Without a shadow of a doubt, the internet has become a hugely powerful part of everyday life. We use it to access information, to shop, to socialise, to plan our lives, to campaign for change to be a part of distant online communities and now thanks to this great initiative to start getting women’s voices heard – in our own words, on our own issues.
Whilst it has annoyed me greatly that the political blogosphere has fast become a “bloke –o –sphere”, it came as no great surprise really. Politics after all is still not a place where women are in their rightful number. But just because there is a shortage of women in political positions, there certainly isn’t a shortage of women’s energy, ideas and passion to do politics – to improve the lives and opportunities of people and communities. And women on the web is one way, I think, to get more women “doing” politics.
Which makes me think about the women’s organisation within the Labour Party as its chief objective is to do exactly that: to help more women into politics. And I pause for thought and consider how we use new media to encourage, develop and support Labour women. Looking at the list of what the women’s organisation of the Labour Party seeks to do,
· Ensure equal representation
· Support and enable women to play a full and equal role in the mainstream of the Party
· Campaign on issues that affect women’s lives
· Bring women together
· Encourage women to become members of the Labour Party
it is made perfectly clear that there is definitely space for new technology and the online world to play a role.
Take just one point: campaigning with women voters – traditional school gates and supermarket campaigning does work and by no means am I suggesting that we should stop reaching out to women in this way. But we should also appreciate that there is a new generation of women, who perhaps aren’t the ones dropping their kids off at school or perhaps don’t have kids to drop off, aren’t doing the weekly family ‘big shop’ at the supermarket but all still should have them Labour Party engaging with them. Letting them know that thanks to Labour, their chances of being discriminated at work are less, they have more opportunities to continue in education or training and that Labour is committed to ending violence against women. But more importantly, also asking them about what else needs to be done to make better their life chances.
But, I feel a need to note a word of caution. We should remember that whilst the internet is growing at a phenomenal speed, we can only make it a part of what we do. Not least because there’s no better way of keeping in touch with people than actually meeting face – to – face. Personal contact goes a long way. But also because not everyone has access to the internet or have not learned to use it. This may very well include the old and the ill, the least educated and the generally vulnerable. They are often the very people who we, as Labour, want to be engaging with.
So, all in all I applaud the much needed space this new blog has given women’s voices. But still do believe in the power of offline campaigning, organising and support. I'd be really to hear other people’s thoughts on how best to use new media and new technology to add value to Labour’s women’s organisation. So happy posting sisters!