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The Power of Association, by Naila Kabeer

The power of association: reflecting on women’s collective action as a force for social change

Guest post by Naila Kabeer, Professor of Development Studies, SOAS University

 

We live in an era of growing individualism as the doctrine of the free market takes hold in country after country across the world. The only form of power celebrated by this doctrine is the power we exercise as consumers, a very limited form of power for most of us since it depends very directly on how much money we can bring to our desire for consumption. While Thatcher’s view that ‘there is no such thing as society, there are only individuals and families’ may have been replaced in the UK by Cameron’s rhetoric about ‘the big society’, both are motivated by a similar hostility towards the state and a similar refusal to acknowledge our collective responsibility for each other.

 

Flying in the face of this rising tide of individualism is the very different notion of power embodied in the continued collective efforts of women across the world to bring about change in their own lives and in the societies in which they live. The power of association and collective action, its capacity to transform the lives and livelihoods of marginalised groups, particularly poor women in poor countries, has been a continuous thread running through the history of these countries. It has also been one of the constant themes in my own research on gender issues in development over the last 25 years or so as I have struggled to understand what it is about collective action that gives it its transformative power.

 

There is an uplifting element to collective action. I was reminded of this when I attended the twelfth International Forum of the Association of Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) held in Istanbul earlier this year.  Over 2000 women attended – many more would have come if the conference venue could have accommodated them. What was uplifting about the forum was the sheer diversity of issues around which women – and men – across the world were organizing: from the struggles of Kurdish women to the fight-back against anti-trafficking laws by sex workers’ organisations, from women struggling to find their voice in the trade union movement to the disability groups’ demand for recognition and rights.

 

What was equally inspiring were the efforts of the conference organisers to be as inclusive as possible, to ensure respect for difference. It is one of the commonplaces of the women’s movement that ‘women are not a homogenous category’, that they are divided by their class, race, location and all the other markers of difference. That they can nevertheless come together and gain strength from gatherings of this kind is testimony to the power of a shared and inclusive politics.

 

Such gatherings are important. They remind us that what appear to be isolated struggles against seemingly insuperable odds are part of a worldwide movement for change. They provide the energy that people need to embark on such struggles and sustain them over time. Shaista Gohir, Executive Director of the Muslim Women’s Network, UK, and part of the MUSAWA movement, was quoted in Open Democracy earlier this year as saying: “When I began reading and looking for answers, I used to think there were only one or two other women who thought like me. Now I know there are millions’. Versions of that sentiment must have been expressed not only by many of those million women she is talking about, but by many, many others over the history of the women’s movement as they discovered the power that comes with not being alone.

 

One of the panels I attended at the AWID Forum was in fact organised by MUSAWAH.  MUSAWAH, which means equality in Arabic, was founded in 2009. It describes itself as a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. As MUSAWAH points out, men’s authority over women within the Muslim marriage contract rests on their responsibility as family breadwinner. Yet the reality is that across the world, men appear increasingly unable or unwilling to discharge these socially ascribed roles. MUSAWAH plans to use the life histories of ordinary men and women in 11 countries across the world to show the disconnect between Islamic law and the everyday lives of men and women and to use new forms of feminist knowledge to engage with classic jurist interpretation of Muslim family law. The ultimate aim is to reconstitute Muslim family law along more egalitarian lines.

 

A much older example of women coming together to challenge injustice is that of the Self Employed Women’s Association in India. It was founded in 1972 in reaction to the refusal of the Textile Labour Association to fight on behalf of the casual larger female workforce that provide labour to the textile mills. While SEWA began out as part of the women’s wing of the Textile Labour Association, its refusal to remain within the confines of ‘social welfare’ programmes usually assigned to women, and the willingness of its leaders to speak out on behalf of women workers from the ‘untouchable’ castes, led to its expulsion from the Association and the beginning of its journey to becoming the largest organisation of women workers in the informal economy in the world.

