Why it’s important you join #WENWales in supporting women in Wales! Inequality is not o.k!


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I am currently mapping services for women across Wales on behalf of Welsh Government and Women’s Equality Network and am fascinated and proud of the sheer number of groups I’ve found.

With so many horrific examples of gender inequality including The Girl Effect it’s natural i’ve considered my own position – I’m definitely privileged compared to others around the world. However, I’m currently seeking gainful employment (get in touch!) and reports show that as a female graduate I should expect to earn thousands less than my male counterparts

Awesome. Makes all the hard work seem worth it.

Plus once I’ve got that job I’m much more likely to experience sexual harassment, less promotion and will have to navigate the minefield of ‘wanting it all’. Also, my ‘minority ethnic’ status means I am more likely to be ‘Powerless, Poor and Passed over‘.

Not exactly life affirming, so forgive me if I don’t rush out and purchase that particular motivational poster.

It’s widely agreed that when women are empowered through opportunities the impact is positive for the women specifically as well as their communities so its fantastic that there are so many advocate organisations – But do these organisations know who they are, and what they could be achieving? 

During my research I have spoken to so many organisations that I know are ethical and empower women so would benefit from being part of the WEN Network, yet it’s almost as if they aren’t sure they should be there as they are not specifically named “FIGHTING 24/7 FOR WOMEN’S EQUALITY”. This is a conversation that is mirrored when I speak to individuals and the question of feminism arises.

Out of interest, do you know how you would answer if someone asked you ‘Are you a feminist?’ Perhaps you would answer with a loud and unequivocal YES! (And maybe a fist pump!) Often there would be a hesitation, followed by “but I’m not female” or “but I’m not a man hater!” It’s interesting that people who hate inequality and misogyny are reluctant to use the dreaded F-word (Feminism!!).

I mean, it is what it is


Some people don’t acknowledge or even recognise themselves as racist but their actions betray them. They don’t need to self-certify or wear a badge – although that would be really handy!

If you think that gender inequality is wrong, then feel free to go ahead and call yourself a feminist. Or don’t, if you don’t want to. Just be on the right side of history when taking part in the conversation. 

The best weapon we have to hand to fight inequality are our voices. I don’t accept inequality quietly, I use my voice loudly and on behalf of as many people as possible. So as such I’d like to invite you to add your voice to mine in supporting WEN campaign for Equality for Women! Donate a tweet or status to our thunderclap – http://bit.ly/1sVaKiT

If you are an organisation, get yourself on the map in Wales  – > https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WN6Y6GB



#CommsHero to the rescue! A guest blog by Kelsey Watkins

This is a brilliant guest blog by #CommsHero Kelsey on an event we attended last week on how to become a more effective Communicator – a #CommsHero if you will. I really was pleased to see a great gender balance on the panel – with three males and three female experts – a fantastic reassurance that Comms is for everyone! The chair, Faye Galvin admirably kept the fast paced day in check, There were fantastic visual minutes by Fran O’Hara as well as the terrifically talented Sarah Anne Cromwell  giving support as facilitator – she’s Britain’s first award winning operatic comedian don’t you know! and then there was Joe Dumont’s showstopping voice – a must see (hear!?) I’d definitely recommend this training experience – I’ve never experienced anything like it to be honest!! It would be great to hear your experiences if you’re also a certified Comms Hero too but right now I’ll hand you over to Kelsey now to talk you through her own thoughts of the day –


Kelsey Watkins – Guest Blogger, Comms Hero!, member of the Housing Women Cymru Network and Communications and Tenant Engagement Officer for a Local Authority in Wales

“After the buzz that surrounded both the Manchester and Wrexham Comms Hero events when I saw Asif, Lee and the rest of the team were finally bringing it a little closer to me, in Bristol, booking my place really was a no-brainer. But would it live up to my expectations?!

