Yesterday, I attended the wind up of Women Liberal Democrats and the inaugural meeting of Liberal Democrat Women; and whilst it may sound like the most semantic of all name changes, there is indeed a real change in the organisation as a result.
For a start, it is not so much a name change as a merger of the two groups that promoted the role of women. The Campaign for Gender Balance (CFGB), a top down organisation appointed by the Federal Executive, is no more but the activities that it undertook are within the scope of the new organisation, including a report to conference. A report to conference that always seems to be timed for the fewest number of people to attend, but a valuable voice for women in the party none the less.
What is left is a group of women, keen to engage with the party on issues that affect all of us, not just women, but at the same time are issues that affect women in a different way to the way they affect men and to make sure that 'other' voice is heard. Following an all member survey, key areas to campaign on have been identified and a number of working groups are being set up to ensure those campaigns succeed.
Of course, women in the Liberal Democrats have a wide variety of views and experiences, just as all Liberal Democrats do and identity politics (which this is) is a difficult horse for us as liberals to ride. But, we're not just liberals, we are also democrats and so, we have to make sure that this campaigning organisation gives a voice for women in the party who are not a minority but so often absent from the debates.
I know that all the activists, male and female, that have gone abroad, to places such as the US and New Zealand have been amazed to see how women organise within political parties to become a caucus that cannot just be ignored as they often are in the Liberal Democrats.
If we do not organise, then we will not be heard. Those that want to hear the voice of Liberal Democrat women will have no one to go and ask or to speak to. Just last week when parliament marked the centenary of Emily Davidson, militant suffragette, throwing herself under a horse at the Epsom Derby, there was NO Liberal Democrat speaker! A stitch up by the Labour and Tory organisers perhaps but also a sympton of a lack of organisation by Liberal Democrat parliamentarians. I understand that women parliamentarians are now looking to meet and organise themselves into a group to ensure this kind of thing does not happen again.
In the mean time, the newly constituted Liberal Democrat Women, has opened nominations for their first ever Executive. Nomination forms need to be in by 2pm on Friday 5th July 2013. If you are interested in standing for Election for the Liberal Democrat Women Executive (you need to be either a member of the old Women Liberal Democrats or to have joined Liberal Democrat Women by the 14th June 2013) then I believe the person to email for more info is Roxana Cimpeanu at LDHQ (020 7227 1319 email@example.com).
I really enjoyed meeting my fellow (!!) Liberal Democrat Women in Birmingham yesterday - there was a complete range of ages and experiences that bodes very well for us but also a great deal of energy and enthusiasm for the challenges ahead.
I will post more on the working groups shortly when I have found all the contact details etc.