Update – December 2015
Actions following meeting with Alex Chalk MP
The main issues we raised on 27th November with Chalk were:
- Statutory PHSE/ SRE (Personal, Social Health Education/ Sex and Relationships Education) in all schools. Briefing paper on PHSE
- Improved provision of refuge services for women survivors of domestic violence
- The introduction of exclusion zones around clinics to protect women having abortions from distress caused by protesters
- An end to the detention of migrants
Chalk was broadly on side about PHSE, though he requested a fully costed plan. We emailed PHSE association who passed on their proposal as here. We’re not satisfied that they expect it to be delivered by teachers. Any suggestions of other groups advocating for PHSE would be welcome.
Chalk was open-minded about the need for better provision of refuge services, though his focus was local. Tess is contacting the manager of Beresford locally who will in turn email Alex with the figures for the numbers of women and families turned away due to a lack of space.
Abortion Buffer Zones
Chalk wanted a précis of the findings from the Aston report. He also wanted figures for how anti-choice protesters impact locally on women trying to obtain abortions. Obviously, as an unfunded group this is near impossible.
Chalk confirmed that he supports an end to the indefinite detention of migrants and suggested that parliament is moving towards that too. He also stated his opposition to the detention of pregnant women. Chalk hasn’t attended either of the recent debates on the immigration bill (grr).
General campaign updates
Cheltenham Borough Council replied to our Freedom of Information about licensing and local Cllr Seacome further clarified the situation. It seems the sexual entertainment during race week is permitted under a statutory exemption; consequently no licenses are needed and objecting requires a change in law rather than simply lobbying the council. This limits what we are able to do.
We’ve raised this with Chalk previously and whilst he is opposed in principle, he stated that it isn’t a priority for him. There’s little to be gained from pressing the point with him.
Perhaps we would benefit from linking with other groups across the country so that we can share experiences and plan a strategy.
We also had a response from Gloucestershire Constabularly, there are helpful hints as to the questions we should be asking. A further FOI will be drafted.
Overview of Plans for the New Year
Should anyone wish to take on any of the actions identified, please volunteer yourself. As ever, if any of this piques your interest please get involved and similarly if there’s something you don’t agree with there’s no problem with sitting it out. Below are the priorities as I (Jo) see them, though this shouldn’t put anyone off from suggesting others.
Disco for Choice – Louise mentioned that she has use of portable disco equipment. As it’s unlikely we’ll be able to gather data requested as above perhaps a ‘disco for choice’ outside some of the offending churches might be a good way to ‘turn the tables’ (ohhh… triple pun). A bit of media coverage on this one could push it up the agenda and hopefully convince Chalk that it matters without the need for us to conduct near impossible research by asking women obtaining abortions how they feel about anti-choice protesters.
Lent (when the anti-choicers normally protest) is Weds 10th Feb to 24th March. It’s worth noting the IWD is 8th March… (nearest Sunday 6th March).
Funding for Women’s Services – Lots of us are really keen to campaign for this, but as a group it will be difficult to proceed without support from the service providers themselves. A few people in Chelt Fems work for GRASAC and Beresford Group, if you could ask and feedback that’d be brilliant. Similarly, if anyone has any links with GDASS we really need them on side too.
A series of protests, events and talks culminating in a play, inviting all of those responsible for the provision of funding would be a fun and effective way to raise the profile, change attitudes within GCC and engage support.
It’s interesting that The Hollie Gazzard Trust and GDASS are almost entirely gender neutral in their approach (at least on websites) and perhaps it is no coincidence that both these groups have been favoured for the meagre funding that’s available (to my understanding). As a group it’s important to find a way to overcome any reticence felt by service providers about not aligning themselves with feminists so that we can support them, though this is a tricky area. As ever, ideas are welcome!
Police & Crime Commissioner Elections – Over the past year there have been lots of anecdotal and evidenced reports of inadequate practice from the police (see Campaigns area). The PCC (Police & Crime Commissioner) elections next May could provide a very good opportunity to push the prospective candidates about what they will do to protect women and end institutional victim blaming. Perhaps we could organise another feminist hustings (they’re likely to be glad of the publicity).
Confidence Building – There are quite a few dramatically and comedically inclined people in Chelt Fems (coughing at Joy-Amy and Salome). Sadly, they’re outnumbered by those of us who are shy. Confidence building would undoubtedly make us all more effective campaigners and would undoubtedly be good fun. A final ‘stand-up for survivors’ style comedy evening could be a great test for newly found confidence following classes… Women are socialised to under-value and estimate ourselves; finding our voices through confidence building is central to effective feminist activism.
Yarl’s Wood Reminder – It would be really helpful if all of those who attended the Yarl’s Wood demos could send in just a paragraph about why it matters to them. Each paragraph can then be compiled into a blog and sent to Right to Remain for their blogsite. There seems to be an appetite to continue lobbying and campaigning on this.
Chelt52 – We’ve been accepted for Chelt52 for week 7th -13th March. Woohoo!
Chelt Fems works on a democratic basis. Any member may suggest an action, event or campaign to run or support as a group. If a majority of the group says they do not want to sign up to a campaign, then that campaign will not happen under Chelt Fems’ name. Statements may be made as ‘a group of Gloucestershire Feminists’ or, for example, a ‘collaboration of some Chelt Fems members and some Palestinian Soldarity members’ rather than as Chelt Fems.
Chelt Fems believe in solidarity, and where possible seek to offer practical support and publicity for unaffiliated campaigns that are in line with our aims.