Thursday, 9 December 2010

Facing Our Future - WRC conference a success!

After months of planning, WRC's annual conference for 2010 kicked off on 7th December at Cass Business School in central London - and a great day it was!

The aim of the day was to provide attendees with both valuable information on the current political and economic situation of the women's sector and to provide concrete advice on how women's organisations can best position themselves in the current environment.

To that end, we kicked the day off with some speed networking, to allow the 100 or so women present to meet others from within the sector, before moving to our first panel of the day on the future of the women's sector, where panellists from Navca, the Ashiana network, North East Women's Network and the EHRC spelled out what the next year has in store for the sector and what women working in the sector must do to ensure sustainability.

Following an excellent presentation by Belinda Pratten of NCVO on the Big Society, and what it means for the women's sector, attendees broke into groups for the first session of 'surgeries', on social media, social enterprise and partnerships, with experts from each topic available. The surgeries were a great success, as people got to grips with the big questions behind the topics, and we can't thank enough those who took the time to come and take part in them despite a hectic pre-Christmas schedule!

After lunch and another round of surgeries, WRC's National Equality Partnership (NEP) took to the stage for a one hour panel discussion on equalities and how women's organisations can best diversify. The audience were particularly interested to hear from Camilla Thrush, equality and inclusion manager for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) on how the Olympics had tackled the challenge of ensuring diversity on all levels of work on the games , although she joked that the role didn't mean she could get any Olympics tickets!

It quickly became apparent throughout the day that direct action was where women's organisations want to be. Tired of funding concerns, lack of support and continued gender disparity, throughout the day panellists, speakers and attendees spoke of the need to make the message clear to all - the women's sector must be supported in order for it to continue its invaluable work in helping women across the UK.

Our keynote speaker, journalist and author Bea Campbell, put it best at the end in her inspiring speech to the audience, where she told women present it was not enough for them to be angry about the situation of women in this country.

"You have to be dangerous!" she said, sparking applause from those present.

At the close of the conference and after a successful AGM in which two of our organisation's new trustees were successfully sworn in and we bid a fond farewell to both our chair, Helen Rice, and our treasurer, Lakshmi Raja-Rayan, the attendees spilled out into the main milling area of Cass Business school for drinks, canapes and a rousing performance by all female drumming troupe Foroyaa.
video

WRC would like to thank everyone who took the time to attend the event or to take part for their support on the day. The event was a great success, and while at times there were sobering reminders of the economic, political and social challenges ahead for the sector, we hope here at WRC that the day gave all those present some grounding in how best to help their organisation face the the future.

After all, that is what WRC is here for!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

London Irish Women's Health Day


Stoke Newington’s Church Street has been the home of the London Irish Women’s Centre for almost 30 years and last week, I (Skye Sandhu) went along there to see what was happening for their health day.

London Irish Women's Network provides advice & information on a wide range of issues, including housing, benefits, domestic violence.

Catching up with Caroline from the centre, she described that the primary reason for the awareness, information and advice day was much needed because studies published have shown that joint with Bangladeshi men, Irish (men, women and children) are the ethnicity with the worst health records in the UK. The target audience for the event: mainly elderly women and mothers with young children.

It was great to see they had everything covered from free goodie bags, massages, advisors, health checks and crèche on board, so that women could really engage on their health.

It was a quiet start because of the wet weather conditions but gradually picked up to everyone’s delight! While there, I caught up with Barry from the Stroke Association and Sophia from Hackney Stop Falls Network who were some of the stall holders present and got to hear about the advocacy and support they provide in the Hackney community for elderly women.

Personally for me it was good to go and visit one of our members face to face to see and feed back on the great work they do for the community, so if you have an event or open day- let us know so that we can come to you!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Marching for Million Women Rise in Manchester

By Skye Sandhu

An empowered and energised bunch of women all met up at Stratford, London early one October Sunday morning to travel up to Manchester for the first Manchester Million Women Rise march.

