Barack Obama addressing an audience

“Barack Obama just mentioned me in his speech!”

Becca Bunce is a disabled activist who set up IC Change, which campaigns to end violence against women. Here she talks to Scope about the importance of campaigning, and what it meant for her and her colleagues to be recognised by President Obama for bringing attention to this important issue.

Campaigning for social change can be a lonely pursuit. Little recognition is given for the days, months and years spent in planning strategies and tactics, attending meetings, finding allies and persuading your opponents to come over to your side.

So, imagine how it feels getting name-checked by the President of the United States?  This is exactly what happened to Becca Bunce a disabled activist who founded IC Change, a grassroots campaign group calling on the UK Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women.

Paying it forward

At a town hall meeting in London on April 23, the US President Barack Obama told 500 young people to “reject pessimism, cynicism and know that progress is possible”. He praised Becca Bunce for her work and for ‘paying it forward’ and offering support to abused women around the world through the work of IC Change.

If the UK Government brings the Istanbul Convention into law, they will have to take all necessary steps it sets out to prevent violence, protect women experiencing violence and prosecute perpetrators.

Becca is someone I have known since she became a recipient of a scholarship previously funded by Scope to give a disabled campaigner the opportunity to take part in  Campaign Bootcamp.

Disabled people must be represented across all campaigns

“Scope kindly gave me the opportunity to learn exciting and valuable campaigning skills – and now I’m campaigning with IC Change to help create a society where women and girls can live free from violence and the fear of violence. Disabled women are two to five times more likely to experience violence than non-disabled women, but often their voices are lost in mainstream women’s rights campaigns. Disabled people must be represented across all campaigns, just as disabled people are represented across all of society.”

“Nothing prepares you for the President of the  United States mentioning your name.  It feels wrong that I’m being held up as an example when I’m working no harder than anyone else on these issues. I don’t like being in the spotlight – it’s the issues – not me which are important, but if it gets people to sign the petition and prompts others to support the work of IC Change then it will have been worth it.”

Making the changes they want to see in the world

Becca has inspired other disabled people to get involved in campaigning for social change too.  Several successful applicants to Scope’s recently launched campaigning skills programme, Scope for Change, applied as a direct response to reading about how much Becca had benefited from learning the skills and tactics needed for successful campaigning. Now they are making the changes they want to see in the world. 

Too often disabled people are forgotten about in our communities and their achievements can go unnoticed.  Hopefully the recognition given by President Obama to the work of Becca Bunce and other young people will help in showing just what disabled people have to contribute if they are given the right support and opportunity to do so.