Archive for the ‘direct action’ Category

This is an excerpt from a fellow bloggar, Harriet Thacker, a freelance Journo from Brighton. Her blog is generally on “a little bit of feminism and a little bit of other stuff” and today she has written up about a festival which seems to be growing year on year (look out for it next year) at the Southbank. Although admittedly I found out about this too late (I will certainly look out for it next year) I found Harriets article so interesting -on the issues about how the current funding cuts are hitting women hardest, and how it is more important than ever that the hard fought for gains women have made over the years are not savaged by the patriarchal ideology and reforms of the current coalition government.

Harriet says…

“Is it any surprise that these cuts have gone through so smoothly with only 21 of the 119 government ministers being women? Of the 113,000 local government workers who faced redundancy 73% were women; 77% of NHS workers set to lose their jobs are women and of the 710,000 public employees cut 65% were women. Not only are there the staggering job losses that have led to female unemployment being at a 25-year high, but women now also face cuts to legal aid.”

International Women’s Day was celebrated across the country this week, but as female unemployment in the UK reaches a 25-year high solidarity amongst women is more important than ever.

International Women’s Day has been recognised for over a hundred years and was proposed to honour women’s advancement while also serving as a reminder of the continued vigilance and action required to gain and maintain women’s equality.

Women in the UK are now facing the fact that for the first time in living memory their freedoms are in reverse. With cuts to child benefit, legal aid and job losses in the public sector women are losing out in a huge way.

In London this weekend the Southbank Centre is hosting the Women of the World Festival 2012. Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said: “’Throughout history, many women’s achievements have gone unnoticed or unsung. I created WOW – Women of the World Festival to celebrate the formidable power of women to make change happen, to remind us of our history, to draw attention to injustice, to enjoy each other’s company and to encourage men to add their support as we set out to achieve a fairer world. I was overwhelmed by the positive response to WOW in 2011 and am excited to build on this success with another great festival at Southbank Centre in 2012.” (For more of the festival see Harriets blog, it sounds awesome!)

Harriet goes onto say…

Despite promising to be “the most family-friendly government ever” the cuts are tailored to a model of a male breadwinner and a dependent female carer. Is it any surprise that these cuts have gone through so smoothly with only 21 of the 119 government ministers being women? Of the 113,000 local government workers who faced redundancy 73% were women; 77% of NHS workers set to lose their jobs are women and of the 710,000 public employees cut 65% were women. Not only are there the staggering job losses that have led to female unemployment being at a 25-year high, but women now also face cuts to legal aid. As qualifying rules tighten, half the women suffering domestic violence will lose legal aid. Wives facing divorce could stand to lose legal aid rendering them powerless to fight for custody of their children and sharing assets while husbands may afford lawyers.

Ghanimi says: “[The cuts] are inequitable, devastating and wholly unnecessary. Inequitable because women, the poorest and most vulnerable will suffer most. They are devastating because cuts to health, legal aid and welfare, for example, will leave the most vulnerable without the help and support they absolutely depend upon. They are unnecessary because there are alternatives such as a redistribution of wealth. Every year, for example, tax avoidance and evasion starves the British economy of an estimated £95 billion, probably more. It’s immoral for billionaires to pay less tax than people on ordinary incomes and yet this is routinely the case and positively encouraged. It’s no surprise then that the richest 1% have seen their income doubled since the 1970s in contrast to the rest of us. The Government is cutting tax inspectors, which says much about their priority on tax avoidance. Also, the rhetoric that the cuts being necessary to pay off the deficit seems increasingly absurd. Our deficit is actually increasing, not falling. The cuts are depressing our economy and the impact will be felt for a very long time.”

International Women’s Day this year has been more important than ever to draw women together and to raise awareness of what is actually happening to women in the current climate. The International Women’s Day website itself acknowledges the dangers of apathy: “The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy.”

It is up to women to be the change we want to see in the world, to stand up against the reversal of our freedoms and not let apathy take those rights away from us.

To get involved with Brighton & Hove Women Against the Cuts visit www.bhwac.wordpress.com or on Twitter @BrightonHoveWAC
For the rest of her insightful article about Britain for todays woman, click for her blog here


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Deutsch: Junge Frauen auf dem Markt von Chichi...

International Womens day; Empowering young women and girls living with and affected by HIV.

