More events being added over the next few days - check back in soon if there isn't one near you yet!
Breakout Debates Saturday, 09.45 - 11.30
Campaigner for Gender Equality, Producer and Project Manager, and Mother
Joeli is a campaigner for gender equality, a creative producer and project manager, and a mother of two young boys.
Joeli founded the feminist project and campaign 'Pregnant Then Screwed' which exposes the systemic problem of pregnancy and maternity discrimination and gives women the tools they need to challenge discriminatory behaviour. She wants to live in a world where care giving is valued.
Joeli writes for the Telegraph and the Independent and she has made regular appearances on TV and radio. She advises MPs on how the Government can address the motherhood penalty and is part of the Parliamentary group for Women and Work. She is also working on a book and a documentary about the issue.
Role at Party Conference
Joeli will be speaking in the Film Breakout Debate.
Carole Easton PhD
Chief Executive, Young Women’s Trust
Carole is Chief executive of the Young Women's Trust, a charity supporting and representing young women struggling on low or no pay, and who are at risk of being trapped in poverty. The charity offers free coaching and personalised advice on job applications, conducts research, runs campaigns and works with young women to build confidence and advocate for fair financial futures.
Carole has extensive experience in the voluntary sector, having been Chief Executive of Cruse Bereavement Care, ChildLine and CLIC Sargent. She has worked as a trainer and consultant in the UK and overseas, developing helplines and children’s services for the public and voluntary sectors. Previous senior roles have focused on extending advocacy services for those with mental health issues and learning difficulties and delivering campaigns and services for individuals with disfiguring conditions.
She is Chair of Young Minds, the UK’s leading charity committed to improving the emotional well-being and mental health of children and young people. She is also Trustee at Depaul UK - the youth homelessness charity - and is currently a Commissioner on the Greenwich Fairness Commission.
Carole started her career as a Child and Family Psychotherapist and completed a PhD thesis concerning physical violence towards children.
Role at Party Conference
Carole will facilitate the breakout debate on 'A woman’s place: a look at affordable housing' at Conference.
Feminist, mum, grandmother, daughter and community psychologist
I am a feminist mum, grandmother, partner, daughter and community psychologist, recently retired after working full time for nearly 40 years at the Metropolitan University in Manchester.
I have always been concerned with issues of social justice, working alongside, for example, women living in poverty, disabled people and public service workers seeking to make the world a better place. I am active in local community groups and in social enterprises concerned with sustainable communities, dementia action, intergenerational work, minority ethnic family well-being, and Steady State Manchester - a small organisation campaigning and working towards an economy that benefits all, within environmental limits.
I am passionate about ways of addressing climate change, which I see as the greatest threat to our glorious planet in all its complexity.
Role at Party Conference
Carolyn will facilitate the breakout debate on ‘Women and the environment: mind-mapping the world’.
Dr Sarah Marie Hall
Lecturer in Human Geography, Chair of School Ethics Committee, and Morgan Centre Member, University of Manchester
Sarah Marie is Lecturer in Human Geography at The University of Manchester. Her research sits in the broad field of feminist political economy: understanding how socio-economic processes are shaped by lived experiences, social differences and gender relations.
She sits on the Management Committee of the Women's Budget Group, is Treasurer of the Economic Geography Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society and is a member of the Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives.
Role at Party Conference
Sarah Marie speak on the topic 'A man’s world: why the world is built around men and what we can do about it'.
Vice President (Further Education), National Union of Students, former President, Lewisham Southwark Students' Union
Shakira Martin is Vice President (Further Education) of the NUS, and former President of Lewisham Southwark College Students’ Union. She has studied a number of courses including ILM Leadership and Management and most recently completed her Diploma in Education and Training (DET).
As a single mother, Shakira knows first-hand the power of education to transform lives. Further education has given her 10 years worth of chances to break the cycle of deprivation, be a role model to her children and develop the confidence to stand for a national role. Her passion for education has developed over the last four years through overcoming the adversity of her past experiences.
