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Amnesty highlight challenges with Lord Morrow’s prostitution bill

20 Sep

Amnesty International

Lord Morrow’s Private Members Bill: Amnesty welcomes anti-trafficking measures but warns against diversion of resources

Amnesty International has welcomed steps to tackle human trafficking in Lord Morrow’s draft Private Members Bill as providing a timely focus for the debate on how Northern Ireland can fulfil its international obligations on trafficking. However, the organisation warned that the Bill’s proposals on prostitution risked the potential diversion of resources away from tackling existing human trafficking offences. The Amnesty statement came as Lord Morrow prepared to present his Private Members Bill to the All Party Group on Human Trafficking at the Northern Ireland Assembly this afternoon (Tuesday 4pm).

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International Northern Ireland Campaigner, said:

“The Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive have important roles to play in making the region a hostile place for human traffickers and a place of safety and support for the victims of trafficking.

“We agree with the stated objective of Lord Morrow’s Private Members Bill which is to enable Northern Ireland to meets its international obligations to reduce demand, tackle trafficking, successfully prosecute cases and support victims.

“There are key elements of the Bill, especially around the provision of protection and services for the victims of trafficking, which we welcome.

“However, Amnesty International is concerned that making ”the paying for sexual services of a prostitute” a criminal offence could run counter to the purpose of tackling trafficking by confusing these related but separate issues and diverting criminal justice resources away from tackling trafficking. It is already an offence in Northern Ireland to pay for sexual services from someone who has been subjected to force,a position which we support.

Grainne Teggart added:

“The Trafficking Convention and the EU Trafficking Directive expressly provide measures to be taken for discouraging and reducing the demand for trafficking victims; the criminalisation of the users of prostitutes is not one of the measures they recommend. The proposed change to the law in Lord Morrow’s Bill thus creates an offence outside the trafficking legal framework. Legislators should focus on the provision of essential support services to the victims of trafficking and steps to ensure more successful prosecution of traffickers.Amnesty International welcomes this debate on how Northern Ireland can meet its international obligations to protect and uphold the human rights of victims of trafficking.”

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UN Security Council Resolution 1325 – Women as powerful agents of change

