Friday, 13 November 2009

Putting CEDAW into action: Global South/North exchange

Yesterday, around 60 people turned out for our WRC/ WOMANKIND Worldwide event on putting the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) into action.

The main attendees were from women’s organisations around England, including: Rise, Women @ the Well, Brighton Women’s Centre, Women’s Networking Hub, Sparkhill Asian Women’s Association, Her Centre, SERICC, FORWARD, The Fawcett Society, the Daphne Project, Sandwell Rape and Sexual Violence Support Service, WILPF, Women's National Commission and more.

Other attendees included human rights groups: British Institute of Human Rights, UNA-UK, Oxfam, UNIFEM UK… and even a delegate from the Metropolitan Police!

Speakers were women from front line (Rape Crisis, South Africa) and second tier (Institute for the Defense of Women’s Rights, Peru) women’s orgs from Nepal, Ghana, Peru, South Africa and Zimbabwe. These women have been using CEDAW to mobilise women locally and lobby their own governments for changes in women’s lives around sexual and reproductive rights, violence against women, sexuality, social and economic rights, political representation, and much more.

The participants extracted learning from these experiences for application in the UK – with a focus on making CEDAW relevant to women and actually being able to use it here. We looked at opportunities and challenges, and ideas for individual organisations, WRC, other partners and the government to take forward.

Key messages include:
  • There is a hunger to learn more about CEDAW
  • CEDAW is the framework within which all our work sits, in that it is soley concerned with women and has as its core equality, non-discrimination and obligation for state parties to eliminate discrimination against women
  • Women’s organisations and government officials need training and information on CEDAW, especially in the regions (i.e. outside London)
  • We need to think about some test cases, especially for future use of the Optional Protocol
  • This needs to be properly funded work, both at an individual organisation level (e.g. orgs to include a budget line in each funding application for lobbying) and at a second tier level (i.e. coordination of shadow reports)
  • The process of writing shadow reports needs to be truly democratised to allow for the widest range of input from diverse women and their orgs
  • It is so important to mobilise, work and lobby together
  • It is good that we have started NOW in preparation for 2012.
It was a very inspiring and humbling event – there is a LOT that we can learn from our sisters in the Global South. Maria Ysabel from Peru closed her speech by saying “we are here because your fight is my fight, and my fight is yours”.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Can celebrities help women's organisations to tackle violence against women?

Celebrities have a huge presence in our everyday lives, but should they be doing more to highlight the issue of violence against women? Do we, as women’s organisations, need their support?

Some of the biggest news stories of the past few months have been violence against women cases that involve celebrities, either as the victim or perpetrator. In the US, the conviction of singer Chris Brown for the assault of Rihanna has highlighted the issue of domestic violence with a younger audience. Roman Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland and pending extradition to the US for outstanding sexual assault charges has sparked debate internationally. Back in Britain, Katie Price’s claims that she had previously been raped by a fellow star have been widely reported.

Despite all these cases, and others, only a few celebs have explicitly spoken out against violence against women. Many, like Keira Knightley, have supported violence against women organisations by taking part in their advertising campaigns. It’s undeniable that having ‘celebrity endorsement’ of your work is really useful for raising awareness and encouraging donations.

However, there is a shortage of high profile women who are willing and able to talk about the underlying gender equality issues that are vital to understanding and tackling violence against women. Sometimes, when celebrities do talk to the media about violence against women they do more harm than good (Helen Mirren, anyone?!).

The only star I can think of who seems to really talk about violence against women as a human rights violation is Nicole Kidman (UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador), who acknowledged the links between the film industry’s portrayal of women as sex objects and violence against women during an address to US Congress last month.

So, do we need a ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ for violence against women organisations in the UK? Who would be your first choice?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

WRC lobby MPs about women with no recourse to public funds

Ange Jones, Networks and Policy Officer at the National Equality Partnership, tells us about meeting her MP:

I met with Diane Abbott, my MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington, as a part of a mass lobby organised by Amnesty for its No Recourse to Public Funds campaign (in partnership with other women’s organisations, such as Southall Black Sisters and WRC).

