Global Fair Stall

We are planning an event next semester during International Women’s week to celebrate and create a discourse about our cultures individually and together as People of Colour.

The information will be updated here

We will have a panel discussion which will include topics such as colourism, gender roles and sexuality.

As some of you may know Keele has a annual global fair which celebrates diversity and the contributions of others.

We had the opportunity to promote Cultural Affairs at the annual Global Fair launch.

The main idea surrounding the event is creating discussions on important topics that are not discussed enough.

When planning the stall we decided the best way to start a conversation around culture was to ask people what they loved and celebrated about their culture and what they would change.

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As one of the topics will be discussing is on colourism, we decided to bring this subject to the stall to understand what other peoples perceptions on the topic.

We discussed the issue of negative connotations associated with dark skin especially with women and how colourism has impacted our experiences growing up.

It was a great opportunity to engage with people that had so much to say on the subject.

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We also asked people to self-identity and write where they are from as a way of showing that there are people from ethnic backgrounds that are part of LGBT and identity-based communities.

The stall gave us the opportunity to have meaningful conversations that confirmed these are the topics we need to be talking about among peers.

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We welcome everyone to attend Cultural Affairs and become part of a big step towards a cultural shift at Keele.

For more information feel free to contact me (Ade) or Raveena.

Ade (w6j55) + Raveena (w6h50)

or get in touch at the woke email using the below form:

Not in Our Name: Women of Keele Educate (W.O.K.E) join protest at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre

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Raveena

On December 1st the Women of Keele Educate group (supported by the KPA and SU) took a minibus full of people to Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire, this involved a two-hour drive each way and a lot of singing.

We joined the 15th ‘Surround Yarl’s Wood’ protest organised in order to demonstrate against the indefinite detainment of people held in detention centres across the UK.

With a few placards, whistles and a megaphone we joined around 300 other protesters, trudging through several muddy fields to get to the detention centre, all the while accompanied by the Police.

It must be said that (as usual) despite several roadblocks and the request for information concerning the numbers in our party, the police were very hands-off on the day.

The UK is the only country which does not limit the amount of time a person can remain in a detention centre before being released or deported.

Amongst those held at Yarl’s Wood (and other IRCs) are refugees, asylum seekers, LGBT+ identifying individuals and those who were brought to the UK as children.

People who have fled war, genocide, trafficking, rape, abuse and discrimination came to the UK for safety and have instead been treated as criminals.

People (mainly women) in Yarl’s Wood have no idea whether they are going to be held for 6 weeks or 3 years and are subject to dehumanising treatment from Serco (private security company who took over management of the centre in 2007) and the Home Office.

The detainees are often left without proper medical care, heating or privacy and a surprise report from Ofsted in June 2017 found, “During the course of the inspection it was discovered that a doctor who had been employed at the centre since November 2016 was not in possession of the required registration” (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, 2017, p5).

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We’re far too cool to look at the camera!

Although pregnant women are only supposed to be detained in a centre for a maximum of 3 days, one woman has been there for over 6 weeks, according to a sign displayed in one of the windows during the protest.*

In 2017 Women for Refugee Women found that 85% of detained women were survivors of rape and other gender-based violence (pg. 5).

The following, are only a few of the findings from research conducted about detainees in Yarl’s Wood:

  • 62% said they were survivors of rape or other sexual violence
  • 42% said they were survivors of forced prostitution/internal trafficking in their countries of origin, or that they had been trafficked to the UK for forced prostitution or domestic servitude
  • 38% said they were survivors of domestic violence
  • 35% said they were survivors of forced marriage
  • 15% said they were survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM)
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On the way to the demo site.

During the demonstration, both detainees and protesters heard from several ex-detainees, one of which was Mabel Gawanas who had previously been held at Yarl’s Wood for 3 years.

She spoke about the need for solidarity within the community of women in the detention centre, and the necessity of support from the wider society in rejecting the fundamentally racist, anti-immigration policies condoned by the UK Government.

Women inside Yarl’s Wood were able to communicate with protester’s through windows  opening only a couple of inches.

