As part of the many Vote 100 events taking place across GDST schools to mark centenary of women achieving the right to vote on 6th February, Northwood College for Girls’ pupils took part in their own march and held their own vote on a motion.
The motion was raised by the school’s Head of History and Politics, Mr Allen, which asked: ‘Should it be a requirement that 50% of the UK Parliament is female’ (compared to the current figure of just 32%)?
Over 600 girls, with ages ranging from 7 to 18, seized their placards (kindly produced by the school’s maintenance team) and ‘Votes for Women’ sashes and marched across the school field to have their say in the debate.
Ms Jacqualyn Pain, Head Mistress at the school: “We owe so much to the achievements of the courageous campaigners for women’s suffrage and I am delighted to see our whole school pay respect to their incredible sacrifices, all of which have helped shape the world in which we live today and have empowered our girls to be given the chance to be everything they can be.”
Northwood College has been a proud member of the GDST family since September 2014. An organisation that was founded by four pioneering women who were fearless in their pursuit of providing opportunities for girls, the GDST has always been at the forefront of campaigns to empower women and girls.
Ms Pain commented: “Our pioneering founders embodied the spirit of all those determined women who campaigned for decades to achieve the right to vote in Parliamentary elections, gained in February 1918, and the right to stand for Parliament, achieved in November 1918. It is clear that the ranks of the suffragists and suffragettes were boosted by young women who had benefitted from an academic education at girls’ schools like those of the GDST and that the fight for the vote was, to an extent, both enabled by and an inevitable consequence of their education.”
Women are beginning to take their rightful place in the world. More and more opportunities are opening up and schools like ours are uniquely placed to help girls make the most of these new possibilities. Together with our sister GDST schools, we have one vision: to be pioneers in and shapers of the future of girls’ education; and one purpose: to help every girl fulfil her potential and her dreams.”
Having already examined and discussed the leading question in class, the girls were eager to vote. Nine-year-old Ziyana Kassam, commented: “I vote ‘no’, if the number of women needs to be equal to the number of men then some poor men will lose their jobs;” whilst ten-year-old Sophia Shah said: “I vote ‘yes’ as women should be equally represented in parliament.”
Seventeen year old Olivia Evans, commented: “I vote ‘no’ because people should vote women into Parliament because they want them to be there, not because they have to have them there.” Sixteen year old Sofia Dacosta cast a ‘yes’ vote and commented: “I feel that this needs to be enforced because if politics continues to be so male-dominated, young women will be put off trying to gain a place in Parliament. If we have 50% female representation, even just for a limited time, younger girls will be inspired.”
‘Yes’ and ‘no’ voters both showed equal commitment to their decision but as time went on it was clear that the ‘no’ station was considerably busier than the ‘yes’ counterpart and it was no surprise when the ‘milk bottle tops’ were finally counted (thank you School Finance Manager) to reveal the ‘no’ team won the overall vote, with 336 votes versus 258 votes for the ‘yes’ camp.
Ms Pain concluded: “I am not surprised that the majority of our girls believe that achievement should be awarded by merit as opposed to gender. I completely agree!”