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2012 National Women's Conference
20 October 2011

Every year at National Women’s Conference we come together to debate motions, to listen and learn from each other, develop and set UNISON policy and direction.

We debate motions on all sorts of issues that affect the lives and work of women. In recent years for example delegates have debated motions about domestic abuse, about rape and other forms of sexual violence, motions about sexual harassment, prostitution, Female Genital Mutilation and so-called honour crimes. Many of these motions cover issues that are intensely personal to some delegates, issues that touch on events from their own lives and experiences and that continue to have an impact on them to this day.

And yet despite this, despite the personal nature of so many of our motions, women regularly feel moved to get up at National Women’s Conference to tell their own stories of survival, bravely and movingly bearing witness to the atrocities that have been perpetrated against them.

Delegates to National Women’s Conference have felt able to speak out about these things so openly because they have thought this conference to be a safe space. They thought that they would get no heckling, no-one doubting the truth of their words, no insults or comments about who they are or how they look.

Conference is concerned to know that despite our working together guidelines being firmly explained by previous chairs of conference, last year there were problems with inappropriate; hurtful and discriminatory comments made at this very conference.

Women are a diverse group; it is this very diversity that makes us so very powerful and dynamic. In this conference there are women; black women; disabled women; lesbian women; bi-sexual women; trans women; low paid women; full time working women and part time working women. We come from different service groups and; different professions and workgroups. We are not a one size fits all group. But we are all women; all UNISON women and every UNISON woman deserves respect for being the woman that she is. Respect that means she is not insulted or harassed. Respect that she is here, an activist in UNISON, participating in setting women’s policy and direction.

Conference affirms its commitment to a safe and empowering conference for all its women. Conference acknowledges that this can only be achieved with the co-operation of all its delegates and visitors.

Conference therefore instructs the National Women’s Committee to:

1)Work with the Regional Women’s Committees and other self organised committees to raise awareness of the need for a supportive; respectful and empowering conference environment

2)Carry out a review of the Working Together Guidelines for National Women’s Conference to ensure the guidelines meet the needs of the conference.

3)Report back to National Women’s Conference 2013