Turning post-election anguish into action

So May 7th came and went, and we’re all left feeling like the kid who asked for iPhone, received a small, rectangle package, and opened it to find a calculator. Except quite a bit worse. It’s clear I’m in some kind of lefty-feminist bubble because I know only a handful of people who voted Conservative, compared to hundreds who went for Labour or the Greens, but there were 11,334,576 votes for the Tories. I’m not sure whether to be angry at the bubble for misleading me, or to love the bubble. If only we could go independent.

The bubble has widely been in mourning for the last few weeks, using the election results as an excuse to a) drink too much and b) post too much on social media. I myself have indulged in both of these practices. However, the time for mourning is over. The time for feverishly ranting through wine-stained lips is also over (sort of – I feel like there will be a lot of ranting on this blog alone, so we might overlook this one). The time for fighting back is here.
Over the last five years under a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, we have experienced the following:

There are £12billion worth of cuts to come under the new government, all of which are directed at welfare. These cuts will affect the most vulnerable people in society, who have already suffered greatly under increasingly brutal austerity measures (which have been proven ineffective time and time again). Politics aren’t just for elections, they’re for life, and unlike the Tories, we’re actually in it together. If we don’t fight to protect ourselves and each other, who will? Whether it’s getting involved in the local community, with protests, with campaigning, etc, we need to take MORE action from now on, because more vulnerable people are going to need help. I know that it’s difficult to know how to help, and that it’s easy to get caught up on signing online petitions and Like-ing various well-intentioned Facebook groups, so I’ve compiled some ways to get active.

