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News 2008
News ->Harman announces taskforce to increase asian women councillors

Harman announces taskforce to increase asian women councillors
(19 May 2008)

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women & EqualityHarriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, today launched a new taskforce to help more black, Asian and minority ethnic women to become councillors. Only around 168 out of 20,000 councillors are black, Asian or minority ethnic women. This is less than one per cent, despite the fact they make up more than 5% of the population. The taskforce will be chaired by Baroness Uddin, the first Muslim woman in the House of Lords. Members will include councillors from across Britain, from all ethnicities and political parties.

To be fully representative the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic women councillors needs to increase more than five fold to around 1000 minority ethnic women councillors. At the current rate of increase this could take more than 130 years.

The taskforce will take practical action to address this under-representation, such as provide mentoring, hold outreach events in community centres to make the role of councillors more widely known and better understood, working with organisations such as the Local Government Association, Operation Black Vote and the Fawcett Society to develop awareness training, establish networking groups, conduct research, work with local councils, political parties and organisations like IdeA to improve the recruitment, training and selection and support given to candidates as well as working with others producing guidance and advice

Harriet Harman said: "Empowering black, Asian and minority ethnic women in public life is a key priority for Government. They are a force for good within their communities, and in building bridges between communities. Their contribution must be better recognised and supported.

"And we need our local councils to better reflect the local community.

"It's not just about people's right to be a councillor, it's about making local government better, making decision making better, more understanding of communities that services are being provided for. You have better informed decision making if you have all members of the community represented.

"But it's important not just to have Black and Asian councillors, but also to support them, because it's more difficult if you are a pioneer, in a minority. So we have to recognise it's not just about getting them in, but to make sure that our Black and Asian women councillors have the proper support and we recognise their role as pioneers in taking this forward."

Baroness Uddin, Chair of the new Councillors Taskforce, said: "I'm delighted to have been asked to chair this new taskforce, local government is an important route to strengthening and shaping all our lives. I hope in the coming year ahead we will be able to work with women across all the communities by encouraging and inspiring their participation. Our ambition is simple in that we wish to see an increased numbers of women councillors, and I am glad to have the full backing of the government in order to achieve this ambition".

Simon Woolley, Executive Advisor to the Taskforce and Director of OBV, said: "There is no shortage of talented black and minority ethnic women who, given half a chance, would make excellent councillors and MPs. The challenge, therefore, is to break down barriers whilst encouraging these talented women to come forward. OBV is pleased to be part of this exciting initiative."

The taskforce will last 12 months, with an option to review and take account of some of the recommendations of the independent Councillors Commission (published last December). The taskforce will identify action to increase awareness and build confidence and skills; reach out into communities to encourage women to step forward to become local councillors; identify and tackle barriers within political parties; and reduce disadvantage and stereotyping from within and outside the communities.

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