 

An important part of its struggle for the official recognition of its status as an organisation of workers has been conceptual: battling against trade unions and government bureaucrats who defined workers and workers’ organisations in terms of their relationships with identifiable employers, not by their struggles with a range of different actors, including middlemen, subcontractors, police, local government officials  and municipal authorities,  all of whom had the power to determine how these women fared in their struggle for bread and dignity.  Today SEWA has over a million members spread out across the different states of India but it was only in 2007 that it was finally granted official status as a national trade union.

 

The sheer power of numbers is one obvious dynamic through which collective action works.  “We are poor, but so many” is the title of a book about SEWA. Or as women in a grassroots organisation in Bangladesh put it: ‘one stick can be broken, a bundle of sticks cannot’. But I am also interested in some of the more subtle transformative dynamics that seems to come into play when women come together around some common agenda. One insight into this is to be found in the Report of the National Commission on Self-Employed Women in India brought out by the Government of India: ‘women’s engagement in collective action to claim rights and resources not only generates bottom-up pressures on the structures of power, but the process of self-organising can have a transformative effect on women’s sense of selfhood, their confidence in the public domain and their ability to negotiate the terms on which they sell their labour’  (Government of India 1988) . What is significant here is the recognition that that the exercise of collective agency by subordinate groups has an experiential value of its own, quite separate from the instrumental value of achieving tangible goals. This point is made in many different contexts. Analyzing the power of collective action, the Swedish feminist researcher, Maude Eduards said: ‘it can be a liberating, identify-shaping, empowering process, a confirmation and a strengthening of the self’ (1992: 96). It was also made by Ma Wai, a Burmese migrant worker in Thailand who participated in a strike by her factory: ‘ I have learnt what it means to win. It is not about the outcome but to win is to dare to start the fight for your rights’.

 

Some forms of collective action may be spontaneous but many have a long history of effort on the part of committed organizers before women like Ma Wai ‘dare to start the fight for their rights’. This is particularly true when the women and men in question occupy very marginal positions in society and where collective action may be fraught with risk.  In the case of Ma Wai, the support came from the Migrant Assistance Committee, a small NGO in Thailand, who worked with Burmese migrant workers, men as well as women, to inform them about their rights and to provide them with the legal support to fight for them.  Burmese migrants in Thailand have a highly precarious status: they come from ethnic minorities who have fled the repressive military regime in their own country and have reason to fear anything that might lead to their deportation. It was the solidarity offered by MAP that provided migrants with the courage and solidarity that formed the basis of their willingness to take action.

 

One of the problems that MAP faced was that many years of brutal military repression in Burma had meant that most migrant fled to Thailand with no experience of collective organisation. My own research in Bangladesh has been with organisations that faced a different version of this challenge, that of creating a sense of injustice among women who believed that their lesser worth as human beings was a matter of divine will, their biological inferiority or simply ‘the way things have always been’. I have sought to understand the alchemy that transforms the resignation to their fate once expressed by many of these women into the courage and willingness to fight for their rights.

 

These are all organisations that work with women and men from low income households to promote their collective capacity to protest injustice and fight for their rights. Of special significance in the context of Bangladesh is the fact that these groups offer their members the possibility of a chosen affiliation instead of the given affiliations of family, kinship and religion that have defined – and limited – their social interactions for much of their lives. In some of my early encounters with these groups in the 1980s, many women told me that these group meetings were the first time since they got married that they were addressed by the name they had been given at birth instead of being referred to as their husband’s wife or their son’s mother.

 

What emerges out of my research is that the changes brought about by these group activities do not follow some linear trajectory whereby women go from a state of powerlessness to one of empowerment. What emerges instead is a variety of different processes and critical moments – in the lives of individual women and of their groups – that interact and spark off each other until they solidify into a coherent movement for change.   Some women drop out along the way, while others join. The development of a critical consciousness is an important part of this process, the realization that the injustices that they experience in their daily lives does not have to be accepted in unquestioning silence but can be discussed, debated and challenged.  The knowledge that that the constitution of their country acknowledges their equality before their law helps to reinforce this process, however qualified this acknowledgement may be in practice.