18 Sep
British and Irish Governments must strengthen women’s role in peace process.
The Northern Ireland Executive was urged today to pressurise the British and Irish governments into implementing a UN Security Council Resolution which would give women here a more representative role in the peace process.
Feminist peace building group Hanna’s House met with MLAs today (18th September) in Belfast, ahead of a major All-Ireland Conference in Dublin in November, to discuss the need for both British and Irish governments to include Northern Ireland in their national action plans to implement UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
Shirley Graham, peace project co-ordinator of Hanna’s House, said the failure of the two governments to make provision for Northern Ireland in their action plans meant that women would continue to be under represented in politics, policing and the judiciary.
“The UNSCR calls for the increased participation of women in those institutions specifically established as result of conflict.  The exclusion of Northern Ireland from their Action Plans by both Governments means that women will continue to be under-represented in those institutions set up under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, particularly in leadership and decision-making roles in areas that can make a difference to communities still living with the aftermath of conflict.
“We organised this meeting today to help raise awareness of the importance of UNSCR 1325 and to invite representatives from the Northern Ireland Assembly to attend an All Ireland Conference on ‘Delivering Women Peace and Security’ at Croke Park Conference Centre on November 5. The conference will be the first time politicians from both sides of the border will have come together to discuss this issue with women from all across Ireland.
“We are also calling on the London and Dublin administrations to work together on the implementation of UNSCR 1325 by having sections on Northern Ireland in their national action plans that complement each other. We believe the Northern Ireland Executive could have a leading role in persuading them that this is the right approach to take.”
The Croke Park Conference, which will be opened by Irish President Michael D Higgins, will include a keynote address by Christine Chinkin of the London School of Economics, giving an overview of UNSCR 1325 from a global perspective.
There will also be contributions from Professor Monica McWilliams on gender mainstreaming within the judiciary and from PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie on gender perspectives on policing and security.
Today’s meeting in Belfast followed a similar briefing in July when representatives from Hanna’s House met the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement to discuss the need for north south co-operation in implementing UNSCR 1325.
Hanna’s House believe that the institutions set up by the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement can be used to move forward the key actions demanded by the resolution.
 Dr Margaret Ward, Hanna’s House Chair  has stated that “the implementation of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement is ongoing and if UNSCR 1325 had existed at the time of its negotiation it would have provided a mechanism to ensure that women were adequately represented at the peace talks and in formal peace building institutions”.
Ms Graham added: “The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement created a framework in which the two governments could work with the new Northern Ireland Assembly to advance the peace process. This same framework can be used to bring about a new approach to Resolution 1325, to bring women to the heart of peace-building.
“It is important for women in Northern Ireland who have been impacted by violence to have real influence over institutions and services to create a safer and more equal society. This is not just about conflict resolution but also about prevention. We believe that women have a major role to play in ensuring we do not slide back into conflict.”
For more information about Hanna’s House visit  www.hannashouse.ie
Notes to Editors
UNCR 1325, which was signed on October 31 2000, is a landmark resolution that promotes women as powerful agents of change of conflict rather than as voiceless victims.
It recognises that women are important actors in peace building and conflict prevention and on governments to devise policy that provides women with adequate security and healthcare in the post conflict situation.
The UK National Action Plan on UNCR 1325 was published on November 25, 2010 and revised in February 2012. Despite intensive lobbying from GB and NI women’s group, the government does not address the conflict in their National Action Plan.
The Irish National Action Plan was officially launched by Mary Robinson in November 25 2011. November 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Hanna’s House has called on the Irish Government to ensure that UNSCR 1325 was an integral part of the work of its Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement as well as Ministerial Councils set up under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement: – the British-Irish Council, British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, North/South Council, North-South Inter-parliamentary Association and the North-South Parliamentary Forum to cooperate on issues related to women’s equality and human rights.

I know I’m pro-life because…

8 Jul

Today in Belfast a big ol’ crowd of people paraded and danced and chanted and even engaged some kind of whirling dirvish activity, all while holding yellow smiley faces and claiming to be “celebrating life”. What they were really doing was reinforcing the religious and patriarchal hegemony that seeks to keep women with their legs shut, their wombs occupied and their ambitions in the home. The last decade has seen the ongoing decline of the church’s influence throughout Ireland, not helped by the sexual abuse of children and subsequent cover ups, coupled with the growth of equality based democracy in Northern Ireland and human rights motivated legislative developments in the Republic. In short, this is something of an end of days for the anti-choice zealots. Their unfortunate misunderstanding of what happens when a sperm and an ovum meet has had  good run of it but in this modern age when we tend towards evidenced-based decision making, there’s just too much damn knowledge all around us for their nonsense to survive. And so they need these marches, where they fill coaches paid for with American money, with mainly children and the elderly from every parish in every far flung corner of this island. They need them to keep on convincing themselves that they are right, to keep anyone who disagrees with them too afraid to speak out, and to keep the 7000 women from Ireland who travel for abortions every year, shamed into silence.

Today in Belfast, we didn’t let them away with it. We had a counter rally where  brave sisters and brothers called out the bullshit and said “We are not ashamed”. We sat in a small theatre later in the afternoon and shared stories of real women’s abortion journeys while the last stragglers of the ‘Rally for Life’ passed by the window, oblivious to the truth they were missing out on just a few feet away. It was a strange day of mixed feelings. We were buoyant to begin with, Emilie and I half-running round to City Hall with the Belfast Feminist Network banner, desperate to catch our first glimpse of the crowd and buzzing with activism adrenalin. Later I talked to a lot of people who were surprised at their own rage as the anti-choice rally passed by, some were disgusted by the very fact that the marchers had felt the need to make the trip to our city to share their bigotry and ignorance, and others were really down as the sheer numbers passing by endlessly seemed overwhelming. Hopefully our pro-voice performance “Free to Tell” was a good debriefing experience, allowing the emotion of the protest to find a direction and focus on the whole reason we will continue to raise our voices.