I must admit I was initially quite disappointed when I completed the standard (boring) online form to reserve my place, but when Lee phoned me soon after to confirm my booking and followed up with my Comms Hero pic on Twitter, the smile soon returned to my face! Throughout the whole experience it was personal touches like this from the guys at Resource that really make Comms Hero something special.

As I’m still relatively new to a comms role I must admit that when I attend events like this I often worry about being exposed as a fraud among so many experienced comms people! But comms hero was exactly the opposite – it gave me confidence in my abilities and proved that actually we all have what it takes to be comms heroes!

A constant theme was just how important comms is to our organisations and how comms should be a priority and high on everyone’s agenda. The content and style of the whole day were great,- just take a look at the hashtag #commshero and the twitter feed to verify that but there were some real stand-out moments.


I found Helen Reynolds’ ‘Comms Doer to Comms Leader’ session particularly useful. It focused largely on using Twitter; if I’m honest I am something of a fair-weather friend when it comes to using it, but Helen’s advice on using it to access information, raise your profile and form professional relationships was really useful and I’ve already started using some of her practical tips, such as using lists and connecting with people who work in similar roles so I can share information.

John Popham’s session was also inspiring in that it proved we all already have the skills to become comms heroes and that our personalities are probably the most effective marketing tool we have. Sharing stories, as well as injecting humour and fun into our campaigns are possibly the most effective way of engaging with people and helping to build trust in our brands.

The whole day was interesting, jam packed with practical tips and useful contacts and I could feel my confidence growing with each session. Then, BAM! The villain of the piece entered the room and soon destroyed the false sense of security we had been lulled into! Brian Church, of 24Housing Magazine fame has a brutal honesty and deadpan delivery style which raised more than a few eyebrows (mine included), but his message was just as important as the more encouraging and positive speakers during the day. I think it’s fair to say that there is always a risk that comms people can start to believe their own hype and Brian’s session was the perfect antidote to this. With all the subtlety of a sledge hammer he pointed out how slow we can react at times and was clear about how we can improve our relationships with journalists, in turn improving our chances of getting coverage of our stories.


There was so much to learn from Comms Hero and not just from the speakers on the day.

Even the attention grabbing approach taken by Resource to the style and marketing of this concept is something that we can all learn from when it comes to planning our own events and campaigns – I thoroughly enjoyed it, and look forward to unleashing the comms hero in me – are you going to do the same?”

Why the hierarchy of dead women and girls?

The prevalence is almost as shocking as the way it seems accepted and ‘just the way it is…”

Karen Ingala Smith

Like anyone else, I am saddened to wake up to the news that a body has been found in the search for 14-year-old Alice Gross, and that her disappearance has now become a murder inquiry; similarly, I felt sickened to hear about the rape and  murder of 23-year old Hannah Witheridge, just two weeks ago.

But since Alice went missing – and in addition to Hannah – at least ten other UK women have been killed through suspected male violence.  Why don’t we all know the names of Leighann Duffy, 26, stabbed to death in Walthamstow? What about Glynis Bensley, 48, who witnesses said was pursued by two masked men on bikes before she was killed? Perhaps some people will recall the name of Pennie Davis, 47, found dead in a field, stabbed as she tended her horse.  What about Serena Hickey, Dorothy Brown, 66

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Urbanistas Cardiff Launch Saturday 27th September 2014!

A great movement- I’m looking forward to getting involved

Welcome to Urbanistas HQ

We are very excited to announce that the next new Urbanistas Chapter will be launching in Cardiff!

Following the launch of Urbanistas Manchester at HouseParty in July, we met the Lovely Jo Carter who runs Satori Labs in Cardiff. She was inspired by what she saw and reckons Cardiff is ready for some Urbanistas action!

So if you are interested in meeting like-minded women, sharing and hearing about ideas that help make cities thrive, want help with a project or idea, or are simply curious – please come along to our very first Urbanistas Cardiff meet up.

