Women and Children First

On 15th April 1912, an Iceberg struck the Titanic on her maiden voyage. An ambitious, fated project, unsinkable they said. The tragedy is famous and so many lost their lives. Whether that tragedy was avoidable must have been discussed many times. The tragedy was the origin of the phrase, “Women and Children First!” As a result of this policy by far more women survived than men, and class was also a deciding factor.

With the centenary approaching, we see yet another sinking ship. It is an island just north of Europe. Desperately facing an iceberg, opportunists seek to make a killing before everyone heads for their life-boats. The family silver? Why not sell off the water, the energy of life, the health service – no doubt some off-shore financial centre, some haven where icebergs never go will take these off our hands – assets always come in handy in tax havens.

And so this island seeks to make cuts ..why pay the staff when the ship is sinking? Cuts to public sector workers is the easiest option! They can always ask for volunteers to step in. no matter they are unskilled and untrained.

Dave Prentis, UNISON’s General Secretary has said:

“We need urgent action to stop women being ground down by the Government’s devastating cuts. Two thirds of public sector workers are women, who are most likely to rely on these vital services.

“At the same time these women’s pensions are under a serious attack. Paying more, working longer, for less, when the average pension of a low paid woman council worker is just £2,800 a year – just enough to keep them off means tested benefits.

“Women are being hit hard by unemployment, the rising cost of living and cuts to benefits and services to young people.”


Cut, cut, cut. Women and children first? The Disabled? But no, Wasn’t there something about equality? This time it seems it is the women and children hit hardest. Public sector cuts hits women most as the public sector workforce is predominantly female. The group hardest hit are single mothers. The disabled and the dying are left to fend for themselves.

Child poverty set to rise for the highest in 20 years..

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group has said:

“Child poverty and the incomes and services women are able to access are intrinsically linked. The vast majority of child benefit is received by women, whether as the main carer in a couple, or a single parent. It is hugely unfair that such a large burden of the government’s cuts should be falling on the shoulders of women and children, and it would be profoundly wrong if these unfair cuts to child benefit became permanent.”


These cuts being made by the Liberal-Supported-Conservative-Coalition must be halted. The Health and Welfare reforms must be halted. Public sector jobs will not be replaced by private – we are hitting a recession. To grow out of recession , we need to invest, not cut! We need teachers, and doctors, and nurses, and welfare officers. We need social workers and road builders. We need waste collectors. We need plumbers and builders. We need people to develop green technologies, we need engineers, and scientists. However,  I suspect we could live without bankers, without advertising, without multinational companies.

We do not want to live in a society where there are not enough life boats like on the Titanic, we seek to build a Britain where there is hope for everyone.

The government would do well to listen to the The Fawcett Society. This organisation which is backed by about twenty charities, unions and academics has  put forward a series of proposals which is what it calls a Life-Raft for women’s equality.

The recommendations include:

  • restoration of support for childcare costs for low-income families to pre-April 2011 levels – this would help ensure paid employment makes financial sense for the many low income women who’ve found they are better off not working. See also: Bold Approach to Childcare (Think Left)
  • Ring fencing of funding for Sure Start children’s centres – this would further protect women’s access to employment and shore up the other vital benefits these centres offer thousands of families.
  • Stopping local authorities from treating violence against women services as a soft touch for cuts to ensure that some of the most vulnerable women in the UK have access to the support they need.

Anna BirdActing Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said:

“Women have not faced a greater threat to their financial security and rights in living memory. Decades of steady, albeit slow, progress on equality for women is being dismantled, as cuts to women’s jobs and the benefits and services they rely on turn back time on women’s equality.

“Women up and down the country are experiencing greater hardship; for those families affected the cuts to women’s jobs, services and benefits will represent a personal loss. But we must add to this the cost to wider society as women’s opportunities are scaled back. Fewer women working; a widening gap in pay between women and men; entrenchment of outdated gender roles at work and at home and women being forced into a position where they must increasingly rely on a main breadwinner or the state for financial subsidy – this is the picture that emerges when the many policies of economic austerity are stitched together.

“There are signs of hope that the government realises its economic strategy isn’t working for women, and we hope today’s speech signals a willingness to change course. Our report identifies a series of targeted and achievable policy measures that could be adopted by or at the 2012 budget, which together offer a life raft for women’s equality – and never has the need been so great.

“It represents the combined knowledge and expertise of more than 20 organisations and individuals across the charity, academic, voluntary and union sectors.

“Women’s rights are under unprecedented attack. But the government has the power to help stop the clock turning backwards.”

“We urge those who support our life raft to sign the petition on our website calling on government to adopt it in full, and join us on November the 19th for our national day of action in defence of women’s rights.” 

There is no hope in a world where it is every man for himself , one which lets women down, turns away from the disabled and vulnerable and lets children grow up in poverty. – look around – the ship is almost sunk.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/oct/11/children-poverty-institute-fiscal-studies 400000 children to fall into relative poverty by 2015

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-15242103 Uk seeing big rise in poverty Oct 2011

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23996620-warning-over-child-poverty-levels.do Evening Standard


Titanic : Disaster struck on April 15th 1912

“Women and Children First!” Policy of life-saving priorities with in sufficient lifeboats.

Statistics showing more women survived than men Titanic

A Bold Approach to Childcare (Think Left)

Poor Brum (Think Left) Poverty for women Then and Now.

Women as Voters and MPs (ThinkLeft) Women are unfairly represented.

Video: Children’s view of poverty Guardian “Poor Kids” June 2011

New Statesman Child Poverty set to soar under coalition

Woman and Poverty A study on Women and Poverty Women’s Budget Group

Unravelling equality The effect  of poverty on the women of Coventry

George Osborne and Benefits Cheat November 2011 – Guardian

The Fawcett Society on women in London

The full ‘Life Raft for Women’s Equality’ is available from Charlie.woodworth@fawcettsociety.org.uk  0207 253 2598

5 thoughts on “Women and Children First

  1. Good post.

    Did you also see the Barnardos report on how adults in the UK view children?


    A few years ago the OECD rated 30 countries on children’s well being:

    Click to access 43570328.pdf

    Again the UK poor in many areas.

    The outlook for our children is looking grim, and likely to get worse unless policies that affect women and children change for the better.


  2. Garry: Thanks very much for those references. The OECD data is very detailed, and alarming. I agree, the media does not help in presenting our children in a negative way. All they seem to be interested in is how children perform school league tables.


  3. Pingback: The Hand that Kicks the Cradle Rules the World | Think Left

  4. Pingback: Policies Labour must adopt to address Gender Inequality. | Think Left

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