Last February I went out canvassing for the first time in my life. I've never been a member of any other political party and I never intended to be a politician. But there I was, going forth on a bone-achingly cold morning to knock on doors and ask for votes.
The streets were quiet and the air raw and I was glad to be granted access to a block of flats, where I waited a long time for the first door to open. I was about to turn away when I heard the bolt being drawn back and the hinges creak slowly wide.
An elderly woman looked out expectantly, then saw my clipboard and started shaking her head in disappointment. "I'm eighty years old, love. Gave up voting twenty years ago. There's no point."
I offered her a leaflet - emblazoned with the words "Let's Be Bold, London" - and said: "But we're a new political party. We're the Women's Equality Party and we're standing at this election so that women's voices can be heard."
Her face lit up.
It felt like the sun coming out.
"Thank you," she said. "Now I've got something to vote for."
This morning the sun is out in London. This morning we've all got a chance to make history by voting for the first political party - the only political party - that puts equality for women front and centre of all of its policies.
It's been twelve months since the General Election left me wanting to yell in frustration at the lack of understanding of my life displayed by the parties that wanted (and expected) my vote. It's been ten months since the Women's Equality Party opened for membership. And it's been nine months since I walked away from my previous job to lead this party into its first elections in London, Scotland and Wales.
It has been an extraordinary, breakneck progression. This morning I go to my local polling station sending silent thanks - or maybe not so silent since I hope they will all be reading this - to the thousands of people who grew this party with me, from the ground up, into a force that has changed the conversation about politics in Britain.
Thank you to the thousands who contributed to our policies, built our 73 branches in Scotland, England and Wales, crowd-funded and campaigned. Thank you to the thousands of women - black and white, old and young, disabled and non-disabled, LGBT + and from a wide array of socio-economic backgrounds - who have come together in this party to give voice to the diverse experiences of being a woman in Britain. We are not a homogenous mass. We are not a special interest group. And we will no longer vote for parties who see us this way and reduce our needs to a couple of lines at the back of a manifesto.
You might be reading this thinking: but the other candidates aren't so bad at this stuff. You might be reading this thinking that you've heard more than usual from the other candidates this time around about equality. There's been talk of the pay gap and of violence against women; of the need for 50:50 committees and protecting funding for women's services.
That's happened because WE are in the race now. WE are delighted to see other parties steal our policies. (That's just some of them above.) When that happens, we celebrate. And then we raise the bar.
So if you want to see equal pay, affordable childcare and an end to violence against women actually happen, there's a party you can vote for. If you want accessible, safe transport systems and talk of "affordable" housing that is in reach of the poorest, so often London's women - vote for our party to know it will really happen. Vote for us because WE'll get it done. And vote for us because it tells all the other parties to take women's equality seriously.
Because equality is better for everyone.
If you're reading this in London, please use the pink ballot paper to vote for Sophie Walker as London Mayor and the orange ballot paper to vote the Women's Equality Party into the London General Assembly.
If you're reading this in Scotland, please use your second vote in Lothian and Glasgow to vote for the Women's Equality Party.
If you're reading this in Wales, please use your second vote in South Wales Central to vote for the Women's Equality Party.
Sophie Walker is the leader of the Women's Equality Party, and the party's candidate for London Mayor
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