the national council of women is in financial trouble. the troubles arise from loss of charitable status (leading to some rather large tax bills) and some unexpected expenses related to property maintenance. in order to deal with the problem, it appears that they will no longer have paid staff.
on the one hand, it's a sign of the times. so many non-governmental not-for-profit organisations are struggling or collapsing, and the often vital services they provide for a particular sector of the community. both funding from government and from non-governmental funding bodies is being cut. community services waikato has some excellent reports on the state of the sector.
whether this is a temporary solution for NCW as they deal with a cash-flow shortage, or whether this is more long-term, it's hard to tell. whatever the case, it's a huge backwards step. we need a strong organisation that is able to do the research and provide the policy advice on issues that impact the lives of women. we need a strong & organised voice, one that is able to continuously challenge prevailing attitudes, cultural norms & institutional practices.
aside from the issues arising from the loss of charitable status, the question has to be asked: is the work NCW has been doing of relevance to women in the community. i haven't heard them, in recent years, advocating for pay equity, against the 90-day right to sack, nor over so many other issues that affect women in the lower socio-economic sector of society. if they have been vigorously defending the rights and reputations of single mothers, who have been under pretty constant attack over the past 5 years, then i haven't heard about it. if they have been supporting the living wage as a way to raise the incomes of women, who tend to be the majority of low-paid workers, then i should see the name of the whole organisation & not just the auckland branch in the list of supporters (but thank you auckland branch for stepping up).
of course it can be a bit of a chicken & egg situation. without sufficient funding & resources, it's hard to provide the required level of advocacy. but even so, perhaps this is a time for the organisation to reassess its priorities, and to think about how it can connect with women so that women can feel that the organisation adequately represents them and has the courage to take on those in power.
i know it's difficult to that when you have to rely on volunteers. and i know how stretched people are these days, when there are so many organisations and individuals in need, so many causes worth supporting, and for so many women, just the struggle of managing their day-to-day responsibilities is enough to tire them out.
as a society, we still need NCW, and we need to be a strong & well-funded organisation that is able to have influence. the question is how to make that happen.