Tag Archives: Mothers’ Union

Labour Party Conference 2014, Manchester

24 Sep

Party conference season is, I always think, a bit like freshers’ week at university. A new term (Parliamentary), lectures (talks in the conference hall), tutorials (fringe events) and a vibrant social life with silly drinking games (of course the latter doesn’t happen at Conference and the hotel bars are a bit more expensive than the Student Union bar). As well as an opportunity to enthuse Party members and introduce new policies, it offers charities and other policy wonks the chance to mix more freely with the political classes.

This year Mothers’ Union is attending all three party conferences, and the Labour Party kicked off the season this year.

In the build up to the next election, Labour introduced a number of new policies. On Sunday, Tristram Hunt MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, announced Labour plans to revive SureStart, increase free childcare to 25 hours per week for 3 and 4 year olds of working parents, introduce childcare support at schools from 8am to 6pm, and require all teachers to be qualified. In her speech on equalities, Gloria De Piero, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, announced that the Labour Party would ensure the public sector monitored the race, gender, disability and socio-economic status of their staff in an effort to tackle discrimination and disadvantage.

On Monday, Jim Murphy MP, Shadow Secretary for International Development, announced that Labour would put human rights at the heart of international development, provide funding for the International Labour Organisation, help prevent migrant workers from being exploited in Qatar in the build up to the World Cup 2022 and put universal health coverage at the heart of the world’s development ambitions.

And today, Yvette Cooper MP, Shadow Home Secretary, announced that a Labour Government would bring in a new law on violence against women and girls, which would provide new powers to tackle female genital mutilation, tackle economic and labour exploitation across the world, introduce compulsory sex and relationship education into schools, and bring in new laws and a commissioner on domestic and sexual abuse, and fund a national network of refuges.

I had a couple of useful meetings during the week. I met with Sharon Hodgson MP to talk about our upcoming participation in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender violence and our concerns about the need for greater prevention work; the difficult funding and commissioning environment facing services that support victims and survivors of gender-based violence; and the need for resourcing perpetrator programmes. I also met with Jack Palmer from the Church of England and Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to discuss the policy priorities of Mothers’ Union, and the Church.

Fringe events proved stimulating and thought provoking. LabourList hosted ‘Dads’ Army’, along with the Royal College of Midwives, Barnardo’s and Working With Men, where the panel spoke about the importance of treating dads as dads in their own right, not just partners of a mother after having given birth; the impact of fatherlessness on children’s lives; and the importance of giving fathers decent paternity leave and pay. Women’s Aid hosted a fantastic event on ‘Can survivors of domestic violence count on Labour?’ We heard from a survivor about her experience; from Polly Neate of Women’s Aid about the challenges the women’s sector is facing in terms of funding cuts and the need for coercive control to be better understood and criminalised; and from Vera Baird QC, who is drafting th Bill for the Labour Party on violence against women and girls.

In all, this year’s Labour Party Conference has been far more instructive than those following their defeat in the 2010 General Election. The moto throughout the conference was “When we win the General Election in 2015…” and this is perhaps is what has given impetus for some more clearly articulated policies.

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Thursday 20th March 2014: *Newsflash*

20 Mar

The agreed conclusions have been going rather slowly, despite the facilitator’s efforts to keep the pace up and be nearly done by lunchtime today. Yesterday evening we met with our negotiator from the Government Equalities Office and he did not have much of an update, other than everyone wants their two cents’ worth of input; and that posturing and attempted compromise continues.

This evening I have just received the latest version and a few more paragraphs have been agreed completely, with a few more nearly agreed. Of the ones nearly agreed, a few bits of our wording relating to women’s inheritance rights and equal access to justice have remained in. One paragraph that has been agreed addresses internet safety, although we can’t claim credit for that one!

I suspect the session will continue well into the night with interns being sent off to buy pizza and strongly caffeinated fizzy drinks. I, meanwhile, have enjoyed a session with the Anglican delegation (including our lovely Mothers’ Union members), reflecting on the past two weeks, and am now scoffing cough sweets to battle the dry tickle in my throat.

