I am a huge fan of Sandi Toksvig. She is one of the funniest comediennes I know and I am an enthusiastic listener to BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz, the weekly news programme she presents.
Last week, Sandi announced that she was stepping down from her presenter role in order to found a new political party, The Women’s Equality Party. In listening to a political debate a few days ago, involving female representatives from the major parties in the UK, I had questioned to myself why we didn’t have a women’s party. So, I was thrilled to hear that many others were having the same idea and were bringing the idea to action!
In a recent interview on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, Sandi made the point that, if women make up over half the world’s population, it is right and appropriate that they should have representation that reflects their interests. When asked why the party should not be called simply ‘The Equality Party’, without the ‘women’ part, Sandi replied that the lack of women’s equality per se is still such a big issue and that, critically, women’s equality would have a beneficial impact on many such other equality issues as disability, racial discrimination etc.
I am hugely in support of what Sandi is doing, not least because it opens up political participation into broader ideas of how we should be represented at governance level. In Britain, party politics have traditionally been represented according to attitudes to work, capital allocation, economics. We have unquestioningly accepted that these should be the vectors through which we make decisions. What I find with many of the thinking women I encounter is that their increased participation in leadership positions is encouraging a re-evaluation of the principles that guide our choices. I believe it is no accident that there is now a wider awareness of discrimination issues, climate change, wealth gaps, corporate social responsibility etc than there used to be before women become more prominent in public life. So I think Ms Toksvig is onto something when she argues that women’s equality will naturally include more equality for all.
We often fantastise about whether the world would be different if it was run by women. During the financial crisis, for example, there was an oft-quoted questioning of whether Lehman Brothers would have collapsed if it had been Lehman Sisters. I’m not so sure that is the solution and I’m a firm believer that we need balance, rather than extremes, that a truly visionary world is one where men and women work together to bring out the very best in the expression of masculine and feminine qualities and capabilities. Like many women (and men), I am disillusioned with the present political leadership, not just in the UK, but globally. But I hope very much that Ms Toksvig’s party will bring a more nuanced understanding of what our world truly needs and that she helps re-write the paradigms of our male-dominated world.
I am a trained actress and founder and director of Hua Dan, one of China’s first and leading social enterprises. Hua Dan uses the power of participation in drama-based workshops to reveal and develop individual and community potential. Hua Dan has a particular focus on working with China’s rural-to-urban migrant workers, particularly women, who work in the manufacturing and service industries, at the heart of China’s economic boom.