Emily Wight https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/19129/all cached version 14/06/2018 21:04:10 en Jeremy Corbyn and women’s experiences of austerity https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/emily-wight/jeremy-corbyn-and-womens-experiences-of-austerity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Jeremy Corbyn’s bid for Labour Party leadership may also mean that the damage of austerity, particularly to women, is finally being recognised.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>As a full-time PR officer and the only parent in her household, Kate Shadbolt’s two-year-old son needs nursery care 40 hours per week. Taking into account her tax credits and child benefit, childcare still costs her £600 per month. “I’m privileged enough to have two degrees from world-class universities and a higher than average salary, so I’m often left wondering how others in a domestic situation similar to mine, earning less, are able to juggle the costs of family life and childcare fees, while working full time”, the 27-year-old says.</p> <p>Earlier this year, a <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11421364/Childcare-costs-up-by-a-third-in-just-five-years.html">survey by the Family and Childcare Trust</a> found that the cost of childcare had increased by a third in just five years. But a recent surge in support for the opposition’s most left wing leadership candidate could see this financial pressure, and more, be alleviated from women all over the country. Could it be possible that, come 2020, mothers in the UK will no longer have to worry about paying for childcare.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>If the polls are to be believed, Jeremy Corbyn is on course to be the next leader of the Labour Party: <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/11754826/Jeremy-Corbyn-will-win-Labour-leadership-contest-poll-finds.html">last week’s YouGov poll put him at 46 per cent</a>, significantly ahead of previous favourite Andy Burnham on 26 per cent.</p> <p>This week he launched <a href="http://www.jeremyforlabour.com/working_with_women">Working with Women</a>, which set out his strategies to make society more equal for women. The document, which also pledges a commitment to a shadow cabinet that is made up of 50 per cent women, an obligation for companies to publish equal pay audits, and an end to the public sector and welfare cuts that impact largely on women, sets out universal free childcare as a goal Corbyn aims to work towards.<span>&nbsp;</span></p> <p>“Women face abuse, mistreatment and persistent discrimination, and they face it in work, at home and on our streets. Yet they disproportionately shoulder our unpaid care work, the daily grind of surviving on low pay, and the pain of cuts that have closed domestic violence shelters and left them with no safe haven," Corbyn said.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/women protesting on budget day.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/women protesting on budget day.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women protesting on Budget Day 2012. Credit: Robin Hood Tax Campaign</span></span></span><span>For Shadbolt, this is huge. “I don’t just think it is important - it is absolutely critical parents, dads or mums, are better supported if we are to develop as a society and ensure all children, no matter what the background, all have the same start. I am well paid and work full time and still struggle to make ends meet, which begs the question: how people who earn less than me manage?”</span></p> <p>“If (universal free childcare) happens - which I hope it will - I will be able to enjoy a better quality of life and the money I will have saved I will be putting back into the economy”, she adds.</p> <p>Rachael Ward, 23, agrees. She doesn’t have children now, and says she wouldn’t be able to afford childcare or to give up her job in digital advertising. She believes the same would be true were she earning £10,000 more than she does currently.</p> <p>While the proposal doesn’t affect Ward directly, it’s the one she’s most excited about of all Corbyn’s plans for women. She believes society’s normalisation of paid childcare influences our perception of the “right” age for women to have children. ‘I really believe childcare is mistakenly seen as an issue for parents and older women, but the total unaffordability of having children has totally skewed our perception of when it's ok to have children”, she says.</p> <p>“I want to chose to have children when it's right for me, not wait until I'm in a salary bracket I may never attain - I think universal free childcare goes a long way towards that.”</p> <p>While the gender pay gap and the representation of women in politics is at least discussed in mainstream political discourse - even Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron claims he wants to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33515629">eliminate</a> the gender pay gap “within a generation” and the Labour Party has a policy of all-women shortlists for parliamentary seats - Corbyn’s contenders seem to only halfheartedly oppose austerity and its impact on women. </p> <p>Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall, praised by many feminists for <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/19/liz-kendall-mail-on-sunday-weight-question-labour-leadership">telling the Mail on Sunday to “fuck off” </a>for asking about her weight, echoes the Osbornian view that Labour <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/15/liz-kendall-labour-leadership-interview">“spent too much”</a>. Yvette Cooper joined Burnham and Kendall on abstaining from voting on the Conservative government’s recent welfare bill, despite having <a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/07/austerity-feminist-issue-women-will-be-hit-twice-hard-men-cuts">commissioned House of Commons research</a> finding that women will be hit twice as hard by public sector and welfare cuts than men. </p> <p>But 48 Labour MPs did vote no to the welfare bill, and one of them was Corbyn. For 22-year old Aisling Gallagher, it’s the Islington North MP’s hardline positioning against austerity - something other leadership candidates lack - that is attractive to women. “Governmental economic policies (ie cuts and “reforms”) have a hugely devastating impact on women and even more so on black women, migrant women, disabled women and so on”, she says.