Read about our Autumn Seminar Voices of Refugee Women

Posted by on Dec 18, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

On Saturday 25th November we held our 2017 Autumn Seminar, Voices of Refugee Women. Our aim for the day was to show solidarity with refugee women and raise awareness of what life is really like for refugee women in the UK. Over the morning session, our executive committee members Marie Lyse Numhosa and Taniel chaired the morning session most sensitively and efficiently (a rare combination). Ten refugee women, supported women from refugee organisations, spoke about their experiences. Our first speaker described the general process of arriving in UK as a refugee. She told us how the hardest part to handle is being the recipient of a ‘culture of disbelief’ espoused by officials from Home Office, and how there is absolutely no support for the women on arrival in UK or advice on how to present their case to start the application for asylum. Our second, spoke of her traumatic experiences of being not believed and trying to survive as homeless woman on the streets. The third woman to speak, spoke about surviving since 2006 as a woman without documents. She described the effects of ‘hiding’ herself from everyone – she dare not tell people who she really is. The fourth, detailed the indignity of being an ‘asylum seeker’.   She had a good job prior to entering UK and wanted to work here. She originally took a post earning £38,000 a year but when authorities found out, she was detained, ‘imprisoned’ and had to work for £1 a week. She felt exploited all over again, this time by capitalist practice. Our fifth speaker, talked about suffering racist abuse in her own country.   After entering UK, she then experienced domestic violence from her husband and became mentally ill. She would like to see UK policies changed to prevent destitution of those seeking asylum. The sixth refugee woman to talk, told us how she become a refugee because of her resistance to a dictator whose corrupt government was propped up by western governments. She has to exist on £36 a week and has been denied access to health care. She told us, however, that she really appreciates signs saying “Refugees welcome here”. Our seventh, recalled how she was kidnapped and found herself moving from country to country. She eventually had to marry for protection. In time, the government of the country where she was staying gave her money, paradoxically making her more vulnerable, to return to Africa, where she was abused again. She still today is separated from her son, as she could take her son on the journey to UK for fear that he would get hurt. The eighth woman to speak spoke more about the conditions facing refugee...

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Shelia Triggs writes letter to her MP to support the Nuclear Ban Treaty

Posted by on Dec 12, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Dear Jo Jonson, Our very cold week-end has been enlivened by the ceremony awarding the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), and the inspiring speeches made in Oslo on December 10th.  All the speeches were met with enthusiasm by the Norwegian Royal Family and the many international ambassadors and guests who were present.   Unfortunately there was no British ambassador there to report back to the UK Government either the presentation speech by the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, or the lecture given by the ICAN recipients, Beatrice Fihn and Setsuko Thurlow, so I am sending you a link to their content since their cogent arguments deserve study. According to Ms Reiss-Anderson “This year’s Peace Prize follows in a tradition of awards that have honoured efforts against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and for nuclear disarmament. Twelve Peace Prizes have been awarded, in whole or in part, for this type of peace work”.  ICAN has been the civil society force behind the adoption of the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, (TPNW) on 7th July this year.  This treaty, the outcome of lengthy multilateral negotiations and discussions at the UN, bans possessing, testing, using, developing, or assisting with nuclear weapons. It also includes provisions for assisting victims of nuclear weapons use and testing, and environmental remediation. Berit Reiss-Andersen pointed out that the NPT Review Conference in 2000 stated that the NPT calls for “an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament”.  So British people like me, who have been active within ICAN to finalize the TPNW, want our country to be the first nuclear-armed nation to take that undertaking seriously, sign the TPNW and begin the gradual process of meeting its provisions to become nuclear free. The gift of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 recognises the achievement by ICAN in moving world opinion against nuclear weapons.  I look forward to hearing from you when you have read the speeches. Yours sincerely Sheila Triggs   (Views expressed in The Blog do not reflect those of...

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WILPF women at CAAT demonstration at the notorious Arms Fair

Posted by on Dec 4, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

For one week in London’s docklands area in early September people from various parts of the country gathered to protest at two gates to try to interrupt and stop the preparations for the Arms Fair. This is one of the biggest such fairs in the world with some of the most disgraceful and violent governments represented, free to buy weapons to use as they wish, including Saudi Arabia buying weapons to kill the people of the Yemen, others selling, [including the UK of course], without questioning the ethics of their own or the purchasers actions.  (photo credit: Jenny Engledow) Each of the 7 days was themed and on the Wednesday it was anti nuclear and environmental, with a huge windmill assembled on site and many banners including our washing-line of papier mache life size women from the waist up. There were about 50 people at the gate we WILPF women were at. We strung them across the road held up on poles, arms to protect holding a tiny baby, arms to grow holding a plant, arms to link which was 2 people, arms to welcome [refugees], and a placard saying ‘no arms to kill’.  (Photo credit: Jenny Engledow At one point at each gate 2 people did a ‘lock-on’ action where they had their arms linked through a concrete tube that was in a suitcase, making it very difficult for the authorities to separate them as they lay in the middle of the road holding the traffic up for hours, a brilliant and brave action. Whilst they blocked the road we filled the area with our banners and props and sang, and I understand the delay caused the assemblers to work overnight to complete their work.   Jenny Engledow Brighton, Hove and District branch (Views expressed in The Blog do not reflect those of...

