Power to the Women: Environmental Activism

On Sunday 11th October, Nottingham Women’s Centre hosted our sixth Power to the Women event, open for any self-identifying women in Nottingham. On this occaision, the event took place on Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions. A recording of the session is still available to watch here via Facebook.

Audience members had the opportunity to attend an online panel discussion followed by an interactive discussion; both focussed on environmental activism in the Nottingham area. Speakers on the panel were invited to talk about their own specialist approaches to environmental work and activism:

  • Nadia Whittome – Labour MP, Nottingham East
  • Sally Longford – Labour Councillor, Lenton and Wollaton East
  • Dr Sarah Gretton – Associate Professor, Natural Sciences Programme, Director at Uni of Leicester
  • Emma Lewis-Jones – Decolonise, Decarbonise, Under 30s fighting for global justice

During the online panel our guests discussed the climate and ecological emergency, exploring what is being done in Nottingham, methods of engagement, and activism in the face of Covid-19.

Nottingham’s response to the climate crisis has included innovative projects such as the Carbon Neutral 2028 target and NCT Bio-Gas buses, with inspiring ongoing action taken by movements such as Decolonise Decarbonise, XR Nottingham, Youth Climate Strikers and workers’ strikes over climate. 

Common themes raised by speakers during discussion were the importance of education and the creation of opportunities for more people to engage actively with the climate emergency. Sally Longford suggested finding ways for people to engage with their community using practical activities, such as the creation and use of community gardens and vegetable growing, bringing communities together and opening opportunities to learn about the environment. 

When discussing the urgency of educating people on the scale of the climate crisis, Emma Lewis-Jones highlighted the lack of information provided by those in power, leading to low levels of public engagement and insufficient action taken by public bodies, such as schools, councils, governmental bodies, NGOs and charities:

“A national, as well as a local effort to educate and to make clear what is happening, on a global scale, is what needs to happen most urgently.” 

This need for engagement across wider audiences raised further discussion on how the climate crisis disproportionately impacts different social groups. Nadia Whittome stated:

“As legislators, politicians and activists, we need to show how those issues are connected.” 

With inequality and social injustice creating barriers for engagement, there was a clear agreement that there needs to be more focus on engaging with communities, working towards solving social issues such as mental health, housing and food inequalities to create space for more people to focus on climate change.

Both speaking from backgrounds in environmental activism, Dr Sarah Gretton and Emma Lewis-Jones drew focus onto the positives that can come through environmentalism:

We can work to empower women to take action and to take to the streets” 

Nadia Whittome also spoke about the importance of having women at the centre of a green recovery plan. There was further emphasis on the importance of investing in the care sector, thus creating 2 million green jobs. This would not only help to close the gender employment gap but would simultaneously address both the social care crisis and the climate crisis simultaneously:

Against the background of a global pandemic, with Nottingham having the highest infection rate in the UK (BBC News), speakers were asked how we can rebuild after Covid-19 in a way that also tackles the climate emergency.

With further emphasis on how environmental jobs and investment, especially into the care sector, can help with the climate emergency, Nadia speaks of “reimagining democracy”, with increased need for climate assemblies and climate-aware trade union branches.  

Working in virology (the study of viruses), Dr Sarah Gretton spoke of the inevitability of this, and future, pandemics but also addressed how quickly different industries and individuals adapted to the pandemic. Our Government’s ability to react quickly to this crisis (Covid-19) demonstrates our capability to address the climate crisis.

Sarah also credited the work of environmental activists, which has been crucial in getting us to where we are today:

“To have a Conservative government that is mentioning ‘green’ deal as part of a recovery, is important.” 

Although the lockdown period provided many of us with time to self-educate and reflect on issues such as climate change, Covid-19 has generated a huge amount of argument and discussion, both in parliament and in the media, leaving people feeling overwhelmed with other social responsibilities. 

Many enlightening ideas were shared at the event, drawing attention to required changes in the public sector, such as investment in both education and community sectors and the creation of ‘green jobs’, as part of a ‘green recovery’.

During the interactive session, participants considered their own relationships with the environment and ways in which our lifestyles can be adapted to help combat climate change. The importance for individuals to continue engaging with activism lies clear, and for women especially, to utilise their voices in targeting the government, local councils and corporate bodies with hope of saving the planet. 

