Solidarity Visit to Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action #MyRacistCampus

At the very start of this new year of 2019, I had made a promise with my friend to live our lives without filter – to live life with no fear of consequence as long as it is all for the right reasons.

This promise only strengthened due to their passing last month, and not too long after came something that I resonated with on Twitter: Goldsmiths’ Anti-Racism Occupation.

 

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A journalist was also locked in the same day that we were locked out of Deptford Hall || Angela Christofilou

 

Goldsmiths University has been criticized due to the university’s management having taken inadequate action against the racist abuse which was experienced by one of the candidates who ran in their student elections.

It is to no one’s surprise that this candidate falls under the Black, Asian and minority ethnic category since London is well known to be multi-cultural.

The student suffered racist abuse during her election campaign: her election posters  vandalized with racial insults in which they mocked her accent, and her banner physically being removed despite her fellow campaigning peers being left untouched.

To clarify as to why Goldsmiths has been declared as having taken “inadequate action” is due to the fact that they didn’t take any action at all.

Senior management at Goldsmiths have not taken any action since, and have denied access to CCTV footage of this incident. The student union has also been completely silent.

Most people within society believe that we live in a moderately equal world, in which people do not have to visibly campaign and strike against such issues like racism – I should say most white people, actually.

However this is not the case. The reason that I very much resonated with the Goldsmiths’ Anti-Racist Occupation is because of the current movements in our very own university regarding #DecoloniseKeele.

Whether people want to admit it or not, the societal system is biased to benefit white westerners as it is set up by white western men (See the work of Edward Said, or Sara Ahmed for two academics who discuss at length to explain this).

So when W.O.K.E co-founder, Sophia, suggested that W.O.K.E, BAME society, #DecoloniseKeele and Keele Friends of Palestine should do a collaborative visit at Goldsmiths – I rushed at the opportunity.

As fate might have it, Goldsmiths was my friend’s old university before they transferred to Keele for their second year. Maybe it was their way of giving me “go-ahead”? Who knows.

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You could hear the megaphone from a block away, the students were really trying their hardest to make their voices heard

The journey down south to London was incredibly long and tiring, moreover we also broke down as we exited the motorway into Greenwich – making our arrival time even later than we already were.

The whole group was anxious to arrive at Goldsmiths, we knew that the students were facing minor violent actions that the university had taken as a “counter-measure” against their peaceful occupation.

Although yes, the students occupied the hall by making that place their “home” for however long they may need to, the fact that they were locked in on purpose just broke my heart.

I knew this since I regularly check their accounts for their daily updates of their occupation.

After a couple of hours of waiting, we finally made haste towards Goldsmiths only to be told of more barriers that we had to face once we arrived.

The Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Occupation group and management had come to an agreement to allow the students the freedom to walk in and out of the premises without consequences from 09:00-19:00 (9 A.M. till 7 P.M.).

The Occupiers also gave the management notice regarding our visit, allowing the university to know that there will be visitors and more people coming into the building.

The original plan of the day, was this:

  • We arrive at 13:00 (1 P.M.) and have lunch with the Occupiers
  • Discuss with them about their experience so far with their peaceful protest
  • Give them some word of encouragement and food that had been bought for them
  • Leave around the late afternoon and hopefully arrive back at Keele for 19:00 (7 P.M.)
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I tried my best to keep documenting what was happening in a thread. Shameless plug, follow me on Twitter: @fidesadee_

Instead, the building’s security were allegedly “sent an email” from management stating that they had orders from them not to let anyone in or out of the building for the whole weekend.

However this wasn’t taken too kindly by the Occupiers as the building has had multiple people come in and out of the building all weekend, and worst of all: on the day of, during the morning white people were allowed into the building.

Security had stopped letting people in the moment they knew that our group from Keele were in London.

It had been a while since I have experienced blatant discrimination via access due to my skin colour, let alone denied access for just being kind and providing food for the Occupiers.

Of course, the moment our group had arrived – the security had stopped letting people in, in general.

According to those on the inside, they had apparently put up a sign stating: “only Goldsmiths students allowed to enter and must provide student ID card”.

This timing was too suspicious for the university to suddenly change its mind.

It was becoming quite clear that the university did not want anyone to support the Occupation.

Our group wanted to show our support and solidarity via our visit; to exchange words in regards to their experiences and give them some morale.

