Jane Hutt discusses women's aid



Jane Hutt talks about learning organisational skills such as accountability and governance through working for Women’s Aid.

What do you understand by the word ‘accountability’? Do you think it is important for an organisation to be accountable? Who should it be accountable to?

Are you a member of any groups or societies? Do you get involved with the organisation of them? What is that experience like?

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Why Women’s Aid should be a national organisation document © Women’s Aid



Women’s Aid provided a sort of opportunity of creating a whole funded network of organisations providing services and running campaigns and it was a huge opportunity for us to show that we could manage things. Accountability and governance soon came to be quite a challenge for us. I mean, we never knew what the words meant in those days, we wouldn’t have even thought of them. I mean the women’s movement has tried everything and has developed in different ways, but it’s moved on. Perhaps in terms of the contributions to organisational developments, there’s a lot more that could be done and hopefully, practically and academically people are looking at.

One question I had about it was why you think Women’s Aid and campaigns against domestic violence have been so successful, perhaps in contrast to some of the other campaigns?

I think it’s interesting, the most important report that got us moving in Wales was in 1975 there was a report on the select committee on violence against women and it came up with the recommendation there should be one family place per 10,000 of the population, I think. Once women started leaving abusive relationships and abusive men, they had to have somewhere to go. I mean, it required a practical response, children were involved. So I mean, I think all of that has meant that churches, magistrates, social policymakers, criminal justice system has – although it’s taken decades and even still it hasn’t dealt with the powerlessness of women in these situation – I think this has meant that it’s been a worthy area of social policy. I think it has been great that women have been in charge of it. I mean, the difficulties, and over the years I mean we had some real battles where some Women’s Aid groups started up where men were involved and all, you know, should they be involved or shouldn’t they be involved, and real battles with controlling men who wanted to try and control Women’s Aid groups. And I think there is a variation on a theme now about who runs refuges throughout the UK, not just in Wales, although Welsh Women’s Aid is pretty strong and clear at the moment.

And back to accountability and governance and hierarchies and mismanagement and power. The hardest things in the women’s movement, and that goes through all of the discussions we’ve had, has been the fact that women can oppress other women and have and have controlled and bullied and all of those other things, which has led to disintegration, and often that is because there wasn’t an understanding about, well, what does accountability mean. Yes, you can have a collective but you then need to have individual and collective accountabilities. If you’re a custodian of power and the resources then you have to be very clear about how you handle all of that. And I think that was very hard for the women’s movement. And in a way Women’s Aid has tested it out because it’s an area, it’s an arena where you’ve had money, you’ve had law, you’ve had power and now you’ve got to show you can deliver it.

Jane Hutt discusses women's aid
6 January 2012
Sound recording
Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project
© British Library
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