 

Such knowledge and self confidence in turn sows the seeds of grassroots leadership at village level so that these women become a resource for others who want to advice, support  and guidance. Over time, many of these women have become active leaders within their communities, protesting corruption on the part of government officials, demanding justice for victims of rape, acid attacks and other forms of male violence, demanding that they get paid a fair wage for their labour. With the introduction of political quotas for women in local government, a number of these women have stood for and won elections. Bangladesh has made remarkable progress on a number of gender-related issues, including maternal mortality, female education and political participation. Grassroots mobilisation by women’s groups of the kind that I researched is an important part of that story but it has taken many years to build up this kind of momentum.

 

At the same time, there is evidence to suggest that many important forms of change can be brought about by women’s collective action over a shorter period of time. Let me conclude with some examples of this. The Millennium Development Goals were adopted by the international community in 2000 to co-ordinate its efforts in developing countries. By adopting the reduction of maternal mortality as one of its 8 goals, the international community has helped to highlight the dangers that women in the world’s poorer countries face in giving birth. The difficulties of achieving this goal, described as one of the hardest to reach, has served to demonstrate the intransigent nature of the obstacles that have to be overcome.

 

Yet there are some remarkable stories of progress from Colombia, Nepal and the poorest states of India, all of which highlight the power of association. In all three contexts, the interventions focused on using participatory learning methods with women’s groups. The achievements have been significant in terms of bringing down infant and maternal mortality rates and, in the case of one intervention, reducing maternal depression. Unfortunately because of the quantitative nature of these studies, we do not really know a great deal about the alchemy at work that allows such changes to take place. What we can safely say is that there is something about the nature of the relationships built through participatory group learning processes that appear to overcome barriers to safe motherhood more effectively than the more conventional health-worker led approaches.

 

References

Government of India (1988) ‘Shramshakti. Report of the National Commission on Self Employed and Women in the Informal Sector’, New Delhi: National Commission of Self-employed Women.

Maude Eduards (1992) ‘Against the Rules of the Game. On the Importance of Women’s Collective Actions’, in M.Eduards, I. Elgquivst-Saltzman, E. Lundgren. C.Sjoblad, E. Sundin and U.Wikander (eds), Rethinking Change. Current Swedish Feminist Research, Upsalla:
Swedish Science Press.

Naila Kabeer and Lopita Huq (2010) ‘The power of relationships: love and solidarity in a landless women’s organisation in rural Bangladesh’ IDS Bulletin  Vol. 4 Issue 2: pages 79-97.

Naila Kabeer (2011) ‘Between affiliation and autonomy. Navigating pathways of women’s empowerment and gender justice in Bangladesh’ Development and Change Vol. 42  Issue 2: pages 499-528.

Naila Kabeer, Kirsty Millward and Ratna Sudarshan (Forthcoming) Organising women in the informal economy: beyond the weapons of the weak. Zed Press: London.

 

For more information about Professor Naila Kabeer’s work visit www.nailakabeer.com

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‘Making Feminism Fashionable’ – guest post

Guest post by Tania Shew, member of  Camden School for Girls Feminist Club.

 

I had never set a trend at school before. But against all odds I am part of starting one now and, even more astonishingly, it’s a feminist one!

We at the Camden School for Girls 6th Form Feminist Club (which does include boys too!) have designed and started selling ‘This is What a Feminist Looks Like’ t-shirts at school to raise money for women’s charities. We originally ordered just 50 t-shirts in the hope that between our friends and family we might just be able to break even but we ended up selling out entirely within just three days and are having to order another batch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only have we already raised £350 for charity but we have also started to visibly spread the word of feminism out into the wider school community. Even though in a recent poll conducted by our school magazine, 50% of students said they were ‘put off by the term feminism’, everyday i’m seeing a new group of friends proudly parading the t-shirts around school and i’m warmed to see how many girls outside of fem club are so eager to label themselves as feminists.

Camden School Feminist Club

 

As part of our publicity for the t-shirts we held a feminist fashion shoot. Boys and girls, from year 7 to year 13, and even a couple of teachers all volunteered as models in the name of both fashion and feminism.

 

 

 

 

 

This has got me thinking about what other ways we could incorporate these two, seemingly quite different, movements. Our school has already had a ‘no make-up day’ to encourage us girls to love our natural beauty and think about how societal pressures can affect our everyday life. We could have a feminist cat-walk I suppose, but apart from the t-shirts, i’m not sure what other clothes would constitute as feminist? Whatever we come up with next, i’m beginning to see how making fashion feminist can make feminism fashionable.

