I had been passed on the details of the London workshop by a friend and thought, “this could be interesting – why not”. I was intrigued by what I might learn at this workshop.
Within the first few minutes I was gripped.
We were told research showed that women hardly ever thought about standing forward without being asked. It usually took someone else (often male), to say “Have you thought about standing” and was usually met by the response “who me?”
There I was thinking…yes…that is so true… that is exactly what happened to me. I am a confident woman, successful in my career, but why had I also fallen in to this pattern?
It was the fantastic Jonathan Bartley, now co-Leader of the Green Party but then the Chair of the Lambeth Greens who had encouraged me to stand as a candidate in the Parliamentary Elections. It was the support of him and the peer group within Lambeth that gave me the courage to take the first step and put myself forward.
The importance of the Parliament Project was evident. Having access to a supportive group of experienced people is often rare to find. Even harder to get in one room at the same time. We discussed barriers and obstacles that might be holding us back from standing in an election, we were given practical steps as to how we may overcome those barriers and we heard from an MP who had successfully navigated the road to being elected and being effective in parliament.
It was inspiring to hear. Most of all it was inspiring to hear the stories from the women around the room. Humbling to learn that although we all shared similar fears and barriers, we were determined to be politically active in some shape or form.
At the close of the session we were all motivated to leap in to action, our first steps noted down, and our peer network established.
I was very impressed with the organisation and content of the workshop. Often these experiences leave me with the feeling “well that was good in theory but what about the reality”. The Parliament Project moves away from that. It provides tangible constructive support to women across the entire political spectrum who may be considering entering politics. It is also a long-term project, not a one-off event that has limited impact. If you do get the opportunity to attend one of the workshops I would highly recommend doing so.
I admire the vision and challenge that Lee Chalmers and Vicky Booth have taken on in setting up The Parliament Project and I look forward to continuing my political journey with them.
Gulnar Hasnain, 2015 Parliamentary Candidate for Vauxhall, The Green Party