Despite only having one toilet break on the way up there, we were all surprisingly still eager and at full steam to get moving with sisters in the North. We got there in fantastic time (thanks to our driver) to hand out all the banners to the hundreds of women and children gathered in the Castlefield Arena, in the city centre.

Weather was on our side, without a cloud in sight, off we all marched. It was great to see women joining in with us as we passed the streets and the applause from the public watching us as our procession passed.

The day was enriched with warm speeches, singing, chanting, applause, laughter and a strong feeling of uprising and empowerment (not forgetting good food provided by volunteers).

En route back to London if you heard singing amidst the service station loos by Wolverhampton that would have been us - bringing the energy up and down the country all in the aid to end all forms of male violence!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Overcoming barriers for Deaf women

By Skye Sandhu

Recently I was invited on behalf of Deaf Ethnic Women’s Association to attend their AGM as a speaker to talk about the WRC and what it is we do as an umbrella organisation to support the women's sector.

Following on from my presentation, Deaf Advocacy and Justice for Deaf People spoke about the communication barriers for Deaf women and the difficulties this has imposed on Deaf women having access to services, which is a significant issue for these women.

The session really made me stop and think how marginalised Deaf women are (those with various types of hearing impairment). These women still suffer violence and are oppressed by this further because they cannot access the services you and I can. Sadly, services catering for Deaf people are not so easily accessible.

I was delighted, enriched and really made to feel welcome by DEWA. If you are interested in finding out more, DeafSafe + Domestic, Sexual Violence are running a full day Deaf-led conference on the 25th November at the Learning Resource Centre, for further details please email deafadvocacy.justic@gmail.com

Friday, 15 October 2010

We CAN make a difference! - The Abolish No Recourse to Public Funds Campaign.


The Abolish No Recourse to Public Funds Campaign has had a significant impact on women who are covered by this rule and the organisations that support them. The campaign has gone from strength to strength, involving more and more organisations and activists and getting its voice heard within Government. This is a brief look at the birth of the campaign, its achievements and the current situation in the UK:

• In September 2003 no recourse to public funds was raised at the first WRC Policy Forum meeting as an ongoing issue for women.
• This led, in June 2004, to training on women with no recourse to public funds and a strategy meeting around this issue held jointly with Southall Black Sisters.
• In 2006 How Can I Support Her?, a resource pack to help women's organisations supporting women with no recourse, was published by Southall Black Sisters and WRC.
• And in November 2007 the Abolish No Recourse to Public Funds Campaign was launched.
• On 14 January 2008, EDM 693 on Black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee women and domestic violence was tabled by Linda Riordan MP and signed by 113 MPs.
• In March 2008 the No Recourse, No Safety report was published by Southall Black Sisters and Amnesty International UK, detailing for the first time the situation for women trapped by the rule. Parliamentary questions were also asked for the first time about no recourse.
• On April 23 2008 the first mass day of action on no recourse was held. This emerged out of the idea of having a strike as immigration laws and policies were preventing women’s refuges from doing the job they were set up to do, they have to use their reserves, making them unsustainable and they have to turn women away. To reflect this, campaign organisations closed for the day and informed the press and public why. Letters were also sent to MPs and there were actions in Leicester and Belfast. Over 200 people attended a public meeting and silent demonstration outside Portcullis House with women travelling from Sheffield, Rochdale and around London.
• And following this in April 2008 the Home Office made their first proposal on backdating payments for women accessing support.
• In July 2008 no recourse was raised in the examination of the UK Government by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and was a final recommendation to the Government.
• In November 2008 campaign members met with the Home Office to discuss their proposals and began a dialogue around this.
• In January 2009 Southall Black Sisters launched a fund for women with no recourse in London funded by Oxfam and London Councils.
• In May 2009 campaign supporters sent letters and over 10,000 supporter postcards were sent to Alan Campbell MP by Amnesty.
• On 4 November 2009 Amnesty led a mass lobby of Parliament on no recourse. Approximately 200 activists visited 75 MPs with various different responses and follow-up actions.
• On 24 November 2009 Jo Swinson MP tabled EDM 214 on no recourse which currently has 107 signatures.
• On 25 November 2009 the Government’s National Violence Against Women Strategy was launched, which included women with no recourse, and a pilot project to support these women was announced.
• On 30 November 2009 the three month Sojourner Project pilot was launched providing accommodation and subsistence support while applications for indefinite leave to remain are submitted and processed.
• After the campaign group met with the Home Office the pilot was extended until the end of March 2010 and then further extended until the end of August 2010, mid September 2010 and finally the end of March 2011!
• The Coalition Government have continued to express their commitment to find a permanent solution so watch this space!

