Women’s Liberation 2020: plenaries, panels, workshops

Conference Programme Women’s Liberation 2020 programme Opening Plenary Pragna Patel Joanna Cherry QC MP Maya Forstater Sophie Scott (Chair) Panel Discussions 1. How can women campaign for our own interests? Mary… Read More →

Conference Programme

Women’s Liberation 2020 programme

Opening Plenary

Pragna Patel

Joanna Cherry QC MP

Maya Forstater

Brad Blitz

Sophie Scott (Chair)

Closing Plenary

Julie Bindel

Joan McAlpine MSP

Kiri Tunks

Holly Smith (Chair)

Panel Discussions

1. How can women campaign for our own interests?

Mary Davis, Judith Green, Pragna Patel, Holly Smith (Chair)

2.  How can we make the law work for women?

Harriet Wistrich, Julian Norman, Allison Bailey, Ruth McGinity (Chair)

3.  What needs to happen to end violence against women and girls?

Karen Ingala Smith, Nina M, Fiona Broadfoot, Judith Suissa (Chair)

4.  How can policy-making work for women?

Alice Sullivan, Mary-Ann Stephenson, Lucy Hunter Blackburn, Lesley Gourlay (Chair)

5.   Do sex differences exist and do they matter?

Sophie Scott, Katie Alcock, Emma Hilton, Gemma Moss (Chair)


1. Women & Law/Audrey Ludwig & Julian Norman: This workshop will start with a crash course in the legal system, then divide into two sets. One set will learn how to challenge Equality Impact Assessments, while the other will focus on how to manage in court as a litigant in person. The group will all come back together at the end for a Q&A.

2. Women’s Rights are Human Rights: using the law and lobbying to uphold our rights/Rosa Freedman, Viv Hayes, RadFemLAwyer: Women have sex-based human rights protections at the national &  international levels. Knowing our rights & campaigning for them are the only way we can make sure they are not eroded or erased. This workshop will focus on practical ways we can all use CEDAW, international human rights bodies, and the Equality Act to uphold our human rights.

3. Speaking up in universities and HE/Shereen Benjamin, Kathleen Stock, Raquel Rosario Sanchez: Universities are responsible for encouraging discussion and exchange of views on difficult and controversial issues & they have a legal duty to protect freedom of expression for their employees, students & visiting speakers. But in far too many universities, managers are failing to uphold academic freedom to discuss sex & gender by (e.g.) allowing the de-platforming of feminist speakers & by failing to address the targeting of students and staff who express critical views. Join us to find out more about what’s happening, share strategies for managing the hostility directed towards feminists in universities, and work with us to design a resource that we aim to use with university managers to help them uphold their responsibilities to safeguard academic freedom.

4. Speaking up: how to & what to be aware of/Jodie Ginsberg & Helen Steel: A practical workshop that will give participants the tools to speak out and up more effectively and engage in constructive debate online & off. We’ll also guide you through some of the laws that protect protest and freedom of expression in the UK.

5. Grassroots Campaigning/Jean Hatchet & Ali CeesayThis workshop will focus on grassroots organising & how you can make a difference as an individual or as part of a small group. There will be a focus on the use of social media combined with physical actions & how to make wider links, create noise & amplify.

6. Organising in political parties: Many women feel that political parties are not working for, or representing women’s concerns, or considering women’s needs in policy making. Activists from the Labour & Green party will explore how women can self-organise within political parties & provide an insight into how party mechanisms can be made to work for women. 

7. Organising in trade unions/Cindy Douglas, Lucy Masoud A woman’s place is in a trade union but membership alone won’t guarantee women’s interests are served. This session highlights the need for representation & how you can engage effectively in your union to influence & effect change.

8. Organising in communities & NGOs/Pilgrim Tucker & Marj Mayo: Participants in this workshop will share experiences of organising in communities and NGOs. The session will open with brief reflections from two very different experiences:  organising on housing & service provision more widely including Grenfell & campaigning for social housing & a women’s centre on the Holloway Women’s site. The session will conclude by sharing experiences of strategies and tactics to build social justice movements for the longer term.

