The Women’s Conference of the National Union of Students (13-15 March) gave the left many reasons to look forward to the year ahead.
Kelley Temple, backed by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) Women, was elected Women’s Officer. Conference passed progressive policy.
Imogen Martin from Hull is the new Black Students Rep and Emma Kerry from Leeds is on as a job share Disabled Rep.
Kelley Temple is an independent left activist and currently Scottish NUS Women’s Officer. She beat the current Women’s Officer and Labour Student, Estelle Hart, by less than 10 votes. It was always going to be close, as Labour Students have a deep foothold in the campaign. They have had the leadership for over a decade.
The result was achieved by a coming together of disillusioned women on NUS Women’s Committee (much further left than Labour Students generally), collectively organising for the election.
NCAFC Women decided to organise for Kelley’s campaign after publicly questioning her about political stances/general activism. [Q&A session: tinyurl.com/cggzzrv]
NCAFC Women had a good presence at the conference and handed out leaflets for Kelley’s election (this included all the key points that arose from the Q&A). It also had information about the NCAFC Women‘s Charter for Women in Education session at the conference.
I’d like to think NCAFC Women’s support played a role in getting Kelley elected.
NCAFC Women are also having an impact more widely: the campaign’s contact details were included in the reference section in last year’s NUS Women’s shiny new “Cuts Briefing”.
But political change is by no means a “finished product”; this is where NCAFC Women and other left women’s groups come into the picture.
We should intervene in the campaign as much as we can in the next year to secure it as a national grassroots campaigning organisation.
It was fantastic to see lots of education institutions present at the conference. Many Scottish universities and colleges were represented. This is a positive harbinger of things to come; women from across the UK are taking their national campaign back!
A really great opening plenary session reported on lap dancing.
It vindicated what socialist feminists say about the sex industry and women workers’ place in it. We need to be uniting with sex workers to secure better working conditions, instead of moralising about them being victims of sexual violence.
Liberal/radical feminists at conference did not like this and put up a fight.
They argued that if we promote unionisation in these industries we are accepting and not challenging the status quo. They can’t see that if sex workers unionise and organise it would be a step toward changing the structures in society which pave the way for the sex industry.
There were a few liberal feminist motions (we need more women bosses, managers, MPs, etc). NCAFC Women spoke against, with a socialist feminist perspective, on these questions. We got claps, but, unfortunately, no motions were voted down at all in the whole conference. The general feeling was one of consensus and inclusiveness.
For example, an anti-cuts woman was speaking militantly about fighting cuts but also talking against the position of NCAFC Women, saying we need to be inclusive of all women, even if they are Tories!
Serious left politics is still lacking here but the seeds have definitely been sown.
The conference voted to support:
* A national student demonstration next term
* To work with sex worker organisations, promote unionisation and decriminalisation
* To fight cuts
* To campaign for more women’s representation: a women’s officer in every SU.
There is also still policy standing from last year for free education and living grants for all. Kelley Temple backs all of these policies.
The year ahead needs to see NCAFC Women helping to build a grassroots left movement in the campaign. There are two campaigns planned to kick start this:
* A campaign to save the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University;
* A campaign around The Charter for Women in Education.
NCAFC Women held a session on the charter with around 20 people attending. Lots of ideas were raised, and good feedback. More information on the NCAFC Women blog.
NCAFC Women look
forward to working with the NUS Women’s Campaign in the year ahead. Whatever you do, get involved!