Last week, WRC hosted an online event to discuss the cost-of-living crisis with over 40 women’s organisations from around the UK. While we all know how increasing prices and pressures are affecting our own organisation and the women and girls we work with, spaces like these provide us with an opportunity to get together and realise that we are not alone. Realising that we face similar pressures is the first step towards collective action.

We first heard from Nour at WRC about the interim findings of our cost-of-living survey. The results were as we expected - rising demand for services, increasing complexity of cases etc. - but we hope to have some more detailed findings when the report is published in May. The question is, what do we do with reports like these after they are published? How do we use them to maximum effect? This question was taken up by our third speaker, but before that, we heard from Cherifa at Account 3, an organisation based in London that supports women find economic independence. She talked about the hardships facing local women, and the attempts locally by organisations like hers to mobilise effectively for more support. 

This is where collective voice and action come in. As demand for our services increases, a collective sector-wide or local response to ensure that we can support women properly and not be left burnt-out and financially undermined, is even more imperative. The third speaker, Kiran from WRC, recounted some positive examples of where collective action worked, specifically the case of decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland, and what we could learn for a burgeoning cost-of-living campaign. What are our short, medium and longer-term goals for a situation where there are no ‘easy fixes’ and the government is pushing their dangerous hostile environment policies? Where are our political opportunities and how do we capitalise on them? How do we break out of of the women’s sector bubble?

We discussed these questions and more in breakout rooms. At the moment, the cost-of-living campaign consists of a statement supported by almost 90 women’s organisations. A petition is also in the pipeline. WRC is conducting a survey so we have more evidence to back up our claims and demands. Participants thought the asks we had identified in the statement were the right ones. But how else can we make our voice heard? Some creative ideas we came up with were: 

- a women’s YouTube channel

- a women’s sector one day/hour strike to highlight our demands and the unmet needs of women

- more media news stories about the impact of the crisis on women

- media savvy women’s sector ambassadors that could replicate Marcus Rashford and his free school meals campaign

- local campaigns about building rent increases by landlords 

- more alliance building e.g. with trade unions who are also running their own cost-of-living campaigns 

- more direct letters to funders on behalf of the sector with specific asks.

We will be mulling over all of the suggestions with the aim of coming up with an action plan - hopefully with your continued support! Thanks to everyone who came. If you want to be more involved in the campaign, please email [email protected]