You won't have missed the upsurge of political organisation among women in the UK in the last few years, on issues ranging from housing and the environment to abortion and period poverty. But you may not have considered how these campaigns managed to gain momentum and what goes on behind the scenes, away from the media spotlight.
Well, according to Labour MP Jess Phillips, WhatsApp is owed much of the credit. Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Phillips said that unlike Twitter, the free encrypted messaging app had played a pivotal role in bringing female activists together by giving them a safe space to discuss ideas and experiences, and coordinate future action.
"There is a shift in the way women organise themselves across all ages in the last few years," she said. "Women need spaces to feel they can speak and they can organise together and WhatsApp has created that in a virtual world." Case in point: the June parliamentary debate to change abortion laws in Northern Ireland, which Phillips said had been "almost exclusively" arranged by MPs, including herself and Labour's Stella Creasy, via WhatsApp. She also cited two groups of women in her Birmingham Yardley constituency of which she is part: one with 180 Muslim women and another with 56 Somali women. "I can get a message out to the community through these WhatsApp groups in seconds."
Ahead, five women tell Refinery29 how they're using the messaging platform to push for change.