Occupy Women’s Network

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By Sara Callaway and Kiki Axelsson:

"The Edinburgh Occupy National Gathering witnessed the formation of the Occupy Women’s Network following a Safer Spaces workshop introduced by Women Against Rape, in which participants spoke about their experiences of dealing with discrimination, bullying and other disruptive behaviour. Some men are noted to have supported women against rape and violence – recognising that in defending women they defend themselves and our movement. Representatives from Occupy camps from across the UK noted that their sites have adopted some or all of the Safer Spaces action points and described how useful this has been, and how it has helped the camps to be calmer and more welcoming (including to children). There was general agreement that confronting discrimination and violence is a part of (not a diversion from) the task of confronting banks, corporations and the 1%; as a movement we are looking for change – not to replicate a violent society.

The subsequent Sheffield conference hosted the second meeting of the Occupy Women’s Network. Around 20 women from seven sites including Leeds, Hebden Bridge, London, Hope Valley, Glasgow, Geneva and Sheffield met to discuss ways to make these sites safer and more inclusive. It was emphasised that women deserve recognition for our wide-ranging work and skills. Examples given at the Sheffield workshop included providing security, technical know-how and caring work which crucially was holding people and camps together. Some women felt that this often went unacknowledged, even by those who daily depend upon it. Women were energised by the chance to share experiences and left determined to ensure that our concerns and demands are listened to and addressed.

Proposals for a Safer Space Policy poster at each camp and banners highlighting women’s work – for example “Women do 2/3 of the World’s Work for 5% of the Income” – were agreed upon. An online women’s forum was also set up and a more detailed report of the Women’s Network and Safer Spaces policy is being prepared for the next National Gathering." (http://theoccupiedtimes.co.uk/?p=2297)