Statement on International Women’s Day 2012


On International Women’s Day 2012 the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS (GCWA), calls on its members, as well as all United Nations agencies, governments and donors to intensify efforts to engage and empower girls and young women living with and affected by HIV.

This is urgent because:

§  Every minute a young woman, between the ages of 15 to 24 becomes infected with HIV [1].

§  Globally, young women aged 15-24, are most vulnerable to HIV with infection rates twice as high as in young men.[2]

§  HIV is the leading cause of death of women of reproductive age.

Women and girls often face barriers in accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care services as well as sexual and reproductive health services due to factors such as lack of status and limited decision-making power, lack of control over financial resources and restricted mobility.[3]

Girls and young women can also face age-related barriers, such as parental consent laws or policies, which impede their access to HIV and sexual and reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education. Over the next ten years, more than 100 million girls in developing countries are expected to be married before their 18th birthday – mostly to older men and often against their will.

Girls and young women living with HIV also can be faced with stigma and discrimination––from their peers, families, health workers and communities. Key affected groups of women, such as women engaged in sex work and using drugs, can experience disproportionate levels of stigma and discrimination. This makes women who are engaged in sex work and/or use drugs less likely to access HIV prevention and treatment services as well as general health services.[4] HIV has left thousands of girls caring for their younger brothers and sisters after the death of their parents. The missed educational opportunities and inherent poverty further adds to their vulnerability to HIV, as well as unintended pregnancy.

All women and girls require greater efforts to secure their human rights.  We need to work together to:


1.       Enable girls and women, in all their diversity, to protect themselves from HIV infection, and live their full potential, free of stigma and discrimination, sexual violence, coercion and abuse.

2.       Promote sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and young women, and ensure their access to comprehensive HIV and sexual and reproductive health services.

3.       Enable girls and young women access to comprehensive sexuality education and information.

4.       Advance and support the realization of all human rights of girls and young women.

Today on International Women’s Day, our commitment to girls and young women living with and affected by HIV is stronger than ever. By building and strengthening partnerships, and jointly advocating for the rights and needs of girls and young women. By mobilizing and empowering girls and young women living with and affected by HIV, we can help turn the tide of HIV and inspire them to determine the future they want.

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POST Press Release (for all the information about the situation in Russia and the protest, click here)New York City Kicked off the global protest on the eve of World AIDS Day, and were followed by 12 other cities

On World Aids Day, 2011,  our women’s group (renamed from Glada Womens voices to Women Of Substance) pulled off coordinating an amazing global protest! We liaised with organisations led by people who use drugs and were supported by the International Network of People who Use Drugs(INPUD) -and together we gathered outside Russian embassies in cities across the world in the largest ever global show of solidarity by and for people who use drugs.

The protests, entitled ‘Shame Russia Shame’, was directed at Russia’s highly controversial drug policies which are believed to be driving the EEC regions HIV and TB epidemics. Injecting drugs with contaminated equipment is driving Russia’s HIV epidemic, now the fastest growing in the world and it is reflected in the numbers; as many as 80% of new infections are occurring amongst people who inject drugs (PWID), in a total HIV positive population of approx 1.3million. With this in mind, recent projections forecast an additional 5 million people could become infected with HIV in the near future, unless Russia drastically transforms the way it is dealing with its HIV pandemic.

INPUD member Erin O'Mara says Russia's drug policies are 'brutalising' INPUD member Erin O’Mara says Russia’s drug policies are ‘brutalising’

Erin O’Mara, (chair of Women Of Substance and editor of UK’s Black Poppy Magazine / INPUD member) who spearheaded the global protest said the human catastrophe unfolding in Russia is almost indescribable in its brutality and neglect.”Russia has more heroin users than anywhere in the world yet because they offer no safe alternatives such as methadone or buprenorphine, and corruption has driven the price of heroin above what many Russian users can afford, new home made concoctions like desomorphine (nicknamed krokodil) are gaining ground, with devastating health consequences for the user”. Erin adds, “To scratch the surface of Russian drug policies, you find some of the most brutalizing policies in the world; where their should be harm reduction, regulation, treatment and support, there is neglect, abuse, imprisonment, disease and death.”

New York City groups Harm Reduction Coalition and Vocal NY, led the first of the World Aids Day demos, reading speeches and presenting a statement of demands to the Russian Embassy, which included the demand for Opiate Substitution Therapies (OST) such as methadone to be both legal and accessible to the 2 million or more injecting drug users in Russia.

