Rebuild the student women’s movement

Submitted by Anon on 29 January, 2006 - 9:52

By Tammy Love

There seems to be a renewed interest in feminism among young women. The FEM 05 conference held at Sheffield University in November attracted at least 200 young and student women — although the event’s complete lack of politics meant that most of them went away none the wiser. The stereotype of young women finishing their sentences with “but of course I’m not a feminist” is simply no longer true. However their feminism is usually politically unformed and unclear.

There are numerous issues which make a revived feminist movement an urgent necessity. From the anti-choice offensive to low and unequal pay, from sweatshop labour to solidarity with women in Iraq. We need a strong, activist women’s campaign linking students to women in the trade union and social justice movements.

This is a role that used to be played to some extent by the National Union of Students (NUS) Women’s Campaign. But over the last three years, the campaign has been run down, through a combination of incompetence and political malice, by its independent Blairite and then Labour Students leadership, to the point where its profile is virtually non-existent.

Since Education Not for Sale was founded last year, we have gone out of our way to find ways to start revitalising the student women’s movement. At our founding conference, we devoted a session to feminist activism, and since then ENS Women has been the most active part of the organisation.

We were determined to re-popularise not just feminism in the abstract, but a politically sharp socialist feminism which puts the concerns and needs of working-class women and the labour movement first. We are just at the start of the process — but from intervening in FEM 05 with political ideas to campaigning for abortion rights, I think we are doing a pretty good job. We have started to receive messages from student union women’s officers and feminist activists from around the country saying they want to get involved.

Support our petition to defend abortion rights!

ENS Women have launched a petition for the defence and extension of abortion rights. We hope to have collected at least 1,000 signatures by the time we hand in the first section to Downing Street on 4 February. A PDF version to download and print off is available online at www.free-education.org.uk

• Send completed petitions back to us at ENS Women, c/o Sofie Buckland, Newnham College, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3.

• Come and help us hand it in: meet at Downing Street, 12 noon, Saturday 4 Feb.

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