Some waved, some held up messages on A4 paper (‘Help us’, ‘I’m pregnant’, ‘Amnesty’, ‘Freedom’) and some shouted through the gap to tell us about their experiences.

As an ex-detainee stated “If it was safe for us to stay in our country, we wouldn’t be here today, we would be back there.”

Standing up against the inhumane treatment of those who seek safety and refuge within our borders, does not necessarily mean that one has to advocate an open-border type strategy – we can still have a stable and pragmatic immigration policy without subjecting those in need of sanctuary to the dehumanising treatment which currently exists.

Research both in the UK and elsewhere shows that there are much more effective alternatives to detention, ones which are more humane and less costly (see the International Detention Coalition, 2015).

In the wake of Brexit, Donald Trump, the Windrush Scandal and the election of Jair Bolsonaro, it has never been more important to take a stand against the xenophobia and bigotry which is perpetuated in our name.

Women of Keele Educate stand in solidarity with the women detained in Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres in the UK (and around the world) and want to continue increasing awareness surrounding this issue.

So then, we welcome you to join our newly formed organisation at Keele University, which champions intersectional feminism and to add your voice to the increasing number fighting for the human rights of women everywhere.

For more information concerning the demonstration, please follow the links below:

http://www.refugeewomen.co.uk/2016/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/We-are-still-here-report-WEB.pdf

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/12/protesters-rally-detention-centre-women-immigrants-181201212935358.html  (Spot the quote from our very own Sophia Taha).

https://idcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/There-Are-Alternatives-2015.pdf

 

*According to Movement for Justice, this woman was released on the evening of the demonstration due to increased public scrutiny and pressure placed on staff by her fellow detainees, whom until yesterday hadn’t been aware of her condition (although it was known to Serco and the Home Office).

See below for more photos from the day.

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You can’t ride a bike…You’re a girl!

“You can’t ride a bike, because you’re a girl”

A sentence that made a five year old girl become a feminist, the notion that you cannot or should not want to do something due to gender was absurd to her even then.

Natalie Bennett has gone on to do some remarkable things, and she came to speak to us at Keele about some of them.

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Natalie’s first degree was in Agricultural Science, which meant that when she would be the only politician with a background in science in meetings about science.

She thinks we need more scientists in politics.

She has also worked as a journalist where she would often write about things from a feminist perspective.

She was the leader of the Green Party 2012-2016 and she was the first woman, in British political history to take over the leadership of a party from another woman, Caroline Lucas.

It took until 2012 for that to happen.

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Westminster is full of memorials to dead white men. 

Natalie told us a story, to illustrate how the Houses of Parliament were not designed to accommodate women MPs.

In 2010, a young MP had a baby, and in parliament, when voting the rule is that an MP has to walk through the doors to vote, but only MPs are allowed to do this.

So when a woman, who had a baby with her, needed to vote she had to quickly pass her baby to the nearest MP and walk through to be counted.

This year is the anniversary of both women’s vote and women being allowed to stand

Suffrage a hundred years ago was a strange thing.

To vote you had to be a woman who was over 30 years of age with property, this was an attempt to prevent an imbalance of women to men following war.

However women over the age of 21 were able to stand to be an MP – this wasn’t considered to be an issue because they never thought female MPs would outweigh male MPs.

As of 2018 we currently have parliament at 32% female MPs.

If we continue at the pace we are at now, 15 year old girls will see a 50:50 Parliament when they are in their 80s.

Natalie asked the room, do we think parliament is a meritocracy?

Surely, we can do better surely than the people in government at the moment!

A Government needs to be representative of the people.

https://5050parliament.co.uk/askhertostand/

Period positivity and period poverty

Natalie told the room about a massive debate in 2015 where David Cameron was very uncomfortable talking about period poverty due to its relevance to female anatomy and period stigma.

Three years on politicians are talking openly about it, and talking positively about periods.

This means it is becoming easier to talk about period poverty and campaign to end it.

Where are the Women?

Natalie spoke to the room about tackling the myth that there are not enough qualified women to be in leadership positions:

In Norway, a law was passed to have 40% of boards be women. If this wasn’t done, the company would be de-registered.

