Gransnet has been supporting One Billion Rising, a global movement protesting against violence against women. In this country, the campaign has been led by Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow. The day before the event (in 14 February 2013) she joined us for a live webchat to talk about the one billion women who will be raped or beaten in their lifetime - and what a billion of us can do to protest.
Stella is a rising star of the Labour Party and the shadow minister with responsibility for violence against women. She recently ran a highly successful campaign against payday loans.
Stella: I have to say my first observation is that the biscuits at Gransnet are top notch....take note Mumsnet...
Q: Thanks for promoting One Billion Rising. Will you be able to raise this momentous campaign in the House of Commons, and do you know how far the media are going to publicise the events on 14 February? whenim64
A: Yes we have a OBRUK debate in parliament tomorrow on the provision of statutory sex and relationship education in schools. When we have been going around the country talking about violence against women and the things we could do to tackle it, ensuring both boys and girls are given support to develop a zero tolerance approach to violence within relationships has been something lots of people have mentioned - so I'm delighted we have been able to secure this opportunity to take this idea forward.
Q: Following the very sad case of Frances Andrade what ideas has the Labour Party got to try to lessen the trauma of rape victims giving evidence in court? Could they give their evidence via a video link and still be cross-examined for instance? DavidH22
A: We have to transform the way in which we work with victims of sexual and domestic violence across the board - you may have seen Yvette Cooper calling for all police to ensure victims are given access to counselling in the light of this tragic case? We are also looking at what lessons can be learned from the way in which youth justice is managed - through national standards and local delivery of services - so that we can better support victims of violence as well as bring perpetrators to justice. There's a consultation document on the OBRUK website so please do take a look?
Q: I wondered how you got involved in this important campaign? marthamuffin
A: I heard Rosario Dawson talking about the campaign at an event on last year's International Women's Day and then had the opportunity to meet Eve Ensler to talk about it and what was happening elsewhere in the world. Eve is an amazing whirlwind of energy and creativity - it's impossible not to feel inspired by her commitment to this issue! Also in the Labour movement we've been clear that pushing for equality isn't something to be done after the economic crisis is resolved, but one of the ways it will be tackled - when 50% of the population isn't being given the same opportunities to succeed we miss out on their potential to contribute! Since then we've been going round the country working with campaigners ahead of tomorrow...which I hope is just the start of something even bigger...
Q: The Woman's Hour Power List this week has been criticised for being rather predictable and class-based - for not including, for example, the women who came forward over Jimmy Savile. Do you think these lists do women any favours? getmehrt
A: We live in what I call the 80/20 society - where we have 20% representation of women in public life, be it in Parliament or the media or in business etc. That means that we have to do more to show what we're missing by not being a 50/50 world. Anything which helps identify the talent we have is a good thing and the challenge is how do we keep expanding it to make sure we are using the opportunities to highlight the range of skills that exist across society. Class, ethnicity, disability all come into understanding what barriers people face - the point is that it does no one any favours to live in an unequal world, male or female, as we miss out on what they can do!
Q: You're on twitter a lot. I wanted to ask whether twitter is now necessary for politicians - and do you do all your own tweets? firenze
A: It always amazes me when people ask if I do my own tweets - as if I would let anyone else touch my gadgets! If it's shiny and makes bleepy noises it's mine - and Joey doesn't share! Yes this includes this typing now....
Q: It seems to me that One Billion Rising is a fantastic movement but one without a very clear call to action. Do you think there's a need for something concrete that ordinary people can do? sofasogood
A: One of the things we have been clear about in OBRUK is its not just about what 650 people sitting in Westminster can do. We need legislative change but we also need a social, economic and culture shock too if we are to tackle inequality. For me its not an either/or so we've been running workshops across the country to involve people in the campaign because empowering all those who share our concerns is a crucial way to achieve them. That's why we have a vote in Parliament and 160 events across the country for people to take part and be part of this movement - you can find details for them here and I hope you can be part of the flashmob outside parliament too at 11am?!
