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Strikes 2020… Day 10: Women to the Front

Published: 9th March, 2020

As we head into the final week of the current strike action, day ten of #UCUStrikesBack was dedicated to International Women’s Day. Read on for details of all today’s action, but first, looking ahead to tomorrow:

  • At 9am, a group of precarious workers at the University of Leicester will meet with our Vice-Chancellor Nishan Canagarajah and other members of the university’s senior leadership team to help them to understand the multiple impacts of precarious employment – on staff, students, learning communities, professional development, personal relationships and more – in all its many forms. If you are able to join our picket line tomorrow, please make sure to be there by 10am (at the latest!) to help support those precarious members of staff after this meeting.
  • Tomorrow is also a day of solidarity friendship, meeting up with our striking colleagues at DeMontfort University and local members of the National Education Union who are striking in protest against a decade of cuts to, and declining pay, in Further Education. Gather at our Victoria Park picket line by 11.00am to join the rally at Jubilee Square in Leicester at 11.30am
Join Leicester UCU, DeMontfort UCU, staff at QE College and other local members of the NEU at Jubilee Square at 11.30am on Tuesday 10 March

Tomorrow’s joint effort in defence of Further and Higher Education will build on today’s outpouring of solidarity and support on our picket lines for gender equality, in the context of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2020. We started by commemorating the missing and murdered indigenous women from the First Nations, Inuit, Métis and Native American communities by hanging empty red dresses, and paying tribute to the hundreds of thousands of women taking part in protests against violence against women in Chile, Mexico and around the world.

For the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women of North America

We were joined by the Women’s Strike Assembly for a flash mob performance of ‘violador en tu camino’ (a rapist in your path), a performance that names the structural and societal forms of violence against women across the world.

Then we were joined by Dr Sarah Casewell to showcase Soapbox Speakers, where numerous women of Leicester UCU shared stories of their work in the university, their experiences of working in universities as women, and their experiences as women. Our wonderful speakers highlighted a range of issues, including how sexism can be amplified for disabled women, the invaluable support women are offering each other on the picket lines (physical and virtual) of this strike, the often unrecognised emotional labour that women do in their workplaces, the often unrecognised skills that higher educational professionals bring from one role to another in the context of insecure employment, the importance of amplifying the voices of professional services and academic support staff in this strike which is too often misrepresented as simply a ‘lecturers’ strike’, and the value of educational opportunities at all stages of life.

Oge Obioha, President of Leicester Students Union, at our International Women’s Day Soapbox Speakers event

We want to particularly highlight the contribution made by Oge Obioha, President of Leicester Students Union, whose emphasis was on the importance of feminist inclusivity and intersectionality. Her speech recognised the particular barriers and marginalisation faced by trans women, women of colour, refugee women, and disabled women. It has been a particularly challenging week at the University of Leicester and Leicester Students Union for trans women, in the wake of a hostile print and social media response to their launch of International Womxn’s Day, and this message was especially well received on the picket line.

After some particularly well-equipped drumming, our picket activities were rounded off by a comedy performance by Tickled Pink. I’m afraid this chronicler had to retreat homeward before that point, so she’ll leave you with this picture of the drummers:

Percussion against patriarchy!

*Disclaimer: this was written by a woman, all pictures and videos were taken by women, and no men were harmed in the making of this post.