The Abolish No Recourse to Public Funds Campaign is a good example of how a successful campaign can build from the grassroots needs of women and women’s organisations. The extension of the Sojourner Project is a huge success as this means that more women can be protected and supported to leave abusive situations and receive safety in the UK. But it is still not enough. Many women still fall through the gaps and cannot access this support. Ultimately the campaign is still fighting for the no recourse requirement to be abolished for abused women who have insecure immigration status.

The campaign is also calling on the Government to:
• Provide a permanent and long term solution, enabling all women to have living expenses and access to refuges and local authority accommodation pending a final decision on applications to remain in the UK.
• Reform the Domestic Violence Rule so that all types of evidence of domestic violence are accepted.
• Extend the Domestic Violence Rule to all abused women with an insecure immigration status and introduce similar protection for trafficked women subjected to sexual and economic abuse and to overseas domestic workers experiencing violence from employers.
• Provide adequate levels of legal aid so that there is access to good quality legal advice and assistance.

Please support the campaign by asking your MP to sign EDM 214, signing your organisation up to the campaign statement or joining the facebook group and inviting others to join. And pass on the good news – campaigning can lead to important changes and we can all play our part!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Women and the Conservatives- a conference report

WRC's Policy Officer Rebecca Veazey reports from the Conservative Party Conference!

After 13 years in opposition the Conservative Party celebrated their first recent annual conference with a Conservative prime minister.

Thousands of Conservative supporters gathered in Birmingham 'in the national interest' to discuss the key policies the Conservative Party plans to take forward over the upcoming year.

As part of the fringe events associated with the conference the Conservative Women's Organisation hosted an exciting event regarding 'Women and the Criminal Justice System'.

The event panel included Mary Mcleod MP, the Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Police Reform and Justice, Carlene Firmin, the lead on ROTA's Female Voice in Violence project and Sarah Payne the CEO of YWCA.

Amongst panel members there was unanimous agreement on the importance of women-only services and a holistic approach to female offending. All speakers also discussed the importance of addressing the causes and consequences of female offending and its importance in reducing reoffending rates.

The discussion raised by the panel highlighted the specific needs and experiences of women and girls and their problems in navigating a prison system designed for men. Mary Mcleod, MP, in particular drew attention to the problems of women with mental health issues and the damaging impact prison has on families.

Audience members questioned Ms Mcleod's ability to make a women-centred approach to offending issues a ministerial priority and expressed concerns that this approach was at risk during a period of public spending cuts.

Ms Mcleod responded that she did not know what the outcome would be of the comprehensive spending review but pledged to feedback their comments to the heart of government. In addition, she commented that the effective policy solutions "tend to come from people on the ground who do day to day work rather than politicians" and that said that she was committed to applying and implementing best practice across the country.

"The best solutions tend to come from people on the ground who do day to day work rather than politicians," she said.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Women and Labour - a Labour conference report

Miliband: “the battle for gender equality... in our country is not yet won”

WRC's Policy Officer Rebecca Veazey reports from the Labour Party Conference!

On the opening day of the Labour Party Conference 700 women gathered from across the UK for the Labour Women’s Summit. The first of its kind, the summit brought together female MPs, councillors and party members to think afresh about their party’s policies and listen to women’s concerns.

