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'We are working towards woman-led change in devolution'

Eve Holt
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The lack of women’s representation in devolved decision-making has been starkly visible over the last two years.

It is a self-perpetuating problem and unsurprising that our metro-mayors and their cabinets reflect that image.

Diva-Manc was one response. Five women gave birth to the idea around my kitchen table last July, and without permission we set out to see how we could build in greater diversity at every level of Devo-Manc.

Our starting point was to find ways to work with a broad array of women to share learning about what is needed and how might we achieve change.

We organised events in the communities we knew best to draw on knowledge of local networks and encourage underrepresented groups into the space. We held five open public events and a couple of closed workshops in a school and sixth form.

To help create inclusive, participatory spaces, we used experienced local facilitators who could hold a space for deep conversation and constructive conflict. Each event was designed to encourage participants to continue the conversations where they live, work, care or study, take action and recognise themselves as leaders of change.

The more we looked, the more projects we saw that were pursuing the same aims. We’ve enjoyed sharing our work as we go, participating in conversations around gender, diversity, devolution and the North across different channels including:

  • Online chatter, utilising our #DivaManc hashtag to open up dialogue to more people, streaming events via Facebook and video conferencing
  • Participating in a variety of events hosted by others including the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the RSA, the Institute for Public Policy North, the Fabian Society, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Foundation, Women’s Equality Party, Political Studies Association, Jam and Justice and the Greater Manchester All Party Parliamentary Group.
  • Contributing to consultations and research including reports by the Fawcett Society and IPPR around women’s representation and participation in governance and sharing our insight via blogs and articles.

We’ve designed five Diva-Manc pledges and we are asking Greater Manchester leaders to sign up to them. Andy Burnham set out his commitment to a gender-balanced combined authority, to refuse invitations to all-male panels and to back Diva-Manc pledges.

The majority of our newly elected Greater Manchester MPs have pledged their support. We are now looking for leaders across third, public and private sectors to do the same.

We are currently exploring alternative governance models and resourcing to ensure that Diva-Manc lives and breathes its values (diverse, inclusive, vibrant and accountable) and provides an effective framework for collaboration between all interested parties in our shared quest for gender equality. Our next event is on 25 July.

Eve Holt, co-founder, Diva-Manc


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