The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 13th March:
A week ago today marked the annual celebration of International Women’s Day.
I may be a little late to the party, but I didn’t want to miss my chance to pay tribute to the many brilliant women in Barnsley.
One of the Labour Party’s themes of this International Women’s Day was ‘phenomenal women’, and I think it an accurate and appropriate way to describe many of these.
Because here in Barnsley we have phenomenal women in abundance.
They are in our hospitals, care homes, schools, and charities.
They are our doctors, police officers, teachers, carers, volunteers, mums and sisters.
They are our local heroes, like Dorothy Hyman – recently, and finally, recognised in the appropriate way by the BBC for her world-conquering and truly phenomenal sporting exploits on the track.
Barnsley is blessed with many phenomenal women, and it’s an honour of mine to represent them down in Westminster.
But it would be remiss of me to do so without addressing the burdens specifically placed on them by the actions of this Government.
Since 2010, men and women alike have been hit hard by the Government’s near-decade of austerity policies.
But changes to direct taxes, benefits and tax credits have had a disproportionate impact on women.
In fact, 86% of this Government’s cuts have landed on their shoulders.
And across Barnsley, those effects are clear.
Women are stuck in poverty, trapped in low-paid, insecure and short-term work, many unable to save money or progress in the workplace, others forced to rely on foodbanks.
Many community groups and charities who provide vital services to women are now struggling to do so because of devastating cuts to local authorities.
Last weekend I ran a half-marathon to help raise money for Barnsley Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Services, a vital organisation that helps vulnerable people.
Because whilst celebrating the work and successes of the very many phenomenal women in Barnsley is one thing, under this Government it’s sadly no longer enough.
So like donning my running shoes and raising money for a local charity that helps many women across our town, I’ll keep doing everything I can to help Barnsley’s phenomenal woman overcome the difficulties they face because of this Government.