While we cannot celebrate in person this year, this International Women's Day I'm celebrating the women who make Tooting such an incredible place to live. I am beyond proud to represent an area with an array of admirable, determined and strong women from so many different backgrounds. Please join me in thanking those mentioned below, and all the women who play an important role in your life.
In 1912, Tooting dressmaker and suffragette Lillian Ball was arrested and sentenced for two months hard labour for her involvement in a window-smashing campaign in March 1912, with around 150 other women in London’s west-end. Being a working-class mother of three, it is said that Lillian received a harsher sentence than other suffragettes from wealthier backgrounds. During her time in prison completing the hard labour sentence, she recounted that she was blackmailed and coerced by senior police officers to give evidence against some of the key leaders of the suffragette movement.
To think of everything Lillian sacrificed for women like myself to put a cross in the ballot box, makes me exceptionally proud to think of all we have achieved in Wandsworth since then. All MPs in Wandsworth are women and we have 10 female councillors in Tooting alone.
I am also exceptionally proud to work for our NHS, where 77% of the workforce is made up of women. It was only in 1892 that The British Medical Association formally accepted female doctors into their register, and in 1948, under Attlee’s NHS reforms, it was required by law that a ‘reasonable proportion’ of medical students were women. My colleagues in St George’s, and beyond, are a true testament to what our health service embodies.
And within our local community, I am proud of the women who have gone above and beyond to aid those in need. In 2016, the first Little Village baby bank was founded in Balham to provide families in need with baby clothes and equipment, such as cots, bottles and sterilisers. In 2020, they helped an estimated 6590 children and have now set up banks across Wandsworth, Camden and Southwark.
Founder Sophia is a busy mum-of-three herself and has inspired many across the country, including royalty! Since 2020, the Duchess of Cambridge has supported the aims of Little Village and recently spoke to service users at the fifth anniversary of the organisation.
I am also proud of the efforts of Tooting Community Kitchen to support those in need of a hot meal or drink. Sahar Beg founded the Tooting Community Kitchen in 2018, inspired by her mum’s love for cooking, and has been providing hot food and drink to those in need ever since. The community owes a great deal to Sahar’s commitment to helping others and I for one am proud to know her and support her efforts.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to two amazing young women in the constituency, whose campaigns have helped many others. Hope Virgo is the founder of the #DumpTheScales campaign, which calls on the Government to review eating disorder guidance delivered by clinicians. She is open about her journey with anorexia and now supports young people, parents and educational staff understand eating disorders in more detail.
Tooting’s own Kate Isaacs founded the ‘Not Your Porn’ campaign after her friend was a victim of revenge porn, and has been fighting against companies profiteering from revenge porn since. For those who do not know what revenge porn is, it is the sharing of private sexual materials with intent to cause distress, typically without consent. Indeed, in 2020, the UK’s specialist revenge porn helpline recorded its busiest ever year with 2700 calls.
Last of all, I would like to send a message to all the women in Tooting. No matter what your background, race, gender or identity, you have the power to be a force for change. Look up to the outstanding role models we have in Tooting and most importantly, be proud of who you are.