Q: Have we actually got to dance tomorrow? I am fully in support of this cause but dancing is not my thing. How else can I make my feelings known? crosspatch
A: Just being part of it makes a difference - dance is about being free, about being able to go where you want and wear what you want without feeling you are at risk, but it's not the only way to join in (and I'll be offering to press the buttons on the stereo as I know the sight of MPs shuffling is probably a big turn off!) There's lots of performances too, as well as talks and exhibitions - the main thing is for us to do this on one day and say this has to be a priority so we are all standing up together... <moves awkwardly at the side of the dancefloor>
Q: By the time you get to my age, the chances are you have had several unpleasant experiences in the street. (I have been flashed at three times). Is part of the campaign to make it easier to challenge men over this sort of behaviour, and what is recommended? hairyberry
A: Yes - one of the things I feel passionately about is that too often it appears we ask women to take responsibility for these issues - about what they wear or where they go - rather than having a zero tolerance approach. It also sends a very poor message about men that we think they are somehow incapable of behaving in any other way, which as a big fan of men I don't believe! We all need to say this kind of behaviour doesn't do anyone any favours - and to support each other in calling it out!
Q: You famously wrote the sleeve notes for an album by The Seamasters (?) Can you tell us why we should listen to them? And what band should we be listening to now? <tries to be cool> GranIT
A: It's a band called the Wedding Present and the album is called Seamonsters - for me it was one of the key albums that I used to sit in my bedroom sulking with as a teenager and hence is very special to me. Everyone has the soundtrack of why life isn't fair don't they? Having been a youth worker before I got elected I know today's teenagers are still sulky so... ;-)
Q: Did Ant and Dec ever respond to your attempts to get them onside over Wonga? wastrel
A: Alas Ant and Dec's agent refused to pass on my messages about offering to talk through the problems with taking money from Wonga...anytime they want, they'd be welcome to drop into Walthamstow or Westminster to find out why legal loan sharks are such a problem in the UK. Anytime lads, anytime...
Q: Are you in favour of ending Page 3? Clare Short took a lot of stick for it, of course. But that was then. vilebody
A: I've been working with Lucy Holmes and the amazing No More Page 3 campaign for sometime - she's a real star! For me that campaign is a classic example of the difference we can make when we provide a space for people to come forward and say what we think inside which is this is creepy and outdated. I'm delighted to see Rupert Murdoch saying he's thinking of dropping it and hope he does - it would be a step in the right direction towards a 21st century Britain where women are celebrated for their talents, not their tits!
Q: I was very surprised that my teenage grandaughters knew nothing about One Billion Rising. Were schools not invoved? grrrranny
A: OBR is an international volunteer led movement so everything has been organised by volunteers - we've tried to reach out to everyone we can to get them involved and I've run workshops in colleges as well as school question times but anything anyone can do to spread the word about how to be involved is really helpful - so please do tell your granddaughters - and grandsons - about it?
GeraldineGransnet: If diddling about on the sidelines is allowed, GNHQ will come down and join in. <practises dad-dancing steps>
Stella: Diddling is very welcome - it's how I've been taking dancefloors all my life after all...
Q: Would you ever consider doing a GQ shoot like Louise Mensch? floozie
A: I wondered when this might come up - I hardly know Louise but she always seemed very nice when I did meet her in Parliament. We share the same hair colour but we've got very different lives and different politics so I'm always bemused when people make the comparison. When she resigned I was deluged with calls from journalists about could women have it all. I had to point out, I don't have kids, I don't write novels and I don't have a partner who lives overseas so I had little in common with the situation she found herself in. I gave them all details of male MPs with young families- none of them got called...
Q: I saw on twitter something about speaking up about sex education for young people. Can you tell me more about this? DillyDally
A: Yes - the vote tomorrow is about making sex AND relationship education statutory in schools. Right now children will get taught the basics fo sex but there's no guarantee they'll get these lessons - especially in academies and free schools - and there's no guarantee that the lessons will cover issues like consent and domestic violence. Young people themselves say they want to talk about these issues and the pressures/harassment they feel so we want to see the curriculum reformed and required to give this guidance. There are some great resources produced by people like Women's Aid to help too - and we want to make sure boys and girls have these lessons equally. We've had lots of stories about girls being taken in to sex ed lessons and boys being told to play football...both need to be given responsibility to take responsibility.
