An invitation from Rosie Duffield:
As our CLP Women’s Officer, I am thrilled to announce that we have now set up our own Women’s Group which met for the first time at our great Labour Club in Whitstable on 29th November.
Our brilliant activists, Jean Fraser and Rita O’Brien (also CLP Secretary and Whitstable Branch Chair) were extremely pro-active in setting this up and as a result we had a really high turnout for our inaugural meeting from members of both Canterbury and Whitstable branches.
The first meeting was to get an idea of what members would like from their Women’s Group and how we see ourselves in terms of campaigning, training, meeting and being a social group.
Rita and I facilitated, having decided against a more formal style of meeting with a Chair and agenda, etc.
We all introduced ourselves with a brief bit of background history of our involvement in the Labour Party, our work experience and what we want from our new group.
We agreed that we wanted the following:
- A safe, guaranteed women-only space where it would be easier to speak up and speak out without feeling intimidated;
- Activism/campaigning – it was widely felt that we can be a strong campaigning arm of the CLP with a focus on women’s issues such as austerity, domestic violence, women’s rights and so on;
- Training to give women confidence to speak to voters whether on doorsteps, at street stalls or in small groups or wider public meetings. How to tackle those difficult issues and questions.
- Social events/fun and getting together with other like-minded politically active women; A way of connecting to other CLP Women’s Groups and Labour women;
- Consciousness raising – wider feminist discussions.
Several members fed back their positive experiences of Women’s Conference. We were all pleased to know that from now on, motions from Women’s Conference will be included at Labour’s main conference.
Our Councillor for Whitstable’s Gorrell ward, Bernadette Fisher, spoke about the difficulties of operating as a Labour woman within the Council environment. She also raised the issue of the need for strong slogans for use in forthcoming campaigns.
Concerns were acknowledged about the increased effect of austerity for women, eg:
- Benefit cuts
- More pressure for single mothers
- Closure of Surestart centres
- Pension cut backs – longer working years
- Zero hours/part time work
- Bedroom tax
- Closing of refuges
- Legal aid cuts
- Effects of unmet demands of the Women’s movement e.g. equal pay, free nursery care, abortion on demand.
Actions: Invite LP/LWN trainers to set up training sessions – active training to start from next meeting. Set up CAB style advice sessions at the Labour Club (legal, financial, rights and benefits advice). Mel D will organise an evening of entertainment with her band (possible fundraising event). We will plan a celebration in support of International Women’s Day (March 8th). Rosie to set up complimentary, child-friendly meetings for women unable to attend evening sessions (probably a fortnight after evening meetings on a Saturday morning). Also urged everyone to join Labour Women’s Network http://www.lwn.org.uk
Date of next meeting: Tuesday 24th January 2017