Instead we were met with denial and ignorance by security.

Deptford Town Hall is also open to all members of the public as standard.

 

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There were more people inside the first set of doors trying to negotiate with security in order to let us in, while the rest of use waited outside || @GoldAntiRacism

 

To add to our luck, the weather decided to play up and it started to rain for a good couple of hours.

We were locked out of the building, the Occupiers desperately trying to sway security from the inside whilst we also tried our hardest from the outside.

So many of us were angry, angry that such a thing that we have only heard of in history books is happening to us now, in the 21st century.

The frustration that we felt was indescribable.

The betrayal a lot of us felt was so painful that no one could really vocalize our disappointment fully.

White people, non-Goldsmiths students, had been allowed in before us that day, with food.

Every excuse we were given as we stood in the rain was a lie.

The security team hid behind their black colleagues, making them stand visibly in our way.

We felt even more betrayed.

How could they? How could they stand there, blocking our way into the building? How could they stand there, knowing that this is something that they can fully relate to?

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This was the tweet that I managed to get the picture from || @GoldAntiRacism

We all knew why they were there, choosing to follow orders.

It was obvious to us that the security guards were likely intimidated into following orders, worried they would face disciplinary consequences or worse.

As frustrating as this was, we all stood strong outside and communicated with the student occupiers via the balcony that you saw in the picture at the beginning of this post.

Something that really shocked me was the imprisonment.

The management ordered the security to lock ALL doors except the main front door, and only had security set in place just in case a fire broke out.

Somehow, the student occupiers had become creative over the past few weeks and had made a bag on a rope that they could drop down from the balcony.

This allowed us to send up some food their way.

It was baffling to me that management were saying we couldn’t even give them food and had to use this method.

We tried reasoning with the security guards stating that, it was fine with us to protest and wait in the rain – but at least give them the food.

They firmly stood their ground citing fake emails directing them to do so.

We were all in such disbelief.

University management and the on site security had decided that the occupiers would only be allowed out if there was a fire.

What is this? Are they [students] criminals?

The whole point of this occupation was for it to be a peaceful, but meaningful way to get their message across.

Four years previously, a mostly white students collective had occupied the same space. Getting drunk, having parties and coming and going from the building with no security in place, no consequences to their actions.

This occupation was designated alcohol free, and has been marked by multiple teach-outs, film screenings and study ins.

 

The space has a designated quiet zone for students who get overwhelmed by too much noise.

It is a highly inclusive peaceful occupation space.

The senior management at Goldsmiths university made it seem like they were violent and therefore had to be imprisoned.

A student had to climb out of a  first floor window to be able to leave

Not only was that unnecessary, but that was also dangerous.

The university clearly does not care for their students’ well-beings.

Goldsmiths university was ready to “punish” the students via starvation.

Goldsmiths university was ready to “punish” the students via imprisonment.

Goldsmiths university was ready to “punish” the students, full stop.

This change in policy for handling students dissenting is nothing to do with the occupation.

Building occupation is something Goldsmiths has a strong history of.

It has everything to do with the races and ethnicities of the occupiers.

They are people of colour and so treated as dangerous.

I’m not sure as to whether the university were prepared for our tenacity, but we really did stand our ground.

The Occupiers sent down some signs for us to show around the passers-by and those who drove past.

Many showed support: those who were walking, they stopped and read our signs and/or talked with us then took a leaflet with them; those who were driving honked their horns in support; some of those who were driving even purposely slowed down traffic just so they could read our signs!

Alas it wasn’t all good people who passed by.

There were some who shouted abuse at us, telling us to get a job or whatever other insult they had in their minds.

So many people in society really do believe that these matters do not concern them – and yes, this includes POCs and black people.

Even empathy is hard to come across nowadays, apparently.

Then They Took Our Names

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Sophia took this picture of me talking with one of the lecturers from Goldsmiths, who came to bring food for the students || Sophia Hayat Taha

For hours we stood outside; despite the rain we stood our ground and kept protesting with the occupiers; we wanted their voices to be heard, and so we used ours.

We shouted alongside other Goldsmiths students who came in support of the occupiers.

For hours we kept trying to reason with the security guards to let us in.

At 18:00 (6 P.M.), security finally came outside, made us all show ID and took our names down on a piece of paper.

