'It’s easy to assume that as time moves forward, our society becomes more progressive and accepting of previously marginalised groups. But the last few years have shown us that there is always a risk of sliding backwards on the rights of minorities'.
Amelia Womack has been the deputy leader of the Green Party since 2014 and is a candidate for Green Party Co-Leader along with Tamsin Omond, a British author, environmental activist and journalist.
Inspiration is a powerful thing. One night in 2017 when I was staying with a veteran Green Party activist in Manchester, we stayed up until 3am drinking tea and setting the world to rights. When the conversation turned to trans issues, she said “one thing I have realised is that, at the age of 83, I am still learning”. From that day forward I took that as a principle of what I wanted to do – embrace that I am always learning.
This willingness to learn is, I think, more important now than ever. It’s easy to assume that as time moves forward, our society becomes more progressive and accepting of previously marginalised groups. But the last few years have shown us that there is always a risk of sliding backwards on the rights of minorities. From the terrifying impact of the government’s police, crime, sentencing and courts bill on Roma gypsy and traveller communities to the vicious attacks on trans rights we see almost daily in the media, it has never been clearer that the arc of history doesn’t bend towards justice unless we put our own hands to it.
But this struggle for justice can be hard, especially when we don’t have personal experience of the issues at hand – and it’s easy to feel confused, uncertain or afraid of saying the wrong thing. But accepting that we – and those around us – are all still learning is a powerful way to overcome these fears and enable us to stand with those facing oppression or bigotry.
We best learn through individual stories and human experiences – hearing from those who have been impacted by racism, sexism, transphobia or other forms of injustice. But all too often, those voices are silenced in favour of mainstream pundits who talk over those they are claiming to speak for.
As co-leaders of the Green Party, Tamsin and I hope to break this cycle of misunderstanding and misinformation. We want to run a series of online sessions giving a voice to people who are facing oppression or are negatively impacted by government policies, allowing them to tell their stories and help others understand the reality of the struggles they face. For example, Tamsin was a COP delegate for the Marshall Islands, a group of Islands in the Pacific Ocean which sit just six feet above sea level. Their communities are already being ravaged by climate change – but their voices are not heard in the conversation about climate policy. It’s these people, with real and immediate experience of the consequences of the climate crisis, who we should be listening to.
Supporting people to learn is something that happens over time, and Tamsin and I are committed to enabling this process throughout our leadership. At the same time, though, we know that urgent action is needed to diversify our party and put an end to what we sadly know to be a culture of transphobia existing within some pockets of the party. We need to improve our disciplinary process to ensure that hate speech is properly addressed and held accountable – or we risk seeing passionate activists pushed away from the party by transphobia or other forms of bigotry.
We would also implement training for election candidates from minority or oppressed groups to empower them in public speaking and policy. We can’t ask to represent constituencies up and down the country if our candidates aren’t representative of the people they are campaigning to serve – we need to do much more to understand the barriers people face to standing and take action to overcome them. At the next general election, we want to stand the most diverse slate of candidates we have ever fielded.
Tamsin and I are proud to launch our Manifesto for Liberation, which sets out the steps we will take, if elected, to diversify the Green Party and ensure that we are not only a welcoming space for everyone but also a powerful force against injustice and oppression. We have experience in this kind of work: Tamsin has campaigned alongside many diverse communities for years, and as deputy leader I ringfenced funding to support underrepresented groups to stand for election. We also have the ideas and commitment to take the Green Party forwards, and make our party as diverse and inclusive as it needs to be. But above all we are still learning, and always open to listening to the voices of those who are all too often silenced.
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