Inspiring Women

Sept Meeting 1

Tuesday night was our main meeting and it was one of truly inspiring women speakers and a bumper turnout.  First up was Amie Ferris-Rotman, a war correspondent and Stanford fellow who has reported from over 30 date zones. She spoke to us about her decade as a female reporter and the particular challenges as well as benefits of being a woman working in the media. She went on to tell us about her project Sahar Speaks that she started whilst living in Kabul. Sahar Speaks is a mentoring programme to train Afghani women as international reporters and journalists as she saw female reporters were sadly lacking in the international news corps there.  Amie’s project has in the last few days been granted funding (amazing!) and she is now on the look out for experienced jouranlists and reporters to act as mentors, so if you know anyone who fits the bill please get in touch.

Raffle Prizes
So much raffle!

Next up we were lucky enough to have an emotional but inspiring talk from Women for Refugee Women (W4RW).  We have worked closely with W4RW raising awareness of their campaign to end the detention of female asylum seekers. Hopefully you have seen or heard about our wonderful Solidarity Blanket (with a message from none other than Angelina Jolie on it!) or if you saw the Channel 4 expose then you will know something about Yarlswood Detention Centre. This centre is where up to 400 women are imprisoned at any one time, many without any knowledge of when they will be released, their only ‘crime’, wanting safety and to make a better life for themselves. W4RW’s message on detention centres is simple; shut them down. We heard first hand the difficulties faced in the UK as a refugee woman and finished by discussing ways that Shoreditch Sisters could continue to work with them. It was a fantastic meeting and thank you so much to Amie and W4RW for coming to speak to us.

Speakers presenting
More Speakers!

We are holding a campaigns meeting 6 October 2015 so if you have any ideas please come along and share them, check it out here

We look forward to seeing you at our next meeting where we will be looking for a full house and playing Bingo! Extra bingo cards can be purchased on the night with all proceeds going to our chosen charity Luminary bakery.

Blog post by Sophie Robinson on behalf of Shoreditch Sisters WI

Calling all Sisters: it’s time for action! Show your solidarity with refugees!

Shoreditch Sisters Marching Many of us will have been shocked and saddened during the last few months over news of people dying in the Mediterranean, suffering mistreatment in immigrant detention centres, facing police brutality on the border between Greece and Macedonia, suffocating in a van in Austria or living in desperate conditions on our border in Calais – simply because they are seeking a safe place to live.

It’s time for us to turn these events round and take action to make sure that we are confronting all the pieces that have created this refugee crisis in Europe. This week alone there are two important steps you can take:

  • Write your MP and ask them to attend the Parliament debate into Immigration Detention on the 10th of September. An end to detention would not only end the inhumane imprisonment of 1000s of people without them having caused a crime but would also cause a massive shift in the refugee rights debate. You can find who your MP is by going to and use the draft email below.
  • Join the Shoreditch Sisters as we take part in the Solidarity with Refugees demonstration on the 12th of September. This demonstration is to put pressure on Theresa May as she prepares to take part in a meeting of the EU’s 28 member states for emergency talks on Europe’s escalating refugee crisis. It is vital that she takes with her the conviction that the British people that she represents are open to helping refugees and that we can’t continue to allow thousands to die trying to reach the EU and their legal right to claim asylum. We will go as a group so even if you haven’t taken part in a demo before come join us. More info and to attend here.

Campaigns Group at Yarls WoodT H A N K   Y O U!

Subject: Important Parliament debate on 10th of September

Dear [MP NAME],

This week on the 10th of September there is an important debate in Parliament about immigration detention, which I would very much like you to attend and advocate from the point of view that private sector run immigrant detention centres should have no place in our asylum and migration system.

I am a member of the Shoreditch Sisters WI group and we have been campaigning against the use of detention centres, most notably Yarl’s Wood detention centre for women, over the past two years, with great media success. Read about it here:

At the moment, around 2000 women who seek asylum are locked up in Yarl’s Wood detention centre each year. Many of them are survivors of rape and abuse who have already made dangerous journeys to seek safety. Being locked up is traumatic for them, as well as inefficient and expensive for the government.

If you would like more information on the alternatives available for immigrant detention centres, please contact Women for Refugee Women:

Looking forward to hearing your response.

Best wishes,

March Meeting: Dreams of a 50:50 Parliament.