I’d never taken part in a mass lobby before. I have to say, I think it is a very effective model for, in the very least, getting a quick and direct response from MPs on whether they are willing to support a particular issue.

Seeing other activists having tea or sitting on benches with their MPs, added to my drive to get a good result. Diane, as many had told me, was supportive of the issues and she agreed to two key asks of three, one of which was to speak with Harriet Harman about the proposal that government are reshaping on a solution for women with no recourse.

Amnesty supplied us with lots of good information and I got to meet another woman passionate about women’s equality who lives in my area during the process – so all in all a successful visit to Westminster!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Women's Cafe: An online network for the women's sector

Exciting news people! After months in the cooking, we launched the Women's Cafe at our AGM last night.

The Women's Cafe is an online network for women working in the women's voluntary and community sector. So if you're working in a women's project (staff, volunteer or trustee) come and join us!

Women are using the network to:

  • Find other women interested in similar issues
  • Provide each other with information, advice and support on campaigning, research and other topics
  • Co-ordinate campaigns and working groups with other women across the country
  • Share their experiences, expertise and best practice examples
Want to find out more? I've put together a Step by Step guide to the Women's Cafe (PDF). Or just go to the Women's Cafe and sign up!*

(*to make sure the network stays relevant and safe, all members will need to be approved by us before joining. Shouldn't take too long though!)

Thursday, 15 October 2009

WRC at Feminism in London

P1100282, originally uploaded by ctrouper.

WRC were at the Feminism in London conference last weekend. It was a vibrant and exciting day with a diverse range of workshops and discussions and some practical sessions such as self defence. The day opened with Susie Orbach asking important questions about contemporary women’s bodies and how they are shaped by the beauty industry, and included panel discussions on racism and sexism, and prostitution, which were powerful and raised many important issues for women and the sector.

We made lots of new contacts and were mainly promoting the lobby of parliament on November 4th for women with no recourse to public funds, and the Rape Crisis campaign. It was great to see so many feminist and women’s organisations packed into the busy hall. We were sharing a table with Pink Stinks and you could buy back issues of Spare Rib from the Feminist Library, as well as find out about the next Million Women Rise March.

Women had come from across the country including some all the way from LGBT Youth Scotland, and there was a real sense of working together and building a movement. Exciting times!

Friday, 25 September 2009

How social media meets our strategic aims

I've done a couple of presentations to charities about our use of social media. Last night I went to the NFPTweetup (a meeting of people in charities who use Twitter) and someone took a picture of my slide. Sometimes charities who are new to social media find it difficult to justify (to their colleagues or managers), so I thought it might be useful to see our reasons.

The NFPTweetup is a great, friendly event. It was fantastic to see a couple of other women's organisations there, including Mina from Rights of Women and Ann-Sophie from Rosa. They're held about 4 times a year, so look out for the next one!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A gendered perspective on climate change

We have all been hearing a lot about climate change recently – for some this may mean reducing our carbon footprint by pledging to recycle more or not fly, for others this is such a huge issue that we may feel powerless or be waiting for the government to make changes first. This is seen as an issue that affects us all but does it affect some of us more than others?

Globally, women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to our different social roles and status. In the UK and other developed countries, increasing costs for energy, transport, healthcare and nutrition are likely to affect women more than men. In developing countries, women are already suffering disproportionately more as a consequence of climate change.

Unfortunately many campaigns around climate change do not take this into account and ignore the fact that their campaign actions may also disproportionately affect women. For example asking us to recycle more, turn down our thermostat, buy organic produce and wash at 30 degrees are all actions which women, the majority of the time, will be responsible for.

