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International Women's Day
Protests say stop cuts to save domestic violence services
To mark International Women's Day, the Socialist Party organised a protest outside parliament. We highlighted the impact of austerity on vital services for women in violent relationships.
In the run up to the day, we were invited to speak about the Women's Lives Matter campaign at a number of trade union meetings. Socialist Party members also raised the campaign in their trade union councils and other union meetings.
In the evening, we held actions outside Labour councils who had overseen huge cuts to local women's refuges. Some London boroughs, like Hillingdon and Harrow, have as little as six refuge beds.
And even in areas which have more - the suggested one bed for 10,000 residents - refuges can't cope with demand. One member of civil servants' union PCS said that if women are being turned away from services, then there aren't enough.
This was the first action supporters of Women's Lives Matter organised in London, but it was a great start.
Helen Pattison London Socialist Party
Jeanette Dye offered this message of solidarity from Newham trade union council on International Women's Day:
"Defend domestic violence services! Domestic violence is a crime and a major problem affecting many women and families. It can have a negative effect on their children too, who experience domestic violence within the family.
"Domestic violence includes many aspects - psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse and so on. Domestic violence includes controlling behaviour and coercive behaviour. It affects all ages.
"The resources in Newham for domestic violence services have to be defended. Statistics show that council funding in Newham for women's refuges has more than halved from 2010 to 2017. And, in the same period, domestic and sexual violence cases heard by Newham's Marac safeguarding body has doubled.
"Newham Council had £519 million in useable reserves at the time of its last financial statement in March. If Newham Council mobilised local unions behind no-cuts budgets to demand more funding from central government, they could stop the cuts and replenish their reserves.
"We call on the Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, to set a real 'people's budget', one which uses reserves and borrowing to end austerity and builds a campaign for funding to provide all the jobs, homes and services we desperately need. Therefore, we ask Newham Council not to axe the funding for domestic violence services in the 2019-20 budget it cut on 18 February, but to increase the funding.
"Defend domestic violence services! Women's Lives Matter! International Women's Day in Newham!
The city centre was quiet. Yet we'd hardly set up our colourful Socialist Party and International Women's Day posters on our campaign stall, before we were approached by women and other workers.
People eagerly filled in our petitions condemning cuts to domestic violence services and other austerity attacks
Two male street cleaning workers agreed that democratically elected workers' committees could run and plan workplaces far better than the bosses. The idea of socialism was met without the bat of an eyelid.
One young woman who had suffered domestic violence explained how she had lost her home to a violent partner, she just had to leave. I couldn't help notice the mental scar left by her domestic violence ordeal. She stood with pen in hand hesitating before signing our petition: "Oh I'll sign it, he'll never find out will he?"
Janet Gibson Hull Socialist Party
Among the over 500 lively protesters, there was a race to read our leaflet - the only one on the demonstration.
For the first time in Bristol, International Women's Day was marked with a protest. Not the usual genteel event with the great and the good in city hall.
This demo had a clear political message. It was advertised for people to "speak out, resist, strike and refuse to work... it's about realising the power we already hold - it is our labour that keeps the world turning and the profits flowing".
This political understanding obviously attracted a large mixed-gender crowd, who were very clear that a change to the society that we live in is essential, along with lots of support from passers-by.
The Socialist Party leaflet advertised two Bristol meetings about how we can fight women's oppression today. We have to fight for every improvement under capitalism. But we must not limit ourselves to what this rigged system is willing to concede. The socialist transformation of society is needed for true gender equality.
Sheila Caffrey Bristol Socialist Party
The Leeds Women's Strike Assembly organised a lunchtime walkout and an evening meeting. Socialist Party members and campaigners for Women's Lives Matter participated, linking women's struggle to ending austerity and fighting for socialism. We also helped to organise the day's events.
Socialist Party member Amy Cousens spoke at the lunchtime rally from Women's Lives Matter. The crowd of 150 nodded and cheered in agreement with the fact that women cannot wait for a Jeremy Corbyn government but need action against austerity now. The University and College Union and others also spoke.
We marched, banging pots and pans, wearing red, shouting chants, and stopping traffic. People on their lunchbreaks joined us as we passed. They cheered us from the streets, taking leaflets faster than we could hand them out. Bus drivers, retail workers, carers and older people clapped, honked and gave us the thumbs up.
Security workers attempted to stop us entering the posh shopping centres, but we were unstoppable. Ten people bought copies of the Socialist and people liked our petitions against Universal Credit and cuts to domestic violence services. 50 people came to the evening meeting.