The annual party conferences are an important event where the political parties review their successes and state their objectives for the year ahead. In light of the recession it is particularly important for our sector to remain informed about political developments and policies that may impact on women’s organisations, our members and future funding.

Proudly proclaimed by Harriet Harman as a 'women-only space' the summit provided a forum for women to discuss gender related issues and share their experiences of British politics. From national policies to local problems attendees expressed similar concerns such as the failure of public authorities to recognise the importance of gender equality and conduct Equality Impact Assessments.

Shadow Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper was a particularly vocal critic of the coalition government’s budget cuts that, according to research by the House of Commons Library, will disproportionately and negatively impact upon women. Ms Cooper pledged that the Labour Party would rally against government cuts of benefits and public services that support women and challenge the Coalition’s plans to introduce anonymity for defendants in rape cases.

Ms Cooper also criticised the government's decision to abandon rape case reform and commented that the Labour Party needed to connect with women in the UK and that female labour MPs could provide them with a vital voice.

The focus of the summit’s debate centred upon the issue of female representation and the importance of integrating women’s views into party politics. Dianne Abbott, the first black female MP in the UK and the first woman to enter the Labour leadership contest, gave a rousing speech on the barriers to female participation in politics and the importance that women stand for political office.

Following speeches from several prominent female politicians, the audience gave a standing ovation to the newly appointed Labour Party Leader - Ed Miliband. In the opening remarks of his speech, Mr Miliband commented that gender equality in Britain had not yet been achieved and that the Labour Party had to be at the forefront of social change.

"I know that the battle for gender equality in our party and in our country is not yet won and I know that is a battle we have got to win," he said.

Mr Miliband also discussed how the Labour Party needed to heal the wounds of electoral loss and identify ways to support and represent women. He commented that he strongly supported positive action to address gender inequality and "absolutely" advocated the use of all-women shortlists to select suitable political candidates. Mr Miliband said that he would relentlessly campaign for gender parity in the Houses of Parliament and promised that his shadow cabinet would reflect the society he seeks to represent.

Following on from Ed Miliband’s speech Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman, pledged that at least eight of the 21 members of the Labour shadow cabinet will be women.

WRC will also be attending the Conservative Party Conference in October to provide you with further information on the key political parties' policies relating to the women’s sector.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Routes to Solidarity for BME women


Charlotte (Policy officer) and I (Skye Sandhu) went up to Leeds a few weeks back to attend Oxfam’s Yorkshire and Humber Routes to Solidarity training session. We gave a presentation on how women’s organisations can make an impact locally using the Gender Duty and other tools, and also discussed WRC’s Power and Prejudice report which was launched on the day of our visit - mirroring what we were working on with our sisters in the North.

The session was well attended by women’s groups from Sheffield, Bradford, Keighley, Leeds and other surrounding areas. The room was buzzing with energy and had there was a clear sense amongst the women of a need for action. Speakers included empowering women such as Alison Lowe, CEO of Touchstone and a local councillor for more than 20 years representing the ward of Armley in Leeds.

It was good to hear Leeds Council talk about their inclusive and comprehensive Equality and Diversity scheme, demonstrating the good practices they have in place, which I think other local councils up and down the country could learn from and in turn improve their equality schemes by benchmarking against it.

During the course of the day, women fed back on their next steps and began forming networks with one another - promoting solidarity in an ever increasing competitive world is a key concern for us at WRC. The women-led sessions I have attended have been transparent and have provided a valuable space for all ideas, questions and issues to be discussed

On the whole, I have every confidence that these sessions, which sadly will draw to an end after the last round in Sheffield in October, are in fact making a positive impact for women across the regions, not only by giving them the tools and knowledge to engage on a local level but also in allowing women to enhance their leadership skills and helping them to build partnerships with other women’s groups.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


NEP Assistant Heather Rogers reports from a recent event:

The 12th June inaugural UNA Forum was a rare opportunity to listen to a range of leading world leaders and thinkers on peace, development and human rights. It was refreshing to see a packed audience of different ages and backgrounds come together to ask questions about the strengths and the weaknesses of the UN and engage in workshops.

Mary Robinson’s impressive speech about the connection between climate change and human rights, gave accounts of the individuals she had met whose livelihoods had been destroyed by climate change. She stressed the importance of not buying into the climate sceptic’s agenda or general climate apathy, and her organisation, Realising Rights, runs a Climate Wise Women Project.

Dr Hans Blix gave an eloquent and thought provoking speech, reminding the audience that the UNA’s aim was ‘not to take us to heaven, but to prevent us from going to hell’. Other speakers included Helen Clark, Henry Bellingham MP, the FCO Minister (with responsibility for the enduring relevance of the UN and UK foreign policy) and Baroness Williams of Crosby.

Our own Policy Officer, Charlotte Gage, also spoke on a panel on Peace, Development and Human Rights - Pressing UN issues for women, about the UN CEDAW Convention and how this is relevant and can be used by women's organisations in the UK. You can see all the presentations here.

The forum was enjoyable, enlightening and enabled members to find out how they could become involved in UNA-UK at a local and national level. I very much hope that the forum will become a fixed item on the UNA’s annual calendar.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Making an impact locally - WRC in Accrington


Last Thursday both Charlotte (Policy officer) and I made our way down to Accrington for a WRC 'Why women?' presentation as part of Oxfam’s Routes to Solidarity project.

The project, headed by project officers Dr Archana Choksi and Sandhya Sharma, aims to support small BME grass roots women's agencies in the north of England to develop and strengthen their policy voice and encourage and enable lobbying activities.

We were invited to present to our sisters up north and engage on the topic of women in LSPs and to draw on our campaigns over recent years. Charlotte was fabulous, as always, with her comprehensive referencing to all the latest statistics and answering questions around how to influence LSPs.

For me, I relished this platform as a great opportunity to come out of London to meet and share resources with other women working in the women’s sector, who lo and behold have the same issues we do down in London (and with the classic, 'don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you' fear factor). Many of our sisters there hadn’t heard of us and so this was a good place to connect with them.

The day was definitely empowering, bouncing ideas around the room with potential solutions to various issues and also over the course of the day seeing them gaining valuable insight and support, in order to hold LSPs to account.

I hadn't expected to meet so many strong women all in one room, with so much potential to make change. It was an aspiring, gratifying and without doubt an eventful day.


The next session will be in Leeds for the York and Humber Region in July.

For more information, contact Archana on achoksi@oxfam.org.uk

Routes to Solidarity Newsletter Autumn 2009 Spring 2010

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Fawcett Society election debate - what about women?


The Fawcett Society held its pre-election debate last night in London, as part of its 'What about Women' campaign ahead of this year's May 6 vote.

The auditorium at the London School of Economics, whose Gender Studies Institute jointly hosted the debate, was packed to the gills with women activists, students and the general public, and many of us from the Women's Resource Centre!

With the prospect of a hung parliament looming, women’s votes count more than ever, and those attending was keen to hear which party would deliver the goods so often promised.

Right from the start the women on the panel, chaired by Fawcett’s chief executive Ceri Goddard, were keen to get their message across that their party was the one for women.

Harriet Harman from the Labour party, Theresa May from the Conservatives and Lynne Featherstone from the Liberal Democrats all gave three minute briefings on their parties' agendas for women, and then the real debate began. (Incidentally, Fawcett is planning to put up a podcast later which we will link to on our @whywomen Twitter account).

By far the most contentious issue of the evening was the Conservatives plans for marriage tax breaks. May defended the proposals as a “recognition of commitment”, but both Harman and Featherstone dismissed the plans as “Victorian values” and “offensive” respectively.

On the issue of improving representation of women in politics, Theresa May said the Conservatives had worked to improve candidate selection processes, while Featherstone said the era of “gladiatorial” style politics had to end. Harman, meanwhile, said that all-women shortlists by Labour had changed the face of parliament.

One of the few questions where there appeared to be cross party consensus was the issue of violence against women. All stressed the importance of working in a non-partisan manner and the importance of education at a young age to prevent attitudes becoming entrenched.

May said women-only services and spaces remained crucial, while Harman said the issue of using DNA to improve conviction rates was important. Featherstone also reiterated the Liberal Democrat pledge to fund more rape crisis centres.

Questions on the Pope's proposed visit to the UK, concerns over the sexualisation of women, support for women's health, equal pay and other issues were also raised throughout the 90-minute session.

Perhaps most importantly, after the event, as attendees spilled out of the auditorium chatting excitedly, many noted now immensely gratifying it was to have such questions top of the agenda and to have key questions on jobs and the economy filtered through a women’s lens instead of being tacked on as afterthoughts.

The high level of interest on Twitter alone (and thanks to all of those who followed our tweets on the night!) showed that many women out there were extremely keen to know what was being set out for women by the parties.

Far too often in the current election campaign, despite all the talk of the "Mumsnet" election, women’s issues have been shunted aside. So it was gratifying to see a robust debate on core electoral issues both by us, for us, and about us.

Developing and nurturing that inspiration is so important not just for us but for future generations of women who want to enter public life. Let’s hope we in the women’s sector will see more of such events to keep the pressure on those who represent us. A big thanks to Fawcett for kickstarting that process.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Success! London local election hustings draws a crowd




Wednesday afternoon saw the Women's Resource Centre, HEAR and Voluntary Sector Forum’s hustings event for London’s Local Elections. The 60-strong audience was made up of representatives of the length and breadth of London’s voluntary and community sector, with an emphasis on the equalities and women’s sectors.

There were four councillors on the panel - Cllr Nilgun Canver, Labour, Cllr Lynn Hillan, Conservative, Cllr Stephen Knight, Liberal Democrat and Cllr Ute Michel, Green Party, and the event was chaired by Emma Scott, director of Rights of Women.

So, once everyone had arrived and found a seat, the questioning began…

“What future do you see for the London Councils grants budget and London Councils’ commitment to pan-London and cross-borough service provision?”

This opening question drew out the commitment from the whole panel to funding the work of the voluntary and community sector (VCS), with a cautionary note around the impact of inevitable spending cuts.

However, there was also recognition that some services are more suitable for being funded on a pan-London basis, whereas some which address more local problems need to be addressed on a borough level.

A question on the VCS’ right to campaign on behalf of beneficiaries and be funded for this work threw up the first major difference between the panellists. While the Liberal Democrat and Green councillors were keen to have this work funded by public money, and the Labour councillor emphasised that this work is not political, but a form of advocacy and so should be funded, the Conservative councillor was in support of lobbyists, but was uneasy about their work being funded through public money.

The equalities questions focussed on issues such as the Human Rights Act and how it can be implemented at a local level, how to balance the need for making services available to the whole community and maintaining specialist skills, and the role of equalities organisations in policy work.

The final section of the hustings focussed on the women’s sector, where we heard from the panel on their commitment to London Councils’ spending of 12% of its budget on the violence against women sector. You can read the full responses of the panel to key issues for the women’s sector in our Q&A sheet

There were further questions on women with no recourse to public funds (from the Women Together against Abuse partnership), licensing of lap dancing clubs (from OBJECT) and on addressing the needs of women ex-offenders (from Women in Prison), all of which elicited thoughtful responses from panel members. You can see photos from the event and some of their responses on video here and we will be putting up fuller notes later on.

All in all, it was great to have a space where London’s VCS could come face to face with councillors and there was a real sense of democratic accountability, as those affected by councillors’ decisions were able to question them directly. We’d like to thank the councillors for taking the time to take part in the hustings and all those who took time out of their working day to come along!


We strongly encourage women’s organisations across the country to organise similar events for future elections. After all, councillors represent you - and you need to both get your voice heard and get your sector’s issues on their agenda!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A WISH for International Women’s Day


Last Wednesday evening I travelled to Harrow to celebrate International Women’s Day with The WISH Centre. WISH provides support and opportunities for women, youth and children who are survivors of abuse, violence and neglect and also works with young self harmers.

