LWP is an umbrella community organisation that has been providing a range of advisory services and activities for women for nearly thirty five years. Over 150 women pass through the LWP each month, accessing services such as counselling, support for women who have experienced domestic violence, art and music workshops, health services, BAME groups and mentoring. LWP work in a targeted way with young women, delivering council commissioned services, enabling them to learn new skills, build their confidence and learn about women’s health and staying safe.
The threat of eviction represents an attack on some of the most vulnerable and unheard voices in our society.
LWP formed in 1977 and moved into 166a Stockwell Road in 1979. For the vast majority of this time they have had sole use of the building. In 2010, Lambeth Council transferred the management of the lease for 166a to Stockwell Primary School whose main site is 166 Stockwell Road, directly next door to LWP. Under this change, a five year lease was granted to LWP and the two organisations began sharing the building.
Although the cohabitation of 166a Stockwell Road was agreed mutually, since 2010, LWP have been made to feel increasingly unwanted by Stockwell Primary School. This has taken shape in a number of ways. Through removing the 166a number sign, alongside the LWP sign, Stockwell Primary School have made it difficult for visitors to find the LWP building. Though the lease agreement states that LWP would have access to the building from the front door, the school have added a new lock to the front and despite repeated requests, LWP have not been given a key. The code to the keypad on the back entrance of 166a was also changed without informing LWP. Effectively, this means LWP are locked out of their home of over thirty years unless they request access via the school. This behaviour has finally culminated in a letter threatening eviction on 15 June.
Clearly the school, with the support of Lambeth Council, want sole access to 166a. There is a shortage of primary schools in Lambeth and it was announced last year that by 2015, the borough would need 800 extra places. However, evicting a vital service that positively impacts on the lives of girls and women in the borough is not the answer to this crisis. Women’s services have been particularly vulnerable to the Coalition’s austerity measures with a 2011 Women’s Aid report finding that over half of the women’s refuges in the UK could face closure in the coming years.
This attack on frontline services for women further clarifies the coalition government’s austerity measures as disproportionately affecting women on top of the fact that almost two-thirds of public-sector workers are women. On the measure of the International Labour Organisation measure, women's unemployment in the UK stands at 1.13 million, the highest level for 25 years.
As the voices of women in the video that forms part of the Save LWP campaign announce, the eviction threat is ‘another way of crushing the spirit of women, young women especially’. Though the goal is for LWP to remain in the building, there is also surely a larger goal here to defend women’s services. Respect must be demanded for the vital, often unacknowledged work organisations such as LWP do in our communities.
For more information on how you can help save the Lambeth Women’s Project from eviction, please visit: http://savelambethwomensproject.wordpress.com/what-you-can-do-to-help