There is a rich history of women being involved in environmental activism and luckily there are various women’s organisations that are still raising these issues and working on climate change. From the Women’s Environmental Network and the Women’s Institute’s work with their members, to Wise Women, to the Climate Rush, who recreate great Suffragette actions with a new agenda; as well as all the women’s organisations that have environmental policies and are working sustainably as part of their work with and for women.

There is also a new campaign which aims to have cut UK emissions by 10% in 2010. The 10:10 campaign is just beginning but there is a chance for women’s organisations to get involved and profile their environmental work. Contact for more information.

Climate change is an issue that will effect us all but we must make sure that gender is not an afterthought to this movement and that women are not shouldering the burden of responsibility – Take action now, this is only the beginning!

Friday, 31 July 2009

Visiting the Bronze Woman

The Bronze Woman, originally uploaded by Women's Resource Centre.

On a WRC away day, we made a little 'pilgrimage' to the Bronze Woman monument in Stockwell, London.

The Bronze Woman is many things – she is the first public monument of a black woman in England, a symbol of the contribution of Caribbean, and indeed all, women to society and proof that people who have the courage to pursue their dreams can inspire others to great achievements.

It's a truly beautiful sculpture and the result of a lot of hard work by a group of very committed people. Visit it!

Government ignores UN targets on tackling discrimination against women

Last July, the UK Government was assessed by the UN's CEDAW Committee on their track record on gender equality, and was found wanting. As a result, the government is required to report to the Committee this month - twelve months on rather than the standard four year reporting cycle.

However, on the last day of July, we have seen no signs of such a report. Meanwhile, there are still women in this country who are unable to access a place of safety when escaping a violent relationship. These women have no choice but to return to violent partners or become destitute.

In the one year on report, the government is required to include information on how it has ‘incorporated all provisions of the Convention’ into the Single Equality Bill, announced by Harriet Harman in June 2008. However, to date no measures have been taken by the government to incorporate the Convention into domestic law.

The CEDAW committee also expressed concern over funding to the women’s voluntary sector in the UK and have requested that the government report on this.

So... where is the report? Read more here.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Celebrating women with roses and grants

Last night, the WRC team was out in force to celebrate Rosa's first birthday. Undaunted by the tube strike, people turned out to hear which projects had been given funding in Rosa's first round of grants.

Rosa is the UK fund for women and girls, and their first grants will go to the Powerhouse, Mimbre, and Feminist Webs for their work on body image. The guest speaker, Susie Orbach, spoke powerfully about the impact of the beauty industry and cultural pressures on women, girls and increasingly men, calling it a "real public health emergency". Fourteen year old Omena Osivwemu from the Feminist Webs project spoke movingly about her hopes for the project and the importance of feminism to her and other young women.

The atmosphere was celebratory and this carried through to the amazing "Celebrate Her" embroidery, where people could dedicate a rose to a woman they wanted to celebrate (by making a small donation, naturally). The roses looked beautiful and they'll also be transferred to Rosa's online rose garden, so everyone can see!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Women's organisations get tweeting!

Well, I've been away for a few weeks and have only just caught up with all our various communications. I've been particularly pleased to see more women's organisations embracing Twitter, Facebook and blogs. You can really see the difference in the way they can reach out to their supporters and new audiences - spreading campaign messages as well as interacting and responding to people's comments, concerns and input.

In the last week, Newham Action Against Domestic Violence (@NAADV) has tweeted about their new service for young people (would have been even better with a weblink for people to follow). Women's Aid got namechecked in a tweet from Sarah Brown (@SarahBrown10). If they'd retweeted it (twitter-speak for forwarding a post), their supporters would have known about this high-profile fan too. And I've been chatting on Twitter to @Bell_Bajao, an Indian organisation with an incredibly interactive website, campaigning to end domestic violence.

Do you know any other women's organisations using these or other online tools really well? Post in comments below or send me a tweet (@whywomen)!

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

A busy week at WRC

Phew! Last week was a busy one for WRC, with the evening launch of our new research followed by a full-day conference.

