Southwark has the highest rate of female genital mutilation in the whole of the UK.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but there's no medical reason for this to be done.
7,000 women in our borough are believed to have undergone FGM - including over 8% of Peckham and Camberwell women.
Not enough is being done in Southwark. The Council has an FGM strategy but does not set aside any funds specifically to engage with and support communities affected by FGM. There is also no long-term plan, even though the prevalence of FGM is way above the London and national average.
Women’s Equality Party Southwark believes that tackling FGM and supporting survivors needs to be prioritied. It’s an urgent issue that can only be addressed hand-in-hand with survivors.
To highlight how critical this is, we will be partnering with Peckham-based anti-FGM activist Sarian Karim Kamara to hold “Southwark Against FGM”.
Sarian is the founder of Keep the Drums, Lose the Knife, a community interest group that provides educational workshops for communities and professionals, and support groups and confidential counselling sessions for survivors.
This one-day event will bring together local communities affected by FGM, the general public, and public sector representatives such as teachers, health specialists and councillors. Sarian believes everyone needs to be educated about FGM and that it shouldn’t be a taboo subject.
Held in Peckham Palms, an organisation led by and created for black women - this event will be free, open to everyone and will include:
- An introduction to FGM and Sarian’s work
- A panel session, sharing personal stories along with an open discussion between survivors, supporters and specialists
- A talk from the brilliant Leyla Hussein, founder of the Dahlia Project and co-founder of Daughters of Eve
- A chance for local communities and survivors to discuss other issues of inequality they experience
- A chance for people to have confidential discussions with Sarian about FGM
- A discussion of what can be done in the future
Sarian runs a charity called Keep the Drums, Lose the Knife and has three key goals:
- Provide education and create awareness about FGM for everyone
- Stop FGM and make it clear that it is illegal and in fact, child abuse
- Provide confidential support for survivors
Whether you’re a WEP member or supporter or not... this event will be an important and eye-opening chance for you to support the fight for equality for all women.
WE hope to see you there!
Seidia Musa - Events Assistant
I’m currently studying politics and business management at Queen Mary and am delighted to be involved in something so close to my heart. Women’s equality is something this party embodies and I’m thrilled to be able to help with growing the party and hopefully getting as many people involved and interested as possible. I have high aspirations with what can be achieved through helping plan events to make this possible.
Sabina Pieper - Events Assistant
Hello! My name is Sabina Pieper and I’m the new deputy events manager. I work as a full time artist and hope that I can bring some of my creativity to this role. Events should bring people together so they can share ideas, their personal experiences and information, all of this hopefully in a fun setting. As well as spreading the word that WE are here, I hope that the events that we create will be informative and educational and thereby driving equality and cultural change forward. It’s good to get together!
Claire Webb - Campaigns Officer
After two years as co-leader of the Southwark branch, I decided it was time for a new challenge! As Campaigns Officer, I'm keen to make sure we're making a real difference in Southwark. The first thing I'll be focusing on is the council's new Violence Against Women and Girls strategy. If you have any expertise in this area, I'd love to hear from you. If you think there is something we should be campaigning on, or you're keen to get involved in local campaigns, please drop me a line at [email protected].
There are still some other positions up for grabs! If you are interested in being our new comms person, or our treasurer, drop us a line at [email protected]
Why am I standing?
I came across the party back in April 2017. When I heard about it, I instantly knew this was my new political home. I read the website with excitement and said to myself, “finally, a political party that I can get on board with”. I immediately expressed interest in the next meeting! It turned out they were due to hold branch elections and so by the end of June I was Comms Lead for Southwark.
This, without a shadow of a doubt, has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I feel so privileged to have worked alongside the women in this committee and all our wonderful supporters and volunteers. Our local election campaign last year? What a success.
Why such a success?
A brilliant team
Sheer hard work
Well, I can promise you that in spades.
So, why me?
I’m great at talking, I’m excellent with words. I do it for a living. But when it comes to those words being about me? I shudder. So, in preparing this I looked at some of my Linkedin recommendations:
“It's wonderful when Rachel joins a meeting, arrives in the office or generally gets involved in anything, the levels of heightened enthusiasm, belief and humour that infects the full team.”
Hopefully that resonates?
“She champions a strong team work ethic and is laser focused on deadlines and results.”
Hopefully that too?
I can honestly say that I have never worked with anyone who has such a passion, drive and enthusiasm for their role (and just for life in general!)
OK, you get the point.
What are my commitments?
What I’m using a bit of amateur PR to articulate is the following:
- I am so ready and so excited about this potential next WEP - step
- I plan to instill a sense of project management to our work
- I commit to you that I’ll ensure we collaborate together, with other branches and other Southwark based organisations to create significant impact
In the words of Southwark Community Action Network: “how well do you really know your borough?” I want this question to guide us. Mandu, our new leader recently wrote about three of her key priorities and I want to echo them, as they are particularly pertinent to helping us truly getting to know and be known in Southwark:
- Grow our members; I would personally take on accountability for setting targets here. This is about creating awareness in new communities > engaging those communities, through events, campaigns, initiatives > converting these individuals into active supporters > finally, converting our supporters into active members and committee members. I want to take a data driven approach to this, with regular tracking and adjusting of our approach if needed.
- Connect with a wider range of people; We haven’t cracked this yet and I’m personally very motivated to doing so. I plan to finalise and implement a survey for our members and supporters for further understanding of our audience. I plan to strengthen our connection to our BAME Caucus and create an actionable strategy for engagement in our communities, with transparent reporting.
- Increase impact; Again, in the words of our new leader, “our power lies in showing up and speaking out”. I want us to start thinking strategically about how we use our time, money and resources. What events/campaigns/initiatives can we deliver that will create the greatest impact in our borough, aligned with our policy areas?