Tania Shew

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A message from Helen Pankhurst to UK Feminista supporters

Yesterday I retraced the steps of my great-grandmother, the suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, by taking part in UK Feminista’s land-mark Feminist Lobby of Parliament. 106 years ago Emmeline lead a lobby to demand votes for women. Today our demands are different – but the struggle for justice for women remains as urgent and vital as ever.

That is why I was honoured to join hundreds of women and men at Westminster yesterday, with many more showing their support online. We marched, we sung, and we talked to MPs about the vast inequalities women experience today.

For one day, the corridors of power were packed with women and feminist discussions were literally echoing around the Houses of Parliament. Our voices were also heard much farther afield. The lobby was featured on BBC News at Ten, Channel 4 News, CNN and Sky News – amongst many others. You can see a full round-up of media here.

I wanted to ask if you would be willing to help celebrate what we achieved yesterday and invest in future feminist actions – with a regular contribution of just a few pounds a month?

Click here to give a donation of £3 a month – or whatever you can afford to UK Feminista: http://ukfeminista.org.uk/support-us/donate/

Perhaps the most inspirational part of yesterday for me was meeting women who had never met an MP before. By coming together at UK Feminista’s lobby, they gained the confidence and know-how to speak to their MP and demand action on women’s equality. Now that they have done it once, I am convinced that many will do so again.

That’s why I believe UK Feminista has such an important role to play. It is a rare organisation indeed that has strong feminist views, shares the empirical and analytical basis of these in a very clear way, and then focuses its energy on empowering people with the skills, training and confidence to create a better world.

UK Feminista is run on a shoe-string budget. It is mainly powered by the pure passion of its supporters and staff. But it needs funding to run inspirational events like yesterday’s lobby and to continue training the suffragettes of today. A monthly donation means the staff team can keep this important work going and plan for the year ahead.

Sign up now to sustain UK Feminista by giving a monthly donation via Direct Debit or Paypal: http://ukfeminista.org.uk/support-us/donate/

Yesterday was amazing. But we need to sustain this fantastic momentum to secure justice for all women. Let’s make sure that happens.

With warm wishes,

Dr Helen Pankhurst

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Media round-up: Lobby of Parliament

On 24 October approx. 400 women and men from across the country descended on Westminster for our Feminist Lobby of Parliament. They were joined by Helen Pankhurst, great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, as well as the ‘Olympic Suffragettes’. The campaigners were calling on MPs to stop the growing attacks on women’s rights and to start driving progress on women’s equality forwards.

Read our press release.

Media coverage of the Feminist Lobby of Parliament:

 

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Press release: ‘Suffragettes’ to descend on Parliament

WED 24 OCT: ‘Suffragettes’ to descend on Parliament

Photo-call: Olympic Suffragettes, Helen Pankhurst and MPs taking part in photo-call on Parliament Square: 13:00, 24.10.12

 

As the child sexual exploitation convictions in Rochdale and other towns reveal widespread abuse of girls, and as evidence grows that Government cuts are hitting women hardest, suffragette leader Sylvia Pankhurst’s granddaughter, Dr Helen Pankhurst (1), will lead UK Feminista’s mass Feminist Lobby of Parliament (2) this Wednesday 24 October – 106 years after her great grandmother, Emmeline, did the same.

She will be joined by over 200 women and men from around the country who will meet face to face with their MPs to call for urgent action on women’s equality. The lobby will feature a performance by the ‘Olympic Suffragettes’ – a group of women who performed as suffragettes in Danny Boyle’s 2012 Olympics opening ceremony earlier this year (3), as well as speeches by Yvette Cooper MP, Caroline Lucas MP and Amber Rudd MP.

Women and men at the lobby will be calling for urgent action by MPs to stop a growing tide of attacks on women’s rights. These include the disproportionate and disastrous impact of Government cuts on women’s equality and moves to restrict access to abortion (4). Lobbyists will also demand a range of actions by their MPs to tackle violence against women; improve the representation of women across society; promote equality in the economy, work and family; and ensure justice and rights for women (5).