The thing that angered me the most about Precious Life and Youth Defence and the whole movement they represent is their domination of the word “life”, in particular the way they use “pro-life” to define themselves. Last week while rehearsing for the play, we had a little cast in-joke where we wasted half an hour or so cracking ourselves up with how many ways we could reclaim the term for ourselves. A Facebook page was created as a result (of course) but perhaps the joke doesn’t have much mileage in it. It did get me thinking though, about all the ways I KNOW I’m pro-life and about the depth and breadth of what that term should mean. I believe in some version of the sanctity of life; that life is precious and should, with full consent, be preserved at all costs. I love the writings of John O’Donohue the Irish poet and philosopher who said “It is a strange and magical fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you.” I learned about injustice as a child and I knew it had something to do with people being denied the chance to live in the fullness of that mystery so I’ve spent most of my life looking for ways to do something about that. I’ve sat with children who’ve had more to bear than most of us could imagine, talked to them about how precious they are while they self harmed and my job was just to make sure they were safe. I’ve held the hand of a 9 year old as she proudly showed me round her house, 3 or 4 dirty mattresses on the floor in each bedroom, no photos, no toys, all 7 siblings adopted or fostered…and afterwards I took her out for ice-cream and wondered how many of the houses we passed on the way looked similar on the inside. I listened to a friend try to tell me about her mistakes, about what shame feels like, about what it means to never feel comfortable in your own skin because it’s like your body is the enemy, and missed the chance to understand her through being young and inexperienced and mostly drunk. But I’d understand now. I believe in human rights and equality, in creativity, in adventure, in community and family, in pleasure, in pushing yourself, in wanting more, and appreciating what you have. So that’s how I know I’m pro-life, and if someone out there thinks they can own that phrase because they believe one stupid thing about what god thinks about what women do with their bodies, then screw them. They can go to hell.

Kellie

I know I’m pro-life because…

7 Jul

Today in Belfast a big ol’ crowd of people paraded and danced and chanted and even engaged some kind of whirling dirvish activity, all while holding yellow smiley faces and claiming to be “celebrating life”. What they were really doing was reinforcing the religious and patriarchal hegemony that seeks to keep women with their legs shut, their wombs occupied and their ambitions in the home. The last decade has seen the ongoing decline of the church’s influence throughout Ireland, not helped by the sexual abuse of children and subsequent cover ups, coupled with the growth of equality based democracy in Northern Ireland and human rights motivated legislative developments in the Republic. In short, this is something of an end of days for the anti-choice zealots. Their unfortunate misunderstanding of what happens when a sperm and an ovum meet has had  good run of it but in this modern age when we tend towards evidenced-based decision making, there’s just too much damn knowledge all around us for their nonsense to survive. And so they need these marches, where they fill coaches paid for with American money, with mainly children and the elderly from every parish in every far flung corner of this island. They need them to keep on convincing themselves that they are right, to keep anyone who disagrees with them too afraid to speak out, and to keep the 7000 women from Ireland who travel for abortions every year, shamed into silence.

Today in Belfast, we didn’t let them away with it. We had a counter rally where  brave sisters and brothers called out the bullshit and said “We are not ashamed”. We sat in a small theatre later in the afternoon and shared stories of real women’s abortion journeys while the last stragglers of the ‘Rally for Life’ passed by the window, oblivious to the truth they were missing out on just a few feet away. It was a strange day of mixed feelings. We were buoyant to begin with, Emilie and I half-running round to City Hall with the Belfast Feminist Network banner, desperate to catch our first glimpse of the crowd and buzzing with activism adrenalin. Later I talked to a lot of people who were surprised at their own rage as the anti-choice rally passed by, some were disgusted by the very fact that the marchers had felt the need to make the trip to our city to share their bigotry and ignorance, and others were really down as the sheer numbers passing by endlessly seemed overwhelming. Hopefully our pro-voice performance “Free to Tell” was a good debriefing experience, allowing the emotion of the protest to find a direction and focus on the whole reason we will continue to raise our voices.

