WhatsApp is helping to fuel female activism, says Jess Phillips MP

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 16 October 2018 10:20 BST
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By December, #MeToo had become the most-used hashtag of the year on Instagram, garnering 1.5m uses across 2018
By December, #MeToo had become the most-used hashtag of the year on Instagram, garnering 1.5m uses across 2018

WhatsApp has been credited for galvanising female activism in the UK.

The instant messaging platform is free to use and is entirely encrypted, which, Jess Phillips claims, gives women a safe space to exchange ideas and discuss strategies for action.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley revealed that the parliamentary debate to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland had been “almost exclusively” facilitated by communications on WhatsApp.

“There is a shift in the way women organise themselves across all ages in the last few years,” the 37-year-old said.

“Women need spaces to feel they can speak and they can organise together and WhatsApp has created that in a virtual world.”

Phillips touted the benefits of WhatsApp groups - which can hold up to 256 users - and said that she is in many with people in her constituency, including one with 180 Muslim women, The Times reports.

“I can get a message out to the community through these WhatsApp groups in seconds,” she added.

“Me and [the Labour MP] Stella Creasy in parliament, the abortion law that we’re trying to change in Ireland, was almost exclusively done by WhatsApp.”

Phillips has been a key spokesperson for a number of women’s rights campaigns, such as the recent Free Periods initiative, led by The Pink Protest.

The Labour MP spoke at a protest in March held as part of a campaign to make menstrual products free for school girls and low-income families.

Fellow MP Paula Sherriff and comedian Deborah Frances-White, who hosts the popular podcast The Guilty Feminist, also spoke at the event.

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