skud: (Default)
skud ([personal profile] skud) wrote2014-01-28 09:24 pm

Australian women's network blah blah

So I wrote this guest post for Hoyden About Town (Australian feminist group blog), talking about the Country Women's Association (analogous to Britain's W.I.), what I like/don't like about it, and starting a bit of brainstorming about what a similar women's org (i.e. mutual support, skill-sharing, community involvement, women's issues) might look like if we started from scratch now, rather than trying to work with a structure that's been around for 85 years and hasn't changed much in that time.

Quick thoughts:

- explicit policies around diversity and inclusiveness / avoiding religious language / etc
- easy to start a local group with minimal bureaucracy; lightweight processes to avoid meeting fatigue
- activities/interests/causes/projects developed by each local group
- strong online presence including useful central website and social media
- an online "toolkit" to help groups start, develop, run activities, and deal with common situations

Not sure if this will come to anything more than a thought experiment, though I know there are people who would be keen to join such an organisation if there was enough momentum and interest to get it going.

Anyway if this is of any interest to you, I set up a Loomio group (Loomio's a web app for consensus-based decision making, developed by some kiwis who were involved in #occupy) to discuss. If you're interested in joining in over there, click the "ask to join" button.

[personal profile] puzzlement 2014-01-28 12:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Commenting here rather than at Hoyden mostly because I haven't gathered my thoughts sufficiently to formally defend them as the commentariat there is more likely to require.

I wonder if examining the Australian Breastfeeding Association would be an instructive contrast in any way. Clearly there are major differences: the ABA is somewhat younger as an org (50 years this year), and it's focussed on one specific phase of life/skillset/interests. The age range of the members skews younger for obvious reasons, although not entirely pre-menopausal, because they have a formal training program for their group leaders/breastfeeding counsellors to make sure they offer accurate and useful information, and it takes ages to complete (200 contact hours or something, that's a lot for volunteer training, and you can't even enrol until you've already breastfed a child for six months), so quite a lot of the most active volunteers are at least actually parents of older children and sometimes parents of adult children.


While clearly they cannot and should not become what you are picturing, they're also a woman-founded and woman-centered organisation*, with a community-building mission and some activist visions and activities. It seems like much of their setup is more modern and welcoming in terms of informality/autonomy of local groups (up to a point, see above re the training needed to run one), and while I can critique more or less any technology setup in existence, both local groups and the higher level orgs are on social media and the national website is extensive. So it might be that the ABA or other community groups could give input into or serve as a case-study for such a project.

* I don't know about how the ABA deals with people who aren't women breastfeeding, or as primary carers in general. La Leche League has a bad history on that front but LLL is also, for example, less welcoming of working mothers than the ABA. If their materials are any guide, the ABA is at an invisibility stage; it has not occurred to them or they are yet to be convinced to adopt inclusive wording, but they are not opposed at a policy level.