Comment: "The first protest I went on was the one I organised myself"

Gender equality is an issue our users care deeply about. Over a million people have signed and started campaigns challenging what they call a sexist status quo and pushed decision makers to give women a louder voice.

Only this year, the UK saw Prime Minister David Cameron declare the end of the tampon tax, following a petition led by Laura Coryton whose campaign was backed and raised in Westminster by MP Paula Sherriff. It’s the latest in a long line of victories won by campaigning young women, who are holding businesses and governments to account and making significant progress on gender issues which once seemed intractable.

On May 25 we brought together cross-party politicians and campaigners with Grazia’s Fiona Cowood to ask the questions; what is next for gender equality in the UK? what are the challenges for women campaigning? What role can MPs play in helping woman to make their voices heard? How can we use technology to leverage the work young women are doing?

The Change.org Gender Equality roundtable was hosted by Change.org and Paula Sheriff MP

The Change.org Gender Equality roundtable was hosted by Change.org and Paula Sheriff MP

So what did we find? In this digital age, it’s clear that Parliament has been on a journey, and the results were in that room. It was politics at its best; cross-party MPs came along to share their insights and discuss how they can do more to empower women to create change. And in that room full of both first-time and seasoned campaigners one issue was raised consistently as a barrier for women campaigning - online safety. It was a timely discussion - with the launch of Reclaim the Internet, a cross-party effort to tackle the growing scale of abuse toward women online.

Grazia's Fiona Cowood (left), Change.org's Brie Rogers Lowery (centre) and campaigner Stevie Wise (right)

Grazia's Fiona Cowood (left), Change.org's Brie Rogers Lowery (centre) and campaigner Stevie Wise (right)

Stevie Wise, who campaigned for Boots to review their sexist pricing, talked first-hand about the barriers to campaigning for the average person. It’s tough at the best of times -- add to that the fear you may get bullied online, and there’s danger of shutting women out of the campaigning space rather than putting them at the centre of it. MP Jess Phillips writes about the event in her blog and the change that needs to happen, “ I want spunky women shouting up and facing honest to goodness debate and challenge.”

Campaigner Charlie Craggs talking about her experiences as a trans woman campaigning online

Campaigner Charlie Craggs talking about her experiences as a trans woman campaigning online

We saw some of that in the room - the sheer tenacity of women who won’t take no for an answer. Laura, who had never campaigned before, said that the first protest she had ever been on was the one she organised herself. MP Paula Sheriff spoke about her frustration with politics before she was elected -- so she decided to become an MP to do something about it. Referring to the ratio of women to men in Parliament she said “I’m not here to make up the numbers, I’m here to set the agenda.”

Change.org is a platform where anyone can go to create change. We hope to see more Lauras and Stevies -- women who are challenging injustices they see in everyday life. MPs, tech companies and campaigners must work together to make sure that when Jess Phillips says: “She could have been frickin' amazing but instead she was stopped,” that women aren’t “stopped” but instead feel empowered to continue raising their voice.

The Gender Equality rountable was attended by cross-party MPs and campaigners  All photography by Nicola Tree: nicolatree.com

The Gender Equality rountable was attended by cross-party MPs and campaigners 

All photography by Nicola Tree: nicolatree.com