From left to right front row: Gabrielle Suff; Dr. Gloria Banner (VP and President elect of BFWG); Elsie Leadley (President NCW);
Back row: Lynn Everson (President of BPW); Ann Wiseall (BPW); Margaret Key (President of TG).
The 6-O Group of Women’s Organisations was founded in the early eighties as a result of chats between the presidents of major women’s organisations which all met as members of the now defunct WNC (Women’s National Commission).
The original group of 7 consisted of us (the BFWG); the National Council of Women (NCWGB); the Women’s Institute (NFWI); the Soroptimists (SIGBI); the BPW (Business and Professional Women), the Townswomen’s Guild (TG) and The Women’s Gas Federation. The latter organisation dropped out when the gas industry became privatised. The aim of the group was, and is, to discuss and cooperate on matters of mutual interest and concern and to exchange information about upcoming resolutions at our AGMs.
There are several issues where all 6 organisations are on common ground: Violence against women; FGM (female genital mutilation); getting more women into leadership roles in science, business and public life; plus our representation at the annual UN Committee on the Status of Women meeting held every year in New York and which 6-O members attend.
The most recent action we have all supported is an Equal Pay Day event at Manchester’s Media City organised by PBW which had the aims: to empower women to move on to company boards, to encourage women to take greater roles in public life, and to publicise gender friendly employers. All members of 6-O were invited.
Looking back, two burning topics from the 6-O’s history come to mind. The first was the insistence of prison authorities on keeping women prisoners in handcuffs when they were giving birth. A letter by BFWG on behalf of 500,000 women was sent to the authorities. The practice was dropped. It made it possible to pass an enabling resolution at one of our AGMs that allowed our officers to speak for BFWG on topical subjects. The second such topic was the police treatment of rape victims. This is still topical so many years later and has now been taken up by other organisations and campaigners such as Liberty.
Over the years 6-O has developed a strong link with the Government Equality Office (GEO as it is now called) which arranges for an annual meeting with the Minister for Women. The last of these meetings took place in January 2013 when Maria Miller, the Minister for Women, urged women to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses. She also asked us to campaign for more women in STEM (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
Our February 2014 6-O meeting was hosted by the Townswomen’s Guild and on the agenda was the link with the GEO and the Minister for Women which seems to have weakened during the year. No direct communication has been received from them. We consider this link important because our concerns are then heard at the heart of government.
The fact that the same issues and concerns crop up time and time again justifies the continuing existence of the 6-O group, although it is important to note that campaigning by conventional means has becoming harder since the group was established.