Gravesham Council reflects on inspirational female members for International Women's Day
PUBLISHED: 16:30 08 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:17 12 March 2018
Gravesham’s 12 female councillors have spoken about their achievements and experiences in honour of International Women’s Day.
Born from women’s fight against oppression and for better working conditions and the right to vote, the global celebration annually recognises the economic, political and social accomplishments of women past, present and future.
Of the female councillors in Gravesham Borough Council, three form part of the cabinet.
Cllr Gurjit Bains, cabinet member for community development, was the first Asian female to serve as a councillor in Gravesham, and is one of the youngest members to be appointed to the cabinet.
She said: “I hold the view that if women do not empower themselves to step up and make their voices heard, the fight to bring about change will become an even tougher battle.
“I am inspired by those women who gave up their lives to give us the right to vote in this country and I think voting is something we should not take for granted.
“This year marks 100 years since change came about and I think it is a great opportunity for women to become more engaged, register to vote, join a local party or campaign on an issue close to your heart.”
Cllr Sandra Garside, cabinet member for sports, leisure and arts, said: “To be a woman in politics today is a responsible position.
“We each have a portfolio which allows us to have an input in the running of the council and I’m very proud to be one of the three women on the cabinet, but I would definitely would like to see more women sitting on the council.”
Cllr Julia Burgoyne, cabinet member for planning and regeneration, said that, despite making up about 50pc of the population, women continue to be under-represented in local government.
She added: “Women have their own special ‘soft’ skills which are essential when assisting people from all sections of the community.
“I would encourage all women to get involved especially in this year when we remember the struggle to give women the right to vote.”
Other women have also played a key part in the council’s history, with many more continuing to change its future.
Cllr Lauren Sullivan, Labour cllr for Northfleet North Ward, said: “There is always more we can do to ensure our councils and our Parliament are truly reflective of the society they serve.
“I am glad to be part of a council that has a number of women councillors from across the political divide and I am sure this will continue.”
Harmony Chapman, 17, has been Gravesham Youth Council’s chairman since November 2017.
She decided to get into youth council to make a change in Gravesham and to express her views, making a positive impact on the community.
She said: “I’m so grateful to receive this position.
“However, it is also daunting because there is a lot of responsibility especially since politics is a mostly male dominated industry.
“To any women who want to be involved in politics at a national and county level, go for it.
“Even just voting in elections makes a difference and I hope to inspire many young girls to join youth councils.”
Former Labour Leader, Rosemary Leadley, had been an elected Labour councillor since 1987 and was one of the first Labour leaders for the council between 1996 and 2003.
Rosemary represented Coldharbour Ward and stepped down from her duties in March 2014.
The first female mayor since the creation of the Borough Council in 1974 was Freda E Shields in 1977.