THE BLOG

Women, Westminster and the Web: A New Party for a New Politics?

22/10/2015 15:44 BST | Updated 22/10/2016 10:12 BST

The launch of the Women's Equality Party this week marks another milestone on the journey to a new politics.

Watching FGM survivor and campaigner Nimko Ali and 17 year old Honor Barber speak about their journey into activism, I was struck by how fresh and exciting these voices sounded. A decade ago, these young women might have felt excluded from the political process and now here they were launching a new political party on an issue they felt passionately about.

When I was 17, the potential to engage in politics felt a lot narrower and less exciting than it does now. I didn't have much interest in the main parties and their desire for members to sign up to a 'one-size fits all' ideology - but I was still politically engaged and passionate about the issues affecting people. Fortunately the advent of the internet and social media has had a catalytic effect for people like me, who now have a whole universe of tools with which they can run campaigns on the issues that matter to them.

The democratising nature of the internet is particularly exciting for women's rights campaigns and because of sites like Change.org, we've seen women grab the opportunities to get involved in politics on their own terms.

When I launched Change.org in the UK four years ago, it was clear there was a huge opportunity to provide a platform for people to have their voice heard powerfully and openly on the issues they cared about. One of the areas that seemed most full of potential was that of women's right campaigning and it's been inspiring to see how many have used the site to campaign for change and win.

From Caroline Criado-Perez's banknotes campaign to Lucy-Anne Holmes' No More Page 3 movement, to stand up for women's rights and call yourself a feminist is rapidly becoming the norm. A decade ago, 17 year old Rozin would never have been able to voice her concerns for Yazidi refugees and propel the issue to the front pages and government attention with as much speed or effectiveness. 22 year old model Rosie wouldn't have been able to call for health-checks on models backed by an MP and 65,000 signatures in less than a month. And Laura would have found it infinitely more difficult to reignite a debate around the taxing of sanitary products, connect with other young women campaigning across Europe on the issue and find 250,000 supporters.

The internet and organisations like WEP can play a positive role by nudging established parties and the traditional political structures into opening up to modern ways of working. The next generation of activists wants their politics to be fast, open and effective - and there are massive electoral rewards ahead for the politicians who can capture that territory.

It's hard work starting a new political party and the road ahead for the WEP is long, but this is a fascinating moment for our democracy. Without access to millions in donations the WEP founders used creativity, a good idea and the power of the internet to bring about something exciting. What a brilliant blueprint for the new politics.