Councillor Natasha Harpley urges more women to consider politics

Natasha Harpley, councillor for Sprowston Central

Natasha Harpley, Broadland councillor for Sprowston Central. - Credit: Natasha Harpley

Natasha Harpley is the Norwich Labour vice president and councillor for Sprowston Central. She is also a campaigner for women's safety.

Nearly every day there are news stories highlighting the abuse and harassment of women or medical misogyny, that seriously impacts the quality of our health and wellbeing.

That's why it's so important that more women are involved in politics - giving us more of a voice when laws are being made about our bodies and lives.

Women are 50pc of the population yet make up only 34pc of parliament. I was elected as a councillor in the year I turned 40 and it had taken me nearly all of those 40 years to have the confidence to stand for election and really find my voice in a male-dominated environment.

Whilst I take immense pride in being able to represent my community, it hasn't all been plain sailing. As an elected representative, I expect to be held accountable for my voting record and other political activities, I do not however expect to be held to a higher standard than any man is or subjected to abuse or sexual harassment.

I have been sent countless unsolicited sexual images and messages. Some of that is purely down to just existing as a woman on the internet but a lot is directly in response to speaking out on important issues.

Women at all levels of public office are routinely held to higher standards than men are and threats of rape are becoming increasingly common. We must do more to make politics more accessible and a safer place for women.

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Historically, wise and unconventional women were labelled as witches and burnt at the stake. There still seems to be a hangover from that school of thought, with women's opinions and life experiences being disregarded and pathologised. We face far greater scrutiny of our actions and everyone has an opinion on how we should behave and live our lives - particularly if we are older and/or mothers.

It's also common for women to experience "imposter syndrome" and not feel as worthy as their male counterparts, despite often having greater expertise. It can take time and practice to believe in yourself and not care what other people think of you.

So my advice, after finally reaching that point, is to say what you think, wear whatever you want and date whomever you please. Society is going to judge you anyway, so you may as well have fun doing it,