Yes, We Still Need Feminism in 2015

07/10/2015 08:03 BST | Updated 06/10/2016 10:12 BST

Two women died this week.

We don't know their names and we won't know their details, but on average, two women a week die as the result of male violence; the Counting Dead Women campaign numbers 85 for 2015. Two women each week who need not have died, who could and should be living life to the full with their friends and families, and they died at the hands of partners or former partners.

Since 2001, 454 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan. An astonishing 504 women have been killed by male violence since 2012 alone. Britain's women suffer more deaths every few years than Britain's soldiers have in the course of a fifteen year military campaign.

For those who say we have equality, that we don't need feminism: yes, we do. A voting card was not a certificate of achievement; it was the starting gun for an endurance event. We need feminism for ourselves, we need it in memory of those women, and we need it for the safety of our daughters. We need it to achieve equal representation in the halls of power, in Parliament and in business, and we need it so that the 66 women who reported a rape to the police today are confident of seeing justice done. We need it so that no little girl is subjected to FGM, so that no teenage girl is sexually harassed, and so that no woman feels compelled or is coerced to enter prostitution. We need it because women suffer more under austerity and we need it because women's unrecognised, unpaid work exceeds the entire budget of the NHS.

Feminism in London was born initially of the London Feminist Network's idea to put on an annual conference, and it was run by LFN for three years. In 2012, two women decided to revive it, and were soon joined by a wonderful team of volunteers. We had no experience and no money - but we envisaged a huge annual feminist conference in the capital, designed to appeal to feminists from the "simply curious" to the seasoned academic, providing a huge range of topics attracting women from across the spectrum. It would offer free children's provision, enabling mothers to attend. An art exhibition. Male allies' workshops. A marketplace of feminist stalls. The speakers would vary from ordinary women to high profile campaigners, and would reflect the diversity of London's population in terms of race, class, disability and other characteristics. It would be a "feminist family gathering," where feminists found common ground, where we all came together annually to make real, positive change for women and girls. It would not just be a talking shop. In short, we would design the conference that we wanted to attend.

Have we achieved that? You will have to come and see for yourselves, but for a bunch of volunteers, we think we've done pretty well. The conference has grown, not just in numbers but in stature: this year we gained charitable status, recognising our aims to educate and to promote gender equality, women's human rights, and the arts. This year, for the first time, we have a two day conference, with the traditional social event on the Saturday evening. We have an amazing line-up of speakers, from Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti opening the conference to the presentation of the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize at the closing. We are designing a "Women's Bill of Rights," talking with legal experts about how the justice system can best serve victims, and critically evaluating UN resolutions: we firmly believe that change arises not just from identifying injustice but positive action to remedy it. It will be an exciting and inspiring event to attend.

Despite all the complexities of conference organising, all the hours our volunteers put in, all the last minute frenzies, we do this because we believe that women are stronger together. Because we can shape our history, mould our present. Because we enjoy it.

But mostly because of this:

Two women died this week.

We have a long way to go until we see the day when we can say "no women died this week" when speaking of violence against women. Our aim is that as a result of our work, and that of the pioneering women we showcase, we will see that day.

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