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We have got to make politics work for women

‘Politics was never made for us women, especially women of colour or working-class women’

19 November, 2021 — By Valerie Bossman-Quarshie

Islington councillor Valerie Bossman-Quarshie

AS a councillor, I have to balance my day job, local politics and being a mother.

I hear: the housework needs doing, homework needs doing, what are we having for dinner? And then at the same time I’m reading notes for a scrutiny committee.

I’m Islington’s Reading Champion, so reading is very important with my little one.

I fit it in where I can. So the moment when my youngest is playing schools I say: ‘I’ll be your TA’.

And while she plays I read to her, and I know she’s taking it in because she’ll stop and ask me a question.

There’s a story I read at home with my youngest, at one point she’s a superwoman, and then a business­woman, and then she’s a fairy. And I think: that’s what it’s like.

My advice is to be honest and ask for help. I’m the worst, I never ask for help, I put pressure on myself as someone who’s at that intersectionality of being black and working class.

I worry people might think I’m incompetent if I do ask for help. But people are so understanding when you tell them you’re not managing.

I grew up in Islington with my parents. My mum is really kind, but she is also hardcore. She taught me that without a routine, you can’t do anything.

I want to teach my daughters to be honest, to be kind, to become team players. You must support others and women like yourself.

It can be a dog-eat-dog world, and there’s a hierarchy where people think their needs come before your needs.

I remember in my teens I told my mum that “I really try to be a good person,” and my mum said: “You can try and be good and do good deeds, but the world is full of bad people.”

That really stuck with me: I realised being good is an active choice.

I think we need to learn from each other the good things, considering the moralistic and ethical approaches from the many different religious and cultural groups who do good deeds and embody the best of our society.

We need to work together. Only that will make the world kinder and we’ll get to a more sustainable place as well.

Another thing I’ve realised is there is no such thing as work-life balance, especially for women in politics.

Politics was never made for us women, especially women of colour or working-class women. So we’ve got to make it work for us by speaking out and supporting each other.

Valerie Bossman-Quarshie is an Islington councillor

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