More to follow; until then, happy first day of spring to you all.

Wednesday 12th March: Keep on agitating!

20 Mar

On Wednesday I attended a meet and greet with Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Quite a novelty meeting a woman bishop! With great warmth and welcome, she encouraged us to keep agitating to seek change in the world. During the same session, Mugisa Isingoma talked about her role as Mothers’ Union President for Congo and the need for her and other leaders to be role models to women. She also talked about her work with United Women for Peace and Social Inclusion, which supports women to become self-sufficient, particularly those who have survived rape and domestic violence. She highlighted how the women she works with do not want to keep telling their story but rather look to the future to see what they can achieve.

Afterwards, I attended an event on engaging faith communities to address sexual and gender-based violence, held by Episcopal Relief and Development and chaired by Terrie Robinson, Women’s Desk Officer with the Anglican Communion. She highlighted how people often look to the church for support and encouragement, yet how the church has often remained silent on the issue of domestic and gender-based violence. Rev Ann Marie Hunter of Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership spoke about how faith can be used as a weapon of abuse, as well as being a source of support and healing; and how faith communities need to repent and speak out against violence, as well as offering support to survivors. Other panelists spoke about the importance of faith leaders being educated about gender-based violence and becoming advocates for transformation.

At the end of the day I attended a reception hosted by Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative, UK Mission to the UN New York. I was introduced to Maria Miller, Minister for Women and Equalities, and spoke to her about Mothers’ Union’s perspective on this year’s CSW, including the discussions Rhoda and I had had about girls missing school each month. I also chatted to Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Women and Equalities Minster, who told me her concerns about the sexualisation of young girls and boys, including their use of internet pornography and self-generated content such as sexting. She was aware of our Bye Buy Childhood campaign and the Bailey Review, having met with her shortly before coming out to CSW.

Mothers’ Union strongly represented at the Enthronement of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

9 Apr

ImageI feel doubly blessed – as Mothers’ Union Provincial President for the Province of York I attended the consecration of Justin Welby as Bishop of Durham. And now I have been able to represent the four million members of Mothers’ Union, by attending his Enthronement as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.  It was a wonderful privilege.

On a beautifully sunny spring March afternoon trustees Frida Kazembe (Zambia), Helen Parry (Isle of Man), Sheran Harper (Guyana), Real Kewasis (Kenya) and myself made our way into the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral, where we were pleased to greet another Mothers’ Union central Trustee, Maria Akrofi (Ghana), who attended with her husband.

Anticipation, expectation, excitement, fellowship and joy filled this holy place. The music and the singing was amazing, there was a great sense that something wonderful was about to happen. Two rows ahead of me was the Archbishop’s seat! What an amazing organisation Mothers’ Union is, offering so many opportunities to its members.

From our seats we had a clear view of the West Door, seeing the great processions including: Head Vergers, Chancellors, Church Leaders from other faiths, Clergy, Bishops, Archbishops from around the Anglican Communion. And of course HRH Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and the leaders of political parties.

The solemnity of the service, the symbolic gestures and Mother’s Union being part of it was incredible. I really felt that God was with us in the service. The Archbishop’s sermon was inspiring, thought provoking and challenging.

Following the service, during tea, I had great opportunities to network with a great number of people, it was so good to hear positive comments from them about the vast amount of outreach work Mother’s Union is involved around the world.

I was introduced to Archbishop Justin and his wife Caroline and the trustees and myself were extra blessed to have a photo opportunity. It was helpful to have the zoned trustees with me because I was introduced to a number of Archbishops from around the Anglican Communion.

I feel deeply humbled and truly blessed by the many wonderful opportunities that have been – and continue to be opened up in my role as Mothers’ Union’s Worldwide President. God certainly blesses us in many ways. It was indeed a great privilege to represent you in Canterbury. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.

