Harman sets out priorities for women

Harriet Harman speaking in the House of Commons yesterday set out the priorities that she and Barbara Follet (they are the Ministers for Women) have agreed (you can read the transcript here).

These are divided into three strands:

  • helping families who care for elderly or disabled relatives and children;
  • tackling violence against women and improving the way that women commit crimes are dealt with; and
  • empowering black and Asian women.

She also outlined some more specific actions and gave a little of the explanation behind them. I’m pleased to see there’s some really sensible reasoning behind some of them. For example, she referred to the gender pay gap as:

“a gap that is not only unfair in principle, but which plays such a large part in the unequal division of labour in the home, preventing fathers from playing a more active role in their children’s early years and preventing women from fulfilling their opportunities at work”

Ms Harman also mentioned working in partnership with community and political groups such as Mothers Against Guns, Southall Black Sisters, Refuge, Women’s Aid and the Women’s Institute.

Teresa May immediately criticised the programme as all style and no substance, asking why these issues are not already on the way to being solved after ten years of Labour government. She said:

“instead of having a one-size-fits-all idea of how women should lead their lives, Ministers must pursue a policy based on choice for women who are free and empowered to make their own decisions”

a sentiment which is hard to disagree with, but equally hard to square with the Tories’ recent policy proposals to give tax breaks to married couples which penalises women (especially women with children and gay women) who choose to live their lives in a way which doesn’t suit the Tory’s blueprint for a nation of nuclear families.