Standing 50ft tall for Gender Equality, its everyones fight; Catherine Mayer is a Keynote Speaker at the Byline Festival

Imagine a day, just one day, where women stopped doing their work in the entire country.
Housewives, teachers, clerks, industrial workers, professionals all stopped work.

Well it actually happened in Iceland 1975, when women stopped working for a day- with the support of the men in their lives- to prove how much women’s contributions were integral and vital to the Icelandic way of life.
Icelandic men “suddenly saw the breadth and scope of women’s contribution and since they have also understood the fight for gender equality is their fight too.” Says Catherine Mayer, award winning journalist, best-selling author and former editor of TIME magazine.

Mayer is keen to repeat the example in the UK on Women’s Day no less, but, she concedes that Iceland is a much smaller country than ours, so it may be harder to take place.
However the Women’s Equality Party have a 'women not working day' planned for 2018 to coincide with the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918; an act that enabled the vote to women over 30 who owned qualifying property and all men over 21.

Most agree, in today’s political climate with ‘grabbing pussy’, Diane Abbott's revelations on what it’s like to be a female MP and Brexit anti migrant rhetoric, it is imperative now perhaps more than ever, to stand up for equal rights.

Improving rights for women therefore become paramount to making a fair and just society.

Catherine Mayer went a few steps further than simple agreement; at the Women of the World festival at London’s South bank in 2015 she set up a political party to push forward the agenda, teaming up with sharp witted comedian Sandi Toksvig the two created the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) it currently boasts 73 branches and 65,000 members and registered supporters.

Mayer is the ‘less funny’, her words not mine, at the Byline Festival press launch with decisive passion when she describes the lack of women standing for election in the ‘metro elections’ on May 4th of this year.
She explains that in the 6 regions electing a mayor a total of 30 candidates are standing, of which only 5 of those are women, one of them from the WEP: Tabitha Morton.

Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly four of those women, Mayer says, are not in a seat they’re likely to win though there is great hope in front runner Sue Jeffries, in Tees Valley.

Mayer's style may not be of a natural comedienne but she still manages to encourage you to laugh whilst you balk at the injustice and gain insight from her about the state of equality in the world today.

The WEP primary campaign is for gender equality of which Mayer says;

“When women fulfil their potential, everyone benefits. Equality means better politics, a more vibrant economy, a workforce that draws on the talents of the whole population and a society at ease with itself.”

Despite having “women” in the title of the party, the founders are clear that equality includes everyone; equality for women isn't just a women's issue.

Hear Catherine Mayer’s understated wit as a keynote speaker at the Byline festival; “It’s a pleasure to be invited to a festival that’s not only a talking shop, but is a seed bed for activism.”
Add your own perspective to the undoubtedly lively discussion and debate about equality for all, what we need to know and just how do we get there?

Byline Festival 2-4th June Pippingford Park

Hina Pandya

8th March International Women’s day this year Mayer releases her new book ‘Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman’

The reality of Women's rights today and the Women's March: Discussion at Byline Festival

Together we rise. Women's rights, are human rights.

Together we rise. Women's rights, are human rights.

One woman in 5 is raped
and 1 in 3 suffers physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, these are shocking statistics, no doubt and primary reasons for the Woman’s March on January 21st 2017.

Although it feels like we are bombarded with statistics every day on mainstream ‘click bait’ sites and many of those in the know are aware that these statistics have been this way for years if not decades, the lesser known facts of women who struggle silently are women of colour.

Research has shown women of colour are most likely to be the carers of the chronically ill, the elderly and the disabled. This no doubt affects their ability to earn, and with equal pay still in debate it is useful to know that 50% of women are the main earner in their household, 82% of those women are parents.

More shocking it will be women of colour who experience violence or sexual assault at the hands of the police and law enforcement and ‘more likely’ in a prison environment, so it is highly concerning that the rate of women of colour in the US incarcerated has increased by 700% since 1980, many of these women also have children.
Women who are black, indigenous or transgender are more likely to be trafficked, kidnapped or murdered.

The Byline Festival, the first of its kind intended to break the silence on some of these truths and will have Catherine Mayer attending, she is the co-founder with Sandi Toksvig, comedian, of the political Women’s Equality Party. Set up in 2015 their primary campaign for gender equality, stating Equality for women isn't a women's issue.
“When women fulfil their potential, everyone benefits. Equality means better politics, a more vibrant economy, a workforce that draws on the talents of the whole population and a society at ease with itself.”

Despite having “women” in the title of the party, the founders are clear that equality includes everyone, so effectually all are welcome, just like they were at the Women’s March.

It is vitally important in today’s political climate more than ever to stand up for the rights of women, equality and a fair economy.
All subjects of importance, they merit discussion and action, Emma Watson’s famous speech of “he for she” mean too that the men of our society are not only important to the debate but also integral for it’s change and growth.
From Tom Watson, to Frances Barber, the debates will ensue on the vital subjects that make our societies thrive and the issues that matter, women’s rights being part of the tapestry of them all, pointing us into the right direction of solutions, and actually hearing why in 100 years of getting the vote, do we still need to march to ensure the rights that women aren’t raped, trafficked, beaten, kidnapped or murdered, or simply just to attain equal pay.

*The Byline Festival takes place 2-4th June at Pippingford Park in East Sussex.
Hina Pandya