Here is this months Barking and Dagenham Post column from Jon Cruddas MP, first published online 08/03/2017.
Today is international Women’s Day, which marks a celebration of the economic, social, cultural and political achievements of women. This year the Spring Budget falls on International Women’s Day, and Labour MPs are calling on the government to guarantee a budget that works for women.
Almost every piece of legislation that has improved the lives of working women has been introduced by a Labour government; the Sex Discrimination Act, The Equality Act, and of particular significance to Dagenham, the Equal Pay Act.
We have a long proud history in Dagenham of championing women, with the Ford sewing machinists paving the way for equal pay back in 1968. Flash forward nearly 50 years and Barking and Dagenham Council has introduced a Gender Equality Charter and established a dedicated Cabinet Member for Equalities and Cohesion.
The Tories, whilst boasting their second female leader have turned the clock back on economic equality for women, with many of their damaging policies hitting women hardest of all. In 2017 women in the UK are more likely to work for less pay than men in low paid sectors, and be disproportionately affected by cuts to public services.
Specialist domestic violence services are in crisis across the country as a direct result of government cuts to local authorities, and it is estimated that 103 children and 155 women are turned away from refuges every day due to lack of space. Last year in December Barking and Dagenham bucked the trend and opened a new Women’s Centre at the Heathway which was named after historic local Suffragette Annie Huggett.
As we look to a future outside of the EU, and possibly the single market it is vitally important that we guard against the risk of going backwards and losing the hard fought rights of women. Today it is important to recognise how far we have come, but also how much more is still yet to be achieved.