Votes for women centenary celebrations to receive millions in government funding

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Moya Crockett
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£5m will be given to the fund to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first British women to get the vote. 

Next year’s celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Britain have been allocated millions of pounds in government funding, in a move that has been both praised and critiqued by women’s rights groups.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the £5m fund as part of the Spring Budget, BBC News reports. The money will go towards projects and events marking the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave some women - although not all - the vote.

After the passage of the 1918 Act, women could only go to the polls if they were over the age of 30 and met certain property requirements. This meant that more than half of British women did not have a say in who got elected to government.

However, while the legislation was flawed, it was vital in laying the groundwork for the introduction of universal suffrage in 1928, which saw women gain the same voting rights as men.

The 1918 Act, said Hammond, “was the decisive step in the political emancipation of women in this country and this money will go to projects to mark its significance and remind us all just how important it was.”

A British woman (left) votes for the first time in the general election of 1918.

The decision to allocate the money to special celebratory projects was applauded by some women’s rights charities.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “We need to ensure young women and men know their suffrage history and the relevance of that struggle to tackling discrimination, harassment and inequality that women and girls experience today.”

Others took a more critical view of the fund. Labour MP Sarah Champion, the shadow equalities secretary, said that the Conservative government should be doing more to decrease gender equality in the present day.

“It’s right that we mark and celebrate the achievements of so many women who risked their homes, families and freedom to fight for democracy and economic equality,” she said.

“However, 99 years later, women are still having to fight for economic equality under this Tory government.

“From cuts to universal credit and 54,000 women losing their jobs through maternity discrimination, to the treatment of thousands of women born in the Fifties who have been left with a crisis in their retirement planning, this government is systematically turning back the clock on gender economic equality,” Champion continued. 

On Twitter, meanwhile, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party said she could think of better uses for the £5m.

“£5m for women’s festivals? I’d rather equal pay, job opportunities, political representation and no [violence against women and girls],” wrote Sophie Walker.

Images: Rex Features