We will be at the stunning new Waterloo Tea, Wyndham Arcade in the City Centre from 6.30pm. There will be more than tea on offer! There is a sponsored bar to support the start of Urbanistas Cardiff, but once it’s gone it’s gone!

This event is on a Saturday because we’ve combined it…

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A bit of therapeutic ranting

Essex Feminist Collective


On Saturday, the Essex Feminist Collective had our first awareness raising stall at the Oyster Festival in Colchester’s Castle Park. Though we were prepared for people being mean (and had practised our responses in the car on the way there) it turned out that pretty much everyone was really lovely and those that weren’t were just silly. We had some excellent conversations with women and men alike and, on more than one occasion, were told to “keep up the good work”. Many people were understanding about why meetings are for women only and I even sold a ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ badge to a teenage boy. It was all just so marvellous . . .
. . . so maybe I’d become lulled into a false sense of security that people are nice because away from the frivolities of Medieval jousting, the not-so-supportive comments have appeared and…

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Can we Stop Programmes like “Benefits Street”?

Absolutely support the idea of getting ALL sides of the story out there John. Its important that we don’t ease up on the ‘fight back’ against this poverty porn. Keep up the good work!

John Popham's Random Musings

Regular readers will be aware that I have for some time been urging social housing providers to help their residents fight back against the wave of negative publicity generated by TV programmes such as “Benefits Street” and “How to Get a Council House”. I’ve been running #HousingStories Workshops, to help staff and tenants develop the skills to use digital media to tell their own, positive, stories; and on this year’s #HousingDay, I’ll be doing a roadtrip to highlight the good work done by many providers.

This morning I saw this story which suggests that Stockon-on-Tees Council is objecting to the second series of “Benefits Street” being filmed in their area. I know from some of my own contacts in the north-east that the producers had been scouting around for locations for some time, and that they had been “warned off” from some areas. So, what can be done…

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The Soul of Liberty

Interesting looking at board equality and diversity- are they too male,pale and stale? Look forward to the CIH strategy for mixing things up

Our Castle's Strength

HA boards may be shrinking, but they're not getting any more diverse. How do we address board equality? (Art Credit: Jackie Fleming - @JacksterFleming) HA boards may be shrinking, but they’re not getting any more diverse. How do we address board equality? (Art Credit: Jackie Fleming – @JacksterFleming)

The Story

“While our workforce is diverse, this is not reflected in our leadership which remains too white, too old and too male. Just look at me.” – CIH President Steve Stride, Housing 2014

It seems that CIH President Steve Stride’s recent warning about the lack of diversity in housing leadership was particularly prescient, as a new study by Inside Housing reveals that while the housing sector is undergoing sweeping changes, the make-up of housing association boards remains broadly unchanged; there is not the diversity at higher levels of leadership that one would expect from a sector whose employees – and customers – are so diverse.

Not too long ago, it was reported that the proportion of new social lets to white people had risen while…

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Leave me alone – I’m reading! My love affair with books (#BookClub)


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There’s nothing like seeing a stranger happily reading a book you’ve read and loved; of recommending a fantastic tome to someone you know will love it; or solemnly being handed a book with the promise that it could’ve been written for you. Who doesn’t love that feeling of starting a book and mere paragraphs in knowing you cant bear to put it down and ‘oh boy, this is a goodie!’ I remember at primary school my favourite teacher suggesting I read Anne of Green Gables, as I might recognise myself in Anne ( to date one of the warmest compliments I’ve received!)  A book is the greatest gift you can give someone; relatively inexpensive they are portals to new worlds, different times, and give you a chance to complete adventures with beloved new friends. Books provide opportunities to explore new ideas and different cultures and challenge your own beliefs and standards.

