always translate into as much activism as it should.”

• “Politician’s are quick to make glib speeches but it is not always translated into policy implementation for instance on the issues such as polygamy, we have never made a serious issue about this. Women are still having to subscribe to a patriarchal society even when half the women in the Cabinet are women. “

• “Issues of poverty such as HIV, Aids and sexual violence are of importance too, the rate of infection is much higher amongst women than men, particularly young women. One survey found a third of men admitted to committing sexual violence against a woman, figures like this are astonishing. Women as objects that have to be treated like a child or as a possession is something that stems from the deep patriarchy which was part of apartheid and there is a little bit of a time warp here. In deep rural parts of the Country the most astonishing practices still take place like women being kidnapped and raped as part of some pre marriage courtship practices. People are frightened to champion women as equals. ”

• “We in the DA are trying to convince South African’s our rights in the Constitution are only of value if we are willing to protect each other, and someone who doesn’t come from my racial or cultural group. It is such a difficult process because the scars of apartheid are deep and longstanding, and the hope is coming from young people and young leaders. It is difficult to break that racial deadlock, but we are working as hard as we can to make that happen.”

• “We need our partners in Parliament’s all over the World to fight the fight with us to fight the culture of patriarchy and attitudes surrounding women, and others must be willing to discuss the challenges we face. To celebrate 100 years of International Women’s Day it would be good if we could join hands with women in other Parliament’s where women are more emancipated in order to give us a bit more momentum too.”

• Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

Guest Editor Dame Anne Begg interviews women MPs in Kenya

January 28th 2011
For immediate release

A first for internet broadcasting – http://www.wpradio.co.uk invites our Guest Editor of 2011 Dame Anne Begg to interview women MPs in the Kenyan Parliament

http://www.wpradio. co.uk’s first Guest Editor Dame Anne Begg interviews four women MPs from the Kenyan Parliament.

In our new Global podcast broadcast series of 2011 http://www.wpradio.co.uk will be inviting women MPs from the UK Parliament to interview women MPs from other Parliaments all over the World. Technology now allows these “hook-ups” with relative ease compared to broadcasting conventions of the past.

When Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, Chair of the Works and Pensions Select Committee, met a delegation of women from the Kenyan Parliament recently to talk about how Committees work in the UK Parliament, she invited them to be interviewed in this new series and they agreed. They were the guest of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK.

There are now 22 women MPs in Kenya, 10 per cent of the 222 MPs in all. Six of these 22 are nominated, to represent special interests.

The Kenyan women MPs went on strike in 2003 when they were banned from taking their handbags into the Kenyan Parliament. They argued handbags were part of their “attire” and the ban was lifted.

Here Anne asks the delegation abut the ban, and changing family structures in a global world that is now allowing women to take out bank accounts and giving them new rights to the inheritance of land. The responsibilities of men are now changing too.

That all important new Kenyan Constitution and Bill of Rights approved in 2010, gives people new rights to “self actualisation”. This will lead to more women in the Parliament, and the allocation of 47 safe seats for women, one for each County, and 16 women in the newly created Senate House.

Dame Anne, the first full-time wheelchair user in Westminster, spoke to Hon. Dr Joyce Laboso MP, Hon. Shakila Abdalla MP, Hon. Linah Jebii Kilimo MP, Hon. Rachel Shebesh MP. This podcast broadcast was produced by Boni Sones OBE.

Dr Joyce Laboso MP spoke for her colleagues when she said: “We currently have ten per cent of women in our Parliament, six of which are nominated by the political parties to represent special interests. We really are excited about what the new Constitution has offered to us, we know it is not going to be easy, we have to do a lot of civic education and capacity building for women to take up the positions at National and local level. We will start to change the World in 2011 the anniversary of 100 years of International Women’s Day but there is a lot to do to make the changes happen.”

Dame Anne Begg, who sits on the Advisory Board of http://www.wpradio.co.uk said: “It is an exciting time for broadcasting through the web and by allowing women MPs themselves to be “Guest Editors” http://www.wpradio.co.uk is giving us a public voice to explore the issues that affect and impact on women in countries and Parliaments all over the Globe.

“We can share our experiences and our voices, and by joining together in this way the World will seem a smaller more accessible place, where our stories really do matter to one-another and can change how we conduct affairs and what issues we decide to bring to the fore in our respective parliaments. That handbag protest was a small thing but very symbolic for the Kenyan women in the same way getting Ladies toilets in the voting lobbies was the big change here. Thanks to http://www.wpradio for allowing us this thought provoking opportunity that audiences can listen to all over the Globe, via a computer or a mobile phone application.”

