Emma Lewell-Buck MP: Fighting the injustices and ignorance women still face

Suffragettes in January 1909.
Suffragettes in January 1909.

This month marked the centenary anniversary of a major step towards equality in the UK, it is 100 years since Parliament passed a law which allowed some women to vote for the first time.

However, it actually took another ten years before women were given the same voting rights as men.

Women have come a long way in politics, although there is still some way to go in order to see true equality.

Since 1918 there have been a total of 489 female MPs elected into Parliament, however, 442 men were elected as MPs in the general election last year alone.

It is clear to see that more still needs to be done to ensure that women see they have a valuable and rightful place in the political arena.

Since the early days of the Suffragette movement when women so bravely fought for our right to vote, there has been a great history of inspirational political women who have represented the North East.

The first ever female Minister was Margaret Bondfield, who represented Wallsend as a Labour MP. In Jarrow there was Ellen Wilkinson, MP, who was Labour’s Minister for Education and famously led the Jarrow March. Redcar are also able to boast they were represented by the incredible Mo Mowlam, whose tenacity and doggedness helped bring about the Good Friday Agreement.

Whilst I certainly do not claim to stand shoulder to shoulder to those great women, I am exceptionally proud to say I am the first woman ever elected to represent South Shields.

However, whilst I do draw motivation from these trailblazing heroines of politics, it is not an MP who inspired me most to enter the world of politics.

My political heroine is a lot closer to home and in the form of my grandmother.

My gran was a working class woman from Jarrow, for her politics was something that others did, but like many people, without realising it, she was political, it was then and is now the working class at the frontline fighting injustices.

My gran’s political arena was everyday life.

She was a fighter, a strong principled woman who even once staged a sit-in at the Town Hall.

It was women across Britain who were the ambassadors and campaigners for women’s equality, they fought for equal pay in 1970 as well as maternity leave to be introduced in 1975.

These women have now passed on the baton to us and future generations.

The debt we owe these strong women who stood for what they believed in can only be repaid by fighting as passionately and relentlessly as they did against the injustices and ignorance that women in Britain still face today. And for my part I hope every day I do my gran proud.