Our constitution states that we are:
- Non - partisan
- Diverse and inclusive
- Making change happen
It’s time for us to create a strategy, an action plan to deliver results against that strategy and be bold enough to measure those results, even with they are difficult to hear.
It’s time for us to seriously commit to better representation in Southwark and that starts right here with us.
Finally, it’s time to collaborate and connect. We need to hold the political power structures of Southwark to account, while collaborating with those who’ll listen and engage.
Who’s with me?
Applications to stand as the Greater London Assembly (GLA) Constituency candidate for Lambeth and Southwark are now open.
We have already selected our Mayoral candidate, Professor Sue Black, and amazing London-wide List candidates for the GLA Election in 2020, so now we must select a candidate to represent the Lambeth and Southwark super-constituency.
To apply you need to complete the application form for candidates by Wednesday 29th May 2019 and notify either branch that you are interested in standing.
Contact us at:
1 May 2019
16 May 2019
Webinar for anyone interested in standing – details to follow soon
29 May 2019
Deadline for completing application form
9 June 2019
Shortlisting interviews – only if more than 5 applications received
12 June 2019
List of potential candidates announced
22 June 2019
Important meeting for all to attend! Hustings, to hear about all the potential candidates, followed by the vote by secret ballot – reminder that only members can vote in our elections - venue TBC
26 June 2019
Announcement of the first ever Lambeth & Southwark Constituency Candidate!
Why should I apply?
This is a truly fantastic opportunity to stand with us and do politics differently. The decisions the Greater London Assembly makes are responsible for key aspects of London life, from transport to policing and the environment. By being part of the Assembly you can make a real difference to women’s lives. The process of putting yourself forward and standing as a candidate is an opportunity to gain invaluable experience in politics, and learn new skills, in what is always a supportive and inclusive environment. It’s a chance to get active, put your voice out there and stand against the two party politics that is currently putting our country and our community in crisis.
How do I find out more?
We’ll be holding a webinar on Thursday 16th May, this is a great opportunity to ask questions from people who have stood as candidates in previous elections and find out more about what the role and the election process.
What should I do now?
If you’d like to become a candidate, take a look at our key dates above and put them in your diary. You will need to complete an application form; this process is overseen by WE Central Office who determine whether you are eligible to stand in an election. Please let us know you are putting yourself forward for the Lambeth and Southwark Constituency Candidate, either when you have submitted your form or when you have heard back from Central Office that you are able to stand.
WE want to do politics differently, to do this we need to represent the diversity of London better. We want to hear from candidates from all backgrounds and we actively encourage women who are BAME, LGBTQ, disabled or from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply. If you’d require additional help or financial support in your candidacy, please let us know and we will help in any way we can.
The deadline for applications is Wednesday 29th May, with a Q&A webinar taking place on Thursday 16th May, we can also answer any questions you have by email or arranging a phone call. Depending on the number of applications we receive by 29 May we may hold a shortlist selection day. The final step is to hold a hustings and vote meeting to select our final candidate on Saturday 22nd June. All members at the meeting will be able to vote by secret ballot, we are aware that not everyone will be able to attend this meeting and apologise that at this stage we can’t open voting out more widely, but electronic voting systems are too expensive for our small branch funds.
So what does a London Assembly Member do?
The London Assembly scrutinises the Mayor’s plans and policies on policing, transport, housing, the economy and more. The Mayor is the voice of the capital and is accountable for making the city a better place for all its residents. As the most powerful directly-elected politician in the UK, it’s important they are held to account for how their decisions and policies affect women by Assemby Members, as well as others.
As well as policy scrutiny, Assembly Members must be consulted by the Mayor on strategies.They also act as champions for Londoners by investigating issues that are important to the capital. Issues are investigated and policy is developed by cross-party committees.
Overall, the Assembly can press for changes to national, Mayoral or local policy. Being a London Assembly Member is a full-time, well-paid position. Take a look here to find out more https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us
Let’s start with a story:
During the First World War, women worked in munitions factories. During their breaks they started to kick a ball around. They very quickly organised themselves into football teams; factory teams playing other factory teams. Teams even started touring. By the time the men returned from war, the women's games were attracting crowds in their 10,000s: more than the men’s. Then, in 1921, the FA banned women’s football. Yes, you did read that correctly. They banned women from playing on FA pitches, or working with FA coaches and redirected sponsorship to the men’s game. And they didn’t lift the ban until 1971, killing the game for 50 years.
Let’s fast forward to July 2017:
Lewes Football Club launched a ground-breaking campaign. Equality FC aims to level the playing field for women and we were delighted to welcome Karen Dobres (Campaign Manager) and Katie Rood (Lewes FC Player) to tell us more! Lewes FC is the only club in the world to pay the women’s team the same as it’s men’s team.
Karen began by telling us that sexism in football is so ‘normal’ and hard to notice that any deviation from the norm tends to make news. With most other football clubs (obviously unlike their male counterparts), semi pro or non league female players don’t get paid to play and they have to pay for travel, training, uniform etc. Even those in the highest league get paid in a year what their male counterparts get paid in a week. Unlike most other football clubs too, both male and female teams play at the Lewes FC grounds. Arsenal Women do not play at the Emirates Stadium but in Borehamwood. A much harder location for fans to reach.
As Lewes FC is 100% community owned (now with 5 more additional ‘club owners’ from the Southwark branch!) they are led not purely by profits but by creating value in the wider sporting community. For example, they have written an open letter to The FA, questioning the gender - based difference in the FA Prize Cup. Their match posters also come with a message: they feature inspirational women from the away team’s locale. This is about respecting and sharing an understanding of the challenges faced by the opponents too.