The thing that angered me the most about Precious Life and Youth Defence and the whole movement they represent is their domination of the word “life”, in particular the way they use “pro-life” to define themselves. Last week while rehearsing for the play, we had a little cast in-joke where we wasted half an hour or so cracking ourselves up with how many ways we could reclaim the term for ourselves. A Facebook page was created as a result (of course) but perhaps the joke doesn’t have much mileage in it. It did get me thinking though, about all the ways I KNOW I’m pro-life and about the depth and breadth of what that term should mean. I believe in some version of the sanctity of life; that life is precious and should, with full consent, be preserved at all costs. I love the writings of John O’Donohue the Irish poet and philosopher who said “It is a strange and magical fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you.” I learned about injustice as a child and I knew it had something to do with people being denied the chance to live in the fullness of that mystery so I’ve spent most of my life looking for ways to do something about that. I’ve sat with children who’ve had more to bear than most of us could imagine, talked to them about how precious they are while they self harmed and my job was just to make sure they were safe. I’ve held the hand of a 9 year old as she proudly showed me round her house, 3 or 4 dirty mattresses on the floor in each bedroom, no photos, no toys, all 7 siblings adopted or fostered…and afterwards I took her out for ice-cream and wondered how many of the houses we passed on the way looked similar on the inside. I listened to a friend try to tell me about her mistakes, about what shame feels like, about what it means to never feel comfortable in your own skin because it’s like your body is the enemy, and missed the chance to understand her through being young and inexperienced and mostly drunk. But I’d understand now. I believe in human rights and equality, in creativity, in adventure, in community and family, in pleasure, in pushing yourself, in wanting more, and appreciating what you have. So that’s how I know I’m pro-life, and if someone out there thinks they can own that phrase because they believe one stupid thing about what god thinks about what women do with their bodies, then screw them. They can go to hell.

Multiple Feminisms…open mind required.

22 Apr

The third feminist forum took place at the beginning of April, covering the provocative topic of Multiple Feminisms. The aim was to explore feminism’s breadth and allow presentations from perspectives which would not be considered central to the movement. The hope was to challenge ourselves whilst remembering our common goals.

Speaking first was Michael Moore, Regional Organiser for UK Feminista, who focused on the role of men in feminist activism. He opened his talk by affirming that “male feminists do indeed exist” and that feminism has been a positive experience in his life. Outlining his involvement, he said that his role as a NI Regional Organiser was to co-ordinate actions and groups in the region. He recapped previous actions from a male perspective, including those targeting domestic violence, trafficking, reproductive rights and campaigns to broaden gender diversity within politics; concluding that potential male contributions to the movement need to be tackled on an issue by issue basis.

Michael discussed how domestic violence, trafficking etc. evoke a ‘female victim face’ and a ‘male perpetrator face,’ concluding that engaging the male population is unavoidable if the attitudes which permit these crimes were to be tackled. Male silence on these crimes “should be regarded as a form of complicity.”

He insisted that men need to stop thinking that feminism had nothing to do with them. Culturally, there is a huge argument for men’s involvement in feminism as a movement based on gender equality and with the power to bring out the best in everyone. Its core values require appreciating the shared responsibilities between men and women and shared experiences which can benefit universally. He acknowledged that female only spaces are sometimes preferable, but that most problems would not be solved without an admission that women and men need to work together.

Michael shared his awareness that, within feminism, “diversity can be a difficulty.” Veteran feminist campaigners sometimes resist male involvement, often due to past mistreatment from men at an individual or institutional level. He attributed suspicion of male feminists to unfamiliarity, and said that it was incumbent on men to build these bridges.

