SHARON HODGSON We need a strategy to support women

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Last Sunday, mothers across the country would have woken up to breakfast in bed, cards, gifts and flowers from their families, thanking them for caring for loved ones and nurturing their children all year round.

We all know mothers’ care can go unrecognised – but we do it nonetheless.

Then on Tuesday we celebrated International Women’s Day. I was delighted to welcome Katie from St Roberts Sixth Form to shadow me and take part in International Women’s Day celebrations here in Parliament.

Katie was one of nine selected out of 75 young women from across the UK, who were also shadowing their MP, to swap places with MPs on the Women & Equalities Select Committee and question them on what more we can do to address inequality.

Some argue that celebrating a woman’s place in society can be counter-productive to our struggle for equality.

Yet, with the gender pay gap still persistent in many areas of the workforce and women still greatly under-represented in top positions in business and public life, it is clear we still need to continue our fight for gender equality.

Unfortunately, this Tory Government is exacerbating women’s inequality.

Women face the brunt of public sector cuts; one in nine pregnant women are forced out of their jobs each year, and by 2020 women will have paid for 81% of the Government’s tax and benefit changes implemented since 2010.

Pair all of this with the 763 fewer Sure Start Centres, which provided vital support to families, then it is obvious this Government’s strategy for women is not working.

Labour understands if our country is to succeed, then women must be a part of that success, too.

That is why we pushed further than any other Party on women’s representation with All-Women Short Lists. We also introduced rafts of equality legislation, reduced the gender pay gap by a third over our time in office and we were the first administration since the Second World War to develop a childcare policy and flagship programmes, such as tax credits, to help women into work.

Instead of this Government rolling back women’s hard-fought rights and support, what we need is a strategy to support women, as both equal members of society and as drivers for the economic growth we need.

Labour recognises this and will do all we can to achieve this when holding the Government to account in Parliament.