Shakira has particular interests in teaching and the quality of learning, the learner voice, college governance, education and politics. She aspires to become a Further Education College Principal.
Shakira hopes to share her journey to inspire, empower and motivate others to reach their full potential.
Role at Party Conference
Shakira will speak in the debate "A threat to equal education or business as usual: sexual harassment and sexual violence in universities".
Cook, campaigner, writer and blogger
Jack Monroe is an award-winning campaigner, cook, columnist, writer and blogger.
Jack’s blog, A Girl Called Jack, started as a local politics blog, and developed into budget food and recipes, which were picked up with interest by the national press as Jack detailed living as a single parent on a food budget of just £10 a week because of delays in unemployment benefits, which sometimes weren’t paid at all.
Jack ended up writing a cookbook for Penguin based on the blog, followed by another book which was more of a food diary through the roller-coaster year that took them from sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a bedroom in a shared house to having a food column in the Guardian and a book that sat at the top of the paperback charts.
Jack is an active campaigner, fronting a petition with Unite, The Trussell Trust and The Mirror demanding politicians debate the causes of foodbank use and hunger in Britain. Within four days the petition had secured 100,000 signatures, and the debate was held in the House of Commons three weeks later. Jack is a patron of The Food Chain, and supports The Trussell Trust, Child Poverty Action Group, and Oxfam.
Jack writes a weekly recipe column for The Guardian, and regularly contributes political bits to The Mirror, The Independent and The Guardian. Jack has commented regularly on food, politics, and current affairs for Sky News, Channel 4 and BBC radio.
Jack’s awards include a large bronze eagle from the Women of the Year award, Best Food Blog at the OFM awards, and Judges’ Choice Award at the Fortnum And Mason Food and Drink Awards.
Role at Party Conference
Jack will be participating in the breakout debate ‘A woman’s place: a look at affordable housing’.
Dr Ann Olivarius
Chair, McAllister Olivarius
Ann is the Chair of McAllister Olivarius, an international law firm that specialises in fighting discrimination against women. She was deeply involved in litigating a landmark civil rights case, Alexander v. Yale, which for the first time found that sexual harassment within a US university was illegal. In 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) included her on its list of the most influential people in the history of Title IX, the US anti-discrimination law. Since Alexander v. Yale, she has continued to break new ground in discrimination and employment law, winning major awards in the US and UK. Her firm was recently pivotal in getting a law against revenge and fake pornography passed in the UK, and has been working to improve legal protections for students sexually harassed at UK universities. Nelson Mandela once introduced her as “a lawyer who has advised me well and who has courageously advanced the cause of justice, and improved life opportunities, for hundreds of millions of women, blacks and disadvantaged, worldwide.”
Ann served on the board of National Alliance for Autism Research (UK), also known as Autistica, and OpenDemocracy USA. She is founder and Chair of the Rhodes Project, which evaluates the careers and life choices of women Rhodes Scholars. Ann is a Trustee of GenerationNext!, a charity which has supported over 100 students at the Vuleka School in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is on the board of Women Moving Millions (WMM), a network of women who have each committed one million dollars or more to advance women and girls.
Ann graduated summa cum laude from Yale College. After earning a D.Phil from Oxford in Economics as a Rhodes Scholar, she earned law and business degrees from Yale, normally a five-year course, in three years, receiving highest honours.
Ann is also the Chair of AO Advocates, a law firm that represents survivors of child sexual abuse, often against churches, boarding schools and other institutions that allowed the abuse to flourish. Last year AO Advocates won the first High Court case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, on behalf of a girl abused from the age of four.
