The WLGA is celebrating the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which granted partial suffrage to women in the United Kingdom.
Cllr Mary Sherwood (Swansea), the WLGA’s joint Spokesperson for Equalities, Welfare Reform and Anti-Poverty said:
“It is important we celebrate this day and remember the efforts of the brave suffragist pioneers who helped change the course of our history. Influential and inspirational women from Wales, such as Lady Rhondda from Llanwern, Winifred Coombe Tennant from Neath and Emily Phipps from Swansea, contributed to the suffragist movement that helped bring about democratic equality in our country.”
“Whilst we have seen much progress, we are yet to achieve real equality in our democracy, in our politics or in our society; controversies in recent weeks such as the BBC pay scandal, the spotlight on women’s roles in sporting events and the shocking allegations of celebrity and political sexual misconduct and abuse all show how much further we have yet to go in the advancement of equality in our society.”
Cllr Susan Elsmore (Cardiff), WLGA joint Spokesperson for Equalities, Welfare Reform and Anti-Poverty added:
“It is fantastic that a woman leads the WLGA for the first time, but we have only 4 women leaders and 6 deputy leaders across Wales’ 22 local authorities. Only 28% of Wales’ councillors are women and, at the current rate of progress, it could take another century to achieve equal representation within our council chambers.”
“The WLGA is therefore committed to encouraging greater diversity amongst all under-represented groups and will be working with councils and partners to encourage greater engagement and participation in local democracy.”
“A range of activities and initiatives are being planned to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8th March and a coordinated ‘Diversity in Democracy’ programme will continue up to the next local elections in 2022.”
The centenary of women’s suffrage is being marked in the National Assembly with a Statement by the Leader of the House this afternoon and a series of UK-wide exhibitions and events throughout the year. The contribution and lives of 100 suffrage pioneers, including several Welsh women, are being celebrated through a project coordinated by the Women's Local Government Society, supported by the LGA.
The Representation of the People Act 1918 Act gave women over the age of thirty the vote, but it was not until ten years later with the passing of the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women had democratic equality with men.
The Fawcett Society estimates that at the current rate of progress at each election, it will take 82 years for gender parity to be achieved in Welsh local government.