9. Lesbians in a straight world: Lesbian erasure & visibility/Angela Wild, Grace Adetoro, Sarah Masson, Maji, Charlie Evans & Lianne TimmermanThis workshop will address questions such as: what is lesbian erasure; why is lesbian visibility important & how to support lesbians. The workshop will include several short interventions from several speakers to represent many viewpoints.

10. Disability, women’s rights & activism: Fiona Kumari Campbell, Michele Moore, Becki Meakin: Our workshop leaders have a great deal of experience of disability, women’s rights & activism. This workshop will start with a look at barriers to participation faced by disabled women helping to unlock creative ways of thinking about inclusion. We aim to open up conversations about disabled women’s rights; activism through sharing experience, some practical exercises & talking together as much as we can.

11. Challenging the hostile environment: race & inclusion/Rahila Gupta: This workshop will address the ways in which women are affected by the increasingly hostile environment for Black people, migrants & refugees as well as consider strategies that can be used to assert women’s rights & to challenge discriminatory policies and laws.

12. Men supporting women’s rights (without taking over, talking over or expecting medals)/Michael Conroy & David Challen: The workshop will be an interactive exploration of why & how men must acknowledge the crucial role we have in speaking out against misogyny & male violence. The focus will be on lessons learned & lessons that need to be learned by men in engaging in pro-women’s rights activism: what to do – what not to do – & how to engage other men.

13. Making the media work for women/Hannah Bayman, Nina Goswami, Reged Ahmed, Tammi Walker: Join some seasoned journalists for a workshop on making the media work for you. They will share their tips & tricks for speaking on TV & radio, creating a presence on social media & writing press releases. Also find out about your rights when the media spotlight is on you.

14. Towards a progressive RSE system/Gemma Aitcheson & Philipa Harvey: This workshop aims to inform participants on developments in current Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) practice &  policy. It will then go on to consider how best to ensure these policies & practices are delivered across all age ranges so that they can challenge damaging attitudes & foster healthy relationships.

15. Women & local economic decisions/Janet Veitch & Sue HimmelweitThis will be a practical workshop from the UK Women’s Budget Group. For over 30 years we have been putting feminism into economics & economics into feminism. Political commitments mean nothing unless they are backed up with hard cash, but tax & spending decisions are often made behind closed doors with few or no women in the room, & no understanding of the impact that cuts in services, have on women. You will learn the basic principles of making budgets responsive to women’s needs & how to influence the money that your local council puts into services, using real life examples from local & national government.

16. Prevention of violence against women/Michaela Clare Addison & Hibo Wardere: This workshop will focus on the issue of violence against women & girls including female genital mutilation, sexual violence, sexual exploitation & how we challenge it. The workshop will be run by two experienced campaigners in this field who will bring insight & experience to the topic.

17. Abolition of the sex trade/Fiona Broadfoot: The workshop is survivor led & will explore the global issues surrounding the Sex Trade with a focus on abolition.

18. A woman’s place is not in prison/Frances Crook & Jo Phoenix: This workshop will explore the various ways in which imprisonment & criminalisation impact differently on men & women. It will map out some of the current organisations working with & for incarcerated & criminalised women & explore possibilities for change in the future. While the first part of the workshop will be the presentation of information, there will be plenty of time for participants to discuss issues & explore new ideas.

19. Critical issues in Women’s sexual and reproductive health/Susan Bewley: The battle for control & comfort with our bodies, appropriate medical interventions & women’s access to abortion. Reproductive rights in the UK is far from over. This workshop will explore women’s historic fight for these services, where we have been, why ‘medicalisation’ harms us, what still needs to change, &  how we can campaign to bring about that change.

20. Brexit is not done: What is the feminist agenda for the negotiations?/Mary-Ann Stephenson & Sylvia Walby: The negotiations from now until 31 December are more important than the decision s so far.  What should the feminist agenda be as the UK negotiates over the Single European Market (where most gender equality legislation is rooted) & the European Area for Freedom Justice & Security (relevant for violence against women)?

