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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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Legal changes in Scotland may increase rape conviction rate

By Hazel Robertson, UK Feminista Regional Organiser for Scotland

Something miraculous might be happening in the legal landscape of Scotland.  Lord Carloway finished his review of the Scottish legal system and amongst the suggested changes was a change to corroboration of evidence.  In a nutshell corroboration is a specifically legal caveat in the Scottish system which means that evidence needs to be agreed on by two witnesses or sources. This has long been a quick of the Scottish legal system along with the ‘not proven’ verdict that indicates that there has not been enough evidence- or corroboration of evidence- for a firmly guilty verdict.

So far. So dry. Why is this important?

These oddities of the legal system have conspired to produce Scotland’s dismal rape conviction rate which has stubbornly remained lower than England and Wales’ stubbornly low conviction rate. Obviously, the lack of witnesses to cases of accused rapes makes it difficult to provide corroboration of evidence and ensures a not proven or not guilty verdict. In 2006/07 Scotland’s rape conviction rate was languishing around the 2.9% mark.

In response to Lord Carloway’s report, the Law Society of Scotland’s raised concerns that “Corroboration has been a cornerstone of the Scottish criminal justice system since time immemorial and before such a radical step is taken, there would have to be an overwhelming case for change. In our opinion such a case for change has not been made.”

These sorts of comments are irritating in that they seem to suggest the Scottish legal system is a perfectly stable and effective. Granted the law society of Scotland probably didn’t have rape cases at the forefront of their mind when he made this statement. However, in considering Scotland’s dismal rape conviction rate any change to the legal system which makes it easier for a victim to see justice done is surely welcome.

Although the recommendations in Lord Carloway’s report are very welcome, I certainly don’t want to celebrate this as a victory for women. Anyone who sees that justice is not served because they are in an impossible legal situation of being unable to prove something they know happened, seems like one person too many.

A lot more does need to be done to ensure that rapists are met with the full force of the law. The potential ironing out of the law isn’t the solution but merely the beginning of challenging the lowest rape conviction rate in the country.  Legal solutions are not enough; giant societal and cultural shift are needed in collaboration with reforms in the law.

Firstly, rape myths. Rape myths are prevalent and persuasive in everyday life. For instance, I work in a student advice centre and according to my boss it is definitely not okay to lecture students who come into collect rape alarms about how, if they were to be raped, it would statistically be a friend or family member or, most probably, a sexual partner who will be their rapist. I live in one of Scotland’s safest cities and barring occasional isolated incidents sexual assaults by strangers are thankfully rare. By being afraid to walk alone in the dark or being scared of dark alleys or corners of our city young women here are focusing their fear on the outside and not what could potentially be a dangerous situation in their own home. Of course not letting your guard down within your own relationship is ridiculous but not being afraid to be assertive when negotiating consent is essential for young women and men to master. This advert from the Home Office is aimed specifically at young people and gives a more realistic picture of when personal intimacy can turn into a rape situation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gEftWCG5Ow Share this video with your networks to highlight how important understanding the blurry boundaries of rape is.

Secondly, victim blaming. Newly released figures from the Scottish Government has shown the level of reported rapes rise by 19% during the year 2011-2012, but it is widely accepted that the actual numbers will be a lot higher. Perhaps a reason behind this is that rape is often blamed away on feelings that it was somehow deserved. This is perpetuated by suggestions in the media that drunkenness, dress and previous sexual contact somehow negates a women giving consent. Last weekend Edinburgh was host to Slutwalk, which started in direct defiance of comments made by a Toronto Police man in 2011: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.  Slutwalk has been controversial as some women object to ‘reclaiming’ that term, however drawing attention the completely unacceptable institutionalised viewpoint is very powerful.

There’s a lot that we, as feminists, can focus on as we challenge rape myths and victim blaming, and this way we can be part of the solution to seeing justice done.

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Female statues ‘arm-bushed’ by feminist activists

Guest Post: Chloe Marshall, Armpits4August Collective

1st July 2012: A group of activist feminists meet for the launch of Armpits4August, kitted out with banners, flyers, knitted balls of armpit hair and a map of targets across central London. Their mission: to pin armpit hair on the most beautiful and well-known of London’s female statues. While wool instead of real hair is used to represent our naturally adorned armpits, the message remains the same; women should never feel pressured to remove body hair as we are just fine au naturel.

The Armpits4August collective are not the motley crew they first appear, and each member of the well organised team has an assigned role, from photographing to leafleting and everything in between. With carefully constructed props and signs that leave no permanent damage to the statue, they show careful consideration of the law and greatly minimise the risk of being arrested. Cautious avoidance of hounding security staff pays off, and the strategic, speedy action of the statue installations proves fruitful.

A few tentative steps away from the adorned statues, and the campaigners are soon reaping the rewards of their efforts. Members of the public stroll by and almost always stop to take a second look, and some take leaflets whilst others discuss hair removal. Either way, the message is being communicated loud and clear, and attracts a sizeable crowd at the London Pride sculpture on the South Bank. “We are taking this action to draw attention to the campaign and PCOS” explains Gina Fuller, one of the founding members, “We hope Londoners and tourists see the humour in our action but look to understand its underlying aims.”

