Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Proposed changes to the Health & Social Care Bill

I don't think it can have escaped any feminists' attention that Nadine Dorries, MP, is is trying to bring about a change to the Health and Social Care Bill as regards abortion. I know that Hazel is going to write a blog about this so I won't go into details on the proposed changes and implications, but at the end of July I wrote to various MPs about this, and received only one decent reply. I wrote to Lynne Featherstone, Andrew Lansley and Tom Harris, the MP for Glasgow South. I didn't receive a reply from Mr Lansley myself, and the response from Ms Featherstone told me that the changes in the H&SC Bill didn't apply to Scotland - as if I would just heave a sigh of relief and not worry about what's going on in England and Wales. My MP, Tom Harris, was the most helpful. He wrote me a very prompt reply saying that he didn't yet know the full details of the proposed changes but he would find out for me and then write me a fuller reply. I then received another letter from him telling me that he had received a reply from Anne Milton, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State - he enclosed a copy of her reply for me to read, and that's what I wanted to pass on here. I've copied it out verbatim, so you can all make of it what you will, and see how it measures up to what actually transpires. Dear Mr Harris, thank you for your letter ... I am replying as the Minister responsible for this policy are. "The amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill being proposed by Franks Field MP and Nadine Dorries MP are not Government ammendments. The current arrangements for counselling related to abortion services can be varies within the existing statuatory framework for the commissioning of such services. The Health and Social Care Bill, now before Parliament, expands that framework. "We are drawing up proposals to enable all women who are seeking an abortion to be offered access to independant counselling. We would want the counselling to be provided bu appropriately qualified individuals. Independant counselling will focus on enabling a woman to make a decision that would benefit her overall health and wellbeing. "Independant counselling will be for those women who choose to have it and will not be mandatory. Full proposals are still being worked up within the Department of HEalth and we are therefore unable to provide detailed answers while this prosess takes place. "However, I can clarify that I do not think that it is necessary to set out the requirement to offer independent counselling in primary legislation. I am confident that the necessary legal mechanisms already exist to enable this to be introduced. "The Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV (IAG) was abolished in October 2010 following the Cabinet Office review of Advisory Non-Departmental Public Bodies. The newly formed Sexual Health Forum has replaced the IAG, but has a different remit and accountability. "In considering the stakeholder groups that will sit on the core Forum, we felt that it was important to ensure that a wide range of views and interests are represented. This is why LIFE have been invited to sit on the Forum. Other organisations that sit on the Forum include Brooke (the young person's sexual health charity), the Family Planning Association, the Terrence Higgins Trust, the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health, the Association of Directors of Public Health, the British HIV Association, the Sex Education Forum/National Children's Bureau, Marie Stopes International (MSI) and the Association of Directors of Social Services. Everyone on the Forum has agreed to comply with standards of impartiality, integrity and objectivity in relation to the advice they provide. "MSI and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) have similar interests. We offered them shared membership but they declined. We therefore invited MSI to represent independent sector abortion providers on the Forum and they have accepted. "There will be opportunities for further organisations, including BPAS, to become involved in a meeting of the wider Sexual Health Forum that we are planning to hold in the autumn. The core Forum will provide advice to the Government on a range of sexual health issues but ultimately the Government will decide what advice to take forward in terms of policy, based on an assessment of the available evidence. Anne Milton."
As I said, I know Hazel has a blog post to publish so I won't go into details about how these changes will affect women looking for abortion etc, but I thought I'd stick this letter up anyway, for anyone that's interested or who hasn't received a reply from their MP.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Summer School: Take Two

There were many fantastic things about UK Feminista Summer School but my personal favourite was feeling like a student, but only this time at the world’s best University. Between rushing to a workshop on running campaigns whilst cramming a sandwich in my face, getting lost on campus, taking illegible notes, playing ridiculous drinking games in student halls, mainlining coffee, introducing myself to absolutely everyone, requesting early 90’s CHOONS in an old man’s pub and using monster munch as a hangover cure and then trying not to chunder in a seminar, it was like the good part of being at University, right before the bit you had to go move into the library and do some proper work. Student nostalgia aside, UK Feminista Summer School will probably be the most valuable thing I do all year.
The best way to describe Summer School is activist training. Basically, ‘How to be a better feminist’ in two short days. Workshops included: running a feminist organisation, effective campaigning, consensus making, how to influence MPs, using the media and taking non-violent direct action. Alongside the workshops were seminars on current feminist issues such as Women’s role in the Arab spring, abortion rights, the sex industry and how the public spending cuts affect Women. These seminars uniformly ended with a section on ‘what to do next’ or ‘how to take action’. The tone of these workshops and seminars is always an active one with the emphasis on concrete, completely achievable ideas of what we could, or should, be doing as feminists who want to influence the world around us.
Empowering: that’s how would I sum up Feminist Fantasy University- Here’s what the problem is and here is how to we can try and solve it. The amount of ideas that was presented to me as something which GFN could feasibly, easily infact, be doing was unbelievable. Add in knowing that perhaps everyone else in the room felt they were also champing at the activist bit made for a very powerful feeling. Sometimes, it can be difficult being an ‘ardent feminist’ (as I was introduced as earlier this weekend). Feminism is a label that some women still shy away from, or some people don’t get (‘ahhh you hate MEN’) and feeling like you’re the only person aware of blindingly obvious sexism is an advert or TV show that everyone else perceives as perfectly benign, can feel isolating. Summer School was like the antithesis of this feeling. The social event on a Saturday was like feminist respite. Taking over an old man’s pub with a feminist disco (mostly Blondie), finding someone else to discuss Bikini Kill vs. L7 with, and feeling like everyone was ready to be your friend instead of the competition was in a word: awesome. More feminist discos says I. See one of my co-students blogs what on socialising without a male objectifying gaze is like: Will I be back next year? So much so I’ve written to ask if Glasgow Feminist Network could host Summer School next year. I am sometimes aware that organisations use the label ‘UK’ but are in fact quite Anglo-centric. So I told them to come up to Glasgow, if they think their hard enough ;)
Hazel x