Lewes FC thus has the freedom and the desire to question why female players are paid less. At the time, the women’s matches were attracting crowds a third of the size of the men’s teams. Therefore sponsors were willing to pay less as they’d be reaching a smaller audience. This of course makes sense. But Lewes FC went further … and questioned why the smaller audience.
“Was it because people didn’t like watching women play football? Was it because women didn’t like playing or watching football? Was it because women weren’t as good at football as men?”
The story at the start should give some helpful context. Since the 70s men’s football has monopolised interest and attention. From then on it was seen only as a men’s sport. Given the history, Karen “can’t see why the women’s game shouldn’t become as popular as the men’s.”
Consider this: smaller crowds = less sponsorship = less money for women’s footballers. So, one of the key solutions is simple: go and watch women’s football.
Karen tell us that Lewes FC Ladies are strong, agile and determined and here in the UK are playing in the second highest league. She also tells us about when she went to watch her first women’s football match at Lewes:
- She found she was genuinely interested in the technical footwork displayed by the ladies team
- She enjoyed the camaraderie and the freedom of being part of a big crowd
- It was refreshing to see young women using their bodies so powerfully, with an ‘in it to win it’ attitude.
Society and the media tells us that women and girls can’t be strong and men and boys can’t be vulnerable. So, it’s important that little girls see this sport as a viable option for them and little boys see it as an obvious option for girls, too.
There is also an economic reason for supporting more equality in football: diversification! Commercially, it’s beneficial to make sure both ‘products’ are given equal resources and opportunities to thrive. This has proven a clear opportunity to generate incremental revenue, by giving equal support to women’s football. For example, the Equality FC Campaign has actually generated commercial interest in the whole club.
Katie then shared her journey to Lewes FC with us, reflecting further on the challenges she’s faced after hearing Karen’s talk. It’s clear that for Katie and many of us, sexism creates obstacles that often we’re not even aware of. As a child who was always interested in sport, she tells us that assumptions were always made that she’d never be as quick or strong as her male counterparts. With netball being the main sport offered to her throughout her education, she found it to be restrictive of her movement. She tells us that everything she was interested in never fitted the social normal of being a girl but when she cut her hair and played with the boys she got called a boy - which still didn’t feel right. Femininity is such an integral part of female socialisation that it’s easy to see how this can occur for young girls.
When Katie got the opportunity to come to the UK to play football as a semi professional, she was paid nothing the whole season. Only the top 1% of female footballers are paid well; the rest, like Katie, had to have a 9-5 job too. So, money ran out and she went back to New Zealand, where she grew up and where again, she was expected to train full time but still had to find time for work and education. She soon discovered the rising tide of media around women’s football which included documentaries about ‘the 99ers’. When the US International Ladies team won the world cup in 1995 and were greeted with virtually no support, they took on the mission of generating national excitement and enthusiasm for the sport ahead of the World Cup four years on. Going to Juventus, then to Bristol before coming on loan to Lewes - she tells us about her hope to inspire a new generation of girls into the sport, so they don’t have to face the same challenges she did.
So, what can we all do to help Equality FC in their mission?
- Go and see Katie and the rest of her team in action, from September onwards
- Become a part owner of Lewes FC and help them to continue adding value
- Spread the message!
To conclude, in Karen’s own words:
“Supporting women’s football empowers women.”
This week we kicked off our events series with the formidable Dr. Shola Mos - Shogbamimu
If you read nothing else, read these five things we learnt from Shola!
- Be honest and direct. Learn from each other.
- Never be afraid to say I don’t know.
- Always be open to ask stupid questions.
- Taking action doesn’t mean you have to always open your mouth: Listen. Do.
- She really, really loves food!
So Shola kicked off this highly anticipated talk with some questions for the audience. Queue many an eye to the ground as everyone gets thoroughly British and balks at the idea of interaction! But Shola persisted with great energy and great humour.
“What does intersectionality mean to you?”
We heard varied answers: some theory and academia based and some shaped around people’s personal experiences.
For example, intersectionality can be understood as the compounding effects of the varying intersecting components of identities.
In a recent interview for Columbia Law School, Kimberlé Crenshaw, who originally coined the term describes intersectionality as “a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.”
Shola was keen to emphasise the fact that everyone is intersectional and that intersectionality will mean something different to each and every one of us. “Recognise that you yourself are a representation of intersectionality.”
A few of the audience, now only slightly less afraid to speak up (!) were asked to describe their intersections. In other words, describe the different ways in which you identify.
The quote “I’m not sure I’m very intersectional” stood out! Being a white, cis - gendered, middle class heterosexual woman may mean someone is less ‘diverse’ but that is still a representation of your identity, unique to you. The diversity of the audience in the room started to unveil itself as people described their sexuality, ethnicity, mental health, class and more.
Some hard truths about intersectionality for you:
- Even in our very own feminist movement we stay in our own cliques. It’s difficult to break away and learn from others.
- Attaching stereotypes to people the minute you see someone is extremely common behaviour.
- White feminism exists and we all need to confront it
The important thing for us is to be open and have honest conversation about our areas for improvement. It often seems that we are too quick, as women and feminists, to lay blame at each others’ doors.
Speaking of honesty: Shola is refreshingly honest in proclaiming that many terms confuse her, when it comes to gender identity and sexuality. But…that’s alright. The conversation around sex, gender and more continues to grow. But the key is: make room for forgiveness. We never stop learning and this is no different with feminism. “Debate educates and enriches you.”
According to Shola, “the younger generations are more accepting of sex, gender, race”….we should all be able to find commonalities amongst each other, but also embrace the differences.
What’s more, again in Shola’s words: “it’s one thing to recognise it. The next step is to act.” Take white feminism, for example. The ideology if whiteness is ‘default’, in all walks of life. If you’re white, you cannot see the barriers that do not affect you. But… and this really was an important point made by Shola: “silence is complicity.”