On Monday evening, the WRC team travelled to Westminster, where we welcomed guests from across the women’s sector, the wider voluntary sector, MPs and representatives from the UN. The purpose of the event was to launch our new research, Not just bread, but roses, too, which maps the women’s sector across England, with an emphasis on funding to the sector (or lack of it). We heard from Dubravka Siminovic (former chair of CEDAW) and Dr Nicola Brewer (chief executive EHRC), who drove home the importance of funding to the sector, especially with regard to the obligations set out by CEDAW.

As if all that excitement wasn’t enough, on Tuesday, we welcomed over 100 delegates (in partnership with EHRC) to the Human Rights Action Centre, where we enjoyed a day packed full of opportunities to hear from experts on CEDAW, participate in workshops and to make a start on women’s sector strategy for CEDAW 2011. There’s a full report of the conference on our website, along with links to some the organisations that attended and information on further action. The sheer numbers and enthusiasm at the conference made it a truly inspiring (if exhausting) experience!

If you missed out on these events, we got pretty snap happy, so why not take a look at our photos?

Together we’re seizing the opportunities of CEDAW!

Monday, 9 March 2009

WRC joins the Million Women Rise march

The drums, the whistles, the chanting, the sea of red banners... Women marching down the centre of Oxford Street on a busy Saturday afternoon to mark International Women's Day... Bemused (and sometimes supportive) shoppers and workers looking on - including a standing ovation from the Toni & Guy hairdressers... Women's organisations coming together in solidarity from across the country... Together we can end male violence against women...

The sun shone on this year's Million Women Rise march and the atmosphere reflected that - friendly, together, positive - despite the serious messages and placards. There was a real sense of reclaiming space from the shoppers, mannequins and advertising slogans as we marched through Oxford Street and Regent Street.

The atmosphere became more sombre at the rally following the march, where people gathered to listen to inspiring and moving speakers. Some told incredibly moving tales of survival and recovery, others read messages of solidarity from across the world, still others recounted the horrific violations of women taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sri Lanka.

Anna from Object spoke about their actions to combat the increasing objectification of women, a speaker from the Women's Institute spoke about domestic violence and the fact that rural women often bear the brunt of the postcode lottery in violence services, and Ruth Bashall spoke about the abuses perpetrated against disabled women worldwide and the solidarity and strength they provide to each other. All the speeches were translated by the indefatigable sign language interpreter.

For a great sense of the march, see this fantastic video by warriorgrrl. See our pictures here and some other fantastic pictures by Jess McCabe here.

One woman. One body. One song. One love.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Happy International Women's Day (or Weekend)!

It's that time of year again, when (some) of the world's attention turns to women. There are loads of actions, events and celebrations going on. Here are just a few things you can do:

* MARCH! Million Women Rise - thousands of women will march through central London tomorrow in an act of solidarity and protest against male violence against women.

* CELEBRATE! Take some time to think about the women who have inspired and encouraged you in your life. When you've done that, why not let them know? Give them a call, bake them a cake, write it on your blog or Facebook page, shout it from the rooftops - whatever will make them feel valued. You could even make a donation in her honour to your favourite women's organisation - Rosa (the UK women's fund) lets you dedicate a donation to a special woman in your life by giving her a special rose in Rosa's online garden.

* CAMPAIGN! Lobby your local council for better provision for women who have experienced violence. Go to and use the template email there.

At 1.10pm today, hundreds of people changed their Facebook statuses and twittered messages about violence against women in Britain, after AmnestyUK sent out a call to action. You can see the Twitter messages here.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

A brief guide to Twitter for women's organisations

There’s been a lot of noise in the media about Twitter recently and you could get the impression that it’s just for self-promoting celebrities. But what is less reported is how useful it can be for charities and campaigns. WRC has been using Twitter since October 2008 and we (well, I) love it and think it could be a great tool for other women’s organisations.

