Our campaign is one led by women most affected by the ongoing austerity which is tearing families from their homes and making countless people street-homeless. We are directly challenging our Labour council and the wider government. We're angry, organised and are demanding change!
The campaign started due to a £40,000 cut in funding of the mother and baby unit in a vulnerable young people's hostel in Stratford, East-London. In the shadow of the city of London, the financial capital of the world, £40,000 is the relatively tiny sum which pushed young mothers into action, to fight for a roof and the right to stay in their city.
''Social Housing not Social Cleansing'' is what we say and is what we mean. Women from the FE15 hostel, once served with their eviction notices, were given one option of housing. Take the space in Hastings, Manchester or Birmingham or you are declared 'intentionally homeless' and the council relinquishes responsibility to house you. We don't accept this and are fighting to keep working class women, men and children in London and in suitable social housing. We refuse to use the term 'affordable housing' as this is 80% of the market rate and in no way 'affordable'.
We challenge our council and our Labour mayor Robin Wales, and we do it in a militant but fun fashion! We hold children's parties in Housing Association show-flats, we take double decker buses to Boris Johnson's office with Our House by Madness blaring on our speaker, we build mini cities out of card-board and have parties in the street. We occupied four flats on an empty estate and turned them into a Social Centre on our first birthday. We are child friendly and there is certainly never a lack of children running around and playing whilst their mothers fight for their child to be in a stable home, a stable school and have enough food on the table.
On our weekly street stall, which we started and haven't left since 2013, we speak to families who are struggling to eat as parents have been sanctioned, we speak to young men sleeping in tents outside their parents overcrowded house and we even spoke to a 90-year-old women who was being moved out of London due to the bedroom tax. This is unacceptable in the fourth richest country in the world, where more billionaires wander London's streets than any other city. As women we stand at our street stall week after week to encourage the most vulnerable to find their voice and get organised. We call on people to represent themselves and join together.
We certainly aren't the first women taking to the streets of East-London! Sylvia Pankhurst and her group East London Federation of Suffragettes where running around Bow 100 years ago, doing stalls, chasing their councillors and setting up toy factories to give working class women work and food amidst World War One. We have been looking to these women and campaigns to draw inspiration and to keep up the fight, which is not always easy.
There are many other campaigns around London. This International Women's Day, families in Barnet are holding a fun day to stay in London, the Fred and John Towers campaign in Leytonstone are calling their neighbours to discuss their next action after an incredible campaign meeting last week, those occupying the Aylesbury estate in South London (the biggest estate in Europe and now empty) are making sure they are safe from police harassment and we the FE15 campaign continue to support families wanting to resist eviction and make links to join this potential housing movement. Now is the time to get involved, as mothers, as women and as those who care about the most vulnerable in society.
On behalf of the Focus E15 Campaign
Facebook: Focus E15 Mothers
Street stall every Saturday 12-2pm / Outside Wilkinson's on the Broadway, Stratford