Our First General Meeting took place on 26 June 2013 and was well attended by around 45 delegates, representing some of our member organisations and supporters of Women’s Breakout. The event began with a networking lunch which people found very helpful. There were a number of speakers including Baroness Corston and writer and broadcaster Beatrix Campbell and also a short performance by the Clean Break theatre company.
The meeting was chaired by Kate Aldous, the previous Chair of the Trustees Board. She welcomed all to the meeting and briefly spoke about the work of Women’s Breakout and our member organisations. She thanked Jackie Russell for all her hard work and the admin staff of Women’s Breakout. She also thanked Stella Vickers for Chairing the Executive Board. She went on to introduce Baroness Corston.
Baroness Corston spoke about the tough times that we are living in. She told us about a meeting that she had had with Vicky Price who had been shocked about the women who she had met in prison who should not be there. Baroness Corston encouraged women’s centres in the invaluable work they are doing and she congratulated Women’s Breakout on the progress that had been made so far.
Peter Kilgarriff of the Corston Independent Funders Coalition (CIFC) spoke next. He spoke about the journey of the CIFC and the formation of Women’s Breakout. Peter also talked about where we are now in relation to the MoJ forgetting most of the key messages that were put forward in the Corston report. He reminded us that there will always be a need for women’s centres, but in order for us to survive we need to all work together and tell the government what we want to see happen.
Jackie Russell spoke next. She welcomed everyone to the meeting. She reminded us that we are going to be on this journey a long time and that there is no quick fix, but that Women’s Breakout gives a vehicle for our common agenda as long as our member organisations join us in this. Jackie went on to say that before the Corston report there were women’s centres working holistically with vulnerable women. But that the report called for a larger voice and the report helped to define Women’s Breakout. Jackie spoke about the strategies and key messages of Women’s Breakout and the improvement over time of our processes and communication. She encouraged members to let us know what they are doing, so that we can communicate this on to others. Jackie spoke about our latest project ‘Experts by Experience’.
Jackie then spoke about things that Women’s Breakout had done in the past; a conference, responding to strategic consultations with input from members, representing on the government Advisory Board. Jackie spoke about the alliances that Women’s Breakout has with different people and organisations as we cannot do the work on our own.
Jackie went on to talk about what is happening with Women’s Breakout today as it has now become a company and charity. She thanked the old trustees and mentioned that new trustees would be announced later on in the meeting. She informed us that we now have 47 members. Jackie also spoke about the results of the recent annual survey.
Lastly Jackie spoke about where Women’s Breakout is going next, with our focus being more on health, safeguarding and PCC’s. Jackie commented that the need for gaining data and evidence remains a challenge to Women’s Breakout and so it is therefore imperative that our members communicate with us and share their news, case studies and data.
The final speaker was Beatrix Campbell, writer, feminist, broadcaster and social commentator. She spoke about the strugglers of women for fair treatment, which even though a policy for this was published 20 years ago the situation is getting no better. She mentioned that women in prison need to feel that life is fair and predictable, but they just don’t see this. She stated that the thing that will make a difference is if women’s centres call the government to account in relation to policies that affect women and demand evidence that things are changing. She suggested that we pester out MP’s to get answers.
There was then a time for questions followed by a short performance of Hours til Midnight, written by Sonya Hale, a graduate of Clean Break’s writing programme. Hours til Midnight was performed by Clean Break graduates Sarah Cowan, Cydney Denton and Jennifer Joseph.
The business section of the meeting was chaired by Kate Aldous and she confirmed the seven new trustees.
Credit – Tracey Gibbs Photography