Professor Helen Penn
Co-Founder, the National Childcare Campaign, Visiting Professor, UCL
In the 1980s Helen was a co-founder of a feminist organization, the National Childcare Campaign (now metamorphosed into the Family and Childcare Trust). She ran services for young children in Strathclyde, Scotland, before becoming an academic at the Institute of Education (IoE), UCL. She became Professor of Early Childhood at the University of East London; and is about to return as a visiting Professor to UCL. She has worked for the EU, OECD, UNICEF and SCF on childcare policy. She believes it is the job of the government to fund childcare services, and to make sure all children have equal access to high quality childcare, whatever their parents’ circumstances. She is currently writing her work biography, entitled Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible.
Role at Party Conference
Helen will co-chair the debate on ‘How childcare will transform the UK’.
Actor and Co-Founder of Parents in Performing Arts
Cassie is an actor who co-founded Parents In Performing Arts (PIPA) with Anna Ehnold-Danailov, a Theatre Director, in 2015. Now a Consortium of 18 major performing arts organisations PIPA is currently conducting its first major research project about Best Practice for supporting those with caring responsibilities working in the Performing Arts. Supported by Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama the project will investigate barriers and potential solutions to improve access to work for parents and carers. The outcome will be an industry-wide Best Practice Charter to be launched in September 2017 and embedded in the Family Arts Standards.
Role at Party Conference
Cassie will be speaking in the debate on Women in the Creative Industries.
Founder and Co-Leader, Feministiskt Initiativ
Feministiskt Initiativ has a vision of a different society. Its ideological starting point is anti-racist feminism. Its members believe in politics being more than just money, and that the division between left and right is not irrelevant, but that discrimination, racism and sexism is present on both sides and doesn't necessarily disappear with socialism; nor does liberalism, with a focus on individual rights, solve the structural inequality in society. They believe that's why an ideologically independent feminist party is important. Feministiskt Initiativ is that party in Sweden.
Feministiskt Initiativ was started officially in 2005 and has since then developed into a feminist and antiracist movement that in the last election gained seats in 13 municipalities in Sweden and a seat in the European Parliament.
Gudrun is an educator and lecturer in the area of gender equality and non-discrimination. Her professional background is as a social-worker, and she has been active in both the anti-nuclear movement and the national and international peace movement.
Gudrun was previously a member of the Left Party in Sweden, representing the party as a member of parliament in the Riksdag, Sweden's national parliament, from 1988-2003. She was Leader of the Left Party from 1993-2003, resigning from the post and the party in 2003.
Since 2010, Gudrun Schyman has been a local politician in Simrishamn (her home town), a member of the national board of Feministiskt Initiativ and one of Feministiskt Initiativ's two party leaders.
Role at Party Conference
Gudrun will take part in the debate "Feminist foreign policy: full steam ahead".
General Secretary for the Union for General and Special Workers, Iceland
Drífa Snædal is the General Secretary for the Union for general and special workers in Iceland. She became active in the Icelandic Women’s Party at a young age and co-founded the Left-Green movement in 1999 after the Women’s party became history. She has been active in feminist issues within politics and the women’s refuge movement and now, in the past years, within the workers’ union movement in Iceland.
Role at Party Conference
Drífa will facilitate the Breakout Debate on ‘A threat to equal education or business as usual: sexual harassment and sexual violence in universities’.
Today is Human Rights Day. It marks the end of #16days of action that began on November 25, the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Some of the wonderful people working at service and advice centres across the country have written blogs for our website during this time that give an insight from the frontline of this fight.
The services in which they work - providing support and counselling and safe spaces for women and girls whose lives have been turned upside down by domestic abuse, sexual assault, FGM, forced marriages and other forms of violence - are constantly under threat because of inadequate funding and disastrously short-term commissioning processes.
That puts vulnerable people at even greater risk.
On top of that, the current housing crisis is making it increasingly difficult to find enough space to support women through the transition into their own safe, secure and permanent accommodation.
Today I am visiting Greenwich Domestic Violence and Abuse Services, whose staff contributed to our blog series. I am looking forward to meeting women for whom Greenwich DVA’s refuges provide a safe space in which to begin their recovery from trauma and start to rebuild their lives.
I will see first-hand how these spaces save lives.
