Power of the Voice
Power of the Voice – Call to Action
The Power of the Voice is a call to action for the voices of the women in Guernsey to be raised in a way that will be heard; to have greater political influence by encouraging more women to stand for election in April 2016.
On Saturday 28th November 2015, Soroptimist International of Guernsey (in conjunction with the Guernsey College of Further Education and Women’s Development Forum, kindly sponsored by Cazanove Capital and facilitated by Michele Johansen) staged a seminar to explore the issues surrounding the political influence of women in Guernsey.
Setting the scene, Cathy Bailey for Soroptimist International of Guernsey, Saboohi Famili, Principal of the College of Further Education, and Michelle Johansen all started their address with
“I believe in the power of the voice of women, and if my voice was heard …”
These powerful statements emphasised the need for more involvement, more education and more influence for women. It was emphasised that this is about representation rather than pursuing a “women’s agenda” and that this would benefit the whole of the island. There is plenty of evidence that diverse groups tend to make better decisions because different perspectives offer the potential for more creative solutions. There is a direct link between better outcomes and more women’s involvement – it is clear that failing to involve women in shaping and building our island is a huge waste of talent and potential.
Deputy Yvonne Burford, Environment Minister, addressing the seminar pointed out that the States of Guernsey has 47 political representatives, of which just 5 are women. We lie somewhere between India and Brazil, but below Liberia, Azerbaijan and Mongolia in terms of women’s equality at political level. In fact 150 or so countries are doing better than we are! She said “decisions that affect us all are being made without women round the table. Many States committees have no women at all on them. The different, direct, lived experiences and perspectives of one half of the population are barely being heard”
Deputy Burford asked “with all due respect to my 42 male colleagues, are we really saying that out of the 20,000 women on this island eligible to stand for election, there aren’t twenty who could equal them?”
Guest Roberta Blackman-Woods, MP for Durham and UK Shadow Minister for Housing, had been impressed with the States meeting that she attended. She spoke enthusiastically of the possibilities for women and also outlined help available to potential UK parliamentary candidates. She described her selection in 2004 through a controversial all women short-list, saying that this was one of the main ways that the UK had made progress towards more gender equality in politics. Although with Guernsey’s current system it was unlikely we would be able to follow, but we could aim for targets of women standing.
The morning was certainly not all about speeches; there was a great conversation piece between Michele Le Clerc, Heidi Soulsby and Yvonne Burford (all current States members) on how there is a lot of good camaraderie between the deputies, they support each other even though they might not agree with the other’s politics. It seemed that being a States Deputy is a much more positive experience that it might appear from the outside.
A panel discussion (with Deputy Scott Ogier and Richard Digard included on the panel) was followed by lively and wide-ranging debate at small tables by the 75 participants which, while mainly female, also included several men. The room was buzzing with animated discussion covering diverse topics such as education, practicalities of being a politician, ways of supporting potential candidates and perceived barriers to involvement. A forest of post-it notes with ideas and offers of help was collected to help form an action plan, the overall message being “stop talking and take responsibility to make things happen.”
And so …. the follow up to this first seminar is taking place on Saturday 9th January from 9.00 am to 12.30 pm at Les Cotils and is for anyone who would like to be part of the next steps.
The key messages are that:
- This is a chance to take responsibility for making things happen. This is about representation, not pursuing a “women’s agenda”. This will benefit the whole of the island.
- This is a chance to take responsibility for making things happen.
This second seminar will again be facilitated by Michelle Johansen. “This will not be a talking shop but a real Call to Action” said the Chair of the Soroptimist organising committee, Cathy Bailey, “Women and men who recognise the value of a more gender-balanced politics, and who want to offer ideas, skills or simply moral support to women who want to enter Guernsey politics, are invited to our next seminar, on Saturday 9 January from 9am-12.30pm at Les Cotils. Women who are thinking about entering politics – whether in 2016 or in 2020 or beyond – are warmly encouraged to join us. We are a non-partisan group and we don’t expect everyone to share the same political views – we are interested in broadening representation across the spectrum. The seminar will focus on planning and taking practical actions to encourage and support women to stand in Election 2016; and to promote women’s participation in politics more generally. It will have an “open space” format, giving everyone who attends the chance to take part and be heard.”
Based on the numbers who stood for election in 2012, if we could encourage just 65 women from this island of 65,000 people to stand for election next April, then we could conceivably gain equal representation in one fell swoop. How amazing would that be?
Our mission is:
- To encourage women to stand for Election in 2016
- To help those standing with their campaign
- Encourage women to participate in politics of all kinds
- Raise awareness of the process
- Help to build a network of support
The Fawcett Society
This is an extract from the Davies Report 2011 on Women on Boards