One billion rising and a cause for celebration in Bristol

On 14 February, women in Bristol were dancing in the city centre and in various locations throughout the day. They, and others around the world, were responding to the One Billion Rising campaign to get women dancing and rising up against violence.

Bristol mayor George Ferguson showed his support by showing up to a flash mob and tweeting “#BristolMayor gives strong support to UN campaign against violence to women and #OneBillionRising”, as did UK prime minister David Cameron who tweeted: “PM: I’m proud to add my voice to all those who stand up to oppose violence against women & girls. #1billionrising”

The Bristol Feminist Network (BFN) had a more specific reason to be rising up, with their submission to the Bristol City Council against cuts to services protecting women. This year, Bristol’s first mayor has had to find £35 million in savings and cuts in his first budget and a draft had just been produced on February 13.

Almost half the women in the city are likely to be raped, sexually abused, assaulted or stalked in their lifetimes, according to evidence from the Bristol Fawcett report ‘Cutting Women Out in Bristol’.

“Across the UK, domestic abuse support services have seen 31% of their funding cut, but in Bristol, we have done better than this. However centralised funding has led to cuts across the sector, including the loss of funding to South Bristol service Wish and the Well House” the Bristol Feminist Network submitted in their evidence.

“There really is not enough support to cope with the scale of the problem and although we are lucky in Bristol that funding has been protected (in part due to the fantastic work by feminists within and outside of the council for years) as the cuts continue to bite it looks like this problem is going to get worse“ said Sian Norris, one of the BFN’s coordinators.

The One Billion Rising campaign, set up by Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues and activist, has raised $90 million for rape crisis centres so far and has received worldwide support and participation. In Bristol the dancing was a sign of celebration as well. Mayor George Ferguson’s first budget proposals showed that the council have protected domestic abuse support funding.

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