At The Siren we’re no strangers to a good campaign, having held our megaphones and banners high during the MFL protests. We’re all well aware such cuts aren’t just limited to education; in the past few days, the news hit that the Women’s Centre in Swansea is facing imminent closure at the end of July. Elena Cresci elaborates…
From the very first meeting of the newly formed Swansea Feminist Network (SFN), the future of the centre was deemed as uncertain. Gathered in the front room of the building, we began plans for a fundraiser as we were told of how the centre was waiting for word from the Welsh Assembly Government on whether or not they had been granted much-needed funding. In the past few days, members of the network were notified that the WAG had decided to withdraw funding from the centre.
The news serves a heavy blow to the women’s community in Swansea. Unbelievably, the centre is the last of its kind in Wales, providing a wealth of resources and a much-needed safe haven for vulnerable women in the area. This is where women turn to for advice and support on a range of issues, from domestic violence to sexual health, with a well-stocked library full of books and pamphlets galore. As well as this, the centre provides self help groups, training courses and Crèche facilities. You can even drop in for a cup of tea and biscuits if need be at this women’s only space, if you so choose to.
The centre has been open for 30 years and has provided a vital wellbeing service for the women who use it; 80% of whom have mental health problems due to domestic abuse and/or childhood sexual abuse. This means they sorely need the women’s only space to recover their self esteem and confidence, a service nowhere else in the city can currently offer. Further to this, both of Swansea’s Universities have enjoyed close links to the centre, something which Women’s Officer elect Eleri Jones recognises.
She said: “Swansea Women’s Centre is a fundamental resource to the female community of the city. Cuts are affecting women dramatically, but this target is misguided and unjustifiable. The work of the women in this centre is invaluable, and to close it down is criminal. We must fight this closure, and make our voices heard as women.”
Ali Morris, ex-paid worker of the Women’s Centre and ex volunteer and member of the board of trustees for the centre expressed her dismay at the WAG’s decision not to provide funding, saying: “The Women’s Centre is unique in its ethos of empowerment and self-help. The workers have a wealth of knowledge to be able to support women in many issues. Many women’s groups who use the centre will also lose a valuable resource.” According to Morris, the centre’s landlord has agreed to allow them to pay one month’s rent for July to attempt to sort out the situation. By the end of July, they are required to sign a year’s lease at £10,000, which is now impossible without the WAG’s funding.
For Caitlin Beth Gwynn, a founding member of Swansea’s Feminist Network, the withdrawal of funding for the Women’s Centre is “absolutely disgraceful.” She continued: “Domestic violence statistics prove that it is an essential resource for women, particularly as it’s the last centre of its kind in Wales. A lot of hard work goes into the upkeep of the centre and for the funding to be withdrawn is devastating for all concerned.”
Women who use the centre have voiced their disappointment in the WAG’s decision. Sadie Jones is one such user of the centre who praised it for its welcoming nature, having first visited it 15 years ago. “I knew no-one in Swansea and I found it a friendly place where I met new people, went to workshops and socialised.” Jones sees the potential closure of the centre as “a huge loss for Swansea and all the women who use the centre”.
This news is evidence of cuts hitting the most vulnerable of people and essential community services; however, there are steps which can be taken to help save the centre. SFN plan to hold a fundraiser for the centre on the 29th of July at the Garage in Uplands. Further to this, a JustGiving page is in the process of being set up for donations – in the meantime, contact swanseafeministnetworkATgmailDOTcom if you are able to donate time or money. Additionally, The Siren and SFN are encouraging readers to write a letter of complaint to the Welsh Assembly Government as well as local MPs/AMs.
As far as we’re concerned, the centre’s not going down without a fight.
For further developments, be sure to check SFN’s blog.