Activate, a UK fund supporting women from underrepresented groups to run for political office, has announced its first list of candidates.
Activate is funding 11 women running for five different parties in the spring local and mayoral elections across five parts of England – London, the Midlands, North East, North West, and Yorkshire and Humber. The list includes eight women of colour, one disabled woman and one care leaver. Seven of the 11 women are from low-income households or identify as working class.
It was founded in 2018 by Sophie Walker, founding leader of the Women’s Equality Party, and Vanessa Pine, former Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Business and Equalities Minister.
Standing for election is estimated to cost the candidate on average £11,000, with huge variants depending on location and whether the seat is marginal. By lowering financial barriers for these candidates to stand, campaign and win, Activate aims to help politics better represent the national population.
The list of candidates includes Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour Candidate for Tees Valley Mayor – standing to become the first ever female metro mayor; Mandu Reid, Women’s Equality Party candidate for London Mayor; April Preston, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Manchester City Council; Molly Samuel-Leport, Conservative candidate for Greater London Assembly, and Emily West, Green Party Candidate for Rotherham Council. The full list can be found on the site.
The fund is supported by Emma Thompson, who donated £50,000 to kick-start the first round.
“Our political system was built for men who – generally – had women to do everything else for them. Women are often the providers of that unpaid support rather than beneficiaries. Therefore women who wish to enter the political system need financial support – and women of colour, disabled women and women on low income need particular support to overcome multiple barriers to their participation. We need women from all backgrounds and experiences to get elected in order to make the system work for most people and not just a few.”
Activate raised £51,000 from Emma Thompson’s donation and a crowdfunder in the first quarter of 2020. It has also received funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, and is currently taking applications for its Community Activist Fund to support women to expand their local campaigning impact and consider standing in future.
Jessie Joe Jacobs said:
“Political representation matters. Every single metro mayor in the country is a man. For nearly half my life, since meeting a 15-year-old girl selling her body on the streets of Teesside, I have been committed to making a difference in people’s lives, in communities and across the North East. I needed to represent people like me and people who we worked with within the charities I ran. I am running for mayor, but it isn’t easy. Having the support of Activate both financially and peer to peer is a game changer.”
Sophie Walker added:
“We’ve seen most recently in the United States the difference that funding grassroots community-based activists can make to improving the political representation of women from minoritised groups. The Activate team is working hard to help brilliant women in the UK bring their talents and experience into politics here – for the benefit of everyone.”
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