Asking rhetorically what the “sham” of liberal democracy has done for women, Michael concludes “very little.” Representational government allows citizens to vote, once every four years, to mandate individuals to represent them. Due to governments always being predominantly male, legislation and policies tend to reflect male perspectives. The political system must represent men and women, and a sustained conversation between the sexes is a prerequisite to achieving this.

Michael explained that since becoming a UK Feminista Regional Organiser, he is frequently quizzed on his motivation for working with a feminist organisation. His response is that 100 years ago, western democracies denied women the basic right to vote. He believes that if he was alive then, he would be appalled into supporting suffragists. There remain more important issues to campaign on today.

He recently surveyed activists on feminist priorities in the region, in order to avoid campaigning based on his own perspective. Generating over 100 substantial responses, the survey identified 5 top priorities: legalising abortion services, preventing rape, preventing domestic violence, ending the gender pay gap and transforming women’s representation in media and society. He challenged people to offer arguments against men campaigning on these issues.

Sadie Fulton of the Socialist Workers Party spoke next, presenting on feminist issues from a Marxist perspective and illuminating important areas of overlap between the two. Marxism identifies the birth of social classes as the beginning of male-supremacist sexism, the dominance of which Marxists see as harmful to both sexes. Sadie outlined this narrative, arguing that the only world without sexism was one with no class.

Marx’s ally Friedrich Engels put forward the theory that women were considered equal to men in hunter-gatherer societies. Differences only arose when members of those societies achieved a surplus of supplies, meaning that they moved from subsistence-based resource management to one in which extra supplies required dedicated manufacturers and managers. The development of heavy labour eventually led to the use of machinery. The typical biological differences between male and female physical strength and build meant women were sidelined and a woman’s role became increasingly confined to childbirth and parenting.

Sadie recounts that women’s oppression took different shapes. Working class women were ignored for promotion within factories. Women who lived in luxury usually had restraints placed upon them in terms of leaving the home to seeking employment. Women’s oppression is therefore different to other types of oppression, as women were everywhere throughout society rather than a small minority group. Working class men have always shared an interest in seeing oppression eradicated. Sadie explained that the sources of domestic violence are powerlessness and weakness, and that the roots of this stemmed from classist culture. She questioned the argument that men naturally wanted to oppress or be violent towards women; rather, these attitudes were ingrained in them.

The presentation then moved on to present-day sexism, which Sadie considers a matter of social responsibility. In societies which lack a healthcare system free at the point of access, children are raised and cared for by women. Children born in to better-off families where such systems exist can benefit from paid facilities, their parents from the hired services of others. The relative freedoms afforded to women in this minority of families are prohibitively expensive for less wealthy majority.

Another issue of profit-driven society is its fostering of a new concept of sexism, known as raunch culture. With women today more emancipated than previous generations, marketers focus on stripping individuals of their self-worth to in order to sell products to ‘restore’ it. To be socially valuable, to be “worth it,” consumers must use a certain hair product, wear the right clothes. Sadie emphasised the importance of purchase power, calling on women to abandon products whose manufacturers and marketers reproduce this raunch culture.

In concluding, Sadie reiterated Michael’s point about the failings of liberal democracy, recalling that “the big gains made, such as those which came from the suffrage and Dagenham movements, were all linked to class issues.” They were achieved through social struggle and through working alongside men.

Finally, Kellie Turtle from Belfast Feminist Network took on the topic of the sex industry and explored the often unpopular argument that legalisation and regulation of this industry would be the best way ensure the women involved are safe and empowered. Through a presentation prepared by Cat McGurren of QUB FemSoc who was unable to attend, Kellie outlined the failings in the current legislative landscape. This involved outlining how the law in both the UK and Ireland is confusing, at times contradictory and actually contributes to making sex work more dangerous. For example, laws on soliciting and brothel keeping force women to rely on pimps to find business and into working in isolation rather than working together. In addition, the very fact that it is an industry that is so criminalised means that when women do encounter violence they are unable to report it and seek the help of the police for fear of arrest Kellie gave a recent example of 3 violent robberies by a gang of men in brothels in London where the women didn’t feel safe to report the attacks due to a recent clamp down on the sex industry amid fear that the Olympics may cause brothels to proliferate.