The Women’s Equality Party is working hard to help these services, all around the country, continue to save lives.
We have set out our own policy commitments to bring about an end to violence against women and girls:
WE aim to ensure that all women and girls who experience sexual, domestic or other violence have access to specialist advocacy and support services
WE will create a fund – more than £800m by 2018-19 – to support the legal aid budget, restoring half of the cuts made in 2012, and providing ring-fenced funds to local authorities for VAWG services
WE will expand services to ensure we can provide a stable place to live for all women and children fleeing domestic abuse, starting with crisis and refuge services and moving into more permanent housing
WE will ensure that access to support services for women who have experienced violence is not dependent on their immigration status
And we think that all parties should unite in their commitment to end violence against women and girls by also committing to sustainable and secure funding that is not put at risk by different political priorities.
Our 16 blogs in 2015 told the story of poor funding, poor planning and poor provision for the women and girls in our country that need us the most.
In 2016, we’d like to tell a different story.
Surviving rape or sexual abuse and coping with the traumatic aftermath can be the hardest thing a person can ever have to deal with. At Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre, we provide a safe space for survivors to be listened to and believed. We cannot erase the abuse but we can work together to lessen its emotional power.
Over the last few years our much needed service has faced various challenges: increased demand due to more media coverage; and constant fire-fighting to maintain year-to-year funding.
Those accessing our service face new challenges from ‘welfare reforms’ which places a huge amount of pressure on an already vulnerable group of people and negatively impacts on their recovery. The constant threat of sanctions and repeated assessments for benefits relating to mental and physical illness and disability add to the traumatic stress of survivors.
The proposal to limit child tax credit to two children from April 2017 unless a woman can prove that further children are a result of rape is potentially harrowing. Rape Crisis Scotland’s Sandy Brindley comments: "It can be difficult for a rape survivor to disclose what has happened to them to their closest friends or family but under this proposal they will be expected to disclose it to the DWP in order to qualify for benefits."
"Most rapes aren’t reported to the police. How is someone going to 'prove' to the DWP that they have been raped?"
Women’s services are ever increasingly under threat from a lack of secure funding and squeezes on local and national government spending as a result of austerity. We are grateful to have received continued funding from the Scottish Government, which has increased this year with the announcement of a new strand of funding until 2017 for a national advocacy project with Rape Crisis Scotland.
Support is a lifeline for survivors of sexual violence and we must fund it properly. You can find out more about out our prevention work, training, information and support services here.
Anna Carr is an Information and Fundraising Worker for Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?” asked Eleanor Roosevelt in her remarks celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in 1958.
She went on to say: “In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”
Condemning human rights violations far away is an easy task. But addressing the violations in our own backyards takes courage.
Almost everyone participating in public debate expressed total disgust against the gang rape case that shook Delhi in India in 2012. The solidarity was with the victim and her family.
But how do we react to similar violations in our own neighbourhood?
The most widespread human rights violation in the UK is male violence against women and girls. Statistics needn’t be repeated, but they show that sexual assault and domestic violence is a constant threat to women’s lives, so continually imminent that it is in fact casual.
Yet services and advocacy organisations are closing their doors due to lack of funding. Policy makers come up with new arrangements that make it impossible for established women’s organisations to continue their operations.
While the government spends £1.9 billion on cyber security, all they can find to end violence against women and girls is £40 million over the course of five years (and an additional few million that women pay for themselves through an unfair tax on sanitary products).
Cleaning up after the most widespread human rights violations in the country is not a business like any other. It is about saving lives.
Whether you are the chancellor of the UK or a representative of local government – think twice before you act to shut down women’s services.
Those women (and some men) who run VAWG services are not just saving the lives of VAWG survivors. They are saving your life.
They are also helping you to stay on the right side of history, by making sure the human rights violations in your backyard do not go unaddressed.
Because if our human rights have no meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.
