Women for Independence National Committee member Marsha Scott explains how Women for Independence groups are finding new ways to tackle poverty.
Women across Scotland are, as we know, paying for the recession and austerity in large numbers. Indeed, in a recent report on women and cuts to social security, the cuts were labelled “devastating,” and the worst-affected are single-mother households. It’s a no-brainer that more and more women are being driven into poverty, and the knock-on effect will be higher and higher levels of child poverty. (Although perhaps the Westminster government will redefine “poverty” again or maybe this time just change the definition of “child.” But I digress.)
The differential impact of austerity on women and men is so striking as to be “grotesque” says a report put together by Engender, Close the Gap, Scottish Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Convention, Zero Tolerance, and Scottish Refugee Council:
“Women did not enjoy equality with men in Scotland before welfare reform. Even a complete roll back of the changes that the UK government has made, and proposes to make, would not ensure that women had equal access to resources, decision-making, and physical autonomy and safety. What is very clear to us as women’s organisations is that welfare reform’s grotesquely disproportionate impact on women demands a gendered response. We are concerned that the Scottish Government’s approach to welfare reform mitigation does not take account of the complexities of women’s lives, nor the interrelated changes to social security programmes that are placing women’s economic and social rights in such peril.”
As I write this, I am trying to analyse the new budget announced in Westminster today. The news for women and children is bad.
“Please, please, some good news,” you cry? Well, consider this: a number of Women for Indy local groups have made a virtual proverbial hand-gesture to Westminister and are fighting back. And the response they are getting from their communities is phenomenal. At Women for Indy we suspect that this is one more aspect of the newly energised and powerful force of women, politicised (and pissed off) in the referendum campaign who are just refusing to be paralysed by the injustice of our circumstances.
Inspired by a speech at the WfI AGM in Perth by Yvonne Ridley, who told us that you can buy a Tunnock’s Cake and not pay VAT but that a box of tampons is deemed a “luxury,” Edinburgh Women for Independence set up a crowdfunder to stock foodbanks with period products (tampons, pads). And the language of the appeal was not about charity but about women’s human rights:
“Women are bearing 85% of the financial burden of austerity policies in this country, and women are going to food banks every day to feed themselves and their families. The least we can do is make sure that they can get supplies for their periods as well as food. Periods are a natural part of girls and women's lives, and should never be seen as a source of embarrassment. It certainly should not isolate, oppress or shame girls and women.” (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-put-tampons-pads-in-every-lothian-foodbank#/story)
The appeal reached its goal of £1000 in 3 days.
The East Ren group set up a School Uniform Bank to make sure that poor kids “have the same pride, self-respect and dignity as their peers.” (Read our previous blog on this here.)
Again the language of human rights.
Women in groups across Scotland are volunteering at food banks, setting up crowd funders, holding tombolas, you name it. With little fanfare and a lot of just-get-on-with-it, WfI women are driving a ground-up anti-poverty movement. No national strategy; no roundtable of white, male experts to call for action and do nothing; no playing with lives by playing with words like “poverty” and “reform.” We’re not sure where we’re going, but we have all the confidence in the world in the drivers.