Jude talked to us about Women In Black which is a international network of women campaigning for peace.
Women In Black Sheffield has just restarted, and will meet on the 1st Saturday of every month at the War Memorial by the city hall between 1-2pm and obviously wearing black. A detailed history of Women In Black can be found at the linked site and it is a fascinating story to see how what started as a very small action in Israel in 1988 spread across the world.
The next Sheffield WIB will be 4th April and then the first Saturday of every month, the themes will always be related to stopping violence of all forms against women.

Just a quick reminder that we are collecting toys for the Northern Refugee Centre this month! We need the toys by 22nd march and then we’ll send them off. Anything clean, safe and appropraite more then welcome, board games and puzzles are especially good as well as anything that crosses a broad age range. Either bring the toys to a meeting or email in about collection.

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Check me out! In a fit of organisational triumph, I’m posting a reminder before an event – go me!

To celebrate, this post will remain at the top of the page until I decide to take it down – most likely next Monday.

Million Women Rise is this Saturday, in London. More details at the MWR website. If you’re going, have fun. I will personally be in London that day, although it’s unlikely that I’ll be in the crowd, sadly. Consider me there in spirit.

If you’re not heading down to London, you have no excuse for not turning up to the vigil in Sheffield city centre, at the war memorial by the City Hall. Not even if you’re in another city entirely. I, of course, am exempt from this sweeping judgement, as I will at least be in one of the cities concerned. I hope to aquire the badge that says “tyrant” in the near future. Anyway, see here for more information.

That’s my organisational genius exhausted for now. Tomorrow evening, I shall do what I do every night: try to take over the world!!!

News from the meeting:

  • We would like the stop violence against women action in the city centre to be an annual thing and will hopefully link up with Sheffield Domestic Abuse Forum next year.
  • The Christmas Social will be Dec 12th at Affinity on Campo Lane, please let us know if you can make it!
  • We are keeping a eye out for the finalised date of the Million Women Rise, which will be some time around the 8th March, so that we can arrange to go.
  • On 3rd Feb we will be having a discussion about women only space and the meetings.
  • We are looking for a new charity for the coming year, if you have any ideas, please let us know.

We had a lengthy discussion about trans issues and feminism, which didn’t really get minuted, but was very interesting.

News from the meeting:

We are on the look out for any campaign topics for the next few weeks as we’ve put the playboy one on hold until February. Let us know if you have any ideas!

We’ve been invited to have a stall at the Sheffield University Women’s Party on 16th November. We’re probably not actually going to have a stall, but we will be there with some flyers and hopefully getting a few more new members.

As it looks as though no one can make it to Reclaim the Night on the 22nd we’re thinking of planning some to do in Sheffield. Firm plans will hopefully be made at the next meeting.
In the last week in January we’ll be having a speaker come across from Leeds to talk to us about how environmental issues effect women.
Results of the Women in Sports discussion – or, food for thought!

  • Women may be more prone to sports injuries training is based around the male body and the physical differences between men and women are ignored
  • The culture of male sports and female sports begins at school- boys do rugby, football etc and girls do netball and dance
  • During the olympics there was much more positive coverage of women’s sports than normal and lots of women winning (are these connected?)
  • Apparently around 2% of sports coverage is of women’s sports!
  • Sports kits are much more sexualised for women- see volleyball in particular (although the Indian team was allowed to wear more decent kits for religious reasons)
  • Equal pay in sport is still an issue, since this was the first year that pay was equal at Wimbledon!

Good times!

We were fortunate to be able to talk to Jillian Creasy and Kathy Aston from the Sheffield Green Party (see their national site here) about the way the party works and what its policies are. Jillian is a councilor and Kathy a member of the local party.

As you might expect, from the name, the reputation or just a quick look around their websites, the Green Party is very much for women’s rights – and equality in general.
They have an equalities officer elected within the the national party, and women’s committees in the party include:

Women By Name – a strictly women-only group

Green Women – a group that allows men to participate in discussions, although they cannot vote on issues.

However, it is mostly men at the national conference, mostly men speaking and only one woman as an executive.
There is also an issue over the number of women participating at a local level. It was suggested that one of the reasons for this may be that women are more likely to be involved in active capaigning instead of the day-to-day business of the party, particularly as it is an electoral party and as such is contrained by the same rules as all political parties. A general impression of political parties being governed mainly by old, white, straight men may contribute to women staying away from this aspect of the party.
We also discussed how much of a role childcare might be playing in putting women off being more active, as the meetings of the local party are in the evening, meaning that some women may be constrained by the need for someone to look after their children. Evidently, this would also be a constraining factor for single-parenting men.

The city council currently has about 1/3 female members, but there are also many other unrepresented groups, because the average age is about 60. The council allowance is only around £10,000 P/A and it is very time-consuming work which can prevent anybody on a lower income, or with a less flexible work environment, from standing as councilors. And the structures of the council are very traditional and adverserial with often puts people off.

The is concern that the Liberal Democrats are going to try to remove the equality department from the council soon. We intend to keep an eye on the situation and try and get involved to help save it if needs be. It has been billed as a spending cut, but seems counter-intuitive considering that in order to consider equality issues without the help of a specific department, the onus would then be on the council to provide every individual manager with suitable training.

In November there is a one day conference of the Green Women group in Huddersfield that is open to others, there will be discussions, training and work shops.

We also talked briefly about some of the Green Party’s policies, such as those towards prostitution and sex education. Their stance on sex education in particular feeds into equality issues; in their own words:

“The Green Party would… Ensure all schools provide sex education including on the diversity of sexualities and gender identities and create supportive environments for LGBT staff and students.”

Clearly, the Green Party are far from being a one-issue party, and seem to be actively trying to constantly improve.

A huge thanks to Jillian and Kathy for coming to talk to us, it was incredibly interesting and informative. We hope to see you both soon!

Our first meeting of the new University term started earlier than usual, in order to give the speaker from the Northern Refugee Centre time to chat to us. Their own website is of course the best place to go for information, but summarised below is an outline of what we discussed.

For clarification, an asylum seeker is just that – a person seeking asylum. A refugee is a person who has sought, and then been granted, asylum – they have the right to remain in the country in which they have sought asylum.

  • In general, displaced women are at increased risk of harm compared to displaced men; this is due to- but not limited to – rape, trafficking, harmful and constraining traditional practices, abuses by persons in positions of authority, torture and abandonment.
  • Women coming to the UK are often unaware, or are not advised, that they can make their own claim of asylum. Many are instead considered to be a “dependant” of their husband, which can set up power imbalances.
  • Childcare is not provided at asylum determination interviews. It is at these interviews that the asylum seeker is expected to provide evidence as to their need for asylum – and mothers who have been forced to bring their children with them to the interview will often not want to reveal abuses that they have suffered.

The Northern Refugee Centre currently provides women-only conversation clubs around Sheffield. In their own words,

“Women’s Conversation Clubs are weekly groups for Refugee and Asylum Seeking women to come together with English-speaking volunteers in a safe, relaxed, women-only environment”

Although Sheffield Fems is not currently campaigning with the Northern Refugee Centre, we urge anybody with free time to take part in these clubs, as an easy way to make a difference.