Yesterday, I spoke at the first independence rally held by yescaerdydd. Here’s what I said…
‘I believe in a better future for Wales, and I know you all do too. I believe that we will achieve that future by making Wales free! I think many of you agree, and some of you are what we might call #indycurious , which as Mark has already talked about, is a very fine thing indeed to be!
An independent Wales, imagine that.
I’m going to talk about the role of women in the independence movement. Between you and me, so far, it’s been pretty much just me, and a lot of men. Lovely blokes don’t get me wrong, but where are you Cardiff indy women? So we’re going to change all that. But why? Why does it matter?
If you’ve been reading my blog you’ll know that I am here in the face of all reason. This year I had a beautiful baby girl, and we already have two sons aged 6 and 4. So I’m quite busy… I could quite easily just say, ‘this Wales mess isn’t mine to clear up’ – there’s enough mess at home trust me.
I’m angry about a lot of things lately (austerity, Brexit, pretty much everything Andrew RT Davies says…), and I’m feeling inspired and excited, and that’s a useful combination of things to be feeling all at once. So I am here, and I want change. For me, for my children, for all of us, for our country.
When I blogged about my big wake up to the independence movement, I said that my story started the morning after Brexit, but actually that’s not true. It started the night before the vote, in Penarth town centre at about 11pm. I’ll tell you about that later, which will involve a confession. But first…
If we look into the history of successful movements for social change we see several things. One is that change starts with grass roots action, with people like you and me standing up and saying ‘enough is enough, we dare to dream of a better future and we will make it happen’!
Another is that at the heart of almost all successful movements for progressive change what do you find? You find women.
This is true of revolutions close to home and far away. From the declaration of Irish independence, to the Arab Spring, and today in Scotland (womenforindependence send their best wishes by the way) women are key to achieving change.
Why is this? I’ve got two reasons for you, I am sure there are many more. Firstly, movements are more effective when women are active within them, and secondly progressive change benefits women, it tends to be accompanied by an increase in equality. So it’s a win-win.
There are many reasons that Wales will be better off as an independent Nation. My friends today have mentioned a number of them. A free Wales would also benefit women inparticular, and a society that is fairer for women has better outcomes for everyone.
Gender equality is written into Wales’ DNA. Trust me, I’m from England, and it’s better to be a woman in Wales. As far back as Hywel Dda’s laws, women in Wales could own property, unlike in England, and had a right to divorce an adulterous husband (admittedly only on the second offence, but it was a start…)
In Celtic Wales, couples could undergo a trial marriage – after a year and a day they would choose to either renew their vows or go their separate ways, try eachother out or compatibility. For its time it was extremely progressive in terms of women’s freedom of choice. Shall we turn our back on these enlightened beginnings for gender equality? I say let us create an independent Wales in which both women and men are empowered to their full potential!
Worldwide, women are poorer than men. They own less property and are paid less for equivalent work. This is also true in Wales, but we are less divided by class here than in England – and we have something alse going for us here – there’s no such thing as Eton in Wales.
But we are still a long way from gender equality. Women still earn less than men in Wales, and are radically under represented in leadership roles at all levels. We are also becoming more unequal as a society – the gap between rich and poor in Wales is widening, in large part because we are bound by England’s regressive policies.
Everytime Westminster turns the screw tighter on the poor, it disproportionately affects Wales and inparticular Welsh women. The bedroom tax hits hardest on those with caring responsibilties, disproportionately likely to be women. Failure to legislate against zero hours contracts hits women hardest as they are much more likely to work part time. Cuts to social care, early years funding, the list goes on and on. Most single parent households are headed by a woman, and so yes you guessed it, most of those attending food banks in order to feed their children…
In an independent Wales we will be able to redress these injustices, with policies that are fairer and result in a more equitable distribution of wealth. Everyone will benefit from this – rich or poor, the evidence shows very clearly that equal societies are better for everyone. But women stand to receive the biggest independence dividend.
Only 29% of MPs in Westminster are female, compared to 40% of AMs in Wales at the moment and a record 50:50 back in 2003. Shall we wait around for gender equality within politics to advance at glacial pace in Westminster, whilst our representation in Wales slides backwards? Shall we keep on knocking at the door of that old Etonian’s boys club? No thank you. Lets do things our own way in Wales, with women taking a lead role shaping the future of our independent Nation.
I dare to dream of a better future for Wales, and we need everyone to be involved in making it happen. The movement for an independent Wales doesn’t just need women, it needs to represent diversity in all its forms – a truly inclusive movement. Whether you identify as male, female or neither. Whatever your sexuality, ethnic background, religion or none. We need to give a voice to disabled people – also disproportionately affected by Westminster polices. We will include the voices of all sectors of society particularly those most often excluded. Thinking about how we can attract more women and a more diverse range of people in general – when and where we hold meetings, whether there is childcare, are venues accessible, all of these things will help us build inclusivity.
So I would like to reach out to all the women in the audience who support an independent Wales, or even just a better future for Wales or for Welsh women, and of course to the indycurious women out there. Join the movement – tell us what is important to you and how we can best include you. Its our debate to shape – lets make sure that issues relevant to women are up front and centre.
An independent Wales – imagine that.
So before I go I need to finish my story about the night before Brexit, the 22nd of June, and what I was doing in Penarth town centre. Well actually I was with a group of about 10 other women who met by the Town clock. I had gone with three friends and as if out of no where, others arrived. Now some of you here may have voted to leave, and I think there’s room for all of us under the independence banner, so no hard feelings. But I very much wanted us to stay.
That night we painted Penarth multi-coloured with our love for Europe – actually we used our children’s pavement chalks, and wrote the word ‘IN’ surrounded by heart shapes, and also the words ‘Stronger Together’ on the pavement throughout Penarth town centre. Now the next day, photographs were shared extensively on social media, with an overwhelmingly positive response.
The chalking was reported on a local news blogpost, and you have to understand we were besides ourselves with delight and laughter at being described as ‘political vandals’… would the police bring us to justice, was the question posed!
But the reason that the chalk moment was the true beginning of my story is that it awakened something in me. It may have been a minor act of rebellion, and had no bearing on the outcome of the referendum, but it felt good. There was something powerful in taking political action in the company of other women. I knew I needed more of that feeling and even before the Brexit result and awakening to the need for Welsh independence, I knew that I wanted to spend more time in the company of other women who are motivated to take political action. Who knows where it will lead.
An independent Wales, imagine that.’
The other speakers at the rally were:
Mark Hooper @markjhooper
Gwynoro Jones @gwynoro
Neil McEvoy @neiljmcevoy
Nick Stradling @MoviesWales
Diolch yn fawr, thanks to Scott @DTOCS_ for the pictures.
You can find out about upcoming events via @yescaerdydd and the yescymru Facebook page
Other stuff online about the rally:
I had to smile (it was a wry smile) when I saw myself described as ‘the wife of…’ in this Golwg360 article. Honestly?