So, by having a greater awareness and understanding of intersectionality we’re able to understand how, for example, women of colour can experience the compounding effects of both sexism and racism. As an audience member put it, “as soon as race is brought into a feminist discussion there is tension in the room”.
Sexism and misogyny is only ever told, seen or perceived through the lens of white women… consciously or unconsciously. As soon as we acknowledge that women of colour are fighting both sexism and racism we take the first step to creating a more inclusive feminism.
Shola takes issue with the idea of “making space for other women”. In her own words: “when I come in I’m already in my space! We are all part of one big body. We all have a function to play.”
She goes on to pose the question “Why are the same people of colour on so many of the corporate boards, when there is so much fresh talent out there?” As discussed by a few audience members, it’s often the case that white men and women do not see (therefore acknowledge) the additional barriers that keep people of colour from the top.
So, Shola’s call to action: go and do your research. Disrupt the status quo. Take it and turn it inside out. Go and let it be disruptive! Stop doing the same thing and expect different results!
Put simply: “GO MAKE A NEW FRIEND.”
To conclude, intersectionality is the key to unity. We need to speak with one voice. Recognise multiple facets of your life then find commonalities with others who do not look like you. The key to our combined strength is our intersectionality; there is beauty in difference of backgrounds, perspectives and opinions. Together they are powerful!
Shola’s call to actions?
- Go away and do something different!
- Take your activism to the bedroom, to the boardroom, to the high street!
- Stop being a passive activist. “It’s so boring!” (She has a point!)
- Get over yourself. Be more tolerant. More accepting.
- Ask more questions of others… and most importantly: listen.
It seems fitting to bring this piece to a close by highlighting something articulated, not by Shola but an audience member and that is:
“We all have blind spots. Have humility in the fact that we are all going to get something wrong.”
On 7 May 2020 London will elect a new Mayor and 25 London Assembly Members.
The 2016 mayoral election was the Women’s Equality Party’s first election campaign - and we did amazingly for a party less than a year old! We only missed out on getting a WEP member elected onto the London Assembly by a couple of percentage points.
Four years on, we will have a real chance to get WEP onto the Assembly - and we are already looking for candidates.
Could you be a London Assembly candidate?
The Assembly is made up of 25 members: 11 represent the whole capital and 14 members are elected by constituencies.
What does the London Assembly do?
The London Assembly scrutinises the Mayor’s plans and policies on policing, transport, housing, the economy and more. The Mayor is the voice of the capital and is accountable for making the city a better place for all its residents. As the most powerful directly-elected politician in the UK, it’s therefore important that they are hold to account on this.
As well as policy scrutiny, Assembly Members must be consulted by the Mayor on strategies. They also act as champions for Londoners by investigating issues that are important to the capital. Issues are investigated and policy is developed by cross party committees.
Overall, the Assembly can press for changes to national, Mayoral or local policy.
London Assembly Member is a full time, well paid position. Take a look here https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us if you want more information.
Would you be a great candidate? Do you want to be on our campaign team?
If so, join our meeting on 5 December to find out more about our election campaign.
To celebrate Black History Month, we’ve created a starter reading list which focuses on BAME writers on subjects around race, feminism and gender equality.
- Inferior, by Angela Saini
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo - Lodge
- Brit - ish, by Afua Hirsch
- Natives, by Akala
- Slay in Your Lane, by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené
- The Good Immigrant, curated by Nikesh Shukla
- Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
- What is Race? Who are Racists? Why Does Skin Colour Matter? And Other Big Questions, by Claire Heuchan and Nikesh Shukla
- Woman at Point Zero, by Nawal El Saadawi
- Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, by Mona Eltahawy
Websites: Burnt Roti, Gal Dem
In the near future, WE Southwark will be opening our own Good Reads page, where we will share all these books and more, and you will be able to recommend the books you think have to be in our feminist shelf. Keep an eye on our newsletter!
Following on from the creation of a BAME Caucus at our Conference in September, WE are pleased to let you know that the inaugural meeting has already taken place.
At our recent branch meeting we received a debrief from our very own caucus member and founding member, Claudia, who explained that the overall goal of the caucus is to create a diverse and intersectional party both at local branch and central level.
In order to achieve this, the caucus will focus on increasing membership, building alliances at a local level and examining WEP policy with a BAME lens.
One of the key objectives being proposed to our Steering Committee is to hold local branches accountable. So, WE are excited to share Southwark branch’s action plan. We commit to:
Conduct a survey of our local members and supporters, to identify:
- Reasons for supporting us? signing up for our newsletter?
- Barriers to being active/attending meetings?
- Analyse results. Based on these results, agree a % increase by which we would like to grow BAME members and supporters.
Create a plan to attract:
- New supporters and newsletter subscribers
- New (active) members
- New event attendees
- All branch officers will undertake an unconscious bias test
- Engage with local community groups and charities in Southwark that represent BAME women, in order to understand their priorities and how we can work together.
- Plan a series of events showcasing the voices, knowledge and experiences of BAME women.
Women’s Equality Party Conference Topic Overview: BAME Caucus
The launch of a Women’s Equality Party BAME (black, asian, minority ethnic) caucus was something the Southwark committee was extremely pleased to see on the agenda.
A third of all Southwark residents come from Black ethnic backgrounds and the remaining fifth of the residents from mixed, Asian and multiple other ethnic groups. We have a duty to do what we can to ensure our committee and local membership represents the makeup of our Borough. [Source: Southwark Council]
The caucus was created (and hosted by the wonderful Sellisha Lockyer of our Greenwich sister branch) as an open forum amongst WEP members: a blank canvas in terms of discussion, outputs and actions.
