The first Women’s Assembly Against Austerity took place a week ago, and assembly member Emily wrote this report for us. With the ‘Better World’ march next week coinciding with International Women’s Day and an all-women speakers list for the rally, the effects of austerity on women are now under the spotlight.
Almost 200 women from around the country attended to participate and inspire each other. With the strength of feeling at times it felt like twice that many had attended. The day kicked off with speakers discussing the impact of austerity on Women. Some socking statistics showed how women have been worst hit by both un and under employment, with the gender gap in wages widening once again. Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, roused the troops getting the day started with a bang.
The day consisted of welcome talks, various workshops and the concluding speakers finishing in the pub for a well earned drink. The environment of inclusion encouraged many women to share their experiences and refreshingly their triumphs with the rest of the group, from the success at Lewisham to a camp out for the bedroom tax in Brighton (an idea I promptly stole). Such was the atmosphere even I was moved to take the microphone and share (thankfully to applause rather than boos). There were many heat felt tales shared of both public and private sector workers affected by the cuts to services and jobs alike.
Women’s Assembly taught me and the lesson I would like to pass on is that women need to have their voices heard in this fight too. More over in order to do so we need to sand up regardless of whether the room is full of men or women and make our voices heard. I thought it was enough to attend the meetings and support the actions of others (predominantly men), I was wrong. We need the input of both men and women to make our alternatives work. I absolutely would not have stood up in front of a room full of 200 people (regardless of gender) and spoken off the cuff prior to attending this conference – now I fear the issue may be getting me to put the microphone down again.
Attending the Women’s Assembly renewed my faith that there are other women out there who believe, as I do, that we as a gender deserve equality and it is only by working together across the genders that true equality for both men and women may be achieved.
I would whole heartedly encourage any woman to attend the Women’s Assembly and I hope there will be another soon. I managed to plug March 8, considering the audience and the all female speakers there was understandable interest despite the geographic distance.
I would like to finish on an aspiration, I hope in the near future we won’t need an all female panel to ensure equality, I hope women will feel strong enough to stand up themselves and make sure every panel is equal and there will be no need for positive discrimination to ensure women come forward and are considered to speak.