There was a five year period to allow companies to do this and yet some companies still only did this hours before the deadline.

Many companies used the narrative that qualified women couldn’t be found.

When a study was conducted afterwards, looking at qualifications of women versus men on the boards, the findings showed that women held higher qualifications than the men, and were more qualified for the board positions.

So there are plenty of women and if this door can be opened, it opens the door to other forms of diversity other than gender.

How do we get women into leadership positions and politics?

#AskHerToStand you have to ask multiple times for a woman to stand as a political candidate.

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Within the Green Party if there are no women on a short-list – they re-open the position and actively promote to find women to stand.

In 2015 Hackney’s female Green politician was found in this manner.

Patronising, Obnoxious and Unapproachable (Man at Keele, 2018)

Sophia (co-founder of WOKE, KPA Equality and Diversity Officer and co-author of this post) was lucky enough to be called all three of these in April 2018.

Natalie Bennett spoke about the gendered double standards women are held to and the negative labels given to women for acting in the same way a man would in a position of power.

The first time Natalie Bennett went on question time, she was reserved due to the branding of Caroline Lucas as a woman who “always interrupted”, consequently she didn’t have much time to voice her opinion.

Therefore, the second time she went on question time, she “ploughed through” to be heard.

This is a real problem for women, due to the negative stereotypes of “women always talk”, or the idea that they have nothing important to say.

Society has ingrained this within us all, and it will take a lot to undo that within society as a whole – but it’s about baby steps, it’s about empowering women, and encouraging them to have a voice.

You are NOT alone

It is harder to stand as a woman. Don’t do it alone.

The Green Party always has gender balance rules, if there is a lack of candidates the short-lists will be reopened, an example of this Natalie talked about was when all the women from the London Assembly List when to the pub together and signed each others nominations, it was a moment of pure support, women empowering and supporting women, and it resulted in 7 women and 4 men being put on the list.

Natalie described herself as a believer in quota systems; because unless those systems are implemented you have to keep fighting the same battles.

There is a real necessity for building in rules in order to put each battle behind you in order to power forward.

Understand that politics is something we have to DO otherwise it is done to us

Natalie stressed that people have been doing politics to us for so many years

Now it is time to campaign, empower, and make a difference. Each small step can lead to everyone feeling like the CAN make a difference

Political change doesn’t happen because the top GIVES it, it happens because the bottom TAKES it

Three things to take away:

1) Don’t be alone – build networks of support

2) Take every opportunity to gain experience – it will get easier, and be kind to yourself

3) People aren’t going to remember the small details, like stumbling over a word, the world is more forgiving than you think

 

This write up is by Yasmin Benjelloun and Sophia Taha

 

Time to Do Better

A quick Saturday morning of research has thrown up some interesting facts and figures:

2016

When looking at the data from the KeeleSU Elections in 2016 there were 47 candidates total.

Of that total 78.7 % identified their ethnicity as white. When you compare that to Keele’s statistics on all students, the student body, was 65.8% white.

So in percentage terms, the white student populace is over-represented in running for positions of power on campus.

I also found that whilst 61.7% of candidates in the SU elections identified themselves as male, the campus wide demographic showed that only 41% of all students on campus were male.

(Head to here to see the full report on the student demographic at Keele that year)

2017

When looking at the data from the KeeleSU Elections in 2017 there were 43 candidates in total.

70.45% of candidates that ran identified themselves as white compared to a campus demographic of 64.8% white students.

61.3% of candidates that ran, identified themselves as male, but campus wide the demographic data meant that 41.4% of all students were male.

Head here to see the full report on the student demographic at Keele that year

There is a disproportionate number of men running for and holding positions of power on campus.

It is not representative of the student body.

I don’t currently have access to the data to do the same work for KPA positions, but it is significantly worse if you consider the number of male postgraduates that have held the KPA positions versus the number of female postgraduates we have in total.

(This data is from 2015/16 as it was available it is unlikely that there are  huge fluctuations in gender balance year on year):

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It’s time to do better.