Executive Producer of http://www.wpradio.co.uk Boni Sones OBE said:” Thanks to Dame Anne and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK for this “gem” of a podcast broadcast interview with four members of the Kenyan Parliament. Listening to Anne hearing about their handbag protest and in turn telling her story of how women here had to fight to get more Ladies loos in Westminster shows how close our goal of creating a Global village for women MPs via broadcasting though the internet has become. It was a dream when we started broadcasting four years ago and we have now made that dream become a reality. “

Next week Jo Swison, the Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire will be interviewing Lindiwee Mazibuko MP of the Democratic Alliance Party South Africa.

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

End.

Emma Bonino – Iraq Vigil and International Women’s Day

PRESS RELEASE
http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

For immediate release
January 24th 2011

Emma Bonino – Vice President of the Italian Senate – Iraq Vigil and 100 years of International Women’s Day

Emma Bonino, Vice President of the Italian Senate, and a Radical Party member, flew into London to join an all night vigil against the Iraq war, while Tony Blair was giving evidence to the Iraq inquiry.

She is known for her work on human and civil rights issues, such as “against hunger in the world” and for her campaigns for women’s rights including campaigning against female genital mutilation. She is also a founding member of “No Peace without Justice”, supporting the creation of the International Criminal Court. She has received several international awards, including the “2004 Open Society Prize” for her outstanding achievements as a female world leader.

In an Exclusive interview she tells Boni Sones OBE, Executive Producer of http://www.wpradio.co.uk why she joined the vigil and why she will be “passionately” supporting 100 years of International Women’s day in March 2011! On Iraq she said:

• “We have been collecting a substantial dossier since February 2003, and all the papers and reports we have, make it possible that the initiative of the Emirates plus Jordan and Saudi’s had convinced Saddam Hussein to go into exile and it would have been possible to avoid the war. This is not new evidence, but we have been campaigning and distributing this dossier for two or three years, and we knew that in February 2003 President Bush had told others that he had been told Saddam was willing to go and it was a possibility at that time. I was at that time living in Cairo and I perfectly remember the meetings of the Arab leagues concerned.”

• “I am not in a position to make any particular judgement on the Iraq Inquiry, but I am concerned the private letters between Blair and Bush have not been made public and the Ministry has kept them secret, I am disturbed by this. Also I am disturbed by the fact that the simple question of whether Tony Blair knew Saddam was willing to go into exile has never been asked.”

• “People understand the position to go into the War was a political decision and not substantiated – weapons of mass destruction have never been found. Hans Blix said the Iraqi’s had opened the doors and were co-operating, but the UK side said inspections were useless, so I think people had the feeling going into war was not properly motivated.”

• “The real tool that we have is to say the truth matters, then we can put this to rest. We should not hide anything, democracy should be more open and more transparent. For the moment we are still fighting to get the truth out, and we are trying to have an Iraq commission too in Italy and using the tools in place.”

• “I think transparency is very important and to state the truth is the best way to make governments more careful next time they are facing such a decision. Impunity is not a good way forward, and if the truth comes next time everybody will be more cautious.”

On 100 years of International Women’s Day in March 2011 Emma Bonino said:

• “There is much more activity on women’s rights in Africa and even in the Arab World…where I think there is less activity is in parts of the European World, but I must say I see a lot of movement and determination in other parts of the World where women are willing to take their place in their societies.”

• “I think sometimes you have periods in some societies where the women’s movement is more vibrant and luckily there are women in other parts of the World who are active on their own so the campaign “Women on the Bridge” on International Women’s Day in March is very, very, important to me.”

• “I strongly believe that in many parts of the World, the women are the element for change so I think continuing to be interested in women is not diminishing in a political career I think it is a fantastic tool – I cannot avoid it I am so interested and so passionate. Women’s rights can make a better World.”
End.

Keeping climate change on the agenda – Meg Hillier MP!

PRESS RELEASE
http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

For immediate release
January 23rd 2011

Women’s Parliamentary Radio http://www.wpradio.co.uk asks Meg Hillier MP, how climate change can be kept on the political agenda and we set out our new global broadcasting role in 2011!

