This year is the centenary of legislation which stated that women should not be disqualified by sex or marriage for election as a councillor. Yet after 100 years, there are only 29% of women councillors, with only 14% serving as women council leaders last year.
We are reminded of this by Baroness Shephard in today’s Eastern Daily Press (no link) who welcomes the government’s council commission to increase diversity of local government councils, hoping it will focus on the special needs of women with caring responsibilities.
I can understand that women MPs are faced with the immense pressure of juggling motherhood and spending most of the week away from home. But councillors don’t have that difficulty, and their contribution as elected members can make a valuable and immense difference to the decisions that affect every day lives in the community.
If they need any inspiration, they should spare a thought for these courageous women in Iran who have been jailed for peacefully demonstrating for equality. Yet this is something our women fought for and won a century ago.
Human Rights Watch is urging Iran to respect the women’s campaign to bring social and legal equality between men and women. Their fight and suffering sounds very similar to that of the American suffragettes in the harrowing film I saw this week.
I must admit I was amazed to learn that there are so few women councillors. At the end of the day, it may come down to the practicalities of taking on a huge commitment, or they are simply not interested in doing the job. At least they have the freedom of choice, but let’s hope more can be persuaded to boost the figure to at least 40% within the next decade.
Hat tip Freebornjohn for the Iranian link, a fellow Cambridgeshire blogger.