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From Eritrea to the UK

Posted by on Nov 21, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Each month thousands of men, women, and children flee Eritrea as a result of grave violations of human rights committed by the Eritrean government, including religious persecution and indefinite mandatory military service. The reasons women leave Eritrea are multiple and often interconnected. Women are not only at extreme risk of sexual violence within the military and in military training camps, during national service and in prison, but also in society at large: in their marriages, and in their communities, where violence against women is perpetrated in an environment of impunity. In addition, the lack of genuine rule of law leaves women and girls unable to seek recourse to justice. The militarization of society, the abundance of weapons in society and the underlying traditional views of women’s place and role increases the risk of violence. Exemption from National Service is usually granted to women and girls who are married, pregnant or have children. As a result, many young girls chose or are encouraged by their family into marriage or motherhood to avoid completing their education at Sawa Military Training Camp, where all students complete their 12th year of education. Family structures have been disintegrated with multiple members of the family either in military service or left the country. For periods of many years, spouses, parents and children have little or no contact with each other outside of their limited periods of home leave. With limited economic opportunities for women outside national service and with key wage-earners conscripted families struggle to come by. Women within the national service are released after marriage or becoming pregnant, but are rarely granted formal discharge papers. As a result, they cannot access education opportunities, access to land or State-sanctioned employment. Often, women do not have access to travel permits, severely restricting their freedom of movement. Where conscripts are able to desert, relatives who remain behind are frequently punished in lieu. Wives and mothers, including with infants and young children, have been arrested or imprisoned for periods of up to several weeks and sometimes months or have been forced  to pay a fine after their husbands or children deserted the national service or left the country. Many women have seen their husbands taken away without being informed why or where they were taken and if they are alive. The contradictory position women find themselves in sees them with little choice but to leave the country. A growing number of pregnant women, mothers and their children from Eritrea leave their home countries to neighbouring countries, North Africa, the Middle East or Europe. Women carry their unborn babies in their wombs or their new-born infants and children in their arms as they cross land and sea borders in...

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Posted by on Oct 24, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

The weekend of 13th– 15th October 2017 saw the Institute of Education at UCL transformed into a hive of activity for the annual Feminism in London Conference (now called FiLiA). Over these two days, many interesting speakers discussed topics of high importance such as femicide, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse and the changing face of patriarchy. UK WILPF was delighted to attend FiLiA, to learn more about other like-minded feminist organisations and to see how we can work alongside them to magnify women’s voices. Our stall received a lot of interest, and we chatted to people about everything from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, to issues closer to home such as female representation in Parliament.  Photo of our stall (credit: Keyet Makonnen) The conference was a great opportunity for us to learn more about current issues, to get in touch with other women organisations and to disseminate information about our upcoming 2017 Autumn Seminar ‘Voices of Refugee Women’. Our stall offered us the possibility to raise awareness of WILPF international and UK WILPF’s work, to distribute WILPF t-shirts and badges and to discuss various issues with curious, interesting and interested women, from our WILPF logo (the famous Picasso drawing) and the issue of refugee women, to ICAN being awarded the Nobel Peace Price  earlier this year, among other topics.  UK WILPF merchandise on sale at our stall (credit: Keyet Makonnen) The weekend was also an opportunity to reflect on the progress feminists have made, looking at the legacy of our founders, ‘the dangerous women’, and other brave women. Equally, it was a chance to look forward, to see the challenges that remain for women both in the UK and elsewhere around the world. We hope to see you at our Seminar in November, and if not we hope to see you at Feminism in London next year!   Astrid Pertuisel (Views expressed in The Blog do not represent those of...

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London WILPF at Lush

Posted by on Oct 4, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Over the 15th – 17th September London WILPF were invited to spend the weekend at Lush’s Oxford Street branch in London. This was a unique opportunity for us to engage with the public on our campaigns and the work that we do whilst also being able to fundraise. 100% of proceeds from Lush’s Charity Pot were donated to WILPF and by the end of the weekend we had raised over £1000! Our fantastic campaigners did a wonderful job of engaging with a diverse crowd, attracted by Lush’s popular handmade ethical products. This was an opportunity for us to spread the word about issues around gender, peace and human rights to people who hadn’t heard of WILPF at the start of their shopping trip, but who left inspired and curious about our work. Some even left their details keen to keep in touch with us. Members of the public were especially interested in the Voices of African Women and were heartened to learn that London WILPF has a strong platform representing women from across the world. We thank Lush for providing us with a space to reach out to members of the public, for this fantastic fundraising opportunity, and for their outstanding members of staff. (London WILPF members at our Lush Stall) Miriam Karmali (Views expressed in The Blog do not represent those of...

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