From reading an article in the Observer a year ago, to a life-changing decision to stand as a Welsh Assembly Member, my political journey has been full of fascinating and inspiring experiences.
You could say I’m steeped in politics. My grandfather was – I confess – a Tory MP; albeit not your typical Tory. An ordinary farmer who, like most MPs, wanted to do good, especially in terms of providing workers on farms with proper and decent housing. Sadly, he died young – a victim of diabetes – and I never got the opportunity to meet him, but I have always felt that politics was something I would love to get involved in; I just didn’t know how to start.
I have always hated inequality and have witnessed the many dangers brings, which is why I am a proud member of the Labour party. I spent my 20s and 30s establishing my career as a food campaigner and raising a family. Now, in my 40s I have an even greater desire to get involved and to make a difference in my local community.
Finding my political voice
Reading about the FWN scheme was a defining moment. My first steps into Westminster to meet the other candidates were nerve wracking, but in hindsight I can confirm that it was absolutely worth it! The buddy scheme, where you can talk to previous mentees, along with the wonderful attitude and encouragement of Christine and Caroline and the other women attending the programme, created an incredibly relaxed atmosphere.
We’ve been to Brussels, Westminster and Barnsley! We’ve spent a day at Labour Party HQ hearing from the masterminds behind the election campaign. We’ve heard about life as a minister, life as a whip, life as an MP, life as a prospective parliamentary candidate, life behind the political scenes, and what it is like to be involved in public life. Perhaps even more valuable than these experiences is that we have swapped ideas and debated them fiercely, gleaning advice from 28 other fabulous women – councillors, campaigners, lawyers and lobbyists, who all have something hugely positive to offer society.
As a result of the FWN scheme, it seems that many of us have found our political voices. Many of us feel that now is the time to stand up and get involved, and there is no reason why we – and many more women after us – can’t add our voice and our energy to helping make our country a better and fairer place to live. Finding my political voice was certainly one of my key objectives in joining the scheme. I wanted to understand whether it was possible for an ‘ordinary’ woman with no special links to the political world to get involved in politics. The answer has been a resounding yes.
Catherine Fookes is a food campaigner
The Fabian Women’s Network celebrate their tenth anniversary on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 from 18:00 to 20:30 at Royal Society of Chemistry, London W1J 0BA. For more information click here