With the huge balls of politics beginning to gather momentum in the lead up to the election on 7 May we had a couple of wonderful and terribly relevant speakers for March’s meeting. Francis Scott from the 50:50 campaign came to speak about women’s representation in parliament and Councillor Racheal Saunders who is leader of the Labour Group in Mile End came to discuss the political process and the importance of voting.

SSWI show support for the 50:50 Parliament Campaign

Francis Scott kicked us off with a fantastic discussion on her 50:50 Parliament campaign which is trying to raise awareness that only 23% of MPs are women and that we need fairer representation in parliament. The campaign isn’t about proscribing one specific way of achieving the goal of fairer representation and is instead calling for more debate on the matter. However Francis took us through the possible options to increase female representation which included; gender quotas, all women shortlists or two seat constituencies where one seat is for a man and one seat is for a woman (an idea put forward by Tony Benn in the past). Francis gave us the fairly horrifying statistic that if we continue at the same rate we will only attain gender equality in the year 2115, I can’t wait that long guys. If cryogenics doesn’t work then I probably won’t even be a head in a jar by then! So if you think we need a fairer representation of women in politics now and want to debate how we go about doing just that then sign the petition here. You can also follow the campaign on twitter and Facebook.

The leader of the Labour Group in Mile End, Racheal Saunders then lead a conversation on the importance of voting and taking an active part in politics. Racheal spoke about getting in to politics as a women and highlighted the fact that two thirds of people who sign up to join the Labour Party are men. This is down to a whole raft of factors including inherent gender bias in politics generally and the socialisation of women, which means they put themselves forward less than men for senior roles. Rachael also spoke about the necessity for everyone to get involved in politics, explaining that politicians work for the voters and if you aren’t voting then they are less likely to drive forward change that benefits you. This means if you want to see change then you should make sure you’re registered to vote here – you’ve only got until the 20 April.

It was a fantastic meeting and thank you so much to Francis and Racheal for coming to talk to us!

Piece of Mind

To mark International Women’s Day 2015 Emma Watson, in her role as the face of the HeForShe campaign, gave a sprawling hour long interview on the campaign to Greg James (of all people… so that’s what he looks like). As ever she was an idiosyncratic mix of charming and wonderfully awkward speaking passionately about subjects as diverse as the discrimination in her own life to awkward dates (I hear you Sister) to the negative impact of inequality on men.

HeForShe Logo

If you’re unfamiliar with Watson’s work she is probably most famous for playing Hermione – the one who actually got all of the shit done – in Harry Potter but since last year she has taken on the mantel of UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador which despite being a bit of a mouthful is something we have needed for literally ages already.

Watson opened the interview with such an important point: “gender equality historically has been predominantly a women’s movement for women but I think the impact of gender inequality and how its actually been affecting men hasn’t been addressed.”

Feminism is not a women’s issue: it’s a human one.

If any of us are oppressed or discriminated against then – as a whole – we make up less than the sum of our parts. We have lost the input of those oppressed people, we are dragging them along when they could be helping us carry the load. As Watson says at the very end of the interview by discriminating against women, humanity is a bird flying with one wing clipped – just think how much higher we could fly if both wings were free – a beautifully apt metaphor originating from American Feminist Gloria Steinem.

Watson spoke of the damaging effects on men due to how our society “devalues the she”. By making stereotypically female traits less valuable we devalue everyone who has them regardless of gender. She mentions how truly horrifying she finds the still prevalent expectation that men cannot cry, I think no one says it better than whoever it was that made up that quote that was falsely attributed to Charlotte Bronte; “Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive.”

By boxing up parts of the human condition and segregating them by gender we ourselves break apart, we deny the masculine in a woman and the feminine in a man. We are nowhere near as binary as we imagine, we are one very long sliding scale of human nature.

Watson also spoke about the confusion which surrounds the term “feminist”. In what I think is probably the final word on the matter (and something i’m considering having put on a t-shirt) she said “If you believe in equality, you’re a feminist.” Too much of the time the feminist movement is equated with hate, man hating, and it’s not about that at all. It is simply about equality, about having the same opportunities despite your gender.

This campaign is something we have needed for a long time, to stretch that bird analogy just a little further: we can only fly high enough to reach equality if both our wings are free. We need everyone to recognise and stand up to discrimination in whatever shape or form it takes. This could be our first step in learning how to fly.

To watch the full interview check out the HeForShe Facebook page.

Blog by Jodie Major for Shoreditch Sisters WI