“Pandemic is a symptom of a world consumed by greed and growth. We need torethink a system that benefits communities and nature, and dismantle capitalism”

Emma Lewis-Jones


Useful Links

  • Read about Nottingham becoming Carbon Neutral by 2028 here.
  • Read Nadia on… The Climate Crisis – a regular column in the LeftLion here.
  • Find out more about the Women’s Budget Group here.
  • Find out more about the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill here.
  • Find out more about the UK100 here.
  • Read The Impact of COVID19 on the Environment: Observations and Insights here.

Get Involved

  • Follow Decolonise, Decarbonise: Nottingham’s under 30s fighting climate injustice + anti-racist allies of the global south on Instagram here.
  • Find out more about XR Nottingham here.

Contact

  • Sally Longford: [email protected]
  • Emma Lewis-Jones: Instagram and Twitter: @emmalewj
  • Nadia Whittome: Instagram and Twitter @nadiawhittomemp

Did you take part in this event? Fill in our feedback form and get added to our Campaigns and Policy mailing list here.

Event curated by, and this post written by: Flora Lewis-Jones


Report launch: Menopause and the Workplace

Menopause and the Workplace

Over 120 local women contributed to our powerful new report ‘My stress levels are through the roof: Menopause and the Workplace Report’, which was published at the beginning of World Menopause Month on 1st October. We found that around 80% of women experience noticeable menopausal symptoms, which range from migraines, hot flushes and anxiety, yet only 9.3% of women who completed our survey felt supported in the workplace while going through the menopause.

Women can be at the ‘peak’ of their careers when menopausal symptoms start, yet even though menopausal women are protected by The Equality Act (2010) and the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), 1 in 4 women feel unable to continue working due to the symptoms they experience. Feeling pushed out of the workplace can cause considerable damage to women’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as have serious financial implications, including impacts on future pension contributions.

Office workers during the pandemic

The pandemic has impacted most women’s work in some way. Office workers who are now working from home mostly reported the positive benefits from their new set-up. Benefits included easier temperature control and access to toilets, a better diet and more flexible breaks. However some women reported issues with extreme isolation and difficulties with brain fog. We hope that employers will offer flexible working to menopausal women in the long term.

Key workers during the pandemic

A large number of key workers reported that current designs of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) make their jobs almost impossible when experiencing menopausal symptoms, due to overheating. We recommend that PPE is urgently redesigned to suit women experiencing the menopause. This is particularly important considering the majority of key workers are women and 78% of key workers working healthcare are women. Toilet closures have also impacted some women working as key workers during the pandemic; we recommend that all toilets are re-opened urgently.

Healthcare access

Women reported feeling unable to reach out for support from their GPs during the pandemic, or that they have been unable to get appointments at specialist clinics. This has left women feeling desperate and unable to access the correct dosage of Hormone Replacement Therapy.

What needs to happen

Our focus group participants identified a toxic culture of ageism and sexism in many workplaces, which cause menopause to be a ‘taboo’ topic and stops many women from feeling able to get support from their line managers. We believe that all workplaces should be legally obliged to create and implement a specialist Menopause Policy and should train all line managers in supporting menopausal colleagues as a matter of urgency. Less than 10% of women’s workplaces have menopause policies, but the majority of women reported that their employers are interested in developing menopause policies in the near future. This indicates that there’s ample opportunity to develop projects that support workplaces to positively shift their internal cultures and HR practises in relation to menopause.

Women also reported that “Menopause Cafes”, or equivalent peer-support groups, have helped to combat isolation, misinformation and improved women’s mental health at work. Many women said they needed more opportunities to learn about how to manage and understand menopausal symptoms. We would recommend that workplaces consider supporting women to set-up peer support groups.

How to get involved

Please share the report with your networks! We want to reach as many women and employers as possible to offer support and make a change. We’ve created a new ‘Menopause and the Workplace’ section on our website where we’ve split the report into sections for employers, employees and supportive resources.

Follow us on social media. We’re also running a #MenopauseMonth social media campaign throughout October as part of WHO’s World Menopause Month. Please follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and share the menopause posts.

For further information, please email our Policy and Influencing Officer; [email protected]