Harriet Harman MP encourage Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women to enter public life
Harriet Harman MP, Minister for Women and Equality, spoke at an event in South London on Thursday 21st May 2009, in a bid to encourage Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women to enter public life.
Southwark stands out as a beacon of progress. 16 per cent of all councillors in the borough are females from ethnic minority backgrounds. This closely mirrors the BAME female population at 19 per cent. London has the highest proportion of BAME women councillors in the UK, at 82, which is nearly five per cent of all councillors in the city. However the population of minority ethnic women in London is more than threefold higher at about 15 per cent.
Nationally the picture is worse. While BAME women make up over five per cent of the population as a whole, they comprise less one per cent of all elected councillors. MP Harriet Harman said: "Our local democracy needs to be fully representative – but it’s not. For local government to make the right decisions it must be representative of, and rooted in, its local communities. Black and Asian women are the missing voice in our local democracy.
Our local councils need to understand the different communities that make up diverse modern Britain. You get better informed decision making when all members of the community are involved. That is why we set up the BAME Women Councillors Taskforce."
Speakers at the event also included Dawn Butler, MP for Brent South and Assistant Whip for the government, Cllr Nick Stanton, Leader of Southwark Council, and Cllr Lorna Campbell, Lambeth councillor and host for the evening.
Lorna Campbell, has been a councillor since 2006, and has enjoyed a meteoric rise in Local Government, becoming a cabinet member responsible for Health and Well-being, and says of her experiences:
"The most rewarding aspects of being a Councillor are being able to influence change in policies and make a difference to local people’s lives no matter how small. I am able to engage with the community on a regular basis, knowing what the issues and concerns are and then bein6g able to give voice to this in the local council. It is my hope that this event will help encourage and inspire other women in London to take their first initial steps in playing a part in their local council."
Councillor Lorna Campbell represents Lambeth on the 16-members strong cross-party BAME Women Councillors’ Taskforce launched by Harriet Harman in May 2008 which aims to increase the number of minority ethnic women involved in local politics.
Cllr Nick Stanton, Leader of Southwark Council said: "We are well represented here, largely because we recognise that councillors from different backgrounds have a responsibility to help encourage and mentor other women to stand for election, and become engaged in public life in the UK.
Today’s event and others like it are ways in which the Taskforce will encourage and support ethnic minority women to become councillors and give a voice to women, their communities and families."
With the aim of motivating women from BAME backgrounds to get involved with their local councils, interactive workshops were held at the event and were facilitated by Southwark Councillor Dora Dixon-Fyle and Chiltern Councillor Mimi Harker. Delegates gained practical and hands-on knowledge about the role of a councillor by participating in these workshops.