‘There is still more to be done for women’


The editor asked me to write a column celebrating International Women’s Day and there’s lots to celebrate.

The lives of many women in the UK have changed immeasurably over the past 100 years. We have the vote, the right to equal pay, to inherit property, and, very importantly, the right to drink unaccompanied in the pub.

Interestingly, the last person to be convicted under the Witchcraft Act, in 1944, was Jane Yorke a 70-year-old woman from Forest Gate. Thankfully, that Act’s gone too.

Much has been achieved, but there is still more to do.

I remember as a young girl, my mum insisting my dad washed the kitchen floor every Thursday night and cleaned the bathroom, too. She worked full-time as a manual worker in Tateses and came home to hours of housework. This small expectation of my father was important to her and taught me priceless life lessons.

In the main, women shoulder the domestic burdens and are the primary carers in the home. This work still isn’t recognised as work, nor paid.

Newham has 24,604 unpaid carers, more than half are women. They provide care for relatives, partners, children or friends suffering illness, frailty or disability. Nationwide, about 6.5 million unpaid carers contribute to the economy, saving the NHS and the government about £132 billion every year, averaging £19,336 per carer.

Unpaid care is often a full-time job. Almost three quarters of Newham’s carers are women, giving over 50 hours of care a week. Moreover, they carry the greater burden of childcare and housework.

Care work safeguards the dignity of the most vulnerable. Childcare gives the next generation a decent start in life. Government still doesn’t recognise this work’s value. The Carer’s Allowance remains insultingly low.

I use International Women’s Day, every year, to count my blessings – absolutely – but also to ponder what else needs doing in this country, and beyond, to keep women safe, ensure women are valued and guarantee my nieces and all our mothers, daughters and sisters live their best lives free from whatever holds them back.

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!

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