After being incredibly slow to act on its controversial tampon tax, the UK government promised to use the money raised to fund the women’s sector. However, only two in 10 charities that have received funding are specialist women’s organisations.
Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid have received just less than £3m between them. Other groups funded included UK Community Foundations, the mental health charity Mind, Brook Young People, and two housing associations.
There were already suspicions that the government were sidelining women’s issues when it was revealed one of the charities that stood to benefit from the tax would be Life, a regressive anti-abortion charity. The organisation also opposed plans for the expansion of sex education in primary schools. At the time, Labour MP Stella Creasy said: “Our own money being used to fund our discrimination”.
It’s a disappointing result that money specifically taken from women’s pockets for an essential product won’t be used for women-focussed organisations who desperately need the boost.
Vivienne Hayes, the chief executive of the Women’s Resource Centre, a national umbrella group for the women’s sector, told The Guardian the government had overlooked the women’s sector because general charities don’t focus as heavily on “structural inequalities”.
“They know we are the ones that will critique them and hold them to account,” she said. “I think it’s not surprising that the women’s sector has been sidelined and the mainstream organisations that say ‘we work with women’ have been given the money.”
She also said that specialist women charities were suffering, so this would have been a good time to give some much-needed funds to experienced and well trained staff. “We are the experts. Even when the going gets tough, we’re still in there doing what we’re doing,” she added.