The conversations started on Zoom. First four. Then six, then more. First women in Scotland, then also women from England and Netherlands. What data would be useful to each woman, their groups, and the movement? But the conversation went somewhere else.
The women had a strong emotional reaction to data. They reflected on how much of themselves they give away for free, for the benefit of others, just because they are beneficiaries of support. They feel used, controlled, powerless, angry.
At the beginning it was hard for them to see the value of data for themselves. Like non-governmental organisations, they start thinking about what funders might want, about data to prove they are worthy of further financial support.
One of them brought us back to the heart of the matter.
We need to be selfish, do not think about what others want. Think about you and your group. Think about what we can learn.
A few months in, the conversation has routinely shifted to women talking about data for them, not for others. The emotions are still there. They bubble up. The women began to think how to channel them in a healthy way. To acknowledge the experience of having been oppressed by the translation of accountability from relationships to data in the last three decades. To know that they need not be pawns on a board to be moved about by public systems. To take care that, in taking control, the women do not become the new oppressor.