Unison Women’s Conference 2014 took place 13-15 February in Brighton – a first time delegate tells Women’s Fightback what stood out for her.
This was my first Unison women’s conference. I had been concerned that it would be full of individual women’s difficulties without much of a political basis. It is true that there wasn’t the focus on the cuts, their particular impact on women and how to fight them that we need. Although this lack of analysis and strategy for fighting is an issue for Unison as a whole, not just the women’s conference. There were also some real positives to the conference.
Two highlights stand out for me, although they both also deal with what is too often the tightly controlled and fear ridden lives that women live.
Jasvinder Singh spoke passionately about the issue of forced marriage and honour crimes. Following her own refusal to accept a forced marriage age 16, she was disowned by her family and subsequently set up a charity on this issue Karma Nirvana. She talked passionately about ‘cultural relativism’, an Asian girl can be taken out of school for 9 months when a white child would be missed, the right for every child to an education. Also spoke about public sector duties in this area and the criminalisation of forced marriage.
The other highlight was hearing women speak about domestic violence as a gendered issue and violence against women. Women spoke passionately about their own experiences and how they had supported members. There was a lot of disappointment at the way this issue was dealt with at National Delegate Conference in 2013 and this issue was prioritised for the next National Conference from women’s conference. It was emphasised that this is not an issue simply for ‘out there’ but sadly an issue in our workplaces and even our trade unions, so we have to fight it there too.