A SENIOR politician has urged young women and girls not to be put off politics by online abuse ahead of an event to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, was speaking in Durham ahead of an event at the city’s Miners’ Hall.

She was the guest speaker at an event hosted by the Women’s Banner Group, which was formed last year to create a new banner for Durham’s Miner’s Gala.

Ms Thornberry said: “When we talk about International Women’s Day we often talk about famous figures and celebrating them. It isn’t that I don’t think they should be celebrated but International Women’s Day is about all women. There’s an awful lot of women who are never celebrated, particularly the women who are working in the home.

The Northern Echo:

Some of the women involved in the Durham banner group

“The thing I like about the women’s banner group is they did a survey of people they wanted to recognise and some people said famous suffragettes and politicians and trade unionists but most them said their mum, or their nan or a teacher or carer.

“I think that approach is the right one. We are moving on as women but I do think we need to keep the lives of all women at the forefront.”

At the event last night, a film about the banner group– entitled Of Whole Heart Cometh Hope – was shown.

The documentary by Amber Films follows the progress of the group from the start of the project, to last year’s Durham Miners’ Gala, when a patchwork banner, made by women from across the county, was processed.

The Northern Echo:

One section of the banner, which was carried at last year's Miner's Gala

The group is now fundraising to create a traditional painted silk banner to parade at this year’s gala, which takes place on Saturday, July 13.

Despite being a frequent target for online abuse, Ms Thornberry used International Women’s Day to urge younger women and girls not to be put off public life.

She said: “I just push the mute button which is powerful because they are still howling in the wind but I don’t have to listen.”

She added: “I’m not belittling it – it’s serious and it’s something we should address. It speaks to a divided society. At difficult times politicians get abuse and women get more and high profile women get more than anyone else.

“But I don’t want 14-year-old girls to read this an think it’s not for them.

“The other side of it is it’s the most amazing job and a huge honour and love every minute of it. I love the possibility of being able to change our country for the better.

“They have to go for it.”