Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Knight in shining armour?

Third Sector magazine isn't usually greeted with whoops of joy at WRC HQ, but today was an exception. This week's edition sees not one, not two, but three articles on women's organisations. There's a case study of women's counselling service Threshold, which merged with a larger charity to ensure the survival of its vital services, and a back page comment by Mathew Little on Ealing Council's decision to withdraw funding from Southall Black Sisters (see last week's blog), asking whether it is government policy to curb funding to ethnic groups. Little's piece was entitled: "No cash for ethnic group - is it because they is black?"...

The article that really gladdened our hearts, though, was the opinion piece by John Knight, who is head of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire Disability. Headlined "In praise of women's organisations", the article displayed a real understanding of the women's voluntary and community sector which is as rare as it is refreshing.

"Where public services stop for women, voluntary services start. The importance of refuges and rape crisis centres cannot be overestimated. The plight of women asylum seekers fleeing violence and rape abroad is far too often unseen - by both the public and the state. The work of organisations to raise the profile of these issues and help women establish safe havens here is often done against incredible odds."

We really couldn't have put it better ourselves. Knight mentions not just the services provided by women's organisations, but also the advocacy and campaigning work which is so often overlooked. He writes about the wide range of issues addressed by women's organisations, the importance of International Women's Day, and the wide-ranging impact of the sector's work: "They support, advise and protect many thousands of women every day." He even references WRC and suggests that the lack of funding for women's organisations is a form of discrimination.

How refreshing to read an article by someone outside the women's sector with such a good understanding of the work we do. Three gold stars for Mr Knight.

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