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Summer School

Last weekend, I went down to Birmingham with a few of the others from Glasgow Feminist Network, to go to the 2-day Summer School event run by UK Feminista, and this year hosted by the Birmingham Fems at Birmingham University. We had a great weekend, and there was so much to do that I can't even write about it all - several classes were scheduled at the same time so we had to pick the ones we wanted to do carefully, though we didn't all go to the same ones. I went to:

How to set up and run a feminist meeting;How to engage men in feminist activism; The colour of beauty: race, gender and the beauty industry; Not for sale: resisting the sex industry Everyday Activism: promoting feminism in everyday life and The Global Struggle: International feminist resistance

Everyone that spoke was very well-informed, and there were always time for questions afterwards. The speaking panels were made up of people from groups such as Object, Eaves, The Anti-Porn Men Project, and Women For Women International.

There was a really great atmoshpere there, everyone was really friendly and open, and all weekend you could see groups of women (and occassionally men!) sitting talking about what they'd just seen, watched or heard. People in the halls of residence grouped together and hung out, people worked in groups at workshops and in projects. The whole experience was so positive and affirming - I'd recommend it to anyone who was considering going to next year's. I think this is something that's just going to grow and grow.

And that seemed to be the over-riding theme of the weekend: feminism is growing. It's back (if it ever went away) and it's stronger than ever. More and more people are coming to see the feminist movement as a question of human rights and civil liberties, and are becoming more willing to put their name to the feminist cause.

The Guardian wrote an article about it (which you can read here), a woman from the Glasgow Herald was there, and people were constantly tweeting updates, comments, messages and summaries of the events there.

I haven't been able to switch off my feminist brain since I got back, and I think the other GFN-ers are the same - we're bursting with new-found feminist energy, and raring to go! We've already got several things in the works: a new website, t-shirts, a fundraiser...

Watch this space, Glasgow feminism is coming your way!!

Clara xx

Monday, 15 August 2011

Still Life: Tales from the West Bank

Something on at the Edinburgh Fringe that might be of interest.
Still Life: Tales from the West Bank Three months, two human rights observers and countless accounts of occupation distilled into an hour of song, story and image. The two women performing ‘Still Life’ recently returned to the UK after volunteering with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel ( working alongside Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers for three months. They lived in the villages of Jayyous and Yanoun in the northern West Bank, witnessing and experiencing everyday life in the occupied Palestinian territories. Catch a glimpse of the struggle and humour of village life under occupation. 14-20 August 2011 20:35-21:35 Free. Venue 84: Laughing Horse @ Cafe Renroc 91 Montgomery St. Edinburgh EH7 5HZ

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

New Meeting

Hi everyone,
we have a date and time for our next GFN meeting, it'll be on 15th August 2011, 7pm - 9pm in the Free Hetherington Building at 13 University Gardens. View Larger Map
Everyone is welcome and here's some stuff to think about if you're coming along:
We're deciding on a new logo, so if you have any designs or ideas then bring them along so we can vote and make a decision.
We need to get our official website up and running, Christina's friend is going to build it for us, so we need to decide on content, such as a forum, an information page, and events page... if you can think of anything else then please bring your ideas with you.
Any ideas for new possible venues for future meetings.
Fundraising ideas: we really need to start getting some funds together so we can go ahead with LadyFest Glasgow, any ideas will be discussed, it'd be good if you have an idea of how we'd go about planning it, where we would hold it and out-going costs if possible.
Hope a lot of you can make it along, even if you don't have any new ideas for any of the above you're of course welcome to come along and brainstorm with us!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


I'm sure there's not a reader who hasn't heard about the massacre in Norway recently so I don't need to go into details...
But some of you might not have heard about the two women who saved 40 people from the gunman, at huge risk to themselves. They heard the gunshots and saw people running away towards a lake, so they jumped in their own boat and went over to fish people out of the water and take them away to safety. As if this wasn't enough, they then made 4 trips taking survivors back and forth, whilst their boat was hit by bullets.
You can read the story here, and please do. I don't understand why this has not been more widely publicised and why these women have not been hailed as the heroes they are. I'd like to hope that it is not because of their sex and sexuality, but unfortunately I think this may well be the case.
Sorry to direct you to the Daily Mail (!) but I couldn't actually find articles on this story in any other newspaper when I just did a quick search, which helps prove how under-reported this story is.
Read it and pass it on. These women acted with incredible bravery and humanity and deserve recognition for risking their own lives to save so many others.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

True Story

I saw this on another blog, and though it deserved a mention here, too. You can check out the supplying blog here: - it's definitely worth a read!