After just a few months of work Women of Keele Educate have ensured a higher number of women and non-binary people at Keele have nominated themselves in the upcoming by-elections.

Take the time to read the manifestos of some fantastic candidates when you see them appear in the next few weeks.

Take the time to vote.

Take the time to ensure that you are accurately represented.

If you need any help or would like to join us get in contact

Ask Her To Stand

On Wednesday 18th July 2018, Sophia, Roxy and Kiran got a train into London to go and attend a conference put on by the Fawcett Society and 50:50Parliament, working on getting more women into Parliament by asking women to stand.

The Conference aimed to support women to run for political positions and work across party lines to tackle inequality.

The evening offered panel sessions and workshops giving practical advice to all those who self-defined as women and wanted to get into politics and public life.

Between the three of us we covered all 4 workshops, networked and bagged a bit of swag to give to Ele when we got back!

We sat near the front ready for the opening session and as we looked around we saw a huge room, full of women.

Representing every section of intersectionality.

Representing multiple layers of oppressions and privileges and united together, demanding change, wanting a different state of affairs.

We were so inspired and we were definitely in the right place.

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From L-R: Sophia, Roxy, Kiran

Plenary Session

This opening session was incredible. Chaired by Sam Smethers – Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society.

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We sat and listened to some amazing women:

Lib Dem: Baroness Sal Brinton

SNP: Alison Thewliss MP

Labour: Dawn Butler

WEP: Sophie Walker

Conservative, WESC: Maria Miller

Green: Amelia Womack

 

The audience asked questions and the panel gave us all some insight. The women of parliament collaborate a lot to work towards shared goals even when their politics disagree.

One audience member stood up, asking a problematic question. She wanted to know if the room and the panel would be happy if 50 percent of parliament was trans women to the 50 percent men.

To our relief the entire room replied yes.

Then each panel member spoke up, reaffirmed that transwomen are women.

One panel member pointed out that we are yet to even have one trans MP.

We were so happy that we were truly in an intersectional feminist space. We hope the audience member reviews her own prejudices now.

The panel continued to discuss the issues and solutions that they thought would help get equality for women.

Amelia Womack spoke about the need for job sharing options for MPs. It is the only job that does not allow this. Job sharing would ensure accessibility for anyone that had caring responsibilities. Sophie Walker passionately asked the room, “Are you honestly telling me that the world is run by white men because they are better than, for example, black women?! Are you kidding me?It’s about time we see all women’s lives reflecting on EVERY page of manifestos”.

Dawn Butler spoke about the standards we expect women to have to compete with men. She said she wanted to champion mediocre women. “I’ll be the champion of mediocre women, I want to see mediocre women in politics.” She went on to say that other women must help women to succeed. If you get up the ladder, lay foundations for an elevator. Help women behind you get up quicker. Support them.

 

We learned that a lot of the parties were using all women shortlists for roles, and that the Green Party extended nomination times if no women were put forward by another 2 weeks.

These are things we are going to keep in mind for the smaller project at Keele.

This panel session was beyond inspiring, just the room full of women with multiple experiences, the room was diverse and just as an intersectional movement would be.

It was truly amazing to be surrounded by so many women.

We felt really moved.

Summary of Workshops:

Why Stand? What difference do women make? (50:50 Parliament)

This workshop started with a presentation (that we are bringing back to Keele) to tell us the statistics that underlie the under-representation of women in politics. We then heard from three women. Two who had recently won their seats in 2017 Labour and Conservative MPs, and one lady who was heading up the #AskHerToStand campaign, offering support for any women that wanted to get into the Lib Dems.

We learned about what inspired them to stand, and found out it was a rather ordinary small action that led them to have an extraordinary change of career: Someone asked them to.

This simple task, a second human telling them, ‘You know, you’d make a good MP, have you considered running?’. It reassured us that the journey we want W.o.K.E to take is on the right path. We are so keen to empower everyone on campus, and remind them of how awesome they already are.

The second common point they shared was that they had looked around and realised, some of their male counterparts were truly awful at their jobs! They then realised they could do a much better job.

