Women’s Forum: Activities
Hove and Portslade CLP held its first women’s forum on 24th June 2017, from 10am – 12pm, at BHASVIC. Activities included: an analysis of the way women’s rights were dealt with during the election at the national and local levels; a review of roles and responsibilities of members; the development of a Terms of Reference for the group; the distribution of motions; brainstorming activities relating to campaigning. 16 members were present and apologies were sent from 19 members via email. A further 5 apologies were sent via facebook. All 5 branches were represented, but Goldsmid and Hove Park made up the majority of members at the meeting.
Women’s Forum: Action Points
- The women’s forum requested to find out more about Peter Kyle’s activities in relations to legal reform on Domestic Violence. Officer to request Peter’s attendance at next meeting to discuss.
- Women’s forum members requested that the officer speak to the treasurer and the EC about allocation of a budget for the forum’s activities.
- Women’s forum members requested a leaflet to be designed on the ways in which austerity disproportionately impacts women’s and girls’ life. Officer to draft and send for review by members. Women’s rights focused anti-austerity speakers to be asked to speak at the next women’s forum (sisters uncut already asked by Officer).
- Development of a recruitment strategy to improve the diversity of the membership of the women’s forum. Officer to draft and send for comments.
- Leadership training opportunities to be shared with the group.
- Labour Party basics training to be organized for the women’s forum members with support from the Labour Women’s Network and local party members/EC. Officer to follow up on this.
- Ideas for a campaign on domestic violence shelters in the area – Officer to scope and bring back to the group.
- The Terms of Reference is to be updated and shared. It will remain a living document and will be reviewed every three months to check for relevancy. Officer to update and share.
- Officer to mobilise high-level women’s speaker for cross-city meetings on the week of the conference.
- Officer to draft an electronic survey and share with group for women members and supporters to complete as a means to gather data and deliver targeted actions to inspire women to join.
- Women’s Forum members expressed interest in learning more about other forums as well and expressed interest in holding shared events – promoting an intersectional approach to our work. Officer to reach out.
- Officer to send the drafted calendar of events to the women’s forum for them to complete with their ideas in time for the next event.
Women’s Forum: Feedback to the GC with regard to the election
Feedback from the Women’s Forum membership with regards to the way women were treated in the national and local campaign during the general election:
- There was a consensus that women’s rights were marginalised and silenced during the election at both the national and local level. Austerity, housing, the NHS, WASPI were all issues which the group discussed as being missing from the campaign. Point made several times that women’s rights should be high on the agenda of the party, and at meetings, at all times – it should not be the exception and cannot be picked up and put down when convenient.
- It was noted that the treatment of Diane Abbott was particularly sexist by the media and by politicians.
- In addition to feeling that women’s rights were marginalized during the local election campaign, women’s forum members fed back that the way in which campaigning was conducted presented risk to women, and that many felt uncomfortable in the way that canvassing took place. One member reported that she had been expected to get into a car with 4 men she did not know in order to go canvassing. This was uncomfortable for her. This was appears to be a long-running issue as this specific incident was reported to have taken place during the referendum campaign. Other issues arising on the issue of safety and comfort during campaigning:
- Security briefings were not provided
- People running the board often do not know where people are/don’t keep track. This is particularly difficult when lone women are sent to canvass blocks of flats.
- Women’s officer asked to canvass block of flats on her own during the election campaign. Gender sensitive training to be delivered.
- Apart from being a women’s rights issue, it is a health and safety issue as well.
Statement by Women’s Officer
In reference to the feedback provided by the Women’s Forum, it should be noted and on record that the Women’s Officer offered professional-level support to our local MP to ensure that women’s rights and needs were included in his election material. This was not taken up during the campaign or whilst drafting election materials. This was very disappointing. Women’s rights should be mainstreamed within everything that we do as a party at all times. They should not just be picked up when politically convenient to do so. It should also be noted that during the same extraordinary EC meeting (held just after the election was called) Mr Kyle expressed that by talking about the ‘sex for rent’ issue, he had done enough to address women’s rights in the campaign. This was very disappointing to hear as a woman and as the women’s officer for the CLP. Whilst this issue requires attention, women are half of the population and half of the population’s votes and rights cannot be taken for granted – we have multiple issues which need to be addressed: violence and abuse are extreme manifestations of the inequality women and girls face in our society and the acknowledgement and tackling of structural issue of inequality would also be welcomed despite their being less media-friendly. We would welcome our MP taking steps in future campaigns to ensure that women’s rights and other systems of oppression where analysed and included in literature and on the doorstep. Whilst there wasn’t much time in this snap election, again I would like to stress that support was offered to do this and rejected.
Lastly, it was disappointing for the Women’s Officer to note that Mr Kyle criticised Diane Abbott’s performance at the last meeting of the EC without reference to the unfair treatment she had received from the media and other politicians or reference to her illness which is thought to have caused her lapses in memory and confusion. Ms. Abbott remains one of the most accomplished MPs in our parliament and faces multiple forms of oppression, discrimination and abuse as a black woman in the public sphere.