They said they were ready to let us in. Or so we thought.

They made us wait for a further hour.

They really took their time.

We demanded to be let in.

When they finally began to let us in, hours after our arrival they once again demanded to see ID.

It was a tactic of intimidation.

Finally, one by one, we were allowed into a normally publicly available building that allows non-students in without demanding to see ID.

A wave of relief rode over all of us.

I stood for a couple of minutes by the main front lobby.

We were so stubborn, standing there for hours shouting that I hadn’t realized that my fingers lost feeling a while ago.

The heat from the inside hit me and slowly started to regaining the feeling of my fingers. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and I just thought to myself: “We did it. We really did it, we made it in.”

The hall was so beautifully designed that I couldn’t help but admire the staircase as I walked up them.

Seeing their main banner on top of the staircase, filled me with a sense of pride.

I was so proud of the occupation group.

They really inspired me to do this, to come and show my support for them.

Outside their door was a quote, which they also had another sign which stated that whoever enters through the main lecture hall – they must read the quote first.

As a reminder as to why this occupation is occurring in the first place.

Black and third world people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity.

Women are expected to educate men.

Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world.

The oppressors maintain their position and evade responsibility for their actions.

There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.

  • Audre Lorde

This quote is spot on.

I can see why these students are still standing strong.

This quote has managed to refine into a small excerpt, the experiences of the marginalised.

Upon reading this, I felt very emotional. My respect for these students rose even higher than it already was.

Surprisingly, they were all ready with food and accommodating. It was someone’s birthday.

There was home cooked food, birthday cake, hugs between the occupiers and Keele Students. We shared relief, exhaustion, understanding, celebration.

We sang Happy Birthday to the student, the woman who’s experience of racism during an election had been the tipping point for many students to come together and demand change.

Although brief, I had an opportunity to speak amongst the occupation’s students.

The everyday experiences of racism that they shared with us was heartbreaking but familiar.

It’s the start of Easter break, and instead of going home – many of these students have chosen to stay and occupy the building.

Albeit forcibly so, since they’re locked in.

Once again, it struck me as awful that previous occupations led by mostly white students had been allowed to come and go from the building, to have the equivalent of a giant party but that when people of colour stood in occupation, they were subjected to frequent lock-ins. 

We exchanged worries since security had been ordered to lock all of the exits except for the main front door, and this was heavily guarded by at least two security guards.

The students who were peacefully in occupation, a protest tactic used by many before them were being denied basic needs such as food.

Management had also given orders to have the bathroom screwed shut – but luckily the students managed to prevent this from happening.

These occupiers were being treated like animals, rather than humans.

Whether Goldsmiths university wants to admit it or not, they are resorting to violent acts in order to get the students to stop their occupation.

The change is because of who was in occupation.

 

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Sophia sent me this picture at the end of the night, my signs unfortunately stayed in our broken bus – but at least passersby knew we were there for @GoldAntiRacism || Sophia Hayat Taha

 

Taking The Stories Home

A few of us didn’t stay for long, we had to be back in Keele by the end of the night at least – I was one of those people.

My mental health deteriorated by the end of the night.

I was getting so upset and triggered by the whole situation. I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, and this basically means that I’m emotionally unstable and extremely empathetic, so much so that I feed people’s energies.

Usually I’d be okay, being able to socialise more and listen to their stories.

However it was too much for me that day.

All I wanted to do was cry.

I was so upset, since I could feel how they all felt.

Although they were all so strong for standing their ground with occupying the building, I could also feel their stress and their pain.

That and being exhausted physically, it just made me so vulnerable.

I knew that if I stayed, I would’ve just been irritable because of my incapability to control my emotions.

I also had other reasons for leaving, but mainly it was because I really couldn’t handle the pain anymore.

You could feel the energy from everyone in that room: the frustration, the pain, the stress.

I was so proud of them for being staying so mentally strong.

It’s beyond upsetting, seeing how they are being treated.

During the journey home on the train, I had so many questions.

How can such a thing happen in this modern era? In 2019? Decades ago, there were rallies for equality.

Something that many of us POC born after these occurrences, never expected to have to carry out ourselves.

Why is it that oppressors would rather sit comfortably in their privilege rather than allowing others to also be comfortable with them?

Why does anyone have to be above another?