Mexico lays its candlelight vigil in memory of those who have died of AIDS.

Mexico soon followed, again on the eve of World AIDS Day, with their protest led by Espolea, an organisation who’s young people delivered their heartfelt candlelight vigil to remember those who have died of AIDS and those with HIV facing so much oppression in the Russian Federation. It was a very generous tribute from our young colleagues in Mexico at a time in the drugs war when they are facing such enormous troubles of their own. (see video below).

As December 1st -and World AIDS Day dawned,  the global domino effect began and cities from Canberra, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Berlin, Bucharest, London, Paris, Porto, Stockholm, Tblisi, Toronto, delivered their protests, and a unified SHAME RUSSIA SHAME rang out in front of Russian Embassies across the world.

Londons’ Russian Embassy Protest

Speeches were given and a statement of demands were delivered to the Embassies which included demands to see the introduction of Opiate Substitution therapy (OST) and the scale up of needle and syringe programmes, which although currently funded by outside NGO’s and not by the Russian Government, numbers of services are still shockingly inadequate, with around 50 odd for the entire Russian Federation.

The city of Tblisi also took a brave step and protested outside their Swiss Embassy, which currently stands in for the Russian embassy which has been removed from Georgia for political reasons. Nevertheless, Georgians who have also seen the emergence of the drug Krokodil from across the Russian border were keen to show solidarity with their Russian drug using peers, as history has meant they were very aware of the might of the Russian police forces and their attitudes towards drug users. Georgians took a huge risk protesting in Tblisi but seemed buoyed by recent workshops in drug user organising and empowerment and peerwork with INPUD.

New Vector, in Tblisi in support of their Russian peers, and raising awareness of krokodil

Demonstrators had the special opportunity to read out a letter from Russia, from an INPUD member and drug user activist named Alex, who spoke directly to his peers across the world about Russia’s indifference and the strength he gains from a unified drug using community.

Alex writes: “To my despair, I live in a country where the means don’t justify the ends Where it’s easier to save the lives of healthy people by destroying those who are sick. Where ethics and humanity have given way to contempt and cruelty. Where they evaluate prevention not in terms of possibilities and outcomes but dollars and popularity. I express my deepest gratitude to all of you who share my protest.  For me, World AIDS Day does not exist in Russia. For me World AIDS Day in Russia means white carnations and condolence cards.I’m alive today thanks to your help and your faith in our united strength. I wish us resilient spirits, and that love fills all of our homes. I’m with you today.”

It was an exciting, moving and empowering event for all concerned, however everyone

The white slippers and carnations outside the Russian Embassy in Canberra, Australia

was acutely aware that Russian themselves were simply not safe enough to protest on World AIDS Day, no matter how peacefully. Although this protest had its roots in Moscow in 2009 on International Drug User Day, when 5 Russian activists were arrested after trying to lay red carnations and white slippers (the Russian symbol for the dead) at the steps of the Drug Control Service, the protest expanded on International Remembrance Day 2011. 3 countries took part and (Budapest, Berlin and Barcelona) remembered their peers outside Russian embassies, again laying the symbols of the protest. This world AIDS Day,was a call out to the world that we will not let our Russian peers be forgotten -that we will stand side by side them as we all fight to ensure that Russian citizens have the right to humane, evidenced based, enlightened drug policies and treatment.

For more information and/or quotes from INPUD members and city organisers, please do not hesitate to get in touch with INPUD.

Contact: INPUD Deputy Project Co-ordinatorL eliotalbers@inpud.net who can put you in touch with the right person or answer your questions.

NOTE: A huge thank you to the global coordinators based in London – Women of Substance, Black Poppy Magazine, and Ava Project (London)– -and our partners in Eastern Europe Andrey Rylkov Foundation, Eurasian Harm Reduction Network and all those organisations who took part in this event. INPUD members;  Plataforma Drogologica (Barcelona), Deutsch AIDS Hilfe (Berlin), Harm Reduction Coalition, Vocal NY (New York City) ,ASUD, Cannabis Sans Frontiere (Paris), AIVL, NUAA, CAHMA(Canberra)  CASOP (Porto) Association Intergration (Bucharest),Svenska Brukarforeningen (Stockholm), New Vector (Tblisi), CounterFit (Toronto) Chemical Reaction (Edinburgh) , Espolea (Mexico City)

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