Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership isn’t just about him, it’s about a movement.
Source: HuffPostThe chair of Owen Smith’s campaign has accused Jeremy Corbyn of not understanding the barriers and prejudices facing women in our society and not providing the leadership on gender equality that women in the Party are looking for. Yet, polling this week shows that Corbyn is supported by the majority of women within the Labour movement, with 67% of women polled saying they will vote for Corbyn. Almost three quarters of women polled believe Corbyn is principled, honest and share their political outlook.
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of not responding strongly enough to misogynist online abuse. However, this week Corbyn’s team announced a detailed plan to deal with online harassment by strengthening laws and increasing the responsibility of social media giants, organisations and employers to promote safe and respectful standards within online spaces.
Within our own party, the first ever modern inquiry into discrimination will be used to produce a comprehensive Equal Opportunities Policy, along with training and guidance to stamp out sexism and all other forms of discrimination within our movement.
The current epidemic of misogynistic online abuse means that women who express political opinions are targeted – whoever we support, whatever our political persuasion. Some of the most serious danger to Labour women has come not from the leadership election but from a vocal far-Right; such as the racist recently jailed for antisemitic abuse directed at Luciana Berger, and the coordinated abuse organised by neo-Nazis against Rhea Wolfson when she ran for Labour’s NEC.
I’m voting for Corbyn because his commitment to women’s equality has been consistent from his days as a trade union worker supporting women in the fight for equal pay, to the far-reaching and comprehensive set of policies on women’s equality he announced this week.
There are more women in our shadow cabinet than ever before and Corbyn is supporting 50:50 representation for women within Parliament and across all public offices. For first time an expert panel of women will directly advise the Leader’s Office, and every policy will be audited to ensure all of Labour’s policies are making progress on women’s equality, while Labour’s Women’s Conference will have a far greater role in shaping our Party’s policy.
But we need to go further than representation. Tory cuts have disproportionately harmed women – we have lost our through job cuts in the public sector (65% of public sector workers are women), lost our access to vital and lifesaving services, and have been subjected to a vicious welfare regime where policies like the benefit cap, the bedroom tax and disability support cuts have fallen on the most vulnerable women. With 20% of homeless women having escaped violence, the housing crisis is an issue with a severe impact on women – and policies like Corbyn’s secure homes guarantee provide solutions.
In just a year we have shifted the consensus on austerity. After this leadership election we can go beyond that, and make a case for a fairer alternative.
Corbyn’s national education service will provide opportunities for women, and take on occupational segregation to get more women into sectors like Science, Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing, while equal pay audits will help to close the gender pay gap by forcing companies to open their books and penalise those that continue to treat women as second-class employees.
Corbyn’s proposals are in-depth and effective because they are developed not just by him, but with women’s advocacy groups and campaigners. This blueprint for advancing women’s equality was launched by women trade union leaders, MPs and activists who have been campaigning for equality throughout their political lives.
Labour now has the most diverse shadow cabinet ever to take that blueprint forward; with women like Angela Rayner, who went from leaving school with no qualifications to sitting on the frontbench, former NHS worker Kate Osamor and lawyer Rebecca Long-Bailey, along with experienced parliamentarians and women’s rights advocates like Emily Thornberry and Diane Abbott.
Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership isn’t just about him, it’s about a movement – a movement which has brought together thousands of people, including thousands of women, to help shape a new, more progressive politics. Our critics too often ignore the women, of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and identities, with diverse lived experiences, hailing from every corner of our country, who have been brought together to campaign for a Labour Government that will dismantle the structural and systemic inequality facing women across society.
Barbara Ntumy is a sabbatical officer at London Met SU and a member of the NUS national executive