Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Save Southall Black Sisters - demo 17th and 18th July

I have received this update on the funding threat to Southall Black Sisters :

Southall Black Sisters

Demonstration 17th and 18th July 2008 from 9.30am onwards at the

High Court on the Strand


We urge you to join our demonstration on the
17th and 18th July at the High Court in the Strand at 9.30am
Nearest Tube Holborn (Circle and Piccadilly Line) or Temple (District and Circle Line)

Please bring musical instruments, whistles and banners.

Southall Black Sisters

Demonstration 17th and 18th July 2008 from 9.30am onwards at the High Court on the Strand

Many of you are already aware that SBS has been locked in struggle against Ealing Council with regard to its decision to withdraw funding for our domestic violence services for black and minority women. On 17th and 18th July 2008, the High Court will hear a challenge brought by our users against Ealing Council for its failure to have proper regard to existing equality legislation, especially the Race Relations Act, in reaching its decision on our funding. The Council will seek to justify its decision on the grounds that a generic domestic violence service will be better placed to meet requirements of the equality legislation and the so called ‘cohesion’ agenda.

Equality, Cohesion and the Right to Self Organisation

This is no longer simply about the funding of SBS. The case represents a key moment for the third sector. In one of the first challenges of its kind, the Council will be required to account for the way in which the confused and contradictory ‘cohesion’ agenda is being cynically used to cut essential life saving services to black and minority women in particular. Specialist services likes ours are needed, not only for reasons to do with language difficulties and culture pressures, but also because we have considerable experience in providing advice and advocacy in complex circumstances where legal aid is no longer easily available and where immigration and asylum difficulties make some women much more vulnerable than others. In addition, we will seek to challenge the Council for its failure to take account of how and why groups like SBS, were set up in the first place: to challenge racism and gender inequality as well as religious, caste and ethnic divisions within our communities.

The Council has made much of the need to reflect the racial diversity of Ealing (meaning the white majority population) in the interests of ‘cohesion’. In the process it seeks to argue that the very existence of specialist groups like SBS is unlawful under the Race Relations Act! Ealing Council has also withdrawn funding for key refugee and race equality projects in Ealing. This approach is not unique to Ealing. Evidence from around the UK suggests that organisations in the firing line tend to be the more progressive black and minority and feminist projects. At the same time, reactionary, sometimes fundamentalist religious organisations are being given financial support to provide ‘welfare services’, even at the risk of undermining the human rights of the most vulnerable in our communities. The subcontracting of third sector services is also contributing to the decimation of groups like SBS. What this demonstrates is a political attack on the notion of positive action and on the right to self organisation underpinned by secular, anti-racist and progressive values.

Our Tradition: Struggle not Submission

These are immensely worrying developments for all those concerned about the threat to progressive notions of equality and justice. We therefore urge you to join our demonstration on the 17th and 18th July at the High Court on the Strand. Nearest Tube Holborn (Circle & Piccadilly Line) or Temple (District & Circle Line). Please bring musical instruments, whistles and banners.

More info on the SBS website.

For further details contact SBS 0208 571 9595