LEE WEBSTER, a campaigner from South Norwood, on the vital importance of International Women’s Day for Croydon
Every year on March 8, we mark International Women’s Day, on which for a hundred years, women activists have campaigned for gender equality and social justice. In Croydon this year the tradition continues, as this week Croydon Labour Women’s Forum led a rally and public meeting to protest Tory cuts to the award-winning Family Justice Centre.
Tory cuts are biting, and biting hard. But none are feeling the cuts as deep and as hard as women, and particularly those who are vulnerable to violence in their homes.
The council has recently announced an extra £20,000 cuts, on top of £200,000 cut over the past two years to services for women experiencing violence in Croydon. Services in the Family Justice Centre have already been slashed – previous advisers, counsellors, housing officers, helpline workers and specialist police have been removed, rendering the centre a shell of its former self.
And then the Mayor of London tells us that our police stations are closing down, because we apparently don’t need stations when police on the beat can come to our homes if we want to report a crime. How, I wonder, do they expect women to report a case of violence when the person who perpetrated may share that very home? Women will be left with literally nowhere to turn.
Croydon has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the whole of London. Gang rape and trafficking in women are also particular problems. Cost-saving exercises – trying to deliver services for the lowest possible cost – are a false economy.
Violence against women nationally costs the economy £40.1 billion per year. This is more than the government spends each year on defence. The single largest cost is to the health service, followed by the criminal justice system.
And more than that, much more, is the physical and emotional costs to women, their families and people who care about them. You can’t put a price on high quality, specialist services. They save our lives.
As women in Croydon, we have a right to go where we want, when we want, wearing what we want, and be safe. Safe in our homes, safe at work, safe in the streets. And we’ll keep campaigning, keep making our voices heard, on International Women’s Day, and every day, at council meetings, at police consultative forums, in the press, online and on the streets, until all women in Croydon are safe.
At a Croydon Shadow Cabinet meeting this week, Tony Newman, the Labour group leader, said, “Tackling violence against women in Croydon will be at the heart of Labour’s manifesto pledges for Croydon.”
For the sake of women, Labour need to take back the council and turn our ailing services around.
- The National Domestic Helpline, run by Women’s Aid and Refuge, is Freephone 0808 2000 247. In an emergency always dial 999.
- Croydon Labour Women’s Forum are holding a public meeting for all Croydon women to feed into Labour’s manifesto. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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