A group of women seeking support and representation within the Occupy Wall Street protests recently started a women’s caucus.
Women of Occupy Wall Street, or WOW, first met a week ago, to address the needs of the women protesters at Zuccotti Park. Practical worries like finding safe places to sleep and denouncing harassment are a priority. The group also hopes to better represent women in the working groups of Occupy Wall Street, and to advocate for women’s economic equality as part of the protests.
“The world is watching everything that’s happening here,” said Julia Shindel, 22, organizer and bartender. “It’s important that WOW brings together the women in Occupy Wall Street.”
WOW first’s meeting was held last Monday night, when five women convened under the red sculpture near the intersection of Broadway and Liberty streets. About 30 women attended the last meeting on Thursday, Oct. 13.
One of the group’s first accomplishments was creating a safe space for women to sleep. Though some protesters return to their homes in the evenings, many women camp out in the park overnight, and finding safe spaces to sleep can be an issue. According to the New York Post, a 27-year-old man was recently arrested for having groped several women protesters.
WOW member Sade Adona, 25, an unemployed dancer, has been at the park for two and a half weeks. Though she started sleeping and living at the park out of choice, it is temporarily her home.
“My job cut hours and my rent got raised,” Adona said. “It got to the point where it was like forget it. What was the point of trying?”
Nan Terrier, 18, a volunteer in the media, legal and kitchen working groups, sleeps in the women’s sleeping area. The area, marked with a cardboard “women’s sleeping area” sign, is just a 10 foot by 10 foot square of blue tarp near the edge of the park at Cedar Street.
“Women need to stick together,” Terrier said. “Everyone comes from a different background and not everyone feels safe around men.”
Though WOW is fairly new, Shindel hopes it will spread to other protests in other cities, like such as Occupy D.C., and even to other countries. While the group’s immediate concern was safety, the plan is to also find ways to increase the number of women, and women of color in particular, in the many other committees that have been started since the protest began.
“The movement is a work in progress,” said WOW member Olivia Chitayat, 23. “No community is perfect, but we’re actively addressing women’s issues here and [the other protesters] are receptive to it.”
“Historically, movements [like this] have been male dominated,” she said. “If we’re trying to create a new society, we need equality across the board. When you organize people who are oppressed, once you break that ingrained mindset, it’s much easier to achieve victory.”