From a very young age you’d rarely find me without a book (or two) on the go. I remember being taught to read by my mum before I’d even started primary school and remember with great pride the day I was first granted access to the grown-up section of the library  – it was years in advance of my peers as I’d already devoured the entire contents of the children’s corner a few times over! so you can imagine my delight when my friend Tim drew my attention to this extreme reading experiment – a woman read the entire contents of one shelf of books in her local library (In New York no less!)in order to open up the range of books she was exposed to, to step outside of the ‘usual suspects’ to….well, why not?! Our public libraries are a great resource (and unsung luxury) and I support the Library Campaign – access to books is important from an educational as well as personal point of view. I recommend every family get hold of a library card and uses it well; Libraries are an often undervalued asset in our communities and can be a great hub for children and adults alike. I lived in a Council house in Essex as a child and we never went abroad but books meant that in essence I grew up in a range of places, my favourites including the country estate of Flambards, the Haunted Woods near Green Gables in Prince Edward Island, and exploring the royal Courts of Tudor England. My imagination was set alight by the stories and characters I encountered, and that flame still burns brightly. I have a house full of books and dream of owning a bookshop with comfy seats and cakes for sale, so you can imagine my shock, horror and disappointment when people say they don’t have time to read. (Please, make the time!)

There are numerous lists of books you simply MUST read like this from The Telegraph recently .However sometimes theses lists are a bit dry ( worthy, even..) and for me, you cant beat a personal and heartfelt recommendation. So looking for my next great literary love affair I tweeted about my favourite recent book – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (You simply MUST read it!) and asked fellow tweeters for their suggestions in return. As always there was a fabulous response and here are the books that were commended to me – I’ve included a handy link to a book review or plot synopsis so you can see if the next book you will fall in love with is here! Also, if you have any treasures you cant wait to share with other people please comment and let us know.

Lighthouse Keeping  by Jeanette Winterson Plot and review

The Sea by John Banville  Plot & interview with author

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova Author wesbite

The Way the Crow Flies by Anne-Marie MacDonald Plot review

We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver Plot & interview with author

The Time Travellers Wife by  Audrey Niffeneggers  –  Plot & Review

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Authors website & plot

A fraction of the whole by Steve Toltz  Book review

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts  Book review

Homicide: A year on the killing streets  by David Simon Book review & plot

Uncle Sam – DC comics – Graphic Novel review

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer Book Review & Plot

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss Book review & plot

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver  Book review & Plot

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch Book review & plot

The Earth hums in B flat by Mari Strachan Book review & plot

The Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey Author website

The sacred book of the werewolf by Victor Pelevin Book review and Plot

Small Island by Andrea Leavy Book review & plot

Any thing and everything by Toni Morrison or Maya Angelou

Happy reading everyone!

Thanks to Tamsin StirlingLuke Merlini, Neil Jackson , Gudrun Burnet , Matthew Close , Cathy Ayrton , Gayna Jones, Rob Gershon and Tim Morton for contributing to this list and keeping me busy until Christmas!

Forty Years Ago.

Christ.. A tribute to both Alan and Tom and their enduring friendship. Thank you for sharing Tom Xx


You asked how it began.

The First Time.

The first time I met him was in my room at Raymont. I was standing on my balcony smoking. It was a sunny afternnon in early October 1972. The day before I had returned from a holiday in Spain with a broken relationship, a sun tan and 200 Spanish cigarettes. My Mam and Dad had just left, bursting with pride that their son had gone to university. My door was open and the strong pungent smell of continental tobacco drifted onto the corridor. He walked by, smelt the air and walked in.