Halla Gunnarsdóttir is Senior Advisor at McAllister Olivarius and co-leader of the Women’s Equality Party’s policy group on ending violence against women and girls.
Over the last three decades and more, Southall Black Sisters (SBS) has consistently addressed the needs of BME women, in particular in the face of their experiences of violence and multiple or intersectional discrimination. This is a term used by the United Nations and statutory and voluntary bodies to refer to the specific ways in which multiple strands of discrimination overlap in simultaneous and complex ways to create heightened vulnerabilities and discrimination.
It is precisely because of the complexity of BME women’s experiences and the historical failure of statutory and other generic services to address them that specialist organisations led by and for BME women like SBS developed in the late 1970s.
We provide an important lifeline for BME women who remain one of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in our society. Just as importantly, we have often led the way to key reforms in areas such as forced marriage and honour-based violence.
Currently, through a number of cases, SBS is pressing for greater awareness and government effort to tackle the problem of religious, especially Sharia, tribunals and councils that discriminate against women and children and put them at risk of further violence.
We are also campaigning to highlight the emerging phenomenon of transnational marriage abandonment and violence against women. These are acts of violence committed against women in transnational spaces that leave vulnerable women without recourse to protection and rights simply because the offences against them occur in spaces that straddle a number of jurisdictions. Precisely because of jurisdictional problems, governments and states can and do abdicate their responsibility in bringing perpetrators to account and in upholding the human rights of such women.
A growing list of long-established secular BME refuges and advice centres based in Brent, Manchester, Nottingham, Leicester, Sheffield, Coventry, Rotherham and elsewhere have either closed or are facing the threat of closure in recent months. SBS is no stranger to these threats.
In July 2008, at the High Court, we won an important legal challenge affirming our right to exist and to continue our work as an organisation of, by and for BME women.
Despite our success, secular BME women’s organisations are being decimated across the country and this development is exacerbated by the state’s promotion of regressive religious forces that are filling the vacuum and benefiting from the democratic deficit that is created in the process.
The future of the BME women’s movement symbolised by long-standing BME women’s organisations like SBS is now hanging by a thread. This unfolding crisis needs urgent attention from all those concerned by the growing levels of inequality in our society.
But what is also urgently needed is the development of a progressive politics of solidarity between and within the women’s groups that recognise that what is at stake is no less than the fight for secular, progressive, feminist, anti fundamentalist, anti-racist and human rights values.
Welsh Women’s Aid represents and supports a federation of 26 specialist domestic abuse services across Wales who provide support, advocacy and prevention services for women, children and families affected by domestic abuse. We currently face a situation where most of these vital lifesaving services have not had their funding confirmed beyond March 2016.
Last year in Wales, over 10,000 adult survivors and nearly 4,000 children and young people received refuge, community-based advocacy and/or support by domestic abuse services in Wales. Yet we also know that at least 284 women in Wales could not be accommodated by refuges because there was no space available when they needed help.
While struggling refuge services in England recently received an extra £13.4 million to keep them afloat, in Wales refuge services and the survivors that depend on them still face a postcode lottery when accessing funding and support. Many do not know if they can sustain their services at current levels, let alone whether they can grow and meet future demand for support.
Most services fear the worst, and expect cuts to be made to their already limited funding. They face the risk of being tendered out to the cheapest bidder – often large, non-specialist UK-wide organisations – or of being cut altogether. This is in spite of the European Directive on Victims’ Rights, which includes obligations for states to ensure the provision of specialist services for survivors of violence.
Refuges and community-based domestic abuse services are needed now more than ever; they provide a vital package of support for women and children living in fear as a result of coercive controlling abuse, sexual or physical violence at the hands of partners or family members.
That is why we launched Save Refuges, Save Lives, our campaign that calls for refuge funding in Wales to be protected by government and public authorities, accompanied by a sustainable funding model for refuge services so that all regions of Wales have capacity to meet demand.
We do not want to live in a country where women have nowhere to turn for help when they need it most.