In exploring some of the ways that legalisation and regulation could help make sex workers safer, the New Zealand model was considered with it’s stringent health and safety provisions and focus on women controlling their own work. A quote from a 23 year old Escort from Wellington described the work as “gratifying” and said she feels “appreciated”. Kellie outlined some safety and human rights arguments for the legalisation of prostitution including reducing exploitation by pimps, raising women’s awareness of their rights, improving the health of sex workers, and removing the social stigma surrounding this work. There is also a case for this approach making a significant impact on reducing sex trafficking as regulation gives women a voice and would make it easier to detect and protect women forced into prostitution. We then looked at the website Escort Ireland which is an important resource to independent sex workers who operate here. There are currently 320 such sex workers in Ireland, 88 brothels in Northern Ireland and around £500,000 spent every week. Escort Ireland not only allows sex workers to advertise safely but also provides a forum for them to freely discuss their experiences and a platform for them to campaign for changes to the law. Some quotes from the site gave an opportunity to hear a small snippet of what those who are central to this debate have to say. Finally, Kellie looked at the common assumption in the feminist movement that sex work is in itself a form of violence against women and claimed that it is not good enough to persist with this claim, painting all women as victims, while there are women who are fighting to transform the industry through enhancing the rights of sex workers. Regardless of our uncomfortableness with the idea of it or the outstanding questions about the balance of power in the exchanging of sex for money, we must open the door for sex workers voices to be heard and in the current legislative context that can’t happen.

As you can imagine, there were a number of contributions, questions and discussions that emerged from these opening speeches, the richness of which can’t really be captured in a blog post. Please feel free to add to that by posting your own thoughts in the comments.

Ashleigh Simpson

“Welfare reform means the biggest ever attack on women’s economic autonomy”

4 Mar

At the second instalment of our new monthly Feminist Forum initiative, Lynn Carvill (Women’s Resource and Development Agency) and Gillian Gibson (Footprints Women’s Centre) joined us to discuss the topic of Women and Money.

Lynn put her research and lobbying experience to great use in passionately running us through the remaining barriers to economic autonomy faced by women in Northern Ireland. The gender disparity in terms of the power to earn, spend and save begins when teenage girls are pushed towards lower-paying sectors for work (e.g. carers, beauticians, hairdressers). While there have been visible improvements in the numbers of women entering higher education in recent years, the most recent period of university applications indicates a faster decline in female applicants than male. The pressures of gender intensify from young adulthood and earliest childbearing age, at which stage the expectation to bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities severely impact women’s ability to work and earn outside the home. Often a career is not an option for mothers, who must instead settle for low paid, part-time work, resulting in one-fifth of income for women coming from tax credits and benefits, compared with one-tenth of men’s income. Circumstances which prevent women from gaining full-time incomes well over minimum wage also wipe out the possibility of saving towards a pension. Lynn sees this as one of many reasons why it’s important for feminists to begin gendering the age sector and others outside the women’s sector.

Gillian’s journey to becoming Director of Footprints Women’s Centre began with her own politicisation. This was brought about by a growing consciousness of class, with which she sees a connection to feminism that is yet to be developed to its full potential. Having worked at Footprints for almost twenty years now, Gillian reflects on the remarkable dignity and resilience of women living in poverty in West Belfast, both now and during the conflict years. The very impressive development of the Centre was also relayed to us, along with some valuable insights into how women can be helped out of poverty and financial dependence. In the Centre’s early days, women expressed a strong desire for training and education despite work not being an option for the majority. The staff working at Footprints have responded to that hunger for knowledge and found that women from deprived areas accelerate in terms of skills and learning once the facilities are in place and encouragement is given. Gillian’s concern is that thousands of young women today are, quite suddenly in many cases, facing the same hardships and challenges as those decades ago. Without the same history and experience of poverty, this generation of working class women may not have the same motivation to pursue opportunities. Many currently living in more fortunate circumstances could be caught on the back foot by the effects of austerity. The best way to prevent taking present comforts for granted is to inform as many people as possible about what is being imposed by government, in order to generate anger and inspire resistance.