From a very personal perspective, I like Twitter because people only get your updates if they’re actually interested in hearing from you. If they don’t find you interesting, they won’t follow you (or not for long). You can send out quick notices, let people know about interesting news, events or comments – all without cluttering up people’s inboxes. And you make contact with (and build relationships with) people you didn’t even know existed. It breaks down institutional barriers and opens up your organisation to supporters, potential supporters, peers and even policymakers.

What else can you do?

How to get started
Have a look at this ‘Twitter in plain English’ video (although it mostly explains Twitter’s benefits to individuals rather than organisations) and then this presentation. Then sign up to Twitter and find some people to follow (i.e. receive their updates). One way is to follow me, then see who I follow and if you’re interested in them, follow them too. There’s a list of charities on Twitter here, or try some US women’s organisations to see what they’re doing.

One last thing... I asked my 'followers' if they had any tips for women's organisations new to Twitter and here are some I received...
There’s so much more to say, but I hope this gives you a taste. As Christine Burns pointed out to me, Twitter encourages brevity, but if you want to know more, tweet me!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Seizing the opportunities of CEDAW!

In July 2008, the UK Government was disgraced when re-examined by the CEDAW Committee and were found to be wanting in their commitment to women’s rights. The UN said the UK Government has not kept up with their part of the bargain after signing up to the CEDAW Convention in 1981.

The Committee made 84 recommendations to the UK Government, including providing increased and sustainable funding to women’s organisations, raising public awareness about the Convention and upholding the Gender Equality Duty in terms of women only services. This was great news for the women’s voluntary and community sector and these recommendations can, and should, be used by women’s organisations to support arguments about the value of their services. CEDAW is a crucial tool that women’s organisations can use to lobby for funding, cooperation and new legislation to further the cause of women’s equality.

The next time the UK will be officially examined will be in Geneva in 2011 and we hope that there will be a full contingent of women’s organisations present and involved in the process to make sure that their voices and needs are listened to and acted on by the Committee and the UK government.

In order to prepare for 2011 we want to get the message out to women’s organisations across the UK – women need to be aware of, and be able to use, CEDAW in their core work and to strengthen their organisations, especially at a time when the women’s sector is so under threat.

2009 is the 30th anniversary of CEDAW so WRC have organised an event – Seizing the opportunities of CEDAW – on 24 March and are encouraging women’s organisations to come to learn more about the international instruments that are there to help them and to be able to hold the government to account. We also hope to create a sector-wide strategy for 2011 and to involve as many women as possible in this.

If you would like to find out more or get involved please contact us and join our e-news, Facebook group or Twitter to keep updated.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Hackney funding seminar

Earlier today, the development team (and one policy team member!) found themselves in Hackney for the second in a series of local funding seminars which form part of WRC’s Building Futures project. The audience consisted of women from a number of organisations, from Hackney and the surrounding boroughs, who were keen to find out about the various options for sustainable funding.

The first speaker was Eve Oldham, commissioner for Older People’s Services in Hackney, who explained how the commissioning process can work for the voluntary sector and gave a step-by-step guide to the process, from invitation to tender through the to the awarding of the contract. Next was Pippa Judd, Counselling Services Manager at the Threshold project in Brighton. Pippa gave an insight into the challenges of partnership working, from her experience of having to merge with a larger, generic organisation due to loss of funding.

After a quick tea break, we heard from Em Ekong, director of Urban Inclusion, who talked about social enterprise and how it can work for the women’s sector. Em emphasised the importance of thinking creatively when it comes to thinking of possible income generation ideas and that while commercialisation is not appropriate for all organisations, it certainly is something which is worth considering. Finally, WRC’s Supriya Horn gave a short introduction to the world of fundraising from individuals and emphasised that this is a source of funding which is currently underused by the women’s sector. The formal presentations were followed by informal roundtable sessions with the speakers, where the women attending got to ask their own questions and network with one another.

All in all it was a very successful and inspiring morning, which one delegate described as “brilliant and loaded with info!”. Look out for details of our next funding seminar in Tower Hamlets on Friday 13th March!