Armpits4August is a unique charity event, set up to challenge the cultural expectations of women to be hair-free (apart from on our heads, on which long flowing tresses are preferred). While encouraging all women to take part in a sponsored hairathon by growing their armpit hair for the month of August, the aim is to also raise money and awareness for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). One of the leading causes of female infertility, PCOS affects almost 10% of women and can come with some debilitating symptoms; diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, acne and excessive hair growth to name just a few. Sadly, PCOS has no medical cure, and funding for more scientific research is in dire need.

So, throw away that abrasive razor and show some solidarity with your naturally hairy sisters. If raising your arm leads to a few negative comments, then be ready to raise that middle finger too. Stick it to the man and his hairless doctrine, and raise some cash for a crucial women’s health cause while you’re at it.

To find out more, check out www.armpitsforaugust.com, www.facebook.com/armpits4august or follow Armpits4August on Twitter @armpits4august

Pictures of the action can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/armpits4august/sets/72157630373372600/

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The Unfair Burden on New Mums

By the Valuing Maternity campaign

A lot of people are having a difficult time in the recession – and pregnant women and new mums are getting a particularly hard time of it.

A whole raft of maternity benefits have been axed or restricted. The Health in Pregnancy Grant, Sure Start Maternity Grant, Child Benefit and Tax Credits are all affected, leaving women with less money at a time when they really need it.

We are hearing more reports of employers unfairly – and unlawfully – forcing women out of their jobs. Before the recession, 30 000 women each year lost their jobs because of pregnancy discrimination and the situation is getting worse.

The Government’s plans for changes to maternity and parental leave risk taking us backwards on gender equality. We are seeking to influence these policies to get the best possible outcomes for parents and their babies.

At the same time, frontline NHS maternity services are being cut.

This has to stop. The Valuing Maternity campaign is calling for Government to champion pregnant women and new mothers, not make life more difficult.

We are calling for job security for pregnant women and new mothers, maternity and parental leave that promotes real equality, and services to support a safe and healthy pregnancy.

The Valuing Maternity campaign involves more than a dozen unions, women’s organisations, parents’ groups and advice services. UK Feminista is supporting the campaign. This broad-based engagement reflects widespread concern about the situation of pregnant women and new mothers.

We are asking everyone with an interest in fair treatment of new mums to sign up to the campaign.

We are collecting women’s stories about their treatment at work. Women can use our interactive tool to rate their employer’s compliance with the law. We want to hear what is happening to maternity services locally.

#valuingmaternity

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Northern Ireland Feminists Challenge Boys’ Club in Campaign Against Sexist Ads

By Michael Moore, UK Feminista Regional Organiser for Northern Ireland

When you market a seemingly gender-neutral product in countries where more than half of the inhabitants are female, it is unwise to do so using a campaign that strongly suggests an effort to mock and demean women. People will talk. Britvic Ireland, an Irish drinks manufacturing company whose number of Marketing degrees I will simply assume comfortably outnumber my zero, have missed this point. Their latest advertising campaign for Club Orange is based on the association of oranges, ‘bits’ of which float around inside the passable soft drink, with women’s breasts. If that doesn’t immediately strike you as worthy of derision, I recommend viewing full-length video ad before venturing any further.

 

Having been familiar with Club Orange, occasionally even consuming it, throughout my lifetime without ever having reason to consider myself a casual member of an exclusively boys’ Club, I’m surprised. Suddenly it seems that this catalyst for tooth decay isn’t meant for everybody, which has proven enough to get feminists in Northern Ireland to take action against the “Best Bits in the World” campaign. It also turns out that the activist’s wordplay triumphantly clubs that of Britvic (see photo). The fruity billboards are proving ripe for parody; I’ve heard reports that quite a lot of them throughout Belfast were adorned with strategically placed cut-out bananas. The ads were reportedly restored to their intended appearance within hours, speaking volumes about which set of bodies is deemed exclusively worthy of crass objectification in our patriarchal society. Apparently the ‘humour’ being pleaded by Club Orange’s Facebook profile in response criticism of the campaign has rather underwhelming limits.

 

So feminists in Northern Ireland have begun to take a stand against that ever-present foe, glib sexist advertising. The anonymous culture jamming of the Club ads is a much more visible manifestation of the kind of frustration that prompted many to contact the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) around eighteen months ago to complain about Largo’s Hunky Dory crisps. Their campaign mocked women’s participation in typically male-dominated sports by reducing it to its potential for titillation. Unfortunately, the ASA ably assisted Largo by stalling and excusing until the company had got more than its money’s worth. They revived the campaign before too long, allowing contemptibility in advertising to fight another day.

 

We aren’t quite defacing the precious property of advertisers yet, and we certainly aren’t wasting our time with the ASA again. What we are doing, as ever, is organising. A new campaigning group, Action against Sexist PR, has been set up by students in Belfast (thanks to Aisling Gallagher for the above photo!) Offending images are being gathered and strategies are being outlined to encourage the public to take a more critical view of sexist advertising. Get involved – talk to us on Facebook, Twitter or via email.

 

Get inspired, skilled up and sharing ideas at the Feminist Future Activist Training in Belfast, hosted by UK Feminista’s Northern Ireland Regional Organisers.

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