21. Countering wrong body narratives/Stephanie Davies-Arai: This workshop  will look at the important message behind the joyful book My Body is Me! by Rachel Rooney, illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg. Taking this book & its accompanying resources as our starting point we will explore the ways we can encourage young children to feel positive about their bodies, celebrate differences & similarities & challenge gender stereotypes. Together we will create a teachers’ guide to embedding body positive messages across the Early Years & Primary curriculum, laying the groundwork for body confidence in adolescence. Bring your expertise, your book recommendations & your enthusiasm with you to help create an inspiring resource for primary schools!

22. Intersectional Feminism/Claire Heuchan: The term intersectionality appears everywhere from tote bags to Twitter bios. But the more it’s used as a buzzword, the more depoliticised it becomes. This workshop is an introduction to intersectionality as radical politics rooted in Black feminist thought. This workshop did not run due to ill health.

23. Doing Women’s History: motives, methods, politics & fun/Selina Todd & Sarah Pedersen: Recovering & learning from our past is vital for building our movement. We’ll bust some myths about the history of feminism & womanhood; scrutinise some exciting new sources of information about women’s lives & activism in the past; & explore ways that everyone can be a feminist historian.

24. Lessons from the Women’s Movement/Paula Boulton: This participative informal workshop will be held in a circle with all on an equal footing as a basic principle. After sharing her own activism herstory, participants will be encouraged to share theirs. Collectively the group will examine “How did we do it the first time round & how can we do it again now? The aim is that everyone takes away a concrete action and will feel connected and empowered to carry it out.

25. Secularism, faith and the women’s movement/Yasmin Rehman & Mariam Namazie: Minority communities are increasingly constructed and viewed through the lens of religious identity. Faith based actors and religious leaders are at the centre of delivering support services and in administering justice to minority communities and particularly women. At the same time secularism has become framed as Western and anti-religious with debates pitting ‘religious’ feminists & secular feminists at opposite ends in the struggle for gender equality. This workshop will explore some of the discussions around secularism, religion and the fight for women’s equality.

26. Sex & class – Ladies versus Women!/Louise Raw: Any woman who’s ever been told to get back in the kitchen or make a misogynist a sandwich has the Victorians to blame. With industrialisation & the sudden visibility of working women, the 19C patriarchy rallied against the ghastly spectacle of the ‘factory Girl’- financially independent, alarmingly free of male control, & almost CERTAINLY ‘immoral’… The subsequent demonization of working-class women & creation of the mythical ‘angel in the house’ ideal of the home-loving, non-sexual, ‘lady’ has plagued us ever since. This workshop will look at the myths, & how women resisted.

27. Why is the media’s coverage of women’s issues so terrible?/ Helen Joyce: This workshop will explore the poor coverage of women’s issues/ women in the media, offer some insights into real life experience and offer some theories as to why they this has happened. Participants will be encouraged to identify issues of concern to them & work together to brainstorm actions and solutions.

28. Why are men not held accountable for violence against women & girls?/Jessica Taylor: This workshop will address the different theories and global perspectives on why women and girls are blamed for violence against us.

29. ’Becoming woman’ – Sex-based socialisation & the second wave/Jane Clare Jones & Dani Ahrens: In this workshop we will explore De Beauvoir’s famous quote & think about what ‘woman’ means & the social role of ‘woman’. We will examine whose interests are served by female socialisation & what this tells us about the ‘deep structure of gender.’

30. Feminism & Neoliberalism/Judith Suissa & Beatrix Campbell: In this workshop, we will look critically at some claims about the tensions & overlaps between the feminist movement & the neoliberal project & explore possibilities for the movement in a post-neoliberal climate.

Closing Plenary

Julie Bindel

Watch Julie Bindel’s speech here

Joan McAlpine MSP

Read Joan McAlpine’s speech here

Watch Joan McAlpine’s speech here

Kiri Tunks

Read Kiri Tunks’ speech here

Holly Smith (Chair)

We believe that it is important to share a range of viewpoints on women’s rights and advancement from different perspectives. WPUK does not necessarily agree or endorse all the views that we share.