Baroness Kennedy writes:
On International Women’s Day there are always articles applauding those women who were first to succeed in their chosen field. We reflect on the achievements of Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, and Margaret Bondfield, and we wonder how it’s possible there are still so many ‘firsts’ left for women to make? But there are.
Meet Gladys. Gladys Moraa Ogoti, is a 38 year old woman from Tabaka in Kenya.
She is a ‘first’. Yet Gladys won’t receive international attention or appear on a ‘list of women’s firsts’ on Wikipedia.
Gladys gets up at 5am, tends to her cows, gets her children fed and off to school, does household chores till lunch, and then dons a pair of blue overalls to begin her day job. Gladys used to sell cabbages for a living but now she has a trade as a soapstone carver.
Work in the soapstone industry has been culturally and traditionally a male preserve. Women’s involvement in the past has been in the final finishing stages of polishing and washing the carvings made by men. In other words women held the low skilled, low paid, low status and effectively powerless roles.
No longer. Things have finally changed.
Thanks to APT: Action on Poverty, a small, UK based specialised NGO, expert at building self-reliance and social enterprises, working with SITE Enterprise Promotion, their local partner based in Kenya, there has been a cultural breakthrough.
A shift in attitudes now sees women carving soapstone in Kenya for the first time.
Achieving a level of workplace equality where women are able to move from polishing to carving means a significant increase in income for these women and therefore a brighter future for their families.
This new group of seventy-one women carvers, are running their own carvers’ associations, and with the help of APT and SITE, five women are have become master trainers and are working throughout Tabaka – a role they have taken to with great enthusiasm!
Training for women, by women; these leading trainers, otherwise known as champions, are encouraging even more women into the soapstone industry.
Gladys, and her fellow women carvers, really bring to life the UN theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, ‘Equality for women is progress for all’.
However, we need to recognise that this workplace equality did not happen by chance.
The hard work of UK based international development charities like APT: Action on Poverty, are making ‘firsts’ happen for women across the world, as they work to alleviate poverty.
So today on International Women’s Day, don’t just reflect on what women have achieved so far, help create more achievements for women – give for Gladys, give to APT: Action on poverty http://www.bmycharity.com/charities/apt
Gladys thanks you.
Tom Baldwin, an adviser to Ed Miliband has been in touch to say: “For the record, I didn’t mention thatcher once in all the lobby briefing around the speech. Truth is, I suspect, they got together and constructed line themselves.”
There’s remarkable reporting of Ed Miliband’s thoughtful Hugo Young lecture in today’s papers. Ed’s speech teased out new ideas for how users of public services can have more control over them. He talked about devolution of power. He called for more co-production of public services between providers and users.
He outlined his personal commitment to ending inequality because it ‘holds our economies back…and weakens our society.” Left of centre politicians and for that matter, intelligent conservatives “ignore these issues at their peril, said Ed. “Tackling inequality is the new centre ground”.
As he opened his lecture Ed declared that “Hugo Young gave journalism a good name.” Here’s how some have reported the speech today:
I’ll govern like Tory leader Margaret Thatcher.
I will lead like the Iron Lady, says Red Ed: Miliband claims he’ll emulate Thatcher’s conviction.
Ed Miliband vows to govern ‘with same conviction as Thatcher’ to give voters say on health and education
I have a hunch that Hugo Young would not be impressed. His views on Thatcher “became, as the years went by, critical to the point of savagery. I questioned her honesty as much as her wisdom. I impugned her motives, ridiculed her judgment and even cast doubt on her sanity”. Though kinder to her in One of Us, his excellent biography of the Iron Lady, Hugo Young would have deprecated the reporting of Ed’s speech.
Or maybe not. Maybe he would have taken a more nuanced position. After all he understood spin from a leader’s point of view more than most political journalists. See his column “Every prime minister must have an Alastair Campbell”.
Given the coverage to a single sentence in a forty minute speech, and idiotic as it must seem to Labour members and supporters, it’s highly likely that a spin doctor, working for Ed, chose to persuade people that he really would “Govern like Thatcher”.
So without the benefit of spin doctor I must put on record that I really do not want our Leader to govern like Margaret Thatcher. And in the age of social media, I don’t even think he needs a spin doctor who fancies himself as the next Alastair Campbell.
Hugo Young once wrote in a column: “A strong union, bent on self-interest and rejecting all self-reform, is an enemy of political order and economic truth.” Though no fan of excessive trade union power, in the same column and ahead of the times, he also said:
“There are related areas where a negligent government has been less successful. It hasn’t paid nearly enough attention to pay disparities between public and private sectors. Unaddressed anomalies, from MPs’ own fat rises to the golden injustices afforded corporate executives, produce a country rife with deep and manifest unfairness.”
So after his leader delivers a speech on devolving power to the people and re-enforces his concern about the effects of crony capitalism, I’d rather the shadow Secretary of State for Education, resign his post as a lecturer than cross a picket line of striking lecturers, in order to deliver a history module on “Marx, Engels and the making of Marxism” Those lecturers, working in the shadow of the high rise banking headquarters of the City, have had an effective pay cut in recent years. The preposterous irony of Tristram’s action will amuse many, but Labour is too near a general election to write a new episode of Thick of It.