Women Take Action – Together for Change is Bristol Women’s Voice most recent project, resulting from the City Listening Project in 2019 and more recently establishing the role of a community organiser.
We listened to 530 women from diverse backgrounds about their realities, challenges and barriers to reach their aspirations. We heard you and we are here to develop and implement with you community-led campaigns on issues that matter most to you and your communities, to platform your voices and bring them to decision-makers to achieve strategic change.
Since January, we have been meeting and listening to women from diverse communities and women-led organisations to reconnect with you, build new relationships and get an insight into the (almost) post-pandemic realities on the ground.
We are hearing from women, particularly from those in areas of higher levels of deprivation and inequality, that their daily struggles have only exacerbated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many women have lost or had to give up their paid employments due to childcare and caring responsibilities. Unemployed women and those in low paid employment are constantly struggling to make ends meet. Food poverty is at a deeply concerning level, as is fuel poverty.
“Eating or heating is a real thing for us.”
Access to public transport is deemed inadequate in various areas, especially at the outskirts of Bristol, making it difficult for women to find work out of their living areas where they often cannot find employment.
“On a bad day I am waiting 45 minutes, sometimes in the rain, alone, at a dark bus station, after a long day at work where I barely earned enough money to feed us.”
“Bus tickets are too expensive and some days I can’t afford to pay for a ticket to even get to work.”
Community organisers reported an epidemic deterioration of women’s mental health and physical health.
“I don’t even call the doctor anymore because I haven’t got the energy for it, hoping my symptoms will just go away.”
We understand that the NHS and other support services are underfunded and can’t cater to the increased need.
“There is nobody I can go to get help because everything is full. I can barely leave my house now.’ Isolation has become the new normal for many.”
Even more women than before the arrival of the pandemic are unable to leave unsafe living situations, having to remain in abusive relationships “…because there is nowhere else to go…” with domestic violence and local street crime on the rise.
“I don’t go down to Morrisons after dark because it is dangerous, people are getting robbed there.”
We heard of young female students having to resort to selling their bodies to be able to afford food, ending up assaulted and traumatised.
We heard from economically vulnerable women and women from migrant backgrounds about their experiences of exploitative employers in the care industry.
Safety remains a number one concern for women city-wide, that is safety in their own homes, safety in public spaces, safety in night-time entertainment and safety on public transport.
Whilst there is a tangible sense of ‘just surviving mode’ and resignment in some of the communities, we have also heard about the many new community engagement opportunities and activities that are starting across the city, women’s and communities’ resourcefulness, intelligence, strength & extraordinary resilience in these adverse times for many.
We continue to listen to the full spectrum of experiences and issues to determine where and how we all together can demand change. Many might be praying for a miracle every night before they go to bed, and I will join that prayer, but we don’t just need a miracle, we need to take action for the benefit of all women in the city, which is half of its population, and their children, families and communities.
We deserve to be safe. We deserve to be well. We deserve to be thriving.
“Women’s freedom is the sign of social freedom.” – Rosa Luxemburg.
We would love to continue hearing from you and your communities. Get in touch if you have questions, would like to collaborate with us or want support setting up women lead community groups or women’s action groups and of course, if you would like to volunteer with us.
Stay tuned, we will share more updates with you in due course.
With love & courage,