As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, it is important to point out that 100 years after some women won the right to vote, key gains for women’s equality now look set to be jeopardised.
Public sector cuts are harming progress for women. As women form two thirds of public sector workers, they have faced job losses and redundancies.
Seventy three per cent of those affected by the public sector pay freeze are women, according to the Women’s Budget Group.
The London School of Economics has calculated that £22 billion of £26 billion of government cuts have been shouldered by women.
Single mothers, the group at most risk of poverty, have been left especially marginalised.
Brighton and Hove City Council figures tell us there has been a 60 per cent increase in the number of people becoming homeless as a result of domestic violence.
Affordable housing is out of reach, leaving many women fleeing abusive relationships with nowhere to go.
Draconian changes to welfare benefits from the Conservative government hit women hardest as benefits form almost one fifth of women’s income.
This includes the outrageous “rape clause” that prevents child benefit claims for a third child unless you can prove conception happened without consent.
The other side of this is that Brighton and Hove has been at the centre of the rich struggle for women’s equality.
One hundred years after some women won the right to vote, we salute the Brighton Women’s Social and Political Union which was one of the most active regional branches – and two suffragettes who hid inside the organ at the Brighton Dome to disrupt a speech from the Prime Minister of the time, Herbert Asquith.
These are women who bravely fought for the representation of women in Parliament and their participation in public life.
Their steps are well worn by thousands of other women since, fighting for a fairer and more environmentally sustainable world.
To honour their fight we must recognise the effects that austerity policies have had on entrenching inequality and, like the theme for International Women’s Day, we must “press for progress”.
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the opposition Green group on Brighton and Hove City Council.