84 years on from women finally winning the right to vote and feminism today remains an unfinished revolution:

  • Women are outnumbered four to one in parliament
  •  The full-time pay gap is 15%, and 40% of ethnic minority women live in poverty
  • Up to three million women and girls in the UK experience rape, domestic violence, stalking or other violence each year
  • The costs of childcare in the UK are amongst the highest in the world

Also taking part in the Feminist Lobby of Parliament are a broad range of leading women’s organisations, including: the Fawcett Society, End Violence Against Women Coalition, British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Women for Refugee Women, Daycare Trust and Object.

 

Dr Helen Pankhurst said:
“In the century since the Suffragettes lobbied parliament much has changed for women, yet age-old inequalities persist and new forms arise. Lobbying parliament today is as urgent and vital as it has ever been. Politicians and other leaders can and must do more to tackle the serious injustices against women that persist – and the human rights violations that they contribute to – and that continue to thwart our potential as a society. Women and men coming together on one day in a mass lobby of parliament is a perfect way to remind our leaders that we expect more from them – they can and must do more!”

Elli Moody, Policy and Campaigns Manager at UK Feminista, said:
“Progress in parliament on tackling women’s inequality isn’t just slow, in some areas it’s gone into reverse. Abortion rights are under threat and the Government’s cuts are eroding women’s economic independence. All too often women’s equality is treated as a side issue in parliament, yet it is fundamental to building a better society. Feminism should be at the heart of British politics. “The problem is not a lack of practical solutions. We have decades’ worth of research and evidence on how to drive forward progress on women’s rights. The problem is a lack of political will. On 24 October women and men from across the country will issue an urgent wake-up call to parliament: it’s time to stop the attacks and start pushing forwards.”

 

For more details and to request interviews contact elli@ukfeminista.org.uk or kat@ukfeminista.org.uk, 07775 855037

Notes to editors
1. Helen Pankhurst is the great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/21/women-rights-march-on-parliament. On 19 February 1906 Emmeline Pankhurst led hundreds of women to the Houses of Parliament to lobby MPs on learning that the new Government had not included women’s enfranchisement in its programme – as announced in the King’s Speech.

2. UK Feminista supports people to campaign for a world where women and men are equal. Established in 2010, UK Feminista has quickly become one of the leading national voices of feminism and a powerful campaigning force: www.ukfeminista.org.uk. The Feminist Lobby of Parliament takes place on Wednesday 24 October. The order of the day is as follows:

  • Rally: 11:00-12:30, Church House, 27 Great Smith Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AZ. Featuring talks by Yvette Cooper MP, Caroline Lucas MP and Amber Rudd MP, as well as a performance by the Olympic Suffragettes.
  • Photo-call: 13:00-13:30, Parliament Square, City of Westminster, London. SW1P.  Present at the photo-call will be Helen Pankhurst, the ‘Olympic Suffragettes’, supporting MPs and lobby participants.
  • Lobby: 14:00-16:00, Houses of Parliament, London. SW1A

Towns and cities that constituents are travelling from to join the lobby include: Alnwick, Ashburton, Birghton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Doncaster, Dudsbury, Great Yeldham- Halstead, Leeds, Macclesfield, Newcastle upon Tyne, Norwich, Nottingham, Oldham, Oxford, Rickmansworth and Southampton.

3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/aug/19/olympic-suffragettes-rights-march-parliament?intcmp=239

4. The Coalition Government’s austerity agenda has disproportionately affected women and abortion rights have come under sustained attack in parliament over the past two years. Most recently, Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, called for a reduction in the abortion time limit and anti-choice MP Jeremy Hunt has been appointed Secretary of State for Health.

5. Constituents at the lobby will ask their MPs to take the following action:

Help ensure every school plays their part in preventing violence against women and girls: ‘Talk to schools in your area about the importance of tackling violence against women and girls in schools and write to Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, asking him to make prevention work in schools a priority in his department.’

Take action to end the stereotyping, objectification and sexualisation of women in the media: ‘When the Leveson Inquiry report is published in November, show support for action to ensure that the press does not discriminate against women.’

