Imagine a day, just one day, where women stopped doing their work in the entire country.
Housewives, teachers, clerks, industrial workers, professionals all stopped work.
Well it actually happened in Iceland 1975, when women stopped working for a day- with the support of the men in their lives- to prove how much women’s contributions were integral and vital to the Icelandic way of life.
Icelandic men “suddenly saw the breadth and scope of women’s contribution and since they have also understood the fight for gender equality is their fight too.” Says Catherine Mayer, award winning journalist, best-selling author and former editor of TIME magazine.
Mayer is keen to repeat the example in the UK on Women’s Day no less, but, she concedes that Iceland is a much smaller country than ours, so it may be harder to take place.
However the Women’s Equality Party have a 'women not working day' planned for 2018 to coincide with the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918; an act that enabled the vote to women over 30 who owned qualifying property and all men over 21.
Most agree, in today’s political climate with ‘grabbing pussy’, Diane Abbott's revelations on what it’s like to be a female MP and Brexit anti migrant rhetoric, it is imperative now perhaps more than ever, to stand up for equal rights.
Improving rights for women therefore become paramount to making a fair and just society.
Catherine Mayer went a few steps further than simple agreement; at the Women of the World festival at London’s South bank in 2015 she set up a political party to push forward the agenda, teaming up with sharp witted comedian Sandi Toksvig the two created the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) it currently boasts 73 branches and 65,000 members and registered supporters.
Mayer is the ‘less funny’, her words not mine, at the Byline Festival press launch with decisive passion when she describes the lack of women standing for election in the ‘metro elections’ on May 4th of this year.
She explains that in the 6 regions electing a mayor a total of 30 candidates are standing, of which only 5 of those are women, one of them from the WEP: Tabitha Morton.
Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly four of those women, Mayer says, are not in a seat they’re likely to win though there is great hope in front runner Sue Jeffries, in Tees Valley.
Mayer's style may not be of a natural comedienne but she still manages to encourage you to laugh whilst you balk at the injustice and gain insight from her about the state of equality in the world today.
The WEP primary campaign is for gender equality of which Mayer says;
“When women fulfil their potential, everyone benefits. Equality means better politics, a more vibrant economy, a workforce that draws on the talents of the whole population and a society at ease with itself.”
Despite having “women” in the title of the party, the founders are clear that equality includes everyone; equality for women isn't just a women's issue.
Hear Catherine Mayer’s understated wit as a keynote speaker at the Byline festival; “It’s a pleasure to be invited to a festival that’s not only a talking shop, but is a seed bed for activism.”
Add your own perspective to the undoubtedly lively discussion and debate about equality for all, what we need to know and just how do we get there?
Byline Festival 2-4th June Pippingford Park
8th March International Women’s day this year Mayer releases her new book ‘Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman’