IN celebration of International Women's Day (IWD), Rebecca Blake, Labour's parliamentary spokesman for Redditch, took a group of 11 women to London for a tour of Parliament.

She said the event, which takes place annually on March 8, was the perfect excuse to bring local women together to learn more about democracy and discuss relevant issues facing women.

She said: "Given most people are not aware that they can visit Parliament and have a free tour of the Palace of Westminster, it's important to me that our seemingly inaccessible institutions are made more accessible to local people.

"The first time I took a group of women for IWD I received great feedback and was delighted to repeat the trip with another group of local women. I was especially pleased that for one woman it was her first visit to London."

Rachael Smith, from Batchley, said: "Our trip to Parliament was one trip I will remember for a lifetime, it was interesting and insightful."

Ms Blake said that after the tour the group had a chance to discuss relevant issues facing women, including the pay gap between men and women.

She added: " We also discussed domestic violence which tragically still sees two women a week killed at the hands of their partner or ex-partner, and the disproportionate effects upon women associated with the rising cost of living.

"As well as raising issues affecting women, IWD is a good time to commend women who are very often the people who are holding families and communities together."

IWD is celebrated annually and is recognised by the UN. Countries across the world mark the day by celebrating the achievements and inspiring the next generation of women, including taking time to look at issues that disproportionately affect women.

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