Take a stand for urgent investment in childcare for all: ‘Write to the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, asking him to restore the childcare element of Working Tax Credit to previous levels and to ring-fence funding for Sure Start children’s centres. Talk to your local authority about the need to invest in Sure Start and affordable childcare as a priority.’

Take action to ensure justice for women seeking asylum: ‘Show leadership in challenging the culture of disbelief in the UK Border Agency and call for free quality legal advice and representation for all women seeking asylum so that women fleeing persecution receive fairer decisions on their asylum claims.’

Protect reproductive rights and support an abortion law for the 21st century: ‘Commit to speak out in support of the right to safe, legal abortion for all women and for reform of the 1967 Abortion Act to extend it to Northern Ireland. Take action to prevent anti-choice protests from continuing outside abortion clinics where women’s safety and privacy is threatened.’

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Watch our new films

We’ve produced a series of four unique films looking at key areas of gender inequality – and what the solutions are. The films feature interviews with inspirational campaigners and organisations and have been released ahead of our Feminist Lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 24 October, when hundreds of women and men from around the country will descend on Westminster and call for urgent action on women’s rights.

Watch them, share them, and start taking action!

If you would like a DVD version of the films please email lobby@ukfeminista.org.uk

 

Where are Women’s Voices?

 

Justice and Rights for Women

 

End Violence Against Women and Girls

 

Shortchanged: Why Work Isn’t Working For Women

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Comment on proposals for new cosmetic surgery advertising code

Responding to proposals for a new cosmetic surgery advertising code (1), Elli Moody, Policy and Campaigns Manager at UK Feminista (2), said:

“The restrictions to cosmetic surgery advertising proposed by BAAPS represent the bare minimum of change needed. Measures like prohibiting cosmetic surgery adverts in public spaces would go some way to containing the damaging messages this advertising sends out. However, the Government needs to go further and crack down on cosmetic surgery advertising all together, as France did in 2005.

“Cosmetic surgery adverts are a public health hazard. Their sole purpose is to persuade people to undergo medically unnecessary invasive surgery in order to boost profits. The ads ruthlessly prey on women’s widespread unhappiness with their bodies, making false promises of confidence and self esteem. They also frequently portray surgery as quick and easy and recklessly trivialise risks that include post operative infection, blood clots and, in rare cases, death. It is crucial the Government brings the rules for cosmetic surgery in line with those governing prescription medicines, which cannot be advertised.”

 

For more information or to request interviews contact Elli Moody: elli@ukfeminista.org.uk

 

Notes to editors
(1) Today the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) announced their submission of a new advertising code to the regulator CAP (the Committee of Advertising Practice), which sets out policies for the Advertising Standards Authority. It focuses on protecting young people from unethical advertising practices by cosmetic surgery clinics. However, BAAPS continue to call for an outright ban on cosmetic surgery advertising in all its forms. http://www.baaps.org.uk/

The government is currently consulting on the cosmetic surgery industry, including the way cosmetic surgery is advertised.  UK Feminista will be submitting evidence to the review calling for an outright prohibition on cosmetic surgery advertising.

(2) UK Feminista supports people to campaign for a world where women and men are equal. www.ukfeminista.org.uk.

UK Feminista’s report, Cut it Out – End Cosmetic Surgery Advertising, is available to download here: http://ukfeminista.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Cut-It-Out-End-cosmetic-surgery-advertising.pdf

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Student feminists – get your Freshers’ Pack!

Are you part of a university feminist society, or are thinking about setting one up? Then order your very own UK Feminista FRESHERS’ PACK.

It’s a bumper little pack containing:

  • Three (not yet released!) activist training films to screen to members of your group
  • Guides on running an effective group
  • Feminist stickers to give out at Freshers’ Fair
  • Postcards & stickers to help you build for the Feminist Lobby of Parliament in October
  • A DVD of our new End Violence Against Women film
  • and MORE…

How to order your pack: email activist@ukfeminista.org.uk with details of your group (if it’s already running) and where you want the pack sent to.

