I went along to the IWA Women launch last night. It was an interesting evening, and there was an impressive turnout. There were even - shock horror - men there, which included Carwyn Jones and Nick Bourne. I was glad to see that, as equality is something both men and women need to tackle. Its not something that should be left to one sex to deal with.
Much of the focus was on the involvement of women in politics and how ensure a gender balance in the future. Now, personally, I've never been in favour of all female lists or women automatically topping the list. If I ever top a poll I want it to be on merit rather than because of my gender, and though positive discrimination seems to have worked, I think its time to move on. Even so, I have to admit I found it interesting to hear that everyone seems to believe that a male will automatically top some of the party's regional lists before anyone has declared their candiditure! I still like to think that hustings are democratic and that people keep an open mind until then! Maybe that's slightly naive, but still...
Personally, I do hope the assembly sustains its hugely important gender balance but of course, there is work to be done in maintaining that and tackling equality at council and Westminster level. It's going to be a challenge though. I often think that members who are not within commuting distances to either Westminster or the Welsh Assembly will always have to make huge sacrifices if they have young families, and will have to think hard about going into politics especially if they're based in North Wales. No parent wants to have to leave their children behind for days at a time every week and its not like you can be there full time with them when you're back in the consituency. It's bound to put a strain on any relationship and I'm not sure quite how you tackle that fundamental issue so that we encourage more young people to engage in politics and run for office. Irrespecitve of gender.
IWA Women certainly has a role to play and I look forward to seeing how the work evolves. There are no easy solutions, but at least there are people now committed to exploring some difficult issues and thinking of ways to tackle them. Politics will hugely benefit from this kind of thinking - long may it continue!