</p> <p>She adds: “Benefit cuts? Disproportionately harm women. Slashing local council budgets? Vital services get axed, which disproportionately affect women. Reducing or limiting tax credits? Disproportionately hurt women. Corbyn is the only one who can say he has consistently been principled throughout his time in parliament, with every other candidate, to varying degrees, having voted through or even championed causes or legislation that has harmed women.”</p> <p>With the news that public service union <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jul/29/unison-endorses-jeremy-corbyn-for-labour-leadership">UNISON</a> have now joined UNITE to back Corbyn for leader, there may finally be a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Britain’s women this week, if this means that the damaging impact of austerity on women is finally being recognised.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/can-i-help-emotional-labour-and-precarity">&quot;Can I help?&quot; Emotional labour and precarity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/austerity-and-domestic-violence-mapping-damage">Austerity and domestic violence: mapping the damage</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/emily-thomson-and-susanne-ross/women-postrecession-moving-towards-insecurity">Women post-recession: moving towards insecurity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/women%27s-paid-and-unpaid-work-and-colonial-hangover">Women&#039;s paid and unpaid work, and the colonial hangover</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/sadia-abbas/neoliberal-moralism-and-fiction-of-europe-postcolonial-perspective">Neoliberal moralism and the fiction of Europe: a postcolonial perspective</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/when-austerity-sounds-like-backlash-gender-and-economic-crisis">When austerity sounds like backlash: gender and the economic crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/dawn-foster/who-cooked-adam-smith%E2%80%99s-dinner-women-and-work-postcrash">Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? 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Family breadwinners are predominantly male and literacy rates are <a href="http://www.voacambodia.com/content/cambodia-facing-ongoing-literacy-challenges-128470623/1356695.html" target="_blank">more than 10% lower</a> among women than men. Levels of sexual violence are high: according to a<a href="http://unwomen-asiapacific.org/docs/WhyDoSomeMenUseViolenceAgainstWomen_P4P_Report.pdf" target="_blank"> 2013 UN report</a> on violence against women in the Asia-Pacific region, one in five of Cambodian men admit to committing rape, and of these, more than 44 percent have never faced legal consequences.</p><p dir="ltr">But across the country women are rising up, and not solely in response to gender discrimination, but as part of a protest movement to protect their land from redevelopment and communities from forced evictions.</p><p dir="ltr"> Since the Cambodian government standardised economic land concessions in 2001, whereby land is leased to companies <a href="http://www.licadho-cambodia.org/reports.php?perm=74" target="_blank">usually for 70 years</a>, international companies have forced ordinary people in both urban and rural areas to vacate their land in order to make way for development.</p><p dir="ltr">Land grabbing has escalated at an alarming rate: earlier this month, human rights organisation LICADHO released figures revealing that <a href="http://www.phnompenhpost.com/land-disputes-surge-licadho" target="_blank">three times</a> as many families were affected by land disputes last year as in 2013. Last year activists called on the International Criminal Court to probe mass evictions as a crime against humanity by the state.</p><p dir="ltr">Perhaps the most high profile case of forced evictions - and the protests against them - is the Boeung Kak area of capital Phnom Penh, 133 hectares, which were leased to private developer Shikaku Inc. in 2007. Boeung Kak was once a lake, the shores of which housed bustling backpacker hostels and bars. An estimated 20,000 residents lived in the nine surrounding villages, many of whom ran the businesses that benefited from tourism. But over the best part of a decade, many have lost their livelihoods and their homes. The lake has been filled with sand and, monsoon rains no longer having a basin to fill, the remaining homes often become flooded.</p><p dir="ltr">In Boeung Kak and other communities across the country, women have been organising the backlash for two reasons. One is because of their traditional role in the home: with husbands working, housewives have become more involved in their local communities and have had more time to collectivise. Another is that they believed they were less likely to face police violence than men.</p><p dir="ltr">Naly Pilorge, director of LICADHO, said: “Women tend to spend more time at home than men as it is men who generally go out to work. Cambodian women’s work tends to be more centred on the home, for example they may run a small shop or restaurant in front of their house. This means that it simply makes practical sense that they are the ones who take on the role of protecting the home.”</p><p dir="ltr">But like many other women, defending their rights has not been without risk. Many women have been arrested and imprisoned: most recently, in November, seven Boeung Kak activists were jailed for a year for blocking traffic during a protest. The day they were sentenced, four more protesters were jailed for a year outside their hearing. They were freed under a royal pardon earlier this month.</p><p dir="ltr">And in many cases, police have shown no qualms about reacting violently towards women protesters. Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said that police and district security guards have caused injuries requiring medical attention and even, in one case, a miscarriage: “There is no shortage of video footage showing protests being violently broken up”, he said.</p><p dir="ltr">He continued: "Amnesty International is calling on the Cambodian authorities to adhere to international standards on policing of assemblies and protests and refrain from unnecessary use of force and violence."