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March for a Future that Works

Guest Post by Scarlet Harris, TUC Women’s Equality Officer

On the 20th October, hundreds of thousands of people will be marching through London calling for a “future that works”.  After two years of rising unemployment, savage cuts to public services, attempts to unpick our employment rights, attacks on the bodies created to safeguard and promote equality, and the dismantling of the NHS and the welfare system, the future looks decidedly bleak.

Let’s not forget that this is just the tip of the austerity iceberg.

In case you’re in any doubt that this is a feminist issue, consider the following facts:

  • Women’s unemployment is at its highest level in 25 years (1.12m).
  • On an average day in 2011, Women’s Aid had to turn away 230 women due to a lack of space.
  • In 2010, the Women’s National Commission was abolished by the Coalition government.
  • An analysis of the June 2010 budget by the House of Commons Library found that that women will pay for roughly 72 per cent of the net cost of the changes in taxes, benefits and tax credits set out in the budget.
  • Under government proposals, a woman who has been discriminated against at work will have to pay over £1000 to take her case to a tribunal.
  • 281 Sure Start centres have been axed since the election.
  • Many maternity units are being closed and midwife numbers are being squeezed.
  • Research commissioned by the TUC showed that as a result of cuts introduced in the 2010 spending review, single mums would lose 18.5% of their net income and single women pensioners would lose 11.7%of their net income.
  • In 2010, the drop in the number of women employed by all councils in England and Wales accounted for 66.4% of the total drop in employment in councils.
  • In 2011, there were 19 councils where the drop in the number of women employed accounted for 100% of the total drop in the numbers employed in those councils.

Some of the cuts which have a clear impact on women include the abolition of the Health in Pregnancy Grant, a three-year freeze in the value of Child Benefit, in addition to the withdrawal of Child Benefit from women living in a household where one adult is a higher rate taxpayer, the abolition of the Baby Element of Tax Credits, a reversal of previous Government’s commitment to introduce a Toddler Tax Credit, a cut in the proportion of childcare costs that are covered for families eligible for Working Tax Credit, from 80% to 70% of costs, a three-year freeze in the value of Working Tax Credit, significant cuts to Housing Benefit, and a cap on the total amount of out of work benefit that a family will be entitled to, which will mean that large families experience greater losses.

This is just the beginning. The government has signalled that it will slash another £10 billion from the welfare budget.

Decent jobs for decent pay are a feminist issue. Affordable childcare is a feminist issue. Women’s pensions are a feminist issue. Protection from discrimination is a feminist issue. Equal pay is a feminist issue. Properly funded VAWG services are a feminist issue.

Join the March for a Future that Works and make your voice heard. Sign the pledge and tell your friends why you’re marching. Add the twibbon to your Twitter or Facebook profile. Join the event on Facebook. Most importantly, be there. Bring your kids, bring your friends, bring your mum, bring your colleagues, bring a homemade banner, bring your marching boots.

For more information about the route, accessibility, transport and other logistics, check the website.

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Review into cosmetic surgery industry launched

Responding to the announcement of a Government review into the cosmetic surgery industry, Elli Moody, Policy & Campaigns Manager at UK Feminista, said:

“We welcome Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of the cosmetic surgery industry. For too long there has been a dangerous lack of accountability and regulation of this industry. Crucially, the review offers a vital opportunity to stamp out the unethical and aggressive advertising techniques deployed by the cosmetic surgery industry. These adverts are a public health hazard. Their sole purpose is to persuade people to undergo medically unnecessary invasive surgery in order to boost profits. By frequently portraying surgery as quick and easy, they recklessly trivialise risks that include post operative infection, blood clots and, in rare cases, death. Cosmetic surgery adverts also ruthlessly prey on women’s widespread unhappiness with their bodies, making false promises of confidence and self esteem.

“UK Feminista will be submitting evidence to the Government’s review calling for a prohibition on all advertising of cosmetic surgery on the grounds that it trivialises the real health risks of cosmetic surgery, promotes medically unnecessary surgery and exploits poor body image.”

Read UK Feminista’s report, Cut It Out: End cosmetic surgery advertising here.

For more details and to request comment contact Elli Moody on 07910 835 578 / elli@ukfeminista.org.uk

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