Meg Hillier, the Labour and Co-operative MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch since 2005, is the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. A panellist in the recent Fabian Society debate on: “Green Gloom: how do we win the argument for the planet?” Meg says she’s optimistic about our ability to change our habits and that people care deeply about the environmental legacy they hand down to their children and their children’s children.

She told Boni Sones OBE, our Executive Producer that it’s “vital” not to play party politics with the planet, and reminds us all as the New Year begins that by reducing our energy consumption we are also reducing our domestic household bills. Meg told Boni:

• “We care about what our children will inherit – we want to know our children and our children’s children won’t be paying the price for our children’s consumption and we all have to address that question now. On the doorstep people often raise concerns about their family, their children and their grand-children, they do care about the next generation and I do think we need to push that issue because it does resonate.”
• “The devil is in the detail, and I talk a lot to Ed Miliband about this. The government has said it’s not going to junk everything Labour did on the Environment but we see them dither and while they dither opportunities are lost. I think we all have to take responsibility and governments should have done something quicker, but I think this Government has got to get cracking as we have to change habits and reduce consumption massively. The “Green Deal” is going through Parliament, which seeks to encourage us to reduce our energy consumption at home, but we have to make sure it matches with human behaviour and gets the incentives right to make sure the stick is right to bite. “
• “Broadly we want to support the Government in carbon reduction, we all want to achieve this. I have a role to play in protecting this generation and future generations around the World, it is vital we don’t play petty party politics with that!”
• “We need to ask ourselves – do we need to turn that plug on, or that switch off? It will also have an impact on our bills, so if we encourage people to do that it will begin to bite. We call it 2011 the year the government needs to make decisions and hopefully it will be decisions that we will back!”

In 2011 http://www.wpradio.co.uk goes global!

http://www.wpradio.co.uk also started the New Year with two new broadcasts setting out a new global agenda for our listeners. We will soon be broadcasting interviews with women politicians here speaking to women in other parliaments through our “guest editor” approach.

Our http://www.wpradio.co.uk reporter Linda Fairbrother started off the New Year by looking at the work of “Women for Women International”. She spoke to Director of Policy Britta Schmidt about the role of women in Afghanistan. Britta told Linda:

• “I think the picture of how women’s lives in Afghanistan has changed over the last ten years is very varied, we have seen some gains, I think 25 per cent of the parliament are women, and we have seen many losses too. From our perspective where we work on the ground with many thousands of women who are socially excluded it is a bleak picture.”

Executive Director Kate Nustedt then told Linda about their “Join Me on the Bridge” campaign linked to the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day 8th March 2011.All women MPs and men are being invited to join them. Do listen. Find out more: http://www.womenforwomen.org. Kate told Linda:

• “It was an amasing coming together of women all around the World 100 years ago, when they marked the day. It is now a much much bigger deal in many countries in Africa and South Asia, it is only in the USA and the UK and other parts of Europe that it has gone relatively un-noticed. We are saying on the 8th March 2011 it is now the time to mark this anniversary. We want to be as powerful and as significant as all the Suffragettes were all those years ago. So “Join me on the Bridge” is a campaign started last year when our Country Directors in Congo and Rwanda got together on the bridge that connects the two countries, to show how we can build the bridge of peace for the future. We said we would love to be part of that two, and there were 108 events worldwide.”

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
End.

End.

We ask Katy Clark MP is the commons family friendly?

http://www.wpradio.co.uk
Women’s Parliamentary Radio

For immediate release
December 18th 2010
In 2011 we ask is the Commons family friendly? Katy Clark MP who is juggling a new baby and a demanding job says there’s room for improvement!

Katy Clark, Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran since 2005 has an 18 month-old-daughter, took maternity leave, and quite often uses colleagues to hold her daughter while she pops into the Chamber to vote. Katy tells Women’s Parliamentary Radio about her “two-lives” with a constituency that is 400 miles and a five hour journey from Westminster and a job that is a “vocation”.

Katy doesn’t think the further reforms of the Commons hours suggested by Green MP Caroline Lucas would help her but she says it may help those living nearer to London. She says the “costs” of child-care are “considerable” and difficult to manage! Katy told our Executive Producer Boni Sones OBE how she juggles work and home life:

“I’ve tried to minimise the travelling for my daughter, so she spends half her time in London and half in Scotland, I sometimes go up and down every week but she doesn’t! I had a child relatively late in life and I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible so therefore you do run yourself ragged to minimise the time you are away from her. You do spend your time rushing from one thing to another.

