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Shân Ashton

Welsh Assembly Government

Shân Ashton

Shân was nominated by the Wales Women’s National Coalition

Shân AshtonWhere were you born and brought up?

Born Pontrhydyfen, South Wales and brought up in Pontrhydfendigaid, Ceredigion.

Where do you live now?

Capel Curig since 1973.


2 amazing daughters doing amazing stuff and living nearby, who perpetually inspire me to be better at everything; Very lucky with my wider family & friends too - I would be nowhere without them all, they are my bedrock.

Tell us about you career:

Started out as a general domestic worker/cleaner in hotels and mountaineering centres in Eryri - anything as long as I could be in my beloved mountains and rural Wales. After having children - ran the Cylch Meithrin in Capel Curig, volunteered on the village carnival committee, village hall committee, sat on various committees with Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin to national level.

Went to University as a mature student because I wanted to change things in the world, was fed up with the inequalities I saw around me. Gained a degree in Sociology, did research on gender relations on family farms in Wales and taught in Coleg Normal and the University.

Have been involved in education ever since - am absolutely committed to grass roots learning for change. Had the excellent fortune of meeting Selwyn Williams and the rest is history as they say...he and I set up the Community Development Unit and ever since we have been involved in learning for community development. Community development is the stuff of life for me, my eyes were opened during a visit to Nicaragua many years is then politics became real to me when you see first hand the extreme impacts of capitalism and imperialism, the very real ills these bring on people and planet. I believe we can look more closely at home too.

A madly creative group of women began the Women's Studies Dip/MA in Bangor University, another course / cause and participants that are close to my heart. Despite substantial improvements in women's lives over the last century, it still beggars belief that women earn less and are less represented at decision making levels in a country like Wales, never mind all the other issues...and its about more than simple numbers, its about quality of jobs and life, about equity and opportunity.

What are your interests and hobbies?

Volunteering in my community; helping people with fundraising and more importantly raising community aspirations; gardening when I have time, walking when I have time, reading when I have time.

What are you most proud of?

My daughters; being a part of my community/ies; standing up and being counted; helping set up & running the Women's Studies and Community Development Programmes; knowing people who make you glad to be alive and who will, I know, make Wales and the world a better place to be in.

Tell us something about yourself that nobody else would know?

My life is an open book and I talk a lot (see above!!!) and tell everybody everything, so cannot think of anything in particular.  Well...I can't live in flat places, got to be the mountains - not just physical but psychological too!

If you were an animal, what would you be?

I'd choose one of the following three:
1: a black and white sheepdog - everyone loves them and they seem to enjoy everything and make me happy!
2: a Welsh Cob - such beauty and character, strength and usefulness
3: a Welsh mountain sheep - despite the general reputation, welsh mountains are fierce mothers, brave and hardy with beautiful eyes and very thoughtful

Which three people (dead or alive) would you invite over for dinner?

Three is not enough, so:  

1. Garnedd Wyn Roberts (a local sheep farmer and writer who is interested in everything and knows far more than he realises);
2. Angharad Tomos (kindness and wisdom personified, with deep political understanding and a weaver of culture);
3. Anisur Rahman (a different economist who believes in people's self development and their right to dignity & respect);
4. Marilyn Waring (a feminist economist whose books should be read again by everyone, such insight);
5. Richard Douthwaite (a 'lapsed economist', a man who's ideas on peak oil and the environmental costs of our present production systems should be considered);
6. Nawal al Sadawi  (an Egyptian woman and thinker who questions the 'unquestionable' and challenges the powerful & still manages to laugh and smile);
7. Ben Gregory ( a local and global activist - who just keeps going and going and thinks of all others before himself);
8. Sara & Medi Ashton and Gai Tomos - (all activists in their own way who would contribute so intelligently and sensitively to any conversation and bring newer, younger voices into the process and bring fresher perspectives).

Why did you want be on the All Wales Convention Executive Committee?

I didn't want to be on it but was nominated by the Wales Women's Coalition. It was a willingness to do something for them that brought me to the table. My usual position on these things is on the outside, being ultra critical and cynical. I attended the first meeting and decided to give it a go, am still wary of incorporation into a system that is (with the greatest respect to those who do their best to make it work) better than nothing but flawed and insufficient...hope to contribute to a process that leads to a more inclusive, participatory democracy.

What would you like to say to the people of Wales about the All Wales Convention?

Like most of you I am deeply cynical about formal politics in general, but here is a rare chance for you all to have an input to the debate about getting more powers or not for the Welsh Assembly. Get on the website if you know how to use those things, get hold of the head office by phone and ask for a session in YOUR area / with YOUR community / group so you can discuss more about the implications of any decision made, find out what the Assembly has done for us and what more could it do if it had further powers, unless you demand to be a part of the debate it will go on without you and decisions made without you / your community / region. Don't turn your back on this chance, just make the Convention work harder for you, come to meet you, answer your questions, do research on your behalf, make it YOUR Convention.