Firstly, I know I just warned you about Liking lots of Facebook groups, but some of them can be great for getting involved. The Fourth Wave: London Feminist Activists, on Facebook here and Twitter here, are trying to get feminists to come together to increase activism and protest in the capital. The incredibly hard-working organiser, Alexandra Becker, compiles events around the city and lists them in the group, often arranging meet-ups before and/or after for members who want to discuss the event further or who don’t want to attend alone. With her permission, events in the near future are listed below:
Events Overview
May 2015
27 May
Fight Austerity, Fight the Tories – March on the State Opening of Parliament
Protest & Rally: Day of Queens Speech END AUSTERITY NOW
National Switch Off Day No. 1.
28 May
Debate time – Inside or outside: where does change happen?
Fourth Wave Meetup here:
30 May
Fight the Cuts: Fight for our future
MAY SALON Deeds not Words: No ordinary lives, places or things
The Great British Right Off!- Protest for the Human Rights Act
30 May – 13 June
The HIVE presents: FREEDOM
31 May
Things and Ink and the Feminist Library Present: Feminist Flash Day
June 2015
30 May – 13 June
The HIVE presents: FREEDOM
5 June
‘Mobile Identities? Perspectives on Gender and Migration’ – UCL MRU Student Conference 2015
6 June
Shut Down Yarl’s Wood – Set Her Free
9 June
The Very First Women’s Equality Party Fundraiser at Conway Hall
11 June
14 June
Banner-making & planning session for End Austerity Now
Women’s Federation for Peace: An Evening for Nepal
Beyond The Ballot Box – Creative Activism Action Lab
15 June
Women on the Front Line (2) – Film screening and panel discussion
17 June
The idea of revolution in the 21st century
19 June
Know your Rights Workshop
20 June
FEMINIST BLOC – People Assembly End Austerity Now National Demo 20 June 2015
27/28 June Dangerous Times Festival 2015: ways to change the world
July 2015
8 July
Protest: Osborne’s Emergency Budget – #EndAusterityNow
I’ve put together a post on tips for protests, so if you’re nervous or unsure about attending one then hopefully it will re-assure you – https://thejarbelles.com/2015/06/13/a-guide-to-your-first-protest/. If you’re not living in London, then seek out your local feminist groups via UK Feminista: http://ukfeminista.org.uk/. You can also look for local community groups who engage in activism (while the Internet is the easiest way, local religious buildings, town halls, etc often have boards with details of these kind of groups too). The Meet Up app is also useful for finding local groups. If there aren’t any groups in your area, why not start your own? You’d be surprised at the wide range of skills and experience that can be thrown up when passionate people come together.
Alternatively, you can help a charity, either by volunteering or fundraising. It’s unfortunate that people are now having to step in and do what the government should be doing in regards to charity work, but it is a reality. Everyday, organisations are having their funding slashed or removed entirely, and many of them could use your help. Everybody has issues that are close to their hearts, but I’ve listed some possible organisations below if you’re not sure where to start:
Organisations you can support
http://www.refuge.org.uk/ – Refuge is the UK’s leading domestic violence charity, and opened the world’s first safe house for women and children escaping domestic violence in 1971.
http://www.home-start.org.uk – Home-Start helps families with young children deal with whatever life throws at them. They support parents as they learn to cope, improve their confidence and build better lives for their children.
http://www.rosauk.org/about/ – Rosa is a charitable fund set up to support initiatives that benefit women and girls in the UK.
http://ikwro.org.uk – IKWRO was founded (as the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation) in 2002. Since its foundation, as testament to the success of our work and in response to the need for culturally specific support, advocacy and counselling for women from the Middle East and Afghanistan, their services have been extended to several vulnerable communities in the United Kingdom. IKWRO’s mission is to protect Middle Eastern and Afghan women and girls who are at risk of ‘honour’ based violence, forced marriage, child marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic violence and to promote their rights.
http://www.lawrs.org.uk/ – The only Latin American domestic violence charity in the UK, LAWRS – Latin American Women’s Resource Centre – had their funding cut months ago and are in dire need of help. They are a human rights based organisation which supports the immediate and long term needs of Latin American women migrants in the UK. Over 4,000 women use their services every year to benefit from practical and emotional support, to learn new skills and to improve their own opportunities.
http://www.advanceadvocacyproject.org.uk – Advance is a leading light in domestic violence and women offender services in London. They are working relentlessly to provide new and better life-saving, life-changing sources of support for women, children and young people and unfortunately, they struggle with funding constantly.
https://www.abortionsupport.org.uk/ – Abortion Support Network provides financial assistance and accommodation to women travelling from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to England in order to have safe, legal abortions. They’ve just sent an email out to those on their mailing list stating that they need to make £2000 of one-off donations within the next few days, if they want to keep up with the demand they’re facing at the moment, so please consider donating.
http://www.hestia.org/ – Hestia is a London based charity that provides a range of care and support services to vulnerable people. This includes housing victims of domestic abuse, as well as offering support for children as they move schools and helping mothers to regain self-esteem and confidence. Finally, organisations geared towards helping refugees and asylum seekers will definitely need increased support in the coming months. There have already been significant cuts to their funding and the wave of anti-immigration sentiment throughout the lead up to the election is having a detrimental effect on the services available to immigrant women and children in the UK. There are many charities focused on refugees in the UK, but a leading one is the Refugee Council — https://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/. You could also consider hosting a RefuTea: http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/refutea
Most of the organisations and events listed above are based in London (as so am I). However, there are groups which needs your support all over the UK. In Sheffield, for example, the feminist collective LaDIYfest Sheffield work with WiCAT (Women in Construction, Arts and Technology Ltd) and National Ugly Mugs, a pioneering and award-winning project supporting the safety of sex workers and advocating for their rights. Regardless of where you are, you can help. If you’re unable to donate or volunteer, and you can’t travel to events or engage in physical activities, then there are other ways you can act.  You can write something for us; calling out sexism you’ve observed and/or experienced, giving coverage to a protest or demo you’ve attended, telling us about work that’s being done in the local community, or putting the spotlight on a particularly impressive feminist you know. If you’d rather not write for us, try one of the many other feminist blogs or websites. Alternatively, start your own.
You can also support protests such as End Austerity Now with your online presence, for example by joining #ImThereToo: https://www.facebook.com/events/1581711698785225/. Social media campaigns can be a great way to influence change. There are thousands of ways to make a difference, and all of us are capable of doing at least one thing. If we all vow to fight back, we can hopefully make the next five years as easy as possible on those who are most vulnerable. It’s easy to get angry, or sad, but it doesn’t really help anyone unless that energy goes into action – so it’s time to act. If you’ve got a campaign, a local group, a charity, etc that needs help then please add it to the comments section.
–  Jade Slaughter is editor of The Jar Belles and has written for The F Word, Parallel and Litro magazines. Follow her on Twitter: @msjadeslaughter.