Alice Moore is Campaigns and Communications Officer at Welsh Women's Aid.
Welsh Women’s Aid runs the Live Fear Free Helpline on behalf of Welsh Government. It can be contacted on: 0808 80 10 800. You can also follow them on Twitter @WelshWomensAid or like them on Facebook at Welsh Women’s Aid.
Legal aid is a lifeline for victims of domestic violence, enabling them to escape from abusive relationships, protect their children, and manage their finances. Without access to legal advice and representation, a woman trying to leave a violent relationship has two options - to represent herself in court against her perpetrator, or to continue living under abuse.
Our research, Evidencing domestic violence, demonstrates that over 50% of women experiencing violence take no action in relation to their family law problem as a result of not being able to access legal aid, leaving them unable to escape from violent relationships or rebuild their and their children’s lives after separation.
Recognising the importance of access to justice for women and children experiencing abuse, the government promised that legal aid for family law cases would not be lost to those affected by domestic violence. However, the new legal aid regulations introduced in April 2013 are crafted in such a way as to prevent the majority of domestic violence victims and survivors from accessing legal aid.
The key problem with the regulations is that they require applicants for family law legal aid to provide evidence of domestic violence. The list of acceptable forms of evidence is dangerously restrictive, focusing on evidence from statutory agencies or of remedies which we know do not reflect the reality of the lives of women experiencing violence. It also places an arbitrary 2 year time limit on evidence which simply does not reflect what we know about ongoing risks to women and children. Our research shows that 40% of women who are experiencing domestic violence do not have the evidence required to be granted legal aid.
For this reason we brought a legal challenge against the regulations. Although unsuccessful in the High Court, our appeal will be heard by the Court of Appeal in January 2016.
Rights of Women leads a campaign against the legal aid cuts which so dangerously restrict women’s access to advice and representation. You can read more about the campaign here and find out how you can support our work.
Broken Rainbow the national LGBT Domestic Violence charity has worked with nearly 42,000 individuals in the 13 years since its conception. In 2014 we took over seven and a half thousand calls for help and this year we are on track to hit the ten thousand mark.
Much has changed since the days when all we had was a mobile phone, shared amongst a group of friends who wanted to offer help. Sadly, the types of abuse played out in LGBT relationships haven’t changed and the demand for Broken Rainbow’s help has increased.
We believe that one in four LGB and four in five Trans individuals will be affected by domestic violence in their lifetime, from an intimate partner or family member.
This year we have had increased contact from gay men living with HIV, civil partners with no asylum status frightened they will be deported if they report their abusive partner, lesbian and gay men and women being forced in to marriage, lesbians enduring corrective rape, and young LGBT people experiencing abuse in their first relationships.
We know this is only the tip of the iceberg and that iceberg just keeps growing. Over the years we have faced continued cuts in our funding head-on. Somehow, we have not only continued offering services, but provided more; extending hours on the helpline, introducing online chat, and recruiting a specialist LGBT Independent Domestic Violence Advisor.
This year we are facing our biggest challenge yet, up to 40% cuts in government funds following the public spending review. This may be one challenge too many. Realistically, we will need to severely reduce the level of support we offer. At a time when the community needs us the most.
The biggest barrier anyone faces is having to ‘out’ themselves in order to gain help and for many that is an impossible act, particularly if they’ve spent years with someone who uses their sexual orientation or gender identity as a weapon. LGBT victims more often than not find themselves staying at home with their abusive partners and facing escalation in the abuse.
That's why it is so important that we are there to take that call, be supportive, and give a voice to the thousands of invisible victims we have contact with every year.
There really is No Pride in Domestic Violence.
Jo Harvey Barringer is CEO of Broken Rainbow
Broken Rainbow helpline: 0300 999 5428, 10am – 8pm Mon & Thursday, 10am – 5pm Tuesday & Thursday, 1-5pm Friday. Trans service Tuesday pm.
Online Chat via website: www.brokenrainbow.org.uk, 2-10pm daily