Lynne Tembey

Mothers’ Union Worldwide President 2013

Outcome of the 57th UNCSW

8 Apr

The final agreed conclusions of the 57th Commission on the Status of Women are now available on the UNCSW website here. This document has made a journey from eight pages to 31, back down to a final 16, stating what actions governments need to take to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women (including direct input from Mothers’ Union – read right to the end to discover what!).  Six thousand women were present to influence this process in New York, and many more beforehand back in their own countries. Intergovernmental negotiations took place behind closed doors but governments often found ways to helpfully leak the developing text of the agreed conclusions to NGOs to aid them in their lobbying.

By the end, most governments were happy with the outcome, even just to have reached final agreements – the last time the priority theme was violence against women there had been no agreed conclusions at the end, the second time only in its 57 year history (the only other occasion being last year). Negotiations are always a battle between weakening gender equality (yes, really), protecting existing standards, and progressing women’s empowerment even further.  Whilst a great deal of compromise was involved there were still a few countries who expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome. The Holy See (not technically a UN member state but has the right to ‘observer status’ and therefore input) spent ten minutes after the adoption of the agreed conclusions making a speech against the document – no one really listened and eventually the chair asked them to kindly desist.

So what’s in the agreed conclusions? Not least, a paragraph from Mothers’ Union!

The first section reaffirms existing international agreements such as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (a key milestone in international agreements on gender) and raises general observations. The second section is operational – that is, specific guidelines for what governments should be doing – and is organised into four categories: strengthening implementation of legal and policy frameworks and accountability; addressing structural and underlying causes and risk factors so as to prevent violence against women and girls; strengthening multisectoral services, programmes and responses to violence against women and girls; and improving the evidence base. Within each category are a number of specific recommendations and it is often the minutia of the language used that NGOs lobby on.

It is not easy to establish where an individual organisation can take credit for influencing an outcome, as there are so many voices calling for the same things. However, Mothers’ Union can claim full credit for the introduction of one particular paragraph. We gave suggested text to the UK Government ahead of CSW, which made its way word for word into the second draft of the agreed conclusions as:

“Support the development of rehabilitative services for perpetrators of violence against women and girls to transform attitudes and behaviours and reduce likelihood of reoffending”.

Over the two weeks of the CSW this paragraph was extended but made its way, uncontroversially, into the final document as:

 “Create, develop and implement a set of policies, and support the establishment of rehabilitative services, to encourage and bring changes in the attitudes and behaviours of perpetrators of violence against women and girls, and to reduce the likelihood of reoffending, including in cases of domestic violence, rape and harassment, as well as monitor and assess their impact and effect”. (Section C, point ggg, page 14)

 For me, this is what attending the CSW is all about – influencing an international agreement that, if implemented, should help to improve life for women and girls.

Rachel with Sister Lynda Dearlove of Women at the Well, at the adoption of the agreed conclusions

Rachel with Sister Lynda Dearlove of Women at the Well, at the adoption of the agreed conclusions

CCMP and Mothers’ Union Guyana

25 Mar

Location: Guyana, South America. 

Guyana is culturally Caribbean (along it’s populated coastline), whilst the interior often referred to as the ‘hinterland’ is populated by various Amerindian tribes who have more in common with their South American neighbours like Venezuela and Brazil. The history in Guyana is rich and diverse; with a dark history of Slavery under Dutch and British colonial rule, and a historically strong sugar industry (many of the plantations were situated close to the Demerara River, whose name lends itself to the well known type of sugar). Many of the sugar factories are now used mostly to produce rum, which seems to be a popular commodity in Guyana. The air is warm and humid, the vegetation thick and luscious (you feel like you’re flying over enormous fields of broccoli as you come in to land). With a population of less than 1,000,000, Guyana is a rural and sparsely populated country – the highest concentration of people is found along the coast. Challenges faced in Guyana are numerous such as high crime rates, tackling poverty and preventing abuse. Those living in the Hinterland face even bigger challenges because they are isolated and live in very remote and difficult to access areas. Those large military trucks used by the armed forces are commonplace on the streets of Georgetown as they are often the only vehicle suitable to venture into the Hinterland where very few roads exist.