Something we learned all throughout the sessions is that representation shapes policy. Having women in the room and a diverse representation of women, ensures that policies that represent them are made and put forward.

This is what we want to achieve. Let’s get ourselves at the events, in the rooms and in the roles that will make a difference at Keele.

What’s Stopping You? Overcoming the barriers to getting into politics (Parliament Project)

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This was an energetic and awesome workshop with breakout groups of 3-5 women supported by a facilitator. There were flip-charts and marker pens and loud noises! We talked about the barriers to participation and split them into categories

Despite the breakout groups being small when we all fed back what was discussed there was so many common threads. All the women spoke about a lack of confidence, a feeling they weren’t knowledgeable enough and a worry that they wouldn’t be able to do the roles.

These women were strong, talented people and yet we all shared this imposter syndrome.

Building Your Political CV: How to build the relevant experience

This workshop focussed on helping women make the most out of the experience they already had. Focussing on the transferable skills and boosting the confidence of the women in the room. We already have the skills to do these roles, it is about realising it!

Political Careers: Working in and around politics

This workshop gave women practical advice and allowed women to talk to those who already had political careers.

AskHerToStand Fawcett Society Image

We came back energised and inspired and determined to take more Keele women to conferences.

The shared learning and the empowerment was fantastic.

The event was live streamed and recorded so follow this link to learn more:

Ask Her to Stand 2018 Video of Conference

We hope you join us on a conference soon.

If you find something you think others would enjoy going to let us know!

For upcoming events click here

 

 

 

W.o.K.E Two Weeks (ish) In

Read on for a blog post by Sophia Hayat Taha, co-founder of W.o.K.E

Just over two weeks ago we started the wheels in motion for the W.o.K.E project. 

We have speakers lined up, T-shirts available, a fabulous website (if I do say so myself), direction for writers, writers coming forward, a visible presence on social media which is growing quickly, and people talking about us, coming forward to work together.  Basically we are about to get some amazing changes at Keele actively happening.

It is awesome. It is scary. It is empowering. Clearly we all want change.

What we don’t have yet is our full collection of champions, we are sorely missing more people of colour, trans voices and non-binary voices.

We are lucky enough to have some champions for our mental health based volunteer roles and some faith W.o.K.E champions in the pipeline too (watch this space!).

The missing champion roles scare me, and yes I know we are in the middle of summer, and only two weeks in, but patience has never been a strong point of mine.

I am in a bit of a cycle of wondering what I can do to make the roles more appealing and keep people safe and supported. Please do get in touch with concerns or suggestions.

We want to empower everyone who is usually ignored and kept down by multiple structural oppressions.

After London Pride being hijacked by a problematic group of anti-trans voices we posted our support for our trans sisters and brothers on Instagram and twitter.

We lost a few followers,  had to report and delete comments, and block someone. We will continue to do this every time we see bigotry. We have our safe space rules and we will continue to update and improve on them so that everyone can participate.

W.o.K.E is an intersectional movement. If that troubles you, we have reading lists that will be live soon, we suggest you educate yourself.

Challenge your privileges and have a long think about why you think you can oppress someone else. 

We have many opportunities to learn over the next year, with workshops coming to Keele, external workshops being signposted and travel arranged for groups that want to go (watch this space), conferences, reading lists, activities in informal settings, and more formal speaker sessions.

This is a long journey that we all need to take. None of us is free from our own privileges. A few of mine are that I am a cis, white-passing, straight-passing woman. We all have our own oppressions and struggles. We can all learn. We can all do better.

Over the year we have workshops challenging white feminism and the white supremacy underlying white tears. We have workshops that are specifically for men to learn about intersectional feminism. We have workshops tackling how to be a better feminist in practice instead of just in words. We have practical help for those that want to put themselves forward when nominations open for elected positions on campus. We have well-being activities, collaborations with the careers services coming up and cooperation with Keele’s decolonise the curriculum project.

This year is going to be incredible.

I am so excited. I am so scared, but I hope that you will feel empowered.

In solidarity

Sophia