Our speakers were in agreement that the most urgent task for protecting women is to oppose the brutal welfare reforms currently being ushered through in Westminster, identified by Lynn as “the biggest ever attack on women’s economic autonomy.” The introduction of universal credits (consolidating various, individually-labelled benefits into a single payment) will exacerbate current gender inequalities by making women more dependent on ‘the man of the house.’ With benefit claims being made by one individual per household, there can be no prizes for guessing which partner in the majority of heterosexual couples will gain financial control. Even where the single payment is made into a joint account, women – with greater childcare responsibilities in most instances – will now be deprived of much-needed child benefit money. Another issue identified is the potential impact on female victims of domestic violence in situations where dependency on the single household payment increases the risk involved in confronting and reporting abuse. The reforms reek of an ideological determination to restore the supremacy of the nuclear family, complete with deeply patriarchal gender dynamics. Some interesting comments were made about the discourse surrounding these political movements. Coverage in mainstream media has been obstructive, rather than helping the most vulnerable to work out how they might be impacted by changes to welfare. The political establishment has stubbornly refused to acknowledge women’s interests in relation to the changes, instead focussing all rhetoric on the family. Such talk reduces women to a prescribed household function and is further evidence of a desire to shift women forcefully back into a way of life structured around subjugation within the traditional family unit.

The need for action is becoming increasingly clear, let’s hope our evening of discussion can initiate a prolonged engagement with the burning issues raised.

Michael

Join us on International Women’s Day!

3 Mar

Thursday 8th March 2012. A day to celebrate the achievements and general awesomeness of fearless feminist women, and to send up a rallying call for all the work that still needs to be done in pursuit of equality.

Speaking of rallying…there will be an IWD rally leaving the Art College Belfast at 11:00 and marching through the City Centre to the City Hall where speeches will take place at 12:00pm. I’m really humbled to have been asked to give a speech on the theme of the future of women’s rights and it’s fair to say I’m more than slightly bricking it. PLEASE come along under the Belfast Feminist Network banner and cheer loudly so that I don’t completely lose it and run away 🙂

THEN you are invited to come along to our most public event to date as we host one of our Feminist Forum panel discussion in the Ulster Hall, Group Space (upstairs) at 5pm. It would be fantastic to have lots of you there representing the Network and showing a real interest in hearing the stories of the courageous women we’ve been so lucky to get for this panel. Details are below. Whatever events you manage to fit in on IWD, have a great one! You can get the full programme of events for Belfast here courtesy of WRDA.

Kellie T

IWD Rush Hour Panel Discussion ‘Local Women: Global Perspectives’

Ulster Hall, Belfast 5-6pm

On International Women’s Day we would like to invite you to delve into the experiences of the international women living and working in our own city. If women’s voices are marginalised in the ongoing conversation about what Belfast is and has the potential to be, then the women who have come here from other parts of the world are even less visible. Belfast Feminist Network have invited a panel of such women to share their stories so that we can celebrate their contributions, be challenged by the struggles life here can present, and learn a little about the issues women face in their own home nations.

Chair: Louise Higgins (BFN, NICEM)
Panel:
Assia El-Zaruk (Libya)
Mimi Unamoyo (DRC)
Rosa Wu (Taiwan, ROC)
Barbara Gabriella Renzi (Italy) – introducing her new documentary “Belfast: You Never Know!”

(Starts 5pm sharp due to 1 hr time limit on venue.)