5 highlights from Labour Students’ first ever liberation conference

12th February, 2018 3:00 pm

This weekend Labour Students hosted its first ever liberation conference, an opportunity to come together and discuss how we can make our movement more diverse, inclusive and representative.

As well as caucuses and the election of new liberation officers, we had the opportunity to hear from lots of speakers. Here are five things I will definitely be taking away from the conference.

1. Ruth Smeeth

As our first keynote speaker, Ruth set an empowering tone that carried throughout the conference. She highlighted the importance of working together and not excluding people because of internal political divides – an appropriate message for the start of a weekend focused on liberation. Ruth also spoke about how vital supporting each other is if we are to ensure a sustained improvement in the involvement of groups who are often disenfranchised, especially in politics. Not pulling the ladder up behind you and making it easier for the next generation is key.

2. LGBT women in politics

The LGBT+ umbrella encompasses many different identities, so it was interesting to hear the range of experiences that the women on this panel shared. The conversation around transphobia and biphobia in the party particularly stood out – the key message being that pitting liberation groups against each other is contrary to everything we want to achieve. Solidarity and respecting experiences that may not be the same as yours is crucial if the Labour Party is to put liberation first.

3. #LabourToo

As Labour Party members, we often assume that the battle against misogyny does not apply to us as liberal left-wing activists who would never engage in such behaviour. This dangerous narrative means that when issues arise, it’s difficult to report and challenge them. That’s why the session on the #LabourToo movement was pertinent. The importance of an independent reporting agency was mentioned by all the speakers and I’m glad the party is now working with Rape Crisis to make sure that this happens.

4. Campaigning

Student-led campaigns are vital for enacting change on our campuses, so having a session dedicated to this was a good idea on the part of the organisers. One of the things we discussed that particularly resonated with me was the value of campaigns to support student workers. Whether it is fighting for the living wage or encouraging unionisation, having these conversations on campus is essential to stopping exploitation. In light of this, I would definitely like to campaign on giving all student union workers free union membership, something that is already being trialled by GMB at the University of East Anglia.

5. Caucuses

The liberation caucuses and election of new officers was one of the most important parts of the weekend and I learnt a great deal from these, as well as from the ambassador talks – when someone who defined as part of the caucus spoke about their experiences to those who didn’t.

One factor that was echoed in the caucuses was putting liberation above politics and supporting each other regardless of political disagreements. The inclusive atmosphere was incredibly empowering and I’m so glad that there is this space within Labour Students. Another key message that I took away was the power of intersectionality and understanding that even within liberation groups, experiences are not homogenous.

I’m so excited to have been elected as the new BAME officer and I can’t wait to continue some of the amazing work that has been done over the past year.

The first liberation conference was an overwhelming success. Fighting against marginalisation and discrimination is fundamental to Labour Party values and should always come above politics – this was definitely reflected this weekend and I hope will continue to be the case.

Rania Ramli is BAME Officer at Labour Students and a student at LSE.

@RaniaRamli

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