Went to an excellent session at the Coalition of Resistance national organising meeting yesterday run by Women Against the Cuts, which packed something like 80 women into a very small school classroom, with very small chairs! Among the groups whose members/reps were there were Feminist Fightback, the Older Feminist Network and the Radical Statistics Group. There were also two women who told us how they met at the first-ever Women’s Liberation march in London – the age range was about as wide as it could have been.
The session agreed to call for the addition of the following paragraph to the Conference Declaration:
“Acknowledging that women absorb many of the additional pressures from the cuts, the Coalition will strongly support efforts to defend services particularly used by women, and women-specific services. It will particular acknowledge the difficulties suffered by women from diverse communities, including women with disabilities, women from ethnic minorities, and pensioners.”
The conference committee, however, was faced with (depending on which account you believe, either 14 or 20 amendments), so the huge meeting (fairly enough) – some 1,300 strong – agreed to refer this to the Council elected at the meeting.
The session also called for the Council to be at least 50% female, a call that was acknowledged in the plenary session. The people who put themselves forward were 37% female – and I spoke to the organisers afterwards and strongly urged them to either reopen nominations for women or co-opt women to achieve gender balance – so we’ll see….
I had been asked to propose the motion, so here are some of the key details from the speech I never got to make for that:
* Independent House of Commons Library research has shown that the cuts will hit women twice as hard as men: two-thirds of the direct cuts will be forn by women, £11bn of £16bn.
* Over 65% of public service workers are women, and they make up 75% of local government workers, where the job cuts are likely to fall the hardest
* Benefits make up one-fifth of the average women’s income (one-tenth of the average man’s)
* 1m more women than men claim housing benefit – they make up 60% of the total
* 25% of women in their 50s have caring responsibilities