It was a very swish affair with tasty Indian food and even party bags to take home! We saw some brilliant examples of the work that WISH do, including hearing a spoken word performance by one of the young men from the B.A.S.H. boys self harm group, and watching a video about self image, and how this is influenced by the media, created by the girls group. We also met some of the young people themselves who spoke confidently and articulately about why they come to WISH. Young women like Steph who was interviewed by BBC Sport Relief in 2008:



A lot of the work with young people involves using multi-media and video and the girls self harm group Girls Xpress have even made their own music video!



You can see more of the photos and examples of how WISH use multi-media on their website.

WISH are also very good at getting in the media with interviews on television and celebrity visits. In fact they are on Sport Relief this Thursday March 18th in the Million Pound Bike Ride documentary on BBC 1, 9-10pm. Comic Miranda Hart visited WISH and Girls Xpress and the documentary features one of the young women, who is now a WISH Trustee, talking about her self harm journey and the support she has received from WISH.

WISH are a great example of using innovative ways to work with young and marginalised people and to raise awareness about the issues that they face with a wider audience through new and exciting media.

WRC ‘wish’ them all the best in the future with their work!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Million Women Rise 2010




Say it once, say it again
No excuse for violent men! Say it once, say it loud We are women, we are proud!

A gloriously sunny (but pretty chilly) Saturday lunchtime saw thousands of women assemble at Marble Arch to join the Million Women Rise (MWR) march, which celebrates and honours “women’s activism, courage and achievements and continued struggle against global male violence in all its forms”. Women had come from as far afield as Cornwall, Scotland and Uganda to take part and all ages were well represented, from babies in prams to women in their nineties. It truly felt like the diversity of the women at the march reflected a wide spectrum of women’s experiences. As we marched down Oxford Street, to chants, songs and whistles, we drew support from the watching crowds of Saturday shoppers, with some smiling, others waving and some even joining the march itself.

Now in its third year, the march always has a fantastic atmosphere, as it’s a rare opportunity for women and women’s organisations to take over the streets and to have their voices heard. It’s always great to see so many of our member organisations continuing the fight for women’s equality and freedom from violence. In the two hours or so that it took us to reach the rally at Trafalgar Square, I’d pretty much chanted myself hoarse, but it was well worth it!

At the rally itself, there was a great range of inspirational women speakers, including Sabrina Qureshi (Founder of MWR), Vivienne Hayes (WRC CEO), Cath Elliott (union activist and journalist) and many other representatives from the women’s sector, both in the UK and internationally. While they all spoke on different topics, there was one overriding message – only through working together, through being sisters, can we hope to start winning the fight to end male violence against women in all its forms. Can’t wait until next year!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

HEAR network event: Personalisation - an equalities perspective

As I’m now sitting at my desk back at the lovely Women’s Resource Centre, the accountable body of HEAR, I realise that I can begin to exhale and breathe again. It has been quite hectic these past weeks to prepare for HEAR’s event on “Personalisation- an equalities perspective”. The entire personalisation agenda is still developing and is very new to a lot of the HEAR members and to the organisations who attended.

What is the entire personalisation agenda about then? Well, in short I would say that it is about choice - users have access to information and advice irrespective of whether they are ‘self’ funded or publicly funded.

It gives people choice and control over their lives, which are important principles that HEAR believes in.

Personalisation is also about finding new collaborative ways of working and developing local partnerships, which produce a range of services for people to choose from and opportunities for social inclusion.

The event went really well - we had a great turnout of people (more than double of the numbers expected), keen on learning more from each other and building on their experiences. I also received a lot of positive and encouraging feedback, which has made me think about what the next step for HEAR could be. It is very important that HEAR continues to stay involved and engages with our members and our stakeholders about how we can best contribute to their existing work.

