Tag Archives: discrimination

Made in Dagenham on point: Rights. Not privileges.

16 Aug

– Laura Ouseley, Campaigns Coordinator, One World Action

On Saturday night I finally sat down and watched Made in Dagenham. The film tells the story of the 187 women machinists from Ford’s Dagenham plant who, in 1968, bravely stood up and went onto the picket line to demand equal pay. At the time, it was the last thing anyone expected them to do. There aren’t enough feminist films around and this is a great one. At the end of the film I was struck by how this success story for women’s rights so closely reflects One World Action’s work over the last 22 years.

As the film shows, strong women’s leadership is essential for generating positive change for women. Celebrating and supporting women’s leadership in all its forms is something that One World Action has been doing for years, and getting to know so many inspirational women has led to our latest campaign to find One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women who Change the World. In the film, the role of the unseen powerful woman falls to Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins), who is stirred into action to lead the other women workers.

The film was interesting in it showed how the women’s striking had an impact on their relationships with men and the challenge it made to traditional gender roles.. Breaking a gender stereotype was – and continues to be – one of the biggest obstacles to women’s political participation in every country of the world. Whilst women stood by their husbands when they were on strike, women going on strike was seen as somehow laughable and outside what was within the accepted boundaries of behaviour, particularly if men’s jobs were affected. Perhaps my favourite part of the film is when Rita is arguing with her husband Eddie about going out on strike. As Rita put is ‘you’re right actually. You don’t knock us about, you don’t drink, you don’t gamble, you do join in with the family. That’s-as-it-should-be! Try and understand that. Please. What you’re talkin’ about now, what I’ve been fightin’ for, the last few weeks. Same thing. Rights. Not privileges’.

One World Action has always been a proudly political organisation. It has supported low-paid garment workers and trade unions across the world for many years. Women home workers in India are now better represented and better paid since joining SEWA – a trade union movement of informal women workers supported by One World Action. SEWA believe that women’s human rights will not be achieved without economic empowerment and self reliance. The movement began in 1971 when a handful of women came together to protest against their unfair treatment by local merchants and it currently has over one million members.

But sometimes strong women’s leadership or trade union membership is not enough. Women still need men and women in positions of power who support women’s rights. Getting more women into positions of power was what One World Action’s last campaign was all about: the More Women More Power campaign called for more women in parliament – and asked women already in power to use their voices to amplify the voices of women who are fighting to be heard. In the late 1960s it was Secretary of State Barbara Castle’s (Miranda Richardson) support for the women’s demands for equal pay that secured their success.

Seeing women stand up for their rights in this film was inspirational, but let’s not forget that in the UK the full-time gender wage gap is still 15.5%. What’s more, women are paid less but they often have to work harder as well. There is no doubt that more men are doing their share of childcare and housework, but it can safely be said that these tasks remain firmly in the area of ‘women’s work’.

Despite the Equal Pay Act being passed in 1970, 41 years later women are still fighting for equal pay. In fact, there are currently 45,000 women in the UK taking equal pay claims to court!

I am not convinced that women being politically active has been fully accepted in the UK, so it gives me hope when I hear that 200 people signed up in the first 24 hours to attend the Feminist Summer Camp that took place last weekend. What’s more, UK Feminista is setting up a new activist group so that even more people can stand up and demand a more equal world – just like the 187 machinists from Dagenham.




Caroline Lucas MP – My nomination for One Hundred Women

22 Jul

I’d like to nominate Jess Wood from Allsorts as a woman who is changing the world. Allsorts works with young people under 26 who are unsure about the sexual orientation and /or gender identity. It helps empower and give young people a voice.

Jess founded Allsorts and is currently its Director. She first introduced me to the work they do in Brighton and Hove, which includes one to one advice, team building and, above all, creating spaces for young people to be themselves and explore their feelings. Jess started the project because of a lack of any services meeting the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans youth in the city. She drives Allsorts forward and makes a real difference to the lives of those involved – many of whom are vulnerable, alienated or marginalised.