What did the group want to get out of the session?
- Getting women of colour involved in the party
- Identify policies that we want to include to ensure we make it clear that this is a party for all women (and men)
- An obligation on each branch to show what they have done to reach out to women of colour
Get data on how many people identify as BAME
- Improve the capabilities of Nationbuilder, where possible to achieve this
- Identify members and supporters of colour
- Survey members
- Create a how to pack and potential training for engaging with women of colour
In less than an hour, many voices aired their concerns, aspirations and challenges around the broad and significant subject of BAME women and WEP.
The above desired outcomes are simply the initial outputs from a positive, collaborative and diverse group discussion: very much a starting point, with a commitment to progress this in earnest.
The team involved are now working out key objectives and processes needed to help decide strategies for increasing BAME membership and policy reviews. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch and we can point you in the right direction!
Just a month ago, a contingent of Southwark WEPers headed to the party’s second Conference! And what a weekend it was. Over three days we enjoyed a packed agenda centred around:
MAKING CHANGE HAPPEN
After many of our branch officers spent the day at an intensive activism workshop, sharing how they have made change happen - packed a punch. Opened by Yvonne Thompson CBE and bought to a high by none other than Sophie Walker - this was an impactful and emotional evening.
If you do one thing after reading this email, watch Sohie’s inspiring speech on hopeful feminism.
The WE Voices Open Mic is a rare and wonderful thing: for three hours, the stage and the microphone was anyone’s. Yes: anyone’s.
We heard from women so new to public speaking they were accompanied by Sandi herself. We heard from women sharing truly brave stories about trauma that shaped their life and brought them to the fight for women’s equality.
We heard from women already making a difference, sharing their ideas and successes.
Friday evening showed absolutely everyone that Women’s Equality Party really are doing politics differently.
Interested in the impact of Brexit on women… or Sandi’s view of feminist economics? How about what we can do to engage and recruit more BAME women… or whether technology will fix inequality or deepen it? Well Saturday’s agenda of talks and workshops had it all covered.
After a hilarious all female comedy night on Saturday night, WE were back bright and early for a day of Party Business. A huge 24 party motions were passed ranging from the party’s new position on Brexit to abolishing the single payment system of Universal Credit. You can check our post about Brexit here.
WE hope this gives you good overview of the conference! Every single one of us took away learnings that we will be able to apply to our work here in Southwark.
In summary - Conference represented what a better world really could look like: women (and men!) of all backgrounds and intersections sharing ideas, inspiration, feedback and experiences with respect, humour and ambition. WE hope you’ll join us at the next one!
PS - watch out for further write ups of some of the sessions that took place throughout Conference.
A key topic covered throughout Conference this year was, unsurprisingly, Brexit. Read on for an overview of the themes discussed.
The Women’s Budget Group reports that Brexit risks ‘turning the clock on gender equality’. The report, entitled Exploring the Economic impact of Brexit on Women was published in partnership with The Fawcett Society and concludes that:
- A majority of economic authorities predict falls in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of between 1.5% to 9.5% compared to staying in.
- How big the fall is will depend on the deal we strike with the EU - a ‘no deal’ being the most damaging - and on the outcome of future deals with the 65 countries we will have to negotiate separately with.
- Those deals will be done under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules which mean higher minimum tariffs: deals where we come off second best could result in a fall in the pound.
What these economic outcomes mean for us is:
- There are likely to be more public sector spending cuts - with a disproportionate impact on women, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.
- Many sectors heavily dependent on EU trade have a majority female workforce - for example, NHS supplies, manufacturing, clothing and textiles.
- Much EU-originated legislation protecting equality and workplace rights in jobs typically held by women will be vulnerable to reversal.
- The same is true of consumer rights.
- Lone trade deals may mean accepting others' food standards eg US rules allowing chlorination of beef or hormones in beef.
- Overseas countries may well demand opening government contracts to their companies, losing us more public sector jobs (predominantly occupied by women) and leaving the way open for them to sue us if we try to raise the National Living Wage, for example.
- Average UK households stand to lose £580 a year - felt most severely by the poorest, usually headed by women.
What’s worse is that we also heard from the Runnymede Trust who reported that BAME women and girls will be worst affected by this, as:
- They are twice as likely to be in a single parent family.
- The level of unemployment among BAME women is 7% compared to 3% among white women.
- They are more likely to be affected by cuts to benefits and social services.
Conference attendees were also introduced to Women for a People’s Vote, launched at the start of September. Their website states that “56% of women back a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal, and with women set to lose out disproportionately from a bad deal/no deal Brexit, it is more important than ever that our voices are heard in this debate.”
They are calling for the nation to not leave Brexit in the hands of Westminster, where just 32% of MPs are women and therefore a group of women making the case for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.
Ultimately, this all led up to the passing of a WEP Conference resolution calling for "any deal with the EU - or, absent any deal, any unilateral Brexit plan - to be subject to a meaningful parliamentary assessment and vote or, failing guarantees of such a process, a People’s Vote, with an option to Remain"
The motion also (after amends) resolved to:
- Work, if we remain in the EU, to ensure that the EU's future policies include systematic integration of equal opportunities for all women by altering decision-making rules and norms.
- Work, if we leave the EU, for the retention and improvement of rights for women gained through EU membership.
- Oppose the diminution of such rights.
Click here to view the full motion, including amendments.
During the Peckham festival (16 & 17 September) WE were extremely excited to launch a campaign with a local campaigner, petitioning Southwark Council to reverse the cuts to funding for FGM services in the borough.
The borough of Southwark has the highest proportion of women who have undergone FGM in the UK. It’s estimated that at least 10% of all Southwark girls are born to survivors of FGM.
What is FGM?