I'd like to thank the chair, speakers and all the delegates for participating in the event, as well as a big thank you to all of those who assisted in organising this event, particularly Nick, Kate and Devrowe.

By Sarah Johansson, HEAR co-ordinator

WRC at UNISON Women's Conference 2010

Last week, Newcastle hosted around 600 women from all over the country, from Portsmouth to Orkney, for this year’s UNISON women’s conference. I went along with Kimcha, WRC’s Membership and Events Officer, to find out what conference is all about and to let women know about our why women? campaign.

UNISON is the biggest union for the public sector, as well as one of the unions for the voluntary and community sector. This meant that the women were all UNISON members, many were branch women’s officers and most work in either the NHS or in Local Government. The Women's Resource Centre itself is unionised and myself and WRC Policy Officer Charlotte are shop stewards, as well as being elected as joint women’s officers for UNISON’S Voluntary Organisations Branch. We were keen to find out how the union works and how we might be able to use it to take our campaign forward, for example by getting UNISON branches across the country to pledge their support for the campaign and to work to support their local women’s organisations.

The conference itself involves proposing motions on union and women-related issues, with opportunities for delegates to speak for and against the motions, which are then voted on by the delegates. Motions passed by women’s conference then have the possibility of being taken forward to the UNISON National Delegate Conference where they will be voted on by delegates representing the whole of UNISON’s 1.3 million members. The topics of the motions are varied, with the below an example of just a few that were supported by conference:
  • Increased involvement of trade unions in equality impact assessments
  • Lowering the age and increasing the frequency of smear tests
  • Encouraging women to get cycling
  • Free sanitary products for women on low pay.
On Saturday, conference voted in support of the decriminalisation of prostitutes and criminalisation of the buyers of sex, as Cath Elliott reports in her blog. This was the result of the Demand Change! campaign led by Object and Eaves and supported by UNISON Eastern Region. Another interesting motion, put forward by Davena Rankin from the National Women’s Committee, was around the fight against the BNP and the importance of presenting it as not just an anti-racist campaign, but as a pro-feminist one. A selection of the comments made by the BNP about women illustrate the importance of this motion.

Overall, it was a great experience to be at an event with so many women who ‘get’ what WRC and the why women? campaign is about. Having distributed 100 why women? DVDs, we hope that the invaluable work of the women’s sector and the threats it currently faces will be recognised and taken up within the union movement. In solidarity, sisters!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Take part in our survey - and win money!

Fancy winning some money, and in the process helping the women's sector?

With the economic downturn, rising, looming further cuts in funding and a general election due, the women's sector needs more than ever to show the impact it has on women's lives.

This is why here at the Women's Resource Centre we're putting together a report to demonstrate to the UK government the value of our sector and why it needs continued support.

But we cannot do this without you, after all it is the work you do that makes the women's sector such an indispensable asset.

This is why we need you to tell us all about the amazing work you do so that we can present an infallible case for support. Therefore, we have developed a quick questionnaire for you to fill in via the Survey Monkey website, which you can fill our online here

The main themes were are looking at are these:

• the impact of the recession on your work
• bidding for public service contracts
• the work you do to make change in your local area
• the support you get from us at the WRC

It should only take around 15 minutes of your time and would be a huge help. And now the money bit! All completed questionnaires, where full contact details are provided, will be entered into our prize draw. There will be two £100 prizes for your organisation or another not-for-profit or social enterprise of your choice!

Furthermore, the WRC aims to be accessible and inclusive, so if you would prefer, this questionnaire can be completed over the phone. To arrange this, please contact Sue Christoforou (see below for contact details).

Please also send on to friends and colleagues working in the women's sector for them to fill in as well, the more people take part, the firmer the case we can present to the UK government for further support to our sector.

The survey closes 28 February 2010. If you would like to respond to the survey but think you may have problems meeting the deadline, please contact Sue on her details below:

Sue Christoforou, Researcher, Women's Resource Centre
Email: suechristoforou@wrc.org.uk, Ph: 020 7324 3030, www.wrc.org.uk