Hundreds of women met at the weekend to discuss the effects of austerity on the world’s largest “minority,” as activists prepare for the upcoming People’s Assembly national conference.
In the opening speech of the Women’s Assembly Against Austerity conference on Saturday, former Labour youth minister Dawn Butler said: “In my career, I was often told I would not progress because I didn’t have a penis.”
The assembly was kicked off by trade unionists and politicians including Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Scottish TUC assistant secretary Ann Henderson and TUC equality and employment rights head Sarah Veale.
Ms Veale delivered a rabble-rousing speech denouncing Prime Minister David Cameron’s amoral political agenda and supporting industrial action against the exploitation of workers.
Under the current government women have borne the brunt of the Con-Dems’ austerity.
“I am not saying it’s been good for men, it’s just been worst for women,” said Unite equalities secretary and Labour treasurer Diana Holland at a session on equal pay.
Benefit and tax credit cuts disproportionately affect women, and women fill fewer than 40 of every 100 new private-sector jobs.
And savage government attacks on legal aid put victims of domestic violence — largely women — in even greater danger.
“It’s back to the master-servant mentality, in which we are meant to be grateful for unpaid jobs,” Ms Veale told a cheering crowd.
Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts chairwoman Zita Holbourne spoke about how racial and religious groups are used as scapegoats.
She also condemned how the government helps perpetuate institutional racism and discrimination against the working class — picking as an example the demonisation of the young Stratford mums of Focus E15, a homeless hostel forced shut by council cuts, as reported in Saturday’s Star.
And changes to housing policy have shut out single mothers and their children by refusing to define them as families.
National Assembly of Women secretary Anita Wright hailed the event as a “great success.”
She said: “We will take the spirit of the assembly and the unique experience of women campaigning against austerity to the national recall conference, so there is full involvement of women in the shaping of more progressive, more representative social policies.”
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