Women’s Lives Matter – Fighting to save aid for women

Louise Harrison tears into David Cameron and the Tories on BBC Question Time, see link to video below

Louise Harrison tears into David Cameron and the Tories on BBC Question Time, see link to video below   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Louise Harrison, member of Women’s Lives Matter (personal capacity)

At the beginning of 2016, I knew two things for certain: austerity would continue to unjustly punish working class women, and the effects of these brutal attacks would damage us, our families and our communities for decades to come.

For me, it mirrors the employment attacks my dad, uncle and their friends faced in the 1970s and 1980s as industries they worked in were battered into unrecognisable, diminished organisations – if they were lucky to survive at all.

We saw our villages and towns plummet into poverty and now we have low wages, zero-hour contracts and a ravished welfare state.

Doncaster, like many other towns, is fighting for its life and with the imminent closure of Doncaster Women’s Aid, that’s exactly what some women in this town will be left alone to do.

Since 2010, 54% of domestic violence services have disappeared from our towns.

Firstly, the Con-Dem government viciously starved local authorities of financial support and secondly, local authorities then decided to cut domestic violence services.

Both national and local government made economic and political decisions that failed women when they were at their most vulnerable.

Advances threatened

End violence against women!, photo Louise Whittle

End violence against women!, photo Louise Whittle   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

The issues around how domestic violence is understood and dealt with, is as much an indictment on our society now as it was 40 years ago when Women’s Aid first began.

In fact, austerity-inflicting politicians at all levels should be more ashamed now, as they are turning the clock back to the 1950s on women’s lives, safety, and rights.

Doncaster campaigners have said enough is enough and have organised to say women’s lives matter in our town.

Many organisations have supported us, including the Socialist Party, Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), the bakers’ trade union and local branches of the NUT teachers’ union.

However, we have faced criticism locally, and have been told we are demonising Labour councillors who ‘can’t do anything other than make cuts’. They hint that the only thing we can do is vote in elections and sometime in the future get a nicer government.

We say to that: dead women can’t vote. And while they’re making cuts, we bleed.

Fighting back essential

How we effectively campaign to save Doncaster Women’s Aid is a question not just for those who support us but also for those who choose not to support us. Because if Women’s Aid closes, women’s lives will be at risk.

Nationally, two women a week are murdered and three commit suicide as a result of being in an abusive relationship.

I was told it’s better to have Labour councils making cuts than have them vote against cuts and then eventually have the Tories bring in auditors to make them.

Tell that to the three women and two children who were murdered within 25 miles of Doncaster this February by a male member of their family.

Tell that to the women of Doncaster who will have no specialised support worker once Women’s Aid closes.

Tell that to the 12 women a day who call the police in Doncaster because of domestic abuse.

Tell that to the children living with domestic abuse and will carry the scars for the rest of their lives.

I take my hat off to the DPAC campaigners who fight for their rights, I take my hat off to the Carnegie Lambeth library occupiers who have been fighting for their rights and I thank Sisters Uncut for their action to demand ring-fenced funding for domestic violence services.

I thank those who support the Women’s Lives Matter campaign locally and nationally and urge others to set up a similar campaign in their town to defend women’s lives.

See clip – that went viral – of Louise Harrison intervening from the audience in the BBC’s Question Time:


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 15 April 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.