Tuesday, November 02, 2010

STUC womens conference-Perth

I do not run about being busy for my own gratification. As an artist I would much rather be creating, painting pretty pictures & gazing at the sky- however, how can I do that when all about me is chaos & injustice?  I feel obliged and compelled to participate and play whatever small part I can to help. We can't all save the planet, but together, by helping each other and uniting - people have achieved amazing things throughout history.

We artists can be very isolated, starving away in our freelance garret, relying on social networking for a little human company and news. I first became distanced from trade union activities and politics 22 years ago when as a young homeless single mum I left the city to try & raise my kids safely. I felt being chained to a barricade wasn't a good place for babies.

Fast forward > I joined the local fire brigade because they needed people & I could do it. I became the union representative because my team needed support against a barrage of management mismanagement and things making it near impossible to do our job ( of saving lives ) effectively. Thus the circle is complete and I've been propelled back into politics and union activities.

1st & 2nd November is the STUC ( Scottish trade Union Council ) Womens conference, I attended the first day, to meet the other FBU ( Fire Brigades Union ) womens reps and see what the conference was all about. I'd never really got involved with the womens side of FBU activities before. I'm not a girlie girl, prefer the company of guys & can't stand talk about shopping and have found women to be rather competitive etc. Also when one has fought hard to be accepted as an equal in a mans world, why take oneself off to the side and make an issue of it?
On a Firefighting level, women Firefighters have specific issues that can best be tackled by a womens section in the union. eg. our fire kit is badly designed for womens bodies, we are likely to suffer 20% worse burns than our male counterparts. We have different health issues, different roles in our families, maternity issues etc etc etc. This STUC womens conference in Perth also highlighted for me the wider roles in society that women have and how the proposed government public sector cuts will have a devastating effect on our communities, and women in particular. We heard many wonderful speakers talk of their work, and personal experiences in all walks of life, the prison service, education, health, support work, libraries, public transport, fire service, as mothers, daughters, domestic managers, friends, sisters, colleagues. It was a revelation and rather emotional to be dropped into such a supportive environment, where was this female competitiveness I was expecting? instead a calm, warm, non-conditional accepting room full of hundreds of strong understanding women. Take the issue of domestic abuse for example, this is not an academic discussion, a quarter of the women in that room have experienced domestic abuse, and overcome it, and are now able to support and campaign for other women who need that support, both one to one and in legislation. This is one of the many reasons why its important that women are able to get together, unite and share in the fight against cuts which will rip through this country, effecting all workers, people who are unable to work, the poor, the vulnerable, why we must unite with international womens movements to protect those with less rights than us and learn from those who have overcome problems we face.

I'd like to rant on about the specific issues we discussed and passed motions on, women in the criminal justice system, human trafficking, the targeting of sexualized products on little girls etc etc But I've probably lost enough readers as it is, politics being the elephant in the room that it is - that is all, we can go back to shoe shopping and farmville now.

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