Why does a hierarchy have to exist?

Something as basic as equality and having a university acknowledge that a racist incident happened – and then addressed with – was that really such a hard thing to be done?

As of today, the Goldsmiths Anti-Racism Occupation has been on-going for a month.

They recently had a Skype session with students from John Hopkins University who are campaigning against private police on their campus.

These very students are also suffering from racial profiling amongst their BAME community.

There is also a hunger-strike happening at Birmingham university that started a few days ago.

Knowing that more and more universities are standing together in solidarity and supporting each other brings me hope.

Hope that there are people like us out there, who care enough for things to change.

Not just for us, but for the next BAME generation who is yet to come.

The Press is listening, but sadly management still ignores the problem. 

Press Links: Amal Bider, Goldsmiths anti-racism action group, on occupation of Uni building by student activists

Anti-racism protesters occupy Goldsmiths university building

UEA statement of solidarity

The Manifesto From Goldsmiths Anti-Racism Action Group: http://tinyurl.com/GARAmanifesto

 

We hope we can add our own SU’s official statement of solidarity soon, until then we send solidarity from WOKE, BAME Society, Keele Friends of Palestine and Decolonise Keele.

More Photos to Follow

Written by: Fides Dagongdong
Twitter: @fidesadee_
Wordpress blog: @fidesadee
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fidesadee/

The Autism Rights Movement-the Underrated Movement of the 21st Century

In the midst of human rights movements, one has gone forgotten and ignored by the mass media: the autism rights movement, also known as the neurodiverse rights movement.

Approximately 1% of the UK population is on the autistic spectrum, yet it is only this decade that significant autism rights movements and groups, as opposed to advocacy groups that may not properly take into account the wishes of autistic people themselves (as opposed to the wishes of their families, not all of whom fairly consult autistic people), have developed.

For nearly two years, January 2017 to October 2018, I was secretary of the most prominent autism rights organisation, Autistic UK, which has helped organise such events as Autistic Pride around the country and it calls for acceptance, not merely awareness, of neurodiversity: http://autisticuk.org/

How does it connect with feminism, you ask?

Although the ratio of women: men diagnosed as having an autistic spectrum condition (ASC) is relatively equal, fewer women get recognised as autistic because of the different ways society expects from men and women in terms of socialising and the more subtle social skills of women, and also because of a bias in research about autism towards men and boys.

There is also an important social justice dimension: the unemployment rate for autistic people, men and women, exceeds 80 per cent in the UK, and support for autistic adults wanting to live independently and live the same lives as those who are not autistic is scarce and often does not understand their rights and needs.

Autistic mothers, whether or not their children are autistic, face considerable challenges in family life, as noted by Lana Grant in her book From Here to Maternity.

In the last year, the activism of writer and autistic mother of six Emma Dalmayne, along with her friend Fiona O’Leary in Ireland (also an autistic mother), has been crucial to ensure the autism rights movement can face down challenges from those wanting to harm autistic people, such as those who market false and dangerous “cures” for autistic people.

This is a movement we truly need for the 21st century to be as inclusive and accepting as it sounds, especially for autistic women whose voices often go unheard and who still find it difficult to get a diagnosis.

Many men and boys are diagnosed in childhood, whilst a lot of women and girls have to wait until adulthood for an autism diagnosis.

Picking Your Battles, Collective Action and Fighting Tokenism: A Talk with Professor Farzana Shain

Read on for a write-up by Laura, a first year PhD student, Postgraduate Decolonise Rep and WOKE Champion

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On the 22nd November 2018, Dr. Farzana Shain (Professor of Sociology of Education) gave a talk as part of the Women Of Keele Educate (W.O.K.E) series.

When I heard that Farzana was the speaker for this week I jumped at the chance to write up the event for the W.O.K.E blog. I have been lucky enough to meet with Farzana a handful of times now, as part of the Decolonise Keele project, and at various events around Keele.

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Whenever I talk to her, she instills in me this drive and passion for academia.

In fact, she was featured in my last W.O.K.E blog post as a person who offered me some important words of wisdom.

