Crossroads Women’s Centre, Saturday 9 November 2013
have a lot to say and sometimes are not shy about saying it! They
crowded into the Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town on Saturday 9
November, for ‘Women Together Speak Up – Making Community, Tackling
Problems’. Crossroads Women, the local charity hosting it, aimed to
“give a voice to those women whose needs are most likely to be
neglected, especially in these hard times”.
Children were made welcome by the ever popular Colin the Clown who
provided entertainment throughout the meeting.
of many diverse backgrounds, from teenagers to grandmothers, movingly
described events and experiences. Most felt mothers and carers were
being devalued and impoverished.
raised economic problems. A pregnant woman was fearful of the future as
her husband had lost his job and she had no independent income. A single
mother had been threatened with benefit sanctions despite applying for
150 jobs. Another was doing sex-phone work to feed her children.
had found care services uncaring. A mother grieving the death of a son
had had her breastfeeding baby taken away by social services. A woman
recounted her difficulties getting support in place on leaving a mental
health hospital. Relatives were struggling to ensure loved ones who were
sick or had disabilities received the attention they were officially
entitled to. Support for breastfeeding was being cut and new mothers and
their infants were not being helped.
Violence and discrimination were also recurrent themes. A woman had
witnessed sexual harassment by guards while in a detention centre; a
mother complained of police targeting her Black son and other Black men
for stop and search; a lesbian woman said many LBGTQ young people were
homeless and faced attack.
those present were from Camden, but some had travelled from other
boroughs. And some from Scotland and Wales – they had come for an
earlier meeting and had decided to stay to listen and contribute.
indignity of food banks, loss of play centres and other cuts, juggling
jobs, job search and study with childcare and housework, homelessness,
bailiffs, unaffordable fuel bills and rents, rape, racism and other
discrimination made for a grim framework.
meeting aimed at sharing not only problems but solutions, and women
proved creative and determined. The woman whose child was taken from
her, had fought alongside breastfeeding advocates and got her daughter
back – she was at the meeting and thriving. Others were campaigning to
get re-housed or stop police injustices. A rape survivor had written a
play to highlight her experiences and wanted volunteer actors to help
stage it. A woman recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis had started
a parents’ support group. More than one woman said that a successful
outcome depended on not giving up, and getting together with others. All
agreed. Supportive men described how much they owed their mothers and
partners. Norway was mentioned as an example of breastfeeding success –
a mothers-led campaign had reversed a downward trend and 99% of infants
are now breastfed. A petition for a living wage for mothers and other
carers received a warm welcome.
Women’s Centre was praised for providing a space where women and their
families could meet, volunteer and support each other. Solveig Francis
of Crossroads Women, commented: “Women shared truths rarely heard in
public, and came out informed and fortified.” A sign language
interpreter, who volunteered her services, ensured that deaf people
present could participate fully.
Two ‘Did You Know?’ fact
sheets were launched: ‘Poverty & Wealth in the UK’, and ‘Caring for
Children & Adults in the UK’, as well as a ‘Mothers/Carers Have Your
Say’ questionnaire (all are available at www.crossroadswomen.net)
On Saturday 7 December the
Women’s Centre will be hosting a Living History Meeting where two
East End survivors of the London blitz will recount their experiences of
working class endurance and rebuilding during World War Two. And there
will be a
Christmas Fair on Saturday 14 December.