Jeremy Corbyn's landslide win marks not only a new era for Labour, but also the promise of better support and protection for women across the UK. Corbyn's campaign has repeatedly placed emphasis on the need for a re-evaluation of the way the austerity policies of the last five years and have had a significant effect on women. In his Working With Women report, Corbyn highlighted how 70% of the cuts have fallen on women. To celebrate his election as Labour party leader, here are seven reasons why Jeremy Corbyn's election is promising for the women of the UK.
1. A commitment to a 50% women shadow cabinet and a drive towards 50% of labour MPs being women.
Corbyn's awareness of the diversity of the nation and the benefits of a shadow cabinet that is truly reflective of the people of the UK was always a favourite discussion point of mine when discussing his potential as leader. His aim for a 50% female shadow cabinet includes a commitment to working towards including more ethnic minority and disabled women into local and national positions. Corbyn, unlike the other party candidates raised awareness and concern about the fact that in 2015 only a third of MPs are women. A smaller minority still are transgender or non-binary. Corbyn's mandate on a diverse and representative shadow cabinet illustrates his respect for a multicultural Britain.
2. A drive for Mandatory Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education in schools that includes sex and relationship education.
The current curriculum does not guarantee that young people will learn anything substantial about intimate relationships, including consent, healthy relationship components or protection against STIs. Not only do a third of girls experience unwanted sexual touching in schools but two women are killed a week by a former or current partner. Corbyn's campaign has called for a stronger approach to PSHE in schools and advocated for a much needed re-evaluation of sex education and support in schools. A curriculum that engages in important discussions on healthy relationships would lay the necessary foundations for children across the UK to have better autonomy over their role in an intimate relationship in the future.
3. Better protection for women at risk of Female Genital Mutilation
Estimates from City University London and Equality Now suggest that over 137,000 women and girls were affected by FGM in England and Wales in 2011. These statistics should dispel any myth that suggests that FGM does not occur in the UK and should encourage politicians to address this violation of human rights with haste and vigour. Corbyn's campaign has placed emphasis on routine training for teachers and health workers on how to help victims and working with local authorities to make every effort to engage parents and local communities about the risk young girls are at.
4. An end to the cuts to public services and welfare that drive more women and families into poverty or protect women suffering from domestic violence
Austerity has had a devastating effect on the ability of charities such as VAWG (violence against women and girls), refuge and women's aid to provide around the clock care and emergency support for women and children suffering from domestic violence, sexual assault or FGM. The UK not only falls short on the United Nations recommended number of refuges it should have in line with its population numbers but also falls short on the distribution of the services available. As such your ability to get hold of necessary support when needed is dictated by the post code lottery and often sheer luck. Corbyn's calls for an end to the cuts and more support for much needed charities might, just might, see the end to this shambles.
5. Working towards universal free child healthcare
The cuts and austerity measures have placed increasing strain on families Reductions in child tax credits have made it harder for families on the bread line, pushing more children into poverty. Working towards universal free childcare would not only benefit the poorest families' pockets but also their child's development. Corbyn has also placed emphasis on the need to recognise women's caring roles through tax and pension rights, helping women secure more support in their older years
6. Make employers report on the gender breakdown and pay of their workforce.
The gender pay gap is alive and well. Not only do women effectively work from the 4th November to the end of the year for free in comparison to men's wages, but also 57% of those on the minimum wage are women. Requiring employers to report on the gender breakdown and pay of their workforce might seem irrelevant in the 21st century, but it's something desperately needed as the statistics show. Corbyn's campaign has repeatedly placed emphasis on investing more in skills training and high quality apprenticeships with an emphasis on challenging outdated gender stereotypes, raising much needed concerns about the lack of support women face in employment.
7. The chance of real change
There are many reasons why Corbyn's election as the Labour party leader is promising for women across the UK. However perhaps the most important reason is that many of the things I have discussed above are often shockingly avoided or ignored entirely in British politics. Politicians across the spectrum often fail to place much needed emphasis on social issues, especially women's issues. Yet Corbyn's continuous effort to bring these topics to the forefront of British politics has put Labour at the heart of social change which is arguably why so many are rallying to his side. In a time of austerity and hardship Corbyn has made every effort to engage in the difficult but necessary topics and his election might be the wakeup call sorely needed to push for discussions about how the cuts are affecting the majority. Only time will tell.