FGM (female genital mutilation) or ‘cutting’ involves partial or full removal of the clitoris, partial or full removal of the labia and the clitoris or full removal of all external genitalia and the stitching of the vulva.
Meet Sarian Kamara:
Peckham based anti - FGM campaigner
When Sarian was a young girl in Sierra Leone she was taken, with her sisters, to be cut. Culturally this ‘rite of passage’ brings honour and respect upon young women, but crucially is not discussed until the young girl is about to be cut. Sarian remembers vividly the drums playing louder and louder as she screamed in pain.
Years on - Sarian, now living in Peckham, is saving the lives of girls who are at risk of FGM. Through her initiative Keep the Drums, Lose the Knife she provides a safe space for women and couples to share their experiences and discuss the ongoing impacts FGM has had on their life.
What does Sarian want you to know?
FGM is shrouded in silence so Sarian tackles this head on, through campaigning and education. In partnership with Sarian, WE want to bust some myths:
- FGM is sexual abuse
- FGM is not linked to religion
- FGM is happening here in Southwark
FGM has an ongoing physical and emotional impact on women, such as lifelong pain during urination, sexual activity and childbirth as well as internalised shame and continuing mental trauma, especially with intimacy.
What are WE doing?
Local council cuts are impacting women’s services. Women’s Equality Party Southwark spent the weekend gathering signatures for a petition calling on Southwark council to ring-fence specific FGM related funds, to ensure:
- Sarian and other local campaigners can continue to raise awareness and educate communities
- Specific training can be given to healthcare professionals to identify and support victims
- Local schools can receive training to identify signs of girls being prepared for or having been cut.
We also raised money for Sarian - by selling these beautiful vulva cupcakes!
Please continue to support our campaign by signing our >ONLINE PETITION<
Please also share in your social networks!
The Women’s Equality Party Southwark is delighted to announce that we have TWO outstanding candidates for the 3rd of May 2018 Local Council Elections!
Claire and Eileen will be standing in the Goose Green and Borough & Bankside wards respectively. You can check which Southwark ward you live in by clicking here. If you live in either of these wards – you can be part of the electorate that votes in Southwark’s first ever Women’s Equality Party Local Councillor! But if live in another ward – do not despair! There is plenty of other ways you can help… which I will get on to… but first – let me tell you a little bit about our candidates:
Eileen Scholes – Borough & Bankside ward
Lifelong feminist, unapologetic baby boomer and LGBTQ campaigner, Eileen is active in WE’s Southwark branch, and the party nationally. Her constant aim is to expose how preconceptions about gender hold back our society at every level. Originally a journalist, Eileen managed a successful media agency employing 50+ people before heading up PricewaterhouseCooper's UK Communications Practice, becoming an advisor to the BBC’s New Media division and finally a Whitehall civil servant. 68-years-old Eileen lives in East Dulwich with her female partner and two teenage daughters. Two sons from a previous marriage have so far gifted her four grandchildren.
Southwark Women’s Equality Party – Promoted by Alaina Crystal on behalf of Eileen Scholes, both at Studio 18, Blue Lion Place, 237 Long Ln, London SE1 4PU
Claire Empson – Goose Green ward
“I joined the Women’s Equality Party as a founding member because I didn’t feel represented by my local and national government.
Having lived and worked in East Dulwich for over 15 years, I am both a local business owner and a mother at the heart of this community. I have always done business and politics differently. Women make up more than half of this area but we are not represented equally or fairly by Southwark council.
I want to create the change I want to see for my children! Throughout my life, I have seen a problem and taken action.
WE will put equality at the top of the agenda. Because equality is better for everyone.
Southwark Council has been held by Labour for 8 years. It’s time for a new perspective and independent voice to hold them to account! I have autonomy outside of our WEP manifesto meaning you can count on me personally to take a positive interest in local women’s equality, childcare, violence against women and girls, environmental issues, LGBTGI+ issues, housing and the needs of small business owners.”
Can you help elect Southwark’s first ever Women’s Equality Party Councillor?
We are focusing our efforts on the Goose Green ward and we need all the help we can get - it’s not too late to get involved. Please get in touch at [email protected] if you can:
- Help at our information stall on North Cross Road (Saturdays)
- Come out canvassing! >CLICK HERE FOR DATES, INFO, AND TO SIGN UP< full training provided and you can partner with someone
- Leaflet for us
- Put a poster in your window (if you’re in the ward)
Hello from your local Women’s Equality Party candidate!
WE have some great news for you!
Women’s Equality Party Southwark are utterly thrilled to announce that we will have a candidate in the council elections in May. And that candidate is our very own branch leader, Claire Empson.
Would you like to campaign for Claire? Come along to our candidate launch party on 1st March and find out how you can get involved. If you can’t make it, email us and we’ll give you all the information you need.
Candidate launch party!
When: Thursday 1st March, from 7pm
Where: The Lordship, 211 Lordship Lane, SE22 8HA
Here are some words from Claire:
I joined the Women’s Equality Party as a founding member because I didn’t feel represented by my local and national government.
Having lived and worked in East Dulwich for over 15 years, I am both a local business owner and a mother at the heart of this community. I have always done business and politics differently. Women make up more than half of this area but we are not represented equally or fairly by Southwark council.
I want to create the change I want to see for my children! Throughout my life, I have seen a problem and taken action.
WE will put equality at the top of the agenda. Because equality is better for everyone.
Southwark Council has been held by Labour for 8 years. It’s time for a new perspective and independent voice to hold them to account! I have autonomy outside of our WEP manifesto meaning you can count on me personally to take a positive interest in local women’s equality, childcare, violence against women and girls, environmental issues, LGBTGI+ issues, housing and the needs of small business owners.
