International Women’s Day 2010: Supporting women’s organisations and services

Vivienne Hayes, Chief Executive of the Women’s Resource Centre, argues that the women’s sector is essential to our ongoing fight for equality.

female symbols spray painted onto zebra crossingIt has been almost 100 years since the declaration of IWD and we still have some way to go in securing the human rights of all women, both here in the UK and across the globe.

The current economic climate is another additional excuse for the systematic failure of decision makers to effectively address and tackle the continued and shameful discrimination and oppression millions of women experience all over the world.

Our women’s sector is diminishing before our eyes. In particular, women’s organisations that support ethnic minorities, refugees and other long neglected groups in our society are taking a considerable hit, with reports of their services being de-commissioned at an alarming rate.

Unfortunately, we know that with a reduced women’s sector comes increased inequality for women. So it is more vital than ever that the organisations and services we provide do not completely disappear.

During increasingly difficult times women as individuals and as organisations are renowned for their creativity and resilience and survival. So what should be our collective creative responses to this crisis? What choices do we have and what remedies should we be adopting? What kind of leadership should we be demonstrating?

I believe it is absolutely essential for us as women to work differently and better. In working towards the liberation of women and towards the liberation of mother nature (environmental sustainability), the choices we make at this time will inform the legacy we leave our children and future generations.

One of the crucial things we must do is maintain the diversity and number of women’s organisations and services, and let me be clear; I mean women’s organisations and services led by and for women and women only.

In a hostile commissioning environment, during an economic downturn and with a potential change in government, our unity and solidarity is more crucial than ever. We must rise to this challenge and respond with sisterly concern, constantly asking ourselves – how do we make choices which promote our own organisations and those of our sisters?

One of the things which saddens me the most is the excuse I sometimes hear that because of commissioning processes we must compete. We don’t, we can form partnerships and we can collaborate.

We always say to decision makers – we want to see political will in support for our sector. We also need to see that will within our own sector. Leadership is either about about power and control or liberation. We have choices – we don’t have to follow the herd – we can be so much better than that.

So for this year, and in honour and celebration of the sisters, mothers and grandmothers who fought and died (and who continue to do so) for the rights we do enjoy, let’s be the best we can be. We are different – but equal – to men, so let’s celebrate and showcase that difference and lead the way as an example of another possibility … a better world for all.

Photo by gaelx, shared under a Creative Commons License.