Thursday, 8 September 2016

Getting all UK women the right to vote / Success with 38 degrees!

Like me, you probably thought all UK women had the right to vote in our elections and had done so since they were given equal voting rights with men in 1928. It turned out that I was mistaken in that belief and, some months ago, you might have seen me tweeting and sharing an important 38 degrees petition started by Mehala to rectify a significant omission. Mehala wanted to vote in local elections and should have been entitled to do so, except that she was living in a safe house at the time and needed to keep that address anonymous. Therefore Mehala found herself excluded from the electoral process. Not someone to be so easily deterred, she set about changing the rules and won! I was overjoyed for her and other women in the same situation when I received the following email yesterday:


"Today’s a good day. I’ve just won my campaign to make it easier for people living in safe houses to vote. [1] The government said they are going to make sure people who need to keep their addresses anonymous aren’t deterred from registering to vote.

I started my petition when I was living in a safe house and wanted to vote in local elections. I needed to keep my address off the electoral register to stay safe. But registering anonymously needs approval from a Police Superintendent or a Director of Social Services. Not the kinds of people I'm likely to come across. I wasn’t able to vote this year and was devastated. Women living in safe houses have already been oppressed - if we’re not able to use our basic right to vote, it feels like we’re being oppressed all over again. But rather than accept my fate, I decided to do something about it. I set up a petition on the 38 Degrees website - and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

When I set up the petition on my phone, changing government policy seemed a bit of a huge task. But the support has been overwhelming. 38 Degrees helped me sharpen up the petition and put me in touch with Women's Aid, the charity that supports survivors of domestic violence. They’ve been there to support me every step of the way. But it was when thousands of other people signed my petition that things really got exciting. I’ve been on the TV, radio and in newspapers. [2] I met with the Electoral Commision. And then today my campaign was debated in Parliament - and we won. [3]

This morning on my way to pick up my child from nursery, instead of listening to Beyonce, I was listening to Parliament Live. I thought to myself, who have I become - I don’t listen to boring debates in Parliament! But to hear my campaign being debated feels incredible.

38 Degrees is made up of millions of people, like you and me, all over the UK. Knowing that there was a movement of people cheering me on really made all the difference.

We'll need to keep an eye out to make sure they follow through with their promise but for now, I'm delighted. Thank you,  Mehala"

NOTES:
[1,3] Guardian: Registering to vote anonymously to be made easier http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/07/registering-to-vote-anonymously-to-be-made-easier? CMP=twt_gu
[2] ITV: Domestic violence survivor says a lack of social housing is putting lives at risk: http://www.itv.com/news/westcountry/2016-09-01/domestic-violence-survivor-says-a-lack-of-social-housing-is-putting-lives-at-risk/

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