You can count on me to take action on equality, childcare, violence against women and girls, environmental issues, LGBTGI+ issues, housing and the needs of small business owners.
Together let’s change local politics.
Vote for the Women’s Equality Party on 3rd May!
On Monday the 20th November, WE were delighted to hold another inspirational event for our members, supporters and friends: ‘Fearless Women’. Our aim was to give these couragous women, who are bravely stepping into areas unknown, a platform to tell their stories. Whether it be sport or outdoor pursuits and challenges; coverage of women and their stories in this area is grossly under-delivered.
First up was Antonia and Leanne from Body Shot PT, who work with professional men and women who want to remove all the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition.
Leanne told us her story of how she got into boxing for the first time and how that led to her taking part in her first ever boxing match, against another female competitor. She described the training she underwent, her experience of her match and most importantly perhaps - what she learnt from the experience. Of course, she wanted to win, but she was in hindsight happy with the draw as a result. She could look back and see her areas for development. “Failure is not about failing, it’s about learning”, she told the attendees. She described the nerves she felt in the run up to the match and on the day - all part of the positive learning experience for her and her body. She described the amount of energy she felt, doing something she loved and was passionate about.
“The power of your discomfort zone is immense”.
“Challenge yourself to things that scare you. Put yourself outside your comfort zone. It will give you more confidence and more ‘swagger’!”
Leanne’s advice was powerful and entertaining! It doesn’t matter what it is you’re doing, trying new things that challenge you gives you new perspectives, energy and passion.
Both Leanne and Antonia told the audience about their new and upcoming adventure: the Arctic Circle Race 2019! Another extreme sport neither of which neither have any experience! Leanne went on to tell us that the reason she pushes herself to complete these challenges is her father, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. She runs for her Dad.
Up next was the infectiously positive Kiko Matthews. Who told us her equally inspiring story. Kiko joked that her mission to row solo 3000 miles across the Atlantic seemed the best way to grab Prince Harry’s attention for a date! Unfortunate recent news for you, Kiko! Kiko was always an active, sporty character who cared greatly about the environment. It was in 2009that she became severely ill with Cushings disease. Kiko went on to make a full recovery and with this experience, claims she no longer fears death and thus has no fear of her imminent mission. She, so movingly, told the audience that 7 years on she wants to live her life to the fullest and challenge her mind and body to see what they are capable of.
She aims to take on this transatlantic mission in a world record time - 45 days (11 days less than the current record of 56 days)! She took us on a 365 degree tour of the carbon fibre boat, and soon to be home, that she will row across the ocean. Considering she had no rowing experience before her training began - this will be quite a feat! She went on to describe why she has no fear of the what ifs - it’s about utilising resources and energy. Kiko’s powerful message made us all reflect on our own lives:
“The minute you stop worrying, stressing and are honest about who you are, you have more energy.”
“Money can get in the way. You can learn ways around things and be innovative when you don’t rely on it.”
Kiko’s mission is motivated by the desire to raise funds for King’s College Hospital; whose staff saved her life back in 2009, and again in 2017 when the Cushings made an inconvenient return. Fortunately it was less severe this time, and she was able to get back to training almost immediately after leaving hospital! Beyond this, she is running ‘100 Together’: to enable 100 women to be part of the world record team. For many of the women she has enlisted, it’s their first attempt at a regular sport.
Do take a look at Kiko’s website to see all of the incredible events, projects, and initiatives she has planned, which focus on her main motivators: empowering women and protecting the environment.
Towards the event of this awe-inspiring event, an audience member articulated how refreshing it was that all three women created a differentiation between fitness and body image. All three women wholeheartedly agreed and emphasised that physical challenge, in whatever form you can personally manage, is about creating resilience and energy. This is what drives real happiness, and not aspiring towards an idealised concept of body image.
“Focus on how you feel rather than how you looks. The aim is to you use your body to achieve things. This is what gives you vitality”
Written by Rachel Barber
Did you know that of the total 650 MPs in Westminster, only 208 are women? That is less than a third. To get to at least 50% representation we need another 118 female members of parliament.* But the situation is even worse in local government: a third may be women, but only 17% are council leaders, and 3000 more female councillors are needed to make it 50:50.* One of the Women’s Equality Party’s objectives is Equal Representation and our very own policy document states:
“Government at all levels, from councils through the devolved legislatures to the UK government in Whitehall and Westminster, ought to lead the way on diversity, not be pushed into action by others.”
So, with local council elections coming up in early 2018 we were honoured to host an event on Monday 17th October, aimed at empowering women to get involved in local government.
Our first speaker was Robert Jamieson from Southwark Community Action Network, he talked us through the structure of Southwark Council and the current parties represented. He talked us through some of the current councillors, and what sectors they represent; such as social regeneration, new homes, financial inclusion etc. Robert then went on to visualise the Council Committee structure for us, explaining that this structure is how decision makers are held to account. Community council meetings are open to local residents and give you the opportunity to submit issues for discussion. Robert closed by listing what allowances and expenditures councillors are entitled to: an important factor for enabling people to become Councillors.
Second on our panel was the inspiring Samantha Jury-Dada from the Labour Party (Southwark’s youngest Councillor). She began by telling us the story of how she started her journey as a Councillor: she was elected as part of a by-election and had to get thoroughly stuck in! Which she definitely did. She spoke of her frustrations in local government when she has been unable to make changes. However, she also described the work she had done that had been really rewarding; such as the knife crime strategy she created, and her work to combat youth justice. She noted that “how we look at youth violence is gendered”, and she said that she is planning to look into the impact of youth violence on Southwark’s young women. Samantha closed by saying that as a Councillor it is really important to take care of yourself. Online abuse is a reality, especially if you’re a woman, of colour, and LGBT. BUT, as she explained - when you stand, you’re part of a team. People come together and support you... and as we were about to hear from Jo Shaw: we have to stand against the sexism and stand up for what we believe in, for the community.
