Today is IWD (International Working Women’s Day) – a date that has been observed in one form or another for more than a century.
With its roots in strike action taken by women workers, IWD now serves as a celebration of the political, social and cultural contributions and achievements of women and an opportunity to highlight the ongoing campaign for equality and women’s rights. It is a time to remember our crucial role in the movement: past, present and future.
Across much of the trade union movement, women are often the hidden drivers of campaigns and grassroots activism, and the BMA’s work towards securing pay restoration for junior doctors is no different.
While those of us in prominent and public facing roles are easily recognised, there are countless other women, both members and staff, whose contributions and dedication have been vital to getting our association to where it is.
As junior doctors across England begin preparations for strike action later this month, these are just some of the incredible women at the BMA you may not have noticed:
Becky was one of few BMA junior doctors committee reps who backed pay restoration before it was cool. She fought for JDC to meet specifically to discuss pay and co-authored 'Comp 1' – the pay policy for JDC.
Becky also wrote Motion 17 for last year’s BMA annual representative meeting, which succeeded in making pay restoration BMA policy for all doctors.
Becky has been an active local and regional representative for years, organising members to fight for better working lives, and now she is leading work to create local BMA structures that work for everyone.
Jo has been crucial to the grassroots movement for pay restoration. Initially in Medics4PayRestoration, in Doctors Vote and many other ways, Jo has written guides and strategy documents and enabled thousands of members to engage with the BMA for the first time. With Dervla Ireland, she has organised a tough multi-site trust. A powerhouse.
Like Becky, Dervla was another early proponent of pay restoration on JDC. With Jo, Dervla has been busy organising locally across a mega multi-site trust, hosting pay events at each hospital, ward walking and organising groups.
Dervla and her colleagues have developed a large employer with low density into a trust with high membership, ballot turnout and picket preparation.
Dervla has also hosted separate events for international medical graduates (IMGs) providing them a safe space to tackle concerns about industrial action, visas and indefinite leave to remain.
Elected to JDC just one day post-partum, Enya has been the expert on maternity leave and pay issues when preparing for and taking industrial action.
She wrote the maternity FAQs and is currently working to develop guidelines for risk assessment and reasonable adjustments for pregnant colleagues.
Enya is playing a key role in enabling and encouraging pregnant doctors and new parents to participate in our union.
Ayesha Shafaq Chaudary
An IMG herself, Ayesha has fronted the videos and worked tirelessly amongst networks of IMGs to promote trade unionism and assure international colleagues they can be involved safely in industrial action.
She has made the argument for pay restoration from international mobility with skill Enough is enough: IMGs ‘must be involved in pay restoration campaign’. She has spoken extensively on regional media, including an interview with BBC west midlands, talking about the importance of strikes.
Ayesha is also JDC’s Equality Champion. In this capacity, she has expressed her concerns over the treatment of black nurses and called for ‘urgent action’ from the government and the NHS organisations to tackle racism.
Starting as a final year medical student, Annie set up communication channels ready for the dispute, creating almost all the strike WhatsApp groups, initially adding thousands of junior doctors, and managing many on an ongoing basis.
Now chair of Mersey RJDC, Annie often works to pick up on local problems that junior doctors have and direct and enable them to campaign, organise and solve problems.
Nyree has an excellent eye for potential and has been instrumental in recruiting effective representatives where there were none before.
Through elevating and supporting talented women to succeed, Nyree has enabled more diverse and thoughtful representation for members. She is a master of collaborative leadership, building effective teams in her West Midlands region and nationally.
Trishika co-founded the Liveable Bursary Campaign and sits on the DAUK Medical Students Committee. She has created many videos, memes and other informal educational tools. Without these often-viral efforts, the campaign would not have reached so many doctors.
Melissa was recently elected on the East Midlands RJDC and has worked tirelessly to ensure members are informed about the consequences of actions they are asked to take.
She has worked hard to alleviate members concerns including work on dispelling myths about patient safety being impacted by junior doctor strikes by collating literature reviews and research. She has notably been integral to the IMG reassurance work.
Becky Bates was another early supporter of the Pay Restoration campaign within the BMA JDC. Involved since the foundation of Medics4PayRestoration, she has used her particular expertise with the GMC on Professional Regulation Committee to ensure that appropriately neutral statements from GMC were proactively sought.
She has also been heavily involved in paving the way for how we approach social media for the campaign. On top of this, she has organised in a tough District General Hospital and uplifted new IMG colleagues and reps.
Remember: a woman’s place is in her union!
Emma Runswick is BMA deputy council chair