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THERE was a great irony in being at a women’s “liberation” conference, with many activists working undercover, due to threats, abuse and social media censorship.
Time and again, women spoke up in workshops at last weekend’s Woman’s Place UK event, with the caveat that they could not be identified.
One woman said: “I’m a teacher, a head of department, but I dare not use my real name. I’ve seen what’s happened to others, who have been hounded out of their jobs. I can’t afford that — and I really love my job, I’m good at it, and I don’t want to be sacked for something which has got nothing to do with my professional abilities.”
Another was more optimistic, telling the “grassroots campaigning” workshop: “We have to reach a critical mass, where we get to the point that none of us has to hide.”
One campaigner putting her head above the parapet was Tanya Carter, spokeswoman for the Safe Schools Alliance (SSA).
The group of parents, teachers and governors is supporting a 13-year-old girl taking Oxfordshire County Council to court over their Trans Inclusion Toolkit for Schools, claiming it poses serious risks to pupils.
Carter remained unconcerned about a backlash: “No, no I’m not worried. I’m fulfilling the duty of every adult to safeguard all children and I don’t see why I should hide for that!”
The SSA group, one of several running stalls, was overwhelmed by the interest and support.
“It was really encouraging, how busy our stall was and how many people had heard of us and how many teachers and governors I met who took our materials to share with others,“ said Carter.
“I spoke to a wide range of people from a 14-year-old girl to pensioners who had campaigned all their lives, all of whom I found inspiring. It was really good to see different women coming together all utilising their different skill sets to make a difference.
“I think it was very effective, we’ve had lots of emails since, and it was quite humbling how many people had heard of us and thought we were making a difference. In the workshops, members of our group received applause when we said which organisation we were from.
“The whole event was extremely useful. Hats off to WPUK for organising all that!”
Seasoned campaigners Ali Ceesay and Jean Hatchet (an alias) advised that relatively small actions could make big differences.
“There are ways of gently stepping into [campaigning],” said Hatchet, who runs the Ride for Murdered Women project, cycling 6,000 miles for nearly 300 women killed by partners. The award-winning work has raised more than £35,000.
Her techniques for coping with criticism and abuse were simple, she said. “Don’t listen to the noise, because the men will be shouting really loudly at you. Listen to the women online, saying: ‘Well done’, and amplify those comments in your own head, because there’ll be a thousand others putting you down and calling you every name under the sun.”
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