Female MPs from around world to gather for UK suffrage event

More than 100 politicians will meet in Commons to mark centenary of women’s vote

More than 100 female politicians from around the world, from Afghanistan to the Vatican, will sit in the House of Commons for a landmark event to mark the centenary of women first winning the right to vote in the UK.

The Women MPs of the World conference, in which there will be parliamentarians from 104 countries on the green benches in early November, will be co-hosted by the Labour MP Harriet Harman, the mother of the house, and the international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt.

Theresa May has been invited to address the conference, though the prime minister’s attendance is likely to depend on travel plans during the November recess.

Ministers including Mordaunt, Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, and the constitution minister, Chloe Smith, are expected to attend, as well as the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, and the shadow equalities secretary, Dawn Butler.

The international political guests will include: the first female speaker of the Bangladeshi parliament, Shireen Sharmeen Chaudhury; Grenada’s health minister, Clarice Modeste-Curwan; the Brazilian indigenous rights campaigner Janete Capiberibe, who is a member of Brazil’s chamber of deputies; the Colombian vice-president, Marta Lucía Ramirez; and Bassma Kodmani, a prominent member of the Syrian opposition.

Everyone attending will be invited to make a personal commitment or action to fulfil in their home country. Organisers said the conference aimed to celebrate the achievements of female parliamentarians, and discuss how to further empower female MPs to spearhead change both nationally and internationally.

Harman is keen to continue an informal network of female parliamentarians after the conference, joking to reporters that the international MPs could form a sisterly WhatsApp group to exchange ideas.

The event will address the hurdles that many women in politics face worldwide, such as dealing with sexual harassment and balancing parliamentary and family responsibilities, as well as wider issues such as economic empowerment of women and tackling violence against women and girls.

Mordaunt said the event would be an inspiration to committed women across the world, saying it would “celebrate their achievements, discuss the barriers to political life and develop new ideas to tackle gender inequality around the world”.

The event also aims to create an online networking platform for the women to keep in touch, although this will not necessarily take the form of a WhatsApp group.

The event was almost scuppered after the Conservative MP Christopher Chope shouted “object” when the motion to host the gathering was put to the Commons this year, but it was later passed after an intervention by Mordaunt.

Chope had previously been the subject of a separate row after he objected to another private member’s bill to make upskirting a specific criminal offence.

Leadsom said she was delighted the Commons chamber would be used for the event. “In the centenary year of votes for women, it is vital we work even harder to improve politics and policy for women, no matter where they are from,” she said. “I’m looking forward to taking part and discussing everything we are doing in the UK in this area.”


Tobi Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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