On Saturday 18 January, 25 activists gathered at the Manchester Chaplaincy on Oxford Road to learn how to increase women’s participation and representation in politics. 

Gary Hart from the UK Parliament Outreach Team offered advice on how and why more women need to get involved in national decision-making processes in the UK saying:

“In the UK, nearly 80% of MPs and members of the Hosue of Lords are men, nearly 70% of Local Councillors are men, and over 80% of Government Ministers in the cabinet are men, but over half of the adult UK population are women.”

In recognition that the struggle for women’s participation is a global issue, Suad Abdi, visiting from Somaliland, also spoke inspiringly about the struggles that she and other women have endured to gain political representation. Her story of how, in 1997, she worked with others to create a network to serve as a collective voice for women who wanted to see their rights as equal citizens respected in Somaliland, provided an inspiring example of the level of resilience and determination required for women’s empowerment to become a reality.

“Women are looking to claim their own rights,” said Suad. “We were being left behind in decision-making even though women are a driving force in society. We were doing everything, but lacked any power. We have to start the process of women’s empowerment. It will take time, but I believe this is just the beginning,” 

“The lack of women’s participation is as much a problem here in the UK as it is in Somaliland,” explained campaigner Charlee Bennett. “It’s a global issue. We have a lot to learn from Suad’s experience. We need to help amplify the voices of women in places like Somaliland to make sure that their views are taken into consideration.  Without women’s involvement, how we can expect decision-makers not just here in the UK, but also in more fragile new democracies to make informed decisions that truly benefit their populations, half of whom are women?”

The workshop was held in support of a new campaign called Unbreakable which is led by Progressio, an International Development charity that seeks to help people gain power over their lives and overcome barriers that keep them poor. 

“Women living in so-called ‘fragile states’ are among the most marginalised in the world and yet stories such as Suad’s demonstrate the powerful progress being made to overcome the structural problems that keep them poor,” said Progressio’s Campaigns and Communications Manager, Daniel Hale.

Would you like to host your own 'Wadahadal'? Join the conversation on twitter @Progressio #unbreakablecampaign