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The Unitarian Women’s Group ‘Empty Pockets’ project aims to raise awareness about the way that austerity measures in the UK disproportionately affect women and encourages congregations to reach out to their local women’s groups to support them through fundraising and/or campaigning.

Scroll down to see the Motion that the UWG will present to the General Assembly Annual Meetings in April 2018. Many congregations already support local groups.

Examples from congregations

Below you can see some examples of what congregations are currently doing to connect with local women's groups. The full list is available on the Google Doc.

Dukinfield, Old Chapel
In Dukinfield, Old Chapel Unitarians support our local Trussells Food Bank, organised by our friends at one of our local C of E churches, St John's, by collecting suitable tinned and dried food on a regular basis throughout the year.

London: Lewisham Unitarians (Lewisham Unitarian Meeting)
Lewisham Unitarians decided in late 2017 to donate their Sunday collection to a charity of the month proposed by someone in our community.

Our first such donation was in recognition of World AIDS Day in December, our collection of nearly £200 went to Positively UK--Women, which assists UK women who are HIV positive with the challenges they face in keeping healthy and leading full lives.

The current month's charity is Lewisham Young Women's Hub (formerly Lewisham Young Women's Resource Project), which provides a safe and nurturing space for young women age 8 to 25, where they have access to opportunities for learning and development. They offer alternative secondary education, big sister mentoring, after school programmes, and support for young mums.

London: Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead
Each year, Rosslyn Hill Chapel donates its Christmas Eve collection to the Marylebone Project, which supports homeless women with temporary accommodation. We also donate clothes and offer volunteers to the project. Our 'monthly good causes' have included local charities such as the Crossroads Women's Centre in Kentish Town, and we donate half our collection plate to these good causes.

Norwich, Octagon Chapel
At the Octagon Unitarian Chapel in Norwich we support New Routes, a charity whose core is helping refugees in many ways, recognised by City of Sanctuary as are we. One on-going project of ours is to support women refugees in Norwich by having an open box for donations of toiletries answering women's needs in particular. As this fills up it is collected by a member of our congregation, herself and boys having been supported by New Routes and members of the Octagon.

‘Empty Pockets’ Motion presented at the General Assembly Annual Meetings 2018

From The Unitarian Women's Group

Proposer: Sue MacFarlane

Seconder: Jo O'Sullivan

That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, deeply concerned by the way that the negative effects of the government austerity measures implemented over the last few years have fallen disproportionately on women, calls upon all Unitarians and Free Christians to respond by:

  1. acquainting themselves and their congregations with the relevant information regarding this subject;
  2. initiating and supporting actions at congregational level to support women in their community affected by these measures through involvement where possible in local community projects and/or raising funds for the same, seeking advice from the Unitarian's Women's Group if required;
  3. asking our chief officer to lobby parliament if and when possible for an end to the current austerity measures that are causing misery and hardship for so many people;
  4. taking specific collective action, in coalition with other organisations and concerned citizens, to support the above.

* Definition of 'austerity measures': a deficit reduction programme consisting of sustained reductions in public spending and tax rises, intended to reduce the government budget deficit and the role of the welfare state in the United Kingdom.

'Empty Pockets: Women and austerity' – Background Paper

As Unitarians, we are committed to the service of all humanity and respect for all. Since they have been in place in recent years, the effects of the government's austerity measures have fallen predominantly on women. With this in mind, the Unitarian Women's Group is asking for the backing of the General Assembly to lobby and work for change in this area. Support for women affected can come happen at local and governmental level, and Unitarians can make a real difference.

Unitarians have a long and proud history of supporting equality and, in 2006, the General Assembly passed a motion about equality for all. Women are bearing a bigger share of the burden of the austerity measures than men, and this is unfair. We are asking that Unitarians support women at a local and national level.

The Women's Budget Group (WBG) is an organisation that scrutinises government policy from a gender perspective. In their gender impact assessment of the Spring 2017 budget, the WBG concluded that 'Women and those on low incomes continue to shoulder by far the greatest burden of tax and benefit changes and cuts to public spending since 2010, with black and Asian women facing a triple disadvantage.' In June 2017, Dr Mary-Anne Stephenson, Co-Director of WBG said "Rethinking austerity is long overdue. Women, and BME women in particular, have borne the brunt of seven years of cuts to public services and social security. These cuts have had a devastating impact on individuals and communities across the country, have increased inequality, and have undermined the social infrastructure on which the economy depends."

Analysis carried out by WBG found has that

We suggest that:

We hope all Unitarians will join us in taking action.

To download the document click here