</p><p dir="ltr">It’s not just authorities who threaten women’s wellbeing. According to a <a href="http://www.licadho-cambodia.org/collection/24/good_wives_women_land_campaigners" target="_blank">LICADHO report</a> from November entitled “Good Wives: Women land campaigners and the impact of human rights activism”, women activists from both Phnom Penh and rural areas have complained of increased levels of domestic violence from partners since they started protesting, some leading to marriage breakdown. Four of the women interviewed said that their husbands gave them an ultimatum: stop campaigning or I’ll leave you. When some refused, husbands lashed out anyway.</p><p dir="ltr">“Many of the women summarised the impact of their campaigning on their lives by saying that before they started, they were “good wives” but that now they have little time to cook and clean and look after the family in the traditional way and so they can no longer describe themselves as such,” said the report.</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, other factors that put stress on relationships come into play. Evictions, or even just the threat of them, have taken a huge toll on families’ livelihoods and thus created a significant amount of financial concern. Women who often engage in casual work such as cleaning or selling food at the market no longer have time to make this extra money to support their families. Some interviewed take out large debts or push their children into rubbish collecting to survive.</p><p dir="ltr">But Cambodia’s women activists are far from victims; if anything, their newly adopted roles in the community make them less and less so. Many said that they felt empowered by their new roles in the community, and that their husbands failed to cope with this. Having been forced to take on active roles outside the home, they have also got used to standing up for themselves against their more dominant husbands.</p><p dir="ltr">They have gained confidence, a greater understanding of the world around them and they know their rights. Though gains are small, they are on the whole proud of what they’ve achieved.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking to the Phnom Penh Post last year, predominant Boeung Kak activist Yorm Bopha <a href="http://www.phnompenhpost.com/7days/%E2%80%98my-husband-now-housewife%E2%80%99" target="_blank">said</a> that women leaders across the world have influenced her: “I looked up to examples of women leaders – female politicians in countries like the USA and Australia and female NGO workers here, even (Cambodian opposition party politician) Mu Sochua.</p><p dir="ltr">These women inspired me”, she said. Hillary Clinton has been vocal in her support for the Boeung Kak activists, even honouring Tep Vanny -- one of the protesters who was recently jailed -- with a global leadership award in 2013.</p><p dir="ltr">Bopha added that she hopes she and her fellow activists can be seen as role models: “People are beginning to realise that Cambodian women can be strong, we can protest. If women see us when they read the newspaper, they might feel inspired to get involved in political issues, whereas before they might have just wanted to stay at home and be housewives.”</p><p dir="ltr">Pilorge from LICADHO recognised this too, saying that the tension women are facing between empowerment and submission marks how their generation represents a crucial shift away from female compliance. “It seems that they are not fully able to let go of the ideas that they grew up with about how they should behave despite feeling that the changes are positive. It is difficult to make predictions about the social changes that may flow from the actions of these women but I think it is likely that it will be easier for the younger generation of men and women to accept that women can fulfil a variety of roles and participate more widely in decision-making in the home and in the public sphere and that women’s activism will play some part in this change.”</p><p dir="ltr">She added: “Women activists, particularly those who lead their communities, have gone beyond the traditional role assigned to Cambodian women of caring for the home and the family.”</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/theresa-de-langis/what%27s-woman-worth-wages-and-democracy-in-cambodia">What&#039;s a woman worth?: wages and democracy in Cambodia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/priyanka-borpujari/when-scarred-female-bodies-demarcate-indian-subcontinent%27s-polity">When scarred female bodies demarcate the Indian subcontinent&#039;s polity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lydia-alpizar/csw-vital-need-to-defend-women-human-rights-defenders">CSW: the vital need to defend women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/triple-whammy-towards-eclipse-of-women%E2%80%99s-rights">The triple whammy: towards the eclipse of women’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ged-kearney/g20-union-movement%27s-fight-for-gender-equality-in-labour-market">G20: the union movement&#039;s fight for gender equality in the labour market </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/susan-harris-rimmer/g20-can-women%27s-human-rights-and-economic-growth-coexist">G20: can women&#039;s human rights and economic growth co-exist?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-defining-economic-citizenship">Women defining economic citizenship </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/what-does-transforming-economic-power-mean">What does transforming economic power mean?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/srilatha-batliwala/beyond-individual-stories-women-have-moved-mountains">Beyond individual stories: women have moved mountains </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Cambodia </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Cambodia 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick gendered poverty 50.50 newsletter women and power women's movements women's work Emily Wight Sun, 26 Apr 2015 23:43:18 +0000 Emily Wight 91976 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Emily Wight https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/emily-wight <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Wight </div> </div> </div> <p>Emily&nbsp;Wight&nbsp;is a former reporter at the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia. She is now a journalist based in London. Follow her on Twitter at @emily_wight</p> Emily Wight Mon, 13 Apr 2015 23:44:45 +0000 Emily Wight 91977 at https://www.opendemocracy.net