“I was a person who always worked seven days a week in a large geographical constituency. Maybe I am using my time more wisely, and I am more efficient now, but I just can’t put the hours in I used to. “
Katy said the Labour Whips helped her take time off before her first vote back in the Commons when her daughter was just three weeks old:

“Having her here I get less work done, so as much as possible she is not here. The Labour whips were wonderful and I was very impressed with the fact I was allowed time off the whip and didn’t have to be here for a considerable period of time. But you still have emails and your constituency work and nobody else can construct a letter with your views, so you have to continue at some level, all the way through the process. I also started to do constituency work again after about a month, attending events and seeing constituents.

“The first time I voted she was three weeks old, and I came down overnight to vote and I left her for less than 24 hours.”

Katy said MPs do have to provide and sometimes pay for two sets of child-care to fulfil their role as an MP and that’s tough:

“Representing a Scottish constituency which is so geographically distant from Westminster, you really do have two lives, it is the only way you can do it, and that means you have two sites for childcare arrangements and it gets complicated and expensive.”

She said she didn’t think further reform of the Commons hours, as some are suggesting, would be helpful to her, but it may help others living near to London, and that the cost of childcare was the real issue:

“The Caroline Lucas reforms – the hours have always been a problem, many women MPs have been taking up this issue for many years. There have been changes to the hours, and I think we have gone backwards again since May under the Coalition government, because we are having more late nights than ever before and more irregular hours. Sometimes we only find out what we are doing on the day that is difficult when you have childcare arrangements that have to be made. A more sensible arrangement is needed not just for childcare reasons but because it is more sane to the outside world as well.”

Katy said the new 1 Parliament Street Commons crèche was helpful but that the costs were still prohibitive. However, colleagues were used to holding her daughter while she voted:

“The crèche in Parliament Street is symbolically incredibly important, by saying children are welcome here, but it is only part of the solution because you can’t keep young children here until eleven at night, it is not OK on a daily basis. The reality is we still can’t take young children through the voting lobbies, that may come. We can still bring our children here on a Friday to maximise our contact with the children and we often leave them with a friendly MP for a moment while we go to vote.

“However we do the job, we are going to have to put in long hours and represent far flung communities. I was in after nine today, my first Select Committee was just after ten and the Chamber will go on until after ten tonight. You can change the way that the place works but perhaps it is not really doable unless you work until late at night.”

She said her beliefs and convictions made the job and juggling work and home-life really worth-while but again stressed that the cost of childcare may prohibit some women from becoming an MP in the first place:

“I wanted to keep a set of values alive, what keeps me going is what I believe in politically. We live in an incredibly unfair society where the wealth and power is very unequally divided and I think it is exceptionally important that women get involved and articulate a very different way of running the World, it’s not the hours but the cost of childcare that is the issue for me.

“The cost of being an MP is a huge worry because you have two lives and two sets of childcare, I have considerable family support, and I don’t need to pay for childcare in Scotland, it would be incredibly difficult if I was, the figures wouldn’t add up. Women who have children should be able to represent the communities that they live in. The crèche is £1,300 a month full time – with a 52 weeks a year contract and you have childcare elsewhere too. It is a huge step forward but it doesn’t address the issues. “

Footnotes:
1. Wpradio.co.uk is a web based broadcaster supported by all parties. Latest web stats show that in May 2010 we had our highest audience ever with 3,913 visitors, there were over 1,000 more visitors in June and July too compared to last year and even August increased. We don’t share our content with others in order to inflate our stats, you have to visit our website to listen to our content.

2. Our web stats show that our visitors are loyal, they return, tune in for some time and to more than one item. We have doubled our audience in a year. In July we published our Top Ten podcasts for that month. The top 8 all had over 100 downloads per podcast. Shirley Williams is hugely popular with 777 listeners to one podcast! The Oona King diaries are proving popular too.

3. wpradio also carries international content and has interviews with women MEPs in Europe, and women politicians in Africa and the Middle East.

4. Our supporters include Theresa May MP, Jo Swinson MP, Harriet Harman MP,and many other female politicians listed on our site. Jackie Ashley, of the Guardian, is our Chair.

5. The British Library archives all the interviews on wpradio.co.uk in its new web collection.

6. For more information contact Boni Sones OBE on 07703 716961.
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