 

Farzana’s talk was about Tokenism, specifically tokenism in her academic career. She very kindly provided a definition of tokenism:

 

Tokenism is likely to be found wherever a dominant group is under pressure to share privilege, power, or other desirable commodities with a group which is excluded. Tokenism is the means by which the dominant group advertises a promise of mobility between the dominant and excluded classes. The token does not become assimilates into the dominant group but is destined for permanent marginality. The token is a member of an underrepresented group, who is operating on the turf of the dominant group, under license from it (Laws, 1975: 51).

 

Farzana explained that in any given situation, the dominant group would cover approximately 60% of the overall group of people, whereas the token group would be made up of only 15%.

She also explained that tokenism can be displayed and ‘felt’ in three different levels – individual, institutional and systemic.

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On an individual level, Farzana explained that people are assumed to represent a specific culture or group more than they represent the work that they complete and because of this she has encountered a number of situations throughout her academic career that have placed her specifically within a culture group.

Farzana told us of a time when she was working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) and completing research in local schools.

She was contacted by one of the local schools to ask if she would be willing to give a talk to the students that attended that particular school.

Believing that this was research related, she was interested in this opportunity. That was until the organizer asked her if she could produce examples of Asian Cuisine for the students to try, or give a talk on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

 

 

Another more recent example Farzana gave was when she was speaking at a Gender and Education conference.

A chance encounter in the bathroom after the talk led a woman to explain to Farzana that she was the ‘token black person’ on the panel.

Similarly, Farzana received an email from a member of staff inviting her to participate in a project due to it having an equalities dimension.

These types of encounters bring with them a whole host of questions that Farzana openly shared with the room.

 

Mainly, the question of being chosen for the work and research she has conducted, or simply to make the panel diverse.

 

So how does Farzana aim to combat this tokenism?

She deliberately goes for ‘mainstream’ roles such as a Research Director position to show that she can perform in these roles and perform well.

But within these roles there is a level of institutional tokenism.

Farzana pointed out that women are generally hired for ‘women’s jobs’ such as teaching and learning jobs that require a certain amount of administration.

These roles contain work that is not only unpaid and unrecognized, but also takes time away from research and scholarship, which are the areas that are required for recognition, pay rises and promotion.

As well as this, generally being called upon to represent a culture, or as an expert in equality, is also unpaid or under-paid.

Tokenism is also present on a systemic level.

Farzana used the example of Further Education (FE) to detail this point.

She explained that FE underwent some changes that caused a mass exodus of male employees to leave their professions, causing the number of female employees to rise from 3% to 17%.

But with this came a reduction in salary and an increase in workload where women were expected to shoulder the burden for change in the FE environment.

Once the crisis was settled, the number of men working in these roles began to increase again.

It is only recently that the number of women Vice Chancellors has risen as high as 29%, with it sitting at around 16% for a long time. Still an unequal number for the role, but maybe a step in the right direction.

So, Farzana tries to take more ‘mainstream’ roles wherever she can.

This in itself presents challenges, people just don’t expect women to be interested in these roles, and to be able to complete them as well as their male counterparts.

She also engineers her research to reflect this attitude.

As well as researching topics such as race and gender, she continually stays in the loop with policy research, so that she is known in an area outside of race and gender equality.

Farzana advised us to pick our battles, some things just aren’t worth the fight. But when they are it is the collective voice that will shout the loudest.

Institutional networks such as the Decolonise Keele project and W.O.K.E are challenging power struggles that threaten everyday issues. To read more about Decolonise Keele click here.  

If you could be part of the departmental lead for the Decolonise Keele Project read the below poster:

call for working groups decolonise

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Together, the collective voice can help combat issues such as tokenism.

 

Farzana’s talk made me reflect upon my own academic life.

It made me think of a time when I was applying for academia and I was told that I would definitely be given a place because universities love ‘mature students’ and mothers.

Not that I had achieved ten distinctions above the required amount for my course.

I research about migrant mothers and, although I’m not a migrant, I’m a mother.

But I also look at the way people are represented, even throughout academic study. I’d like to think that my research will someday pave the way for a different type of representation, for the way migrant mothers, working mothers, and mothers who study are perceived.  

And I’d like to think that one day this will enable me to write about more than motherhood, postcolonial science fiction and soap for example.

Farzana makes me believe that we do not have to be just one tick box on a form, we can  jump around and tick every box if we want to.

 

If you would like to join us in the women of Keele Educate project or if you are interested in more information about Decolonise Keele please fill out the below:

 

 

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