Today is Human Rights Day. It marks the close of 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women and girls. And it's also two weeks since the first Women's Equality Party conference, where I was honoured to share the stage with women who came to tell their stories and to shape a better future where human rights also means women's rights.
Conference was our time to show, through those stories, that the personal is political, and to set out our commitment to doing politics differently.
Take Katherine. She told us her story in the faith that WE could help other women in her situation.
Katherine's husband was physically, emotionally and financially abusive. She survived this for 26 years. Her children were hit regularly. She was denied access to a bank account. She was completely controlled.
When she left, her husband sold everything they owned, right down to the furniture in their house, emptied their bank accounts and told her she and the children would never get a penny from him.
Katherine had to find a new home, as well as a way to make ends meet. She took on various low-paid jobs, relied on food banks and friends, and sought support from excellent organisations such as the debt charity StepChange.
What she didn't expect was that the system, as well as her husband, would work against her. Her husband failed to attend court, and then failed to make any of the maintenance payments assigned by that court.
WE know that only half of single parents actually receive the child maintenance payments they are due from the other parent. Women are more likely to take the main caring responsibilities for any children when relationships break down and therefore become lone parents. Nine out of ten single parents are women.
WE have made equal parenting a core objective of our party. And that's why Katherine came to us ahead of conference to put forward a motion on making child maintenance arrangements fair for all.
WE supported Katherine to write a workable policy motion. The motion called for the Government to urgently address situations like Katherine's by speeding up the Child Maintenance Service inquiry currently underway by the House of Commons Select Committee on Work and Pensions. It also called for that inquiry to ensure that child maintenance services guarantee payments, so that children do not need to suffer if their absent parent is not able, or refuses, to pay the maintenance on time. And it called for the Child Maintenance Service to scrap its four percent collection charge.
In order to propose her motion, Katherine got up in the small hours of a Sunday morning to be driven by a friend to Manchester, where we held our conference. WE gave her financial support to attend - because WE know that women are held back from political participation by poverty.
Katherine presented her motion to 1,500 delegates, who listened in silence to her story, and her proposal for change. They gave her a standing ovation, then voted unanimously to pass the motion. The result was live-broadcast on billboards across Manchester - a first for any political party. It was our way of saying that politics isn't a process done behind closed doors. It's for everyone. It affects us all.
The content of Katherine's motion has now been adopted as policy. WE are proud to do politics this way. It's a fitting way to defend the rights of all of us to live freely, without fear. Happy Human Rights Day.Suggest a correction