Jess and the work she does make it a little easier for all young people to come to a clearer and more positive understanding of their sexuality, not just here in Brighton – which has one of the most vibrant LGBT communities in the world – but in every country across the globe. Jess is an example of the many powerful women who, unseen, are building a better world and I applaud her and those like her.

Caroline Lucas is MP for Brighton Pavilion and Leader of the Green Party for England and Wales. She is a passionate campaigner on the environment, social justice, peace and human rights and is a Women’s Rights Champion for One World Action.

To find out more about One World Action’s One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women Campaign and to nominate please go to:  https://oneworldaction.wordpress.com/100-unseen-powerful-women/

New campaign on women’s leadership launched today

23 Jun

Today One World Action is launching a new campaign to find One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women who change the world. We want to highlight the achievements of women around the world who make a difference in ways that are not always visible or recognised. The campaign will showcase innovative modes of leadership by women who might not be in conventional positions of power but who use their resources creatively to challenge, question and change their lives and the lives of those around them.

100 Unseen Powerful Women Who Change The World

Complementing existing lists of rich and powerful women, we want to shed more light on the ways women can have an impact in many different walks of life and show how women can be, and are, active participants in society leading to positive political, social and economic and change.

We are asking you to nominate women you think should be included in our list of One Hundred Women. Our scope for nominations is as broad as the strengths of the women pushing for change. Whether they are community activists, artists, inventors, educators, health workers or entrepreneurs, we want to hear about the women who people think have made a difference to their communities and to pay tribute to their efforts. We want to celebrate the significant changes women make through their bravery, commitment and leadership.

I would like to introduce Durgabai Vyam – the first woman to be nominated for the list:

Durgabai Vyam is one of the innovative artists of the controversial graphic novel Bhimayana – a novel that confronts caste discrimination against Dalits in India. Caste discrimination denies Dalits, basic human rights and confines them in a system that rates them as less than human.

Durgabai Vyam

Durgabai has played a pivotal role bringing to light the often taboo subject of how Dalits are treated and has exposed the many costs – emotional, psychological and physical – of caste discrimination. Through her compelling use of traditional graphic art, Durgabai’s artistic skill provides the book with a unique and powerful vision.

Through her work Durgabai has taken risks: she has transcended the boundaries of the traditionally western genre of graphic novels by refusing to confine her art within conventional boxes. Durgabai’s innovative style challenges perceptions of the acceptability of caste discrimination and encourages dialogue by confronting societal values. Using her artistic vision to visually stimulate change, Durgabai has paved the way for further discussions which highlight and challenge caste discrimination, giving a voice to Dalits through this vibrant and compelling piece of work.

For more information and to nominate your unseen powerful women please go to: https://oneworldaction.wordpress.com/100-unseen-powerful-women/  

We will be awarding prizes to the top ten women within several categories. To donate to the campaign fund, which will also support One World Action’s work to empower women leaders around the world, please visit the following page: http://www.justgiving.com/OneHundredWomen  

Or text POWA00 followed by £2, £5 or £10 to 70070

“Untouchable” in Mayfair: Challenging discrimination with the launch of Bhimayana

13 Apr


The Nehru Centre at the heart of London’s Mayfair is renowned for events promoting Indian high culture. It’s a beautiful building in the classical 18th century style and was once owned by the Duke of Cambridge. The lease now belongs to the High Commission of India.

It was not, therefore, the obvious place to launch a book about someone “untouchable”. But on April 12, One World Action co-hosted the launch of a graphic novel that tells the story of the life of Dr. Ambedkar: the largely forgotten hero of the Indian Independence movement and drafter of the Indian constitution but also a Dalit (formerly known as “untouchables”).

The central message of the book – Bhimayana – is a challenge to discrimination based on caste. It is drawn in a vivid traditional style and was two and half years in the making. The two artists Subhash and Durgabai Vyam worked with Navayana Publishing and its dynamic director Anand to create a powerful story interweaving the life of Dr. Ambedkhar with contemporary experiences of untouchability.

