Suffragettes100: Progress is welcomed but more still needs to be done

Rushanara Ali

Rushanara Ali - Credit: Archant

I was first elected to Parliament in 2010, just one of three Muslim women to have ever been elected and the first person of Bangladeshi origin.

Since then, there has been more progress and the 2017 General Election resulted in 208 women MPs being elected, making up 32 per cent of all MPs; a record high.

While this progress is to be welcomed, there is still more to do. Women make up more than 50pc of the population and parliament should reflect that.

I remember when I was appointed the shadow minister for international development and Harriet Harman told me stories of what it was like in the 80s when it was only 3pc.

There has been progress, but progress has been slow.

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My predecessor, Oona King, was one of the 101 Labour women MPs elected in 1997, but she was only the second black woman in the House of Commons.

Now, 45pc of Labour MPs are women but representation overall is still not good enough. As we mark the centenary of women getting the vote, the pursuit of gender equality must continue in parliament and in society on issues including pay equality, tackling violence against women and much more.

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I want to make sure that the next generation do not find it as hard to get into Westminster.

For young women, particularly, when they see a woman from their area in parliament (I grew up in my constituency and I went to local schools), that makes a big difference.

My school teachers instilled in me, a sense that I could do anything if I worked hard and set my mind to it.

Women being visible in national political life, working on issues that not only affect women but society at large, is in all our interests.

Parliament still doesn’t reflect our society, both in terms of gender and ethnicity; we must continue to work hard to change that.

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