He said his name was Alan and asked for a  cigarette. He said he was from Southampton and had arrived earlier. I remember his long hair and the smell of Old Spice. We talked about nothing, anxious to fill the void. Trying hard not to show that this was all…

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Toni – She was Someone


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Reading this article was upsetting to me for a few reasons. Obviously my heart went out to the couple -their young son had been murdered and the killers were applying to be moved to an open prison. They had poured their abject sadness and despair into a victim impact statement only to be told that actually, it doesn’t really make a difference but thanks anyway.  I do get why this is the case – shouldn’t we rely on the mechanism of the law to deliver justice? (This could be a whole other blog!) Justice cannot be swayed by how eloquently someone is able to communicate the grief and desolation that they are suffering, as sometimes it’s just too difficult to get the words out.
My cousin Toni was murdered by Ryan Backhouse four years ago today. I remember where I was when I found out. While Toni was picked entirely at random in a grubby street in London, I was in Costa Rica, working with a charity to build a school and teach English to give young people better opportunities in life.  Unfortunately sensational news – especially bad news – is half way around the world and on its way back again while someone 6,000 miles away is still trying to formulate the right words and explanations. I will never forget the hurried way I found out. I left the building as soon as I could and sat, hidden and alone, amongst the sugar cane to gather my thoughts and will myself to cry. I wondered what was wrong with me – I was expecting guttural sobs and unending floods of tears like you see in the films, but they wouldn’t come. I also wanted distance from people who didn’t know what to say, and from those saying how sorry they were. Irrationally my attitude was to say “Why, did you do it? No? Don’t apologise then” I was angry at these people who were only trying to be kind, and really, who knows how to act when something like this happens anyway? I also wanted to avoid the questions, of what had happened, although I soon realised that all of the brutal details were available for everyone to soak up before a sad tut, a shake of their head about how awful society is these days before turning the page and getting on with life.
I realise now I was in deep shock because all I could focus on were the practicalities. Quickly understanding there would be a trial (and an agonising delay in the funeral) I set about dealing with the only other issues i could; the stories. It was a bleak situation. There was story after story dealing with what read like a Tarantino movie; sensationalised and focussed on the pure viciousness. There was judgemental information regarding Toni’s education, her background from a broken-home, her illnesses – both physical and mental. It read like her murder was almost inevitable and somehow she contributed to it. She didn’t. My hatred of, and campaigning against, Victim Blaming became even more intense. It could have been anyone – he wanted to hurt someone, so he did. It could have been anyone.
On a belated mission to protect Toni, I contacted the BBC, the Guardian and many others asking them to be more respectful, to remember that Toni was a young girl, bubbly, innocent, loved. I lodged complaints, however futile they might have been.  Where were the stories about her being an animal lover; how we had horses when we were younger; how she was my Nan’s side kick and was the sweetest little girl with the biggest eyes and an unruly mop of ginger curls? Then there was the illegally obtained video on YouTube  – Dear God, why did I read the comments? The unseemly and tasteless addition on a Ghost Hunters website – I was still counting my loss in hours, and someone had already found a way to hustle some money. Dealing with it all meant I had something to do but it left me very numb.
Ryan Backhouse was convicted of murder at Woolwich Crown Court on February 10, 2011. He was jailed for life with a minimum of 15 years before parole. It wasn’t enough.
While I started this by talking about the inevitable futility (perceived or otherwise) of a victim impact statement I wanted to close by saying that this is my alternative offering, as a tribute to Toni. I’ve not really touched upon the personal devastation, as in all of this that is the only thing I can keep for myself and have some semblance of control over. But you can imagine…I don’t intend this blog to spark debate, or garner sympathy. Really I just wanted to share some of the influences that losing Toni has had on my life – to love my family and friends deeply; to accept people for how they are and just ask that they try their best; to understand we are each fighting our own battles and deserve as much kindness and respect as possible. To minimise the ‘Them and Us’ dichotomy.  The impact of her death, and the aftermath of it, has changed me greatly. What I try to do, and what I encourage in others, is to look beyond the attention grabbing headline, and the ever important bottom line, and to focus on the human element in the story. Whether you are dealing with policy, data, war, whatever it is, that is someone’s story. It is someone’s friend, family, lover. It could be you, or I.  In all that you do, try to ensure that the human element is always of greater significance. Look beyond wealth, nationality, race and religion to see the person.
Always take that moment to think of Toni and remember that above all else, she was Someone.
Rest in Peace, Darling Toni.