Artists Subhash and Durgabai Vyam

For One World Action the production of the book and the story it tells provided an opportunity to draw attention to Dalit rights and enabled us to take our campaign against caste discrimination in a new direction.  One World Action provided a small grant to Navayana and the artists to finance the production of the book.

As the speakers at the launch pointed out, caste discrimination is one of the most pernicious and hidden forms of discrimination in the 21st century. To be “untouchable” is to be less than human and Dalit children grow up with the message that they are not equal. Celebrated historian of India Patrick French stressed how 160 million Dalits were still invisible in many parts of Indian society – even after over 60 years of independence. Poet Meena Kandasamy spoke of her own experiences of discrimination and read a poem about the experience of a young Dalit girl being attacked for drinking water at school from the wrong pot. And over 100 guests were able to view the work and learn for themselves more about the life of Dr. Ambedkar as well as the work that One World Action does to promote the rights of Dalits – particularly women and girls.

In spite of its incredible economic development and growing political power, caste discrimination is still a taboo subject in India. It was therefore fitting that Bhimayana’s ground-breaking international launch took place at The Nehru Centre – the heart of the Indian cultural establishment – putting Dr. Ambedkar into his rightful place as a hero of modern India.

One World Action: Dalit Rights are Human Rights

Support One World Action in ending caste discrimination

Navayana publishing house

Sexism in the media

28 Mar

Rosamund Urwin, Evening Standard Journalist

KIRSTY Wark, Martha Kearney, Mariella Frostrup: there are many brilliant female broadcasters and writers working in Britain today. An advantage of the media industry is that complete male domination – at least in the public-facing roles – is easy to spot. If there are no female voices on the radio, female faces on TV or female names above articles, somebody notices.

But tally up those names, count the voices, add up the faces and you see something: how under-represented women are in high profile roles. And in the best gigs, you might find evidence of “tokenism”: a one-woman-but-no-more policy. Take the Today programme, the Radio 4 show which acts as an alarm clock to a large part of the nation: there is just one female presenter (the wonderful Sarah Montague) to four men.

Last year, at an event celebrating women in the arts, a well-known critic complained that she was tired of being the only woman on discussion panels. On a weekly arts show, which had four guests, another woman kept her seat warm when she wasn’t there, but they were the only females ever allowed on the sofa.

When a second does slip through, there is often an assumption that the two women must be feuding – the more established one taking against this invader. So when Emily Maitlis joined Newsnight, the thinking went that Kirsty Wark must be fuming. A view which Wark dismissed as “hilarious”. As she told an interviewer: “You could have Jeremy [Paxman] and Gavin [Esler] existing side by side, but somehow not two women? That was a very sexist attitude, and it was absolute nonsense.”

Older women suffer discrimination in the media most, of couse. This week, Miriam O’Reilly won her case for ageism against the BBC – proving that even an organisation obsessed with “diversity” is guilty of booting women out, Logan’s Run style, when they approach the big 5-0. O’Reilly was not only subject to ageism though, but sexism too. For while their female contemporaries are kicked off our screens as their hair turns grey, men are elevated to the status of “national treasures”. Think Radio 4’s John Humphrys, Strictly Come Dancing’s Bruce Forsyth, John Simpson and Jon Snow.

I suspect a few, very pretty young women get an easier ride than the boys at the start of their careers, especially in television. Though none would ever get there without talent, they are promoted to be the attractive face next to the more “serious” older men: Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue on the X Factor and the way Alesha Dixon replaced the far more knowledgeable Arlene Phillips (then 66) as the lone woman on Strictly Come Dancing.

A seasoned (male) journalist recently joked that I – at 26 – had only four years left in which to make a name in television. So far, in three years of journalism, I have encountered sexism in only one way – and that was from people commenting on articles, not from anyone working in the industry. But, as one of my worldly-wise female colleagues recently warned: “That may only be a matter of time.”

Rosamund Urwin is a More Women More Power Women’s Rights Champion. Rosamund has been billed as a woman to watch and was listed by Red magazine as one of 20 Red Hot Women under 30 and is leading the way with her weekly column where she stands up for women’s rights and feminist values.