What do women want from Labour

Vivienne Hayes draws lessons from the Women’s Resource Centre

We are more than half the population, we make up the majority of unpaid carers, low paid workers, poor pensioners and single parents — yet the collective voices of women and our organisations remain stuck on the margins of government and local policy making.

It isn’t because we aren’t organised. The women’s not-for-profit sector is made up of around 20,000 groups and organisations. So the first thing we need from Sir Keir is for him to listen to women’s organisations and — as was promised at least three times at the recent civil society summit— to work in partnership with us. We know women’s local organisations build solutions, creating microcosms of support, community and economic growth which benefits everyone.

In Manchester, our work with the Alternative Women’s Economy (AWE) members is one such microcosm of hope and transformation whereby local women’s charities are sharing their achievements and building a stronger voice. The coalition has enabled women to both survive (and thrive) some of the worst impacts of the cost of living crisis with social enterprise development, food parcel distribution and community shared childcare.

Because — let’s face it — our current systems are failing catastrophically. As the women in Manchester say, “We have the solutions, we just need the government to listen and work with us.”

Disinvestment in public services has left a staggering hole in provision, with all parts of the charity sector shouldering the burden. None more so than in our women’s sector; we receive just 2% of charitable funding to work with the largest group of people across our population. It is only will, determination and resourcefulness that keeps our doors open for women and their families at the sharp end of poverty and discrimination.

So how can Labour listen, hear, and work with our sector to achieve their ambitions? The first thing is to translate words into actions and establish a new mechanism for women’s voices directly into government. This could be done in partnership with the Women’s Resource Centre – we have the reach to effect this.

One immediate action should be changing procurement practice; it’s costly and usually fails to deliver desired outcomes. It was not designed for public service delivery. Meanwhile, the Family Court system entrenches and enables child and women abuse. If Labour is serious about halving violence against women the systems that perpetuate it must be changed.

Quick fixes are not enough. We agree Labour should work on a ten-year plan for transformation. The public services Starmer talks about must begin with the party demonstrating humility. Labour must recognise and value the expertise we in our women’s sector hold.

Business as usual won’t wash. We need a dismantling of “the who knows who” methods of influence. We need bold thinking and action which results in tangible and structural change.We know how to achieve more with little — we’ve been doing it for years! We know what’s not working, what’s wasting money and how to change it.

We want brave leadership unafraid to prioritise women and our needs. We are the ones holding up families and communities with little thanks and even fewer resources. We are the backbone of families, communities and societies: invest in us!


  1. Since the Coalition abolished the WNC ( Women’s National Commission) the UK has now no Institutional Mechanism for women, and the Tories refuse to comply with the recommendations of the CEDAW (Committee of the UN Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women) to fill that gap, and domesticate its articles . Yet Starmer is silent on this indifference to the most ground breaking treaty. Women are more than half the population and CEDAW is a powerful leverage for women’s rights, equality and empowerment across the globe. How dare we criticise other states for misogynist policies when under the Tories we have shown such indifference to our obligations under international laws.
    Margaret Owen.

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