We were fortunate to be able to talk to Jillian Creasy and Kathy Aston from the Sheffield Green Party (see their national site here) about the way the party works and what its policies are. Jillian is a councilor and Kathy a member of the local party.

As you might expect, from the name, the reputation or just a quick look around their websites, the Green Party is very much for women’s rights – and equality in general.
They have an equalities officer elected within the the national party, and women’s committees in the party include:

Women By Name – a strictly women-only group

Green Women – a group that allows men to participate in discussions, although they cannot vote on issues.

However, it is mostly men at the national conference, mostly men speaking and only one woman as an executive.
There is also an issue over the number of women participating at a local level. It was suggested that one of the reasons for this may be that women are more likely to be involved in active capaigning instead of the day-to-day business of the party, particularly as it is an electoral party and as such is contrained by the same rules as all political parties. A general impression of political parties being governed mainly by old, white, straight men may contribute to women staying away from this aspect of the party.
We also discussed how much of a role childcare might be playing in putting women off being more active, as the meetings of the local party are in the evening, meaning that some women may be constrained by the need for someone to look after their children. Evidently, this would also be a constraining factor for single-parenting men.

The city council currently has about 1/3 female members, but there are also many other unrepresented groups, because the average age is about 60. The council allowance is only around £10,000 P/A and it is very time-consuming work which can prevent anybody on a lower income, or with a less flexible work environment, from standing as councilors. And the structures of the council are very traditional and adverserial with often puts people off.

The is concern that the Liberal Democrats are going to try to remove the equality department from the council soon. We intend to keep an eye on the situation and try and get involved to help save it if needs be. It has been billed as a spending cut, but seems counter-intuitive considering that in order to consider equality issues without the help of a specific department, the onus would then be on the council to provide every individual manager with suitable training.

In November there is a one day conference of the Green Women group in Huddersfield that is open to others, there will be discussions, training and work shops.

We also talked briefly about some of the Green Party’s policies, such as those towards prostitution and sex education. Their stance on sex education in particular feeds into equality issues; in their own words:

“The Green Party would… Ensure all schools provide sex education including on the diversity of sexualities and gender identities and create supportive environments for LGBT staff and students.”

Clearly, the Green Party are far from being a one-issue party, and seem to be actively trying to constantly improve.

A huge thanks to Jillian and Kathy for coming to talk to us, it was incredibly interesting and informative. We hope to see you both soon!

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