Q: What's it REALLY like being a woman in Westminster? And I mean REALLY. fleegle
A: Hogwarts gone wrong is a strange and marvellous place - it's a privilege to be an MP and certainly as a woman there's a way to go to make it a place where everyone can feel welcome. There's the big things - like the outright sexism within our public life culture (seriously if one of you asks if Margaret Thatcher is a role model I will bang my head on the desk - just because she was the only woman Prime Minister does not mean we can't be different!) and the little things - the way in which women representatives are dismissed as "emotional" or "excitable", that there's a certain image about what a representative should look like, about how politics is performed that reflect not just Westminster culture but cultural expectations as a whole. My workplace is no different to any other in being framed by those attitudes - the point is in all workplaces we need to challenge these so that we don't miss out on the contribution 50% of the public can make!
Q: Did your mum and dad support you becoming an MP? It's not the easiest life...all political careers end in failure etc coldwork
A: Ha - my mum and dad have a healthy sense of skepticism about what both their children do (as well as pride I know really.) They are also my constituents so they often come to things to heckle...
Q: Women of our age are already hugely stretched by caring roles - grandparents, elderly parents - and many of us still have to work (no pensions). How would you set about squaring this circle? flighty
A: It's one of the key challenges of our age - my colleagues the amazing Fiona McTaggart and Harriet Harman are doing some amazing work on this through the older women's policy review group. Rachel Reeves also fought long and hard to try to change the government's pension policy that penalised so many women and Liz Kendall is leading the work on social care so definitely worth checking out what she's doing - there's a way to go yet! Would be interested in your ideas about how else we do this?
Q: What would you do to get my vote? In my area we get some "newsletters" through the door but no one seems to want to fight for my vote. AnneMaria
A: Actually I'm your worst nightmare as an MP as I don't see myself as a customer complaint desk - so it's not about what I'm going to do for you but how we are going to work together! I learnt when I was a councillor the value of working with local residents to get change to happen and I feel the same way now as an MP. I feel the role of an MP is changing - and this is a good thing in my view! - to being advocates for causes and communities, because that's how change happens. We've still a long way to go - I'd love to have less arm-chewers (meetings where I would chew my own arm off to leave early because they are so process driven.) If you are interested check out #7days4stow which is one of our projects in Walthamstow to see the difference we are trying to make and the kind of engagement it entails.
Q: As a London MP, do you understand what caused the riots a couple of years ago? Do you think there could be a repeat of them? dopey
A: <puts on geeky glasses> Actually I wrote a lecture for the LSE about this last year and about community resilience.
Q: Is part of One Billion Rising aimed at doing something about female genital mutilation? It seems to me that sometimes it is difficult for those on the liberal-left to challenge practices like this because of cultural sensitivities. Do you think there are some issues that stand above these sorts of sensitivities and shoould be pursued regardless? fleeble
A: Challenging FGM is a key part of OBRUK - FGM isn't a cultural practice, but gender violence and should be treated as such. If FGM didn't exist there would be other forms of violence against women as it's about control - check out the amazing 28toomany, Daughters of Eve and FORWARD who are working on this and who we have been supporting within OBRUK!
Q: Do you think the mainstream media will report on One Billion Rising tomorrow? grrrranny
A: I hope so - but even if they don't please be part of the rising. In Bangladesh there are 25 million involved... Britain needs to step up too! Even if its going to be a bit cold and rainy...
Please join us rising tomorrow - we'll be outside Parliament at 11am with some high profile supporters and all are welcome to join, but there are also events across the country (details here) and throughout the day. And please please tell your MP you are joining in and to support the OBRUK motion tomorrow in Parliament - we want OBRUK to be the start of making ending violence against women a priority for all governments. With 203 countries now involved if tomorrow generates a billion people taking part then we can build on this to show why this should be a priority for all - we'll be continuing to work on these issues after tomorrow as well so please do sign up via the website to the campaign to keep being involved....
I'm off now to practice my shuffling - remember tell your MP to take part, take part yourself and be part of the rising...and no you don't have to hate Coldplay to be part of this too. Really...