Empowering UNISON Women!


Eastern Region UNISON Women Organising to Lead

Southend members join the discussion

Southend UNISON women members joined many others from across the Eastern Region in November in an event  organised by the Eastern Region Women’s Committe – ‘Empowering and Supporting Women to Lead’. Two of our members give their impressions below:

Louise McDermott, Steward and member of the Eastern Region Women’s Committee – 

“I had the pleasure of helping to organise the Eastern Region Women’s Committee training event and AGM, held in Colchester 22nd-23rd November. On day one of the event delegates heard a motivating address from the National Women’s Officer, Josie Irwin, took part in a menopause workshop and did group work on Empowering Women to Lead. Day two included an address from an inspiring activist, Elisa Vasquez-Walters and an update on the Nordic Model. The event was an interesting and uplifting experience, which showed how Unison can bring women activists together to share knowledge and support each other.

The Women’s Committee was very pleased to welcome five new members, elected during the AGM, who all expressed their wish to get more involved in campaigns and events. Three attendees came from Southend and  would like to express their thanks to Southend branch for ongoing support for its members to attend these events. This successful event highlights the importance of Self Organised Groups within Unison and how branches and regions can gain more activists. The Eastern Region Women’s Committee looks forward to working hard for women in 2020.”


Samantha Reed, Southend UNISON Womens Officer –

“Women’s voices heard around the table make a difference”

Unison Eastern held the annual Eastern Region Women’s Committee and AGM on 22 and 23 November in Colchester. The event proved to be very successful and educational with two representatives from Southend-on-Sea Borough Council attending.

The event, opened by the National Women’s Officer Josie Irwin, commenced with a session of the importance of women in the UK trade union women movement which didn’t fail to inspire us. Moving swiftly on to a menopause workshop, presented by Cheryl Godber, we discussed how menopause affects women in the workplace, along with workplace health and safety implications, statistics and case law in addition to how menopausal women are generally viewed within society.

The Empowering Women to Lead session was hosted by Heike H. Thomsen and was a very powerful and insightful session discovering barriers and delving deeply into our inner drivers. Leadership qualities, disseminating our inner dialogues, discovering our inner drivers and how to improve were all dissected and discussed before we ended with a lovely positive affirmation greeting exercise. I was “spectacular” – of course!

Committee member, Elisa Vasquez-Walters, got us discussing women activists within Unison and institutions and provided us with the great quote headline for this blog.

However, perhaps the most important part of the weekend falls to the Nordic Model Now session presented by Helen McDonald. For those that aren’t aware, the Nordic Model approach to prostitution (sometimes also known as the Sex Buyer Law, or the Swedish, Abolitionist, or Equality Model) decriminalises all those who are prostituted, provides support services to help them exit, and makes buying people for sex a criminal offence, in order to reduce the demand that drives sex trafficking. This approach has now been adopted in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France, Ireland, and most recently, Israel.

We debated how prostitution is a power imbalance, how society is groomed by a porn-ified culture, dismantling power structures which enable men to feel entitled to prostitution and more often than not violent sex, the harm prostitution causes society in general and specifically how Universal Credit has created a situation where many women find themselves forced into “survival sex” in order to simply make ends meet. Eastern Region Women’s Committee remains fully committed to Unison NDC supporting the Nordic Model.

Overall this was an informative and thought provoking event which I’d highly recommend many of our women members to attend if they get the opportunity to do so.