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Our journey to Guyana is part of an exciting new vision of the Mothers’ Union. Some time ago, the Mothers’ Union in Guyana prioritised ‘umoja’ also known as Church and Community Mobilisation Process (CCMP) as the next step for Mothers’ Union and the local communities.

Essentially, CCMP is a community-led process that is bible centred and enables a church and its community to reflect on their resources, their problems, and how such problems could be met locally with their own resources. It mobilises communities and enables them to take their future into their own hands. For more information, see here

Mothers’ Union members in Guyana are about to embark on this most remarkable journey reaching out to their local churches and communities through an assets based approach (ie match what you have to what you need, rather than first thinking about your needs, and then looking externally for resources to fulfill those needs). Our role is strictly limited to prayer, encouragement and initial facilitation of training and skill transfer.

 If it still sounds unclear: 25 people from different communities (men and women) will be trained to help drive forward development in their communities, using the church as a central organising body and in the long term, getting each community to assess its own resources and capabilities and come up with a vision for moving forward.

CCMP is a process that facilitates change and will help Mothers’ Union members around the world to start developing and expanding the ways in which they are able to carry out the Mothers’ Union objectives in their communities. 

Change will happen slowly, but when it does happen its roots will be deep and long lasting.

Our main objective for visiting, was to help support the start of CCMP in Guyana. What does this mean really? Organising a selection committee to decide who should be trained as CCMP facilitators to ensure fairness and equal representation; setting up a steering committee to help efficiently monitor and evaluate the process as well as provide support to the facilitators, work with the Mothers’ Union leadership in Guyana to understand fully their priorities and expectations of CCMP. Our visit was brief, but allowed us to leave confident, knowing that the time and money being invested (by everyone involved) is matched by hard work and dedication to do all the necessary ground work before the first training begins in June 2013.

We also met with a small group who are currently undertaking a pilot project in partnership with Anglican Alliance. It is called ‘Agents of Change’ and is a distance-learning module in collaboration with the Open University that builds up community development skills through a process of planning and carrying out a community based project.  7 of Mothers’ Union Guyana’s prominent members are undertaking this pilot, being mentored by one of our colleagues here at MSH.  Agents of Change” takes six months to complete, and includes modules in:

  • Inclusion
  • Consultation
  • Governance
  • Protection of vulnerable people
  • Work Programming
  • Principles of financial management

The group are working really well together, and encouraging /supporting one another through the challenges of taking on such a project. By October they will have completed the pilot, and by that time as well the second training for CCMP will have been completed. Exciting things are happening for and in Mothers’ Union Guyana, so watch this space!! 

We are on an exciting journey walking hand in hand with Mothers’ Union members around the world; resourcing, training, praying for, encouraging and strategising with. What a privilege to be part of such a globalised network, and family, of grassroots activists promoting family values around the world.

 Here are some pictures of our time in Guyana for you to enjoy.

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Local branch leader Dawn, with the Diocesan President June, stand beside Mothers’ Union Guyana’s latest member being enrolled by the Dean of St George’s Cathedral.

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Some of Mothers’ Union Guyana’s members in their uniforms, with Dean Terry of the cathedral.

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St George’s Cathedral, Georgetown – the world’s largest wooden building.

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A memorial of an important uprising of slaves on the plantations in 1768, the figure illustrated was the leader of the rebellion (which eventually led to the full emancipation of slaves in the 19th century).

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Playing Tearfund’s ‘the development game’ with the Agents of Change participants; an exercise in recognising levels of inequality within your own community, and how certain community development projects may serve to benefit a minority and marginalise the majority.

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The Mothers’ Union office in Georgetown; where we spent the day with the executive discussing CCMP and moving forward.

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An excellent resource produced by the Province and Diocese campaigning against violence and abuse.

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Some beautiful examples of Guyana’s flora taken from the side of the road….

Hannah.

Friday 15th March: Agreed agreed conclusions!

16 Mar

Newsflash update – the agreed conclusions were finalised and agreed at 7.50pm this evening after tense negotiations up to the end! Mothers’  Union was there up until the end to witness the final cheer – more to follow soon on the details.