Lastly, we heard from the wonderfully experienced Barrister Jo Shaw. A 2016 WEP Mayoral Candidate and former Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate, she explained that ‘being creative’ is a big part of standing for government - local and national. She shared some stellar advice for any budding Councillors: “put aside worrying what people think of you and have a clear purpose and context for why you’re putting yourself forward. Don’t be hard on yourself.” Jo reiterated Samantha’s advice of self-care. When talking of the things that were great about being a candidate she said she found canvassing really enjoyable! She was initially surprised by this, but found that most people were delighted to be asked their opinions about local issues. This is what WE found when canvassing for the 2017 General Election. Would you like to try canvassing with us next year in the local elections? If so, get in touch! Jo poignantly bought the panel to a close, referencing “the privilege of standing for your values and your principles. Leadership in any form can be lonely, but you learn masses. You meet people you’d never normally meet.”
Never have truer words been said about encouraging women to stand:
“If not me, who? We need more and more women to stand in government. The job of equality is not done.”
Huge thanks to Jo for this powerful call to arms, to Robert for such useful and transparent insights, and to Samantha for such inspiring and encouraging words.
Are you interested in standing as a Councillor in Southwark for the Women’s Equality Party? Please let us know! We will provide coaching on our campaign themes and policy areas as well as a canvassing and campaign team.
Are there any themes or issues you’d like to see us cover? Let us know! Email us at: [email protected]
You can follow us on the following social media channels:
*Stats taken from 50:50 Parliament and the Institute for Public Policy Research
Being a bloody difficult woman, according to Claudia, is not about being deliberately disruptive; it’s about being assertive, it’s about being independent, it’s about being a self-leader and tackling problems when you see them, rather than waiting for others to do so. A difficult woman doesn’t allow herself to be controlled by men, Claudia explains. In today’s patriarchal society, that unfortunately means a difficult woman can be seen as threatening to men and some women.
It’s important and significant that Claudia does not shy away from using the label ‘difficult’. Why? Claudia shares some heartbreaking statistics. Women are responsible for ⅔ of the world’s working hours but make only 10% of the world’s income. We produce 50% of the world’s food and own just 1% of the land. Globally we now outperform men but work well below our competence level, (Tom Schuller in ‘The Paula Principle’).
During the event, we tweeted this staggering fact, explaining that this is just one of the reasons the Women’s Equality Party exists. Unsurprisingly, the ‘leader of the MASCULIST movement’ responded with the oh so predictable and validating comment: “You exist because women don’t work as hard as they could/should?”
It’s crystal clear really, just how important Claudia’s work is for the strengthening, confidence-building and empowerment of talented women.
Claudia goes on to share a very personal story with the audience This is the story about the exact moment she decided to change her life by becoming the ‘difficult woman’ she was accused of being. “Women in authority are often seen as threatening” and are thus sometimes victims of abuse and violence. She recognises that in order to succeed and challenge this prejudice, it’s important to be a ‘difficult’ woman, but re-frame it and see it from a positive perspective.
Claudia tells us how she decided she wants ‘to change the world, one woman at a time’. Her coaching and mentoring business enables women to demonstrate power and leadership, to challenge, to focus on being respected rather than being liked Her advice? “Be calm, be substantial and difficult, be principled.” She suggests we take inspiration from the Sufragettes.
The audience then had the privilege of gaining a step by step insight into a couple of aspects of her coaching methodology – knowing your values and identifying your why. “Knowing your values helps you to be a difficult woman for a greater purpose and stand for what you believe. Being a difficult woman with clear values increases your respect and admiration from others”. One especially lucky audience volunteer received a mini coaching session from Claudia, helping her find her ‘why’ in her path to becoming a difficult woman and focusing on what truly drives her personally and professionally.
Claudia skillfully combined personal experience, actionable advice and professional inspiration… with as expected, the calm, poise and authority of a truly difficult woman! Audience members took the opportunity to ask her questions and told us this was a truly confidence building session.
WE, like Claudia, are driven by equality and the belief that women's equality and opportunity makes a better society for all. WE be believe in doing politics differently and this is why we are dedicated to hosting events and conversations such as this.
Are there any themes or issues you’d like to see us cover? Let us know! Email us at: womensequalitypartysou[email protected]
You can follow us on the following social media channels:
Click here to find out more about Claudia's self-made business--> Winning Pathways Coaching
WE in Southwark just had an amazingly busy weekend with three community events back to back!
On Saturday 19th WE were at the Pasley Park Fete, Kennington, where we enjoyed talking to the local residents about what issues matter to them most. We did get rained on a couple of times quite heavily - but it didn’t dampen our spirits for talking about all things equality, neither did it deter the local kids from buying our fabulous home made cakes!
Later on WE held a Fringe event as part of the Peckham Festival, at Space 61 in Nunhead, where we revived five forgotten heroines of Southwark and had a great time educating our audience - and ourselves - about each character and what they have done for women's equality, as well as throwing in some ideas on what they would think of Southwark today, what are it’s biggest issues, and choosing a feminist anthem to represent them! Cake was also involved..
Sunday 17th saw us setting up inside the Community area of Copeland Park / Bussey Building in Peckham for the Peckham Festival. Nearby the stage, it was a prime spot to hear the music and to sticker all the dancing kids nearby with WEP stickers.. We gathered a lot of information that afternoon on what are the most important issues to Peckham Residents. It also gave one of our Co-Branch Leaders a chance to pretend to be on the 'Apprentice' when 6pm came, by going outside with our donation bucket and the last of the cakes, tempting the crowds watching the music into buying them!