NOWSA: 'Yes' to women's rights


By Joy McEntee

BRISBANE — More than 500 women from around the country met here July 13-15 for the seventh annual Network of Women Students of Australia (NOWSA) conference. This is the largest NOWSA ever, and twice the size of the last year's conference, held in Adelaide.

The theme of NOWSA 1993 was "Our Lives, Our Rights, Our Choices". The conference focused on the diversity of women's experience of politics, sex, violence and reproduction, as well as education. The speakers highlighted the multiple oppressions of racism, heterosexism and class barriers many women face in addition to sexism.

Among the speakers were indigenous women from Australia, East Timor and Guatemala, women activists from the Philippines and Indonesia and migrant women from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The plenary passed a series of resolutions of solidarity with international struggles, and resolved to network nationally for a series of campaigns over the coming year, including an education campaign and national campus coordination of Reclaim the Night.

NOWSA also injected energy into Brisbane politics: 70 women staged a kiss-in at a local physiotherapy clinic which had refused a woman treatment because she held another woman's hand in the waiting room. About 150 women protested against the Brisbane City Council's repression of free speech in the mall, and the demonstration turned into an impromptu Reclaim the Night march on the mall's police installation.

Most of all, NOWSA re-energised the 500 women who will take up struggles in their home towns with renewed vigour, as Zanny Begg said: "Women's rights are coming increasingly under attack: a sexist judiciary, cuts to women's services, decreasing access to education are all the reality for women today.

"Nowsa was a fantastic inspiration, for it

challenged women's inequality.

"No means No, but Yes also means Yes, and at NOWSA, we said Yes to women's rights."