Leeds Socialist Party plans to renew our efforts in building Women's Lives Matter. We will speak at trade union and Labour Party meetings, hold our own public meeting, and build for a lobby this summer to demand the council reverse domestic violence service cuts.
Nina Brown Leeds Socialist Party
The Socialist Party celebrated the role of working-class socialist women who have led historic breakthroughs, such as Sylvia Pankhurst and Eleanor Marx, at our International Women's Day meeting. We discussed how fighting for socialism and women's liberation go hand in hand. The meeting was well attended by both women and men.
Lily Branchett, from Derby Socialist Party, Mandy Buckley, a senior steward for the striking home care workers in public sector union Unison, and Danny Kilgallon, a Unison steward for the bin workers on strike, all spoke.
Danny displayed solidarity towards the home care workers. He stressed the importance of working-class women and men standing united.
At Birmingham's first Reclaim the Night demonstration, the Socialist Party highlighted the people's outrage that the Blairite council is implementing reckless austerity against the home carers - who happen to be a mainly female workforce.
The public heard chants like "my body, my choice", "whose streets? Our streets!" and "say hey, ho, sexual violence has to go". Leaflets were distributed in abundance and people showed considerable interest in socialist ideas.
The Socialist Party calls for no cuts to domestic violence services, the right to choose when and whether to have children without suffering economic hardship, and an end to discrimination on grounds of gender, race, disability, sexuality, age and all other prejudice.
Only through socialism will we ever find true liberation. So I urge you all to join the Socialist Party today, if you haven't already, and be part of a movement to make a positive difference in the world.
Sana Ulfat Birmingham Socialist Party
Women's Lives Matter was launched at Huddersfield University at a meeting with the Feminist Society. The Feminist Society explained that women bore the greatest brunt of austerity cuts - from Univerisal Credit to the closure of Sure Start centres. Huddersfield's female-only homeless shelter closed last year.
Domestic violence survivor Sophie gave a moving recollection of her struggle. She found few options for where to flee. Many were moved to tears and she received rapturous applause.
We circulated whe Women's Lives Matter petition to pressure John McDonnell to guarantee a future Labour government will top-up reserves and underwrite borrowing that any Labour council uses to refuse to implement cuts.
The meeting wrapped up with an appeal for volunteers to form a campaign committee. An organising meeting will plan the next steps. The work has only just begun for this determined group of people.
Huddersfield Socialist Party
The Socialist Party called for the council to fund domestic violence services and affordable housing on our city centre protest. Our demands mirrored those put forward by Manchester Reclaim the Night a few weeks ago.
Manchester City Council don't fund any refuge services, relying on charities to provide this vital lifeline. Given the millions of pounds the council has in reserves, we call on them to stop the cuts and fund services like women's refuges.
Maddy Steeds Manchester Socialist Party
The Socialist Party campaigned against Universal Credit on International Women's Day. We explained how it can trap women in abusive relationships and is an assault on many ordinary people's living conditions.
At our public meeting, there were people from Cardiff and Caerphilly, and new faces too. Beth Webster reported on the strike for women's rights in the Spanish state. Guest speaker Julia Leonard, from Hillingdon Socialist Party, spoke about the role Socialist Party members play in Women's Lives Matter.
Lucy Cardiff Socialist Party
Sheffield Hallam Socialist Students campaigned against cuts to maternity services in South Yorkshire alongside attempts by the National Union of Students to defund its campaigns and staff for both international and trans students. It was a huge success, but the campaign cannot stop there!
Ben Buckley, Sheffield Socialist Party
At an International Women's Day event, the Socialist Party raised the demand for a no-cuts budget to defend domestic violence services and women's refuges. We promoted our public meeting on the issue. We were the only group to raise this demand.
In the Socialist Party, we link austerity with other issues that affect women. And unite the fight for women's liberation with the fight for socialism. We met women who had experienced domestic violence. They liked our ideas, because they knew first-hand the devastating effect of austerity on women's lives.
Lily Branchett Derby Socialist Party
- To see Socialist Party meetings for International Women's Day and other issues go to 'what's on' at socialistparty.org.uk
- Read 'a socialist programme to end women's oppression' at socialistparty.org.uk
- Check out the International Women's Day statement by the Committee for a Workers' International and read about strikes and protests around the world at socialistworld.net
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 12 March 2019 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.