WATCH 'It's a badge of shame' - Clive Lewis speaks at women's pensions protest in Norwich city centre
PUBLISHED: 14:35 07 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:40 09 September 2019
"They've stolen our lives."
These were the words of one Norfolk woman, as campaigners fighting against changes to the female state pension age gathered in Norwich city centre today (Saturday, September 7) to highlight the plight of the 45,000 women affected in Norfolk.
Women born in the 1950s have been affected by sweeping reforms to the age they can collect their government pension, with the limit being increased to 62, and then 66, to be brought in line with men.
But many of the women say they were never told of the change, leaving them with no time to plan their finances, forcing them to rely on partners and friends, or to keep working in the face of ill-health.
And members of the Norfolk Broads PAIN pensions group staged the protest, in support with the Great Pensions Robbery Rally, taking place in MediaCity, Salford, today, for members who could not travel to Manchester for the demonstration, with a Zumba flashmob, chants and a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone drawing crowds outside the council building.
The group also held a minute's silence and blew bubbles into the sky to remember those women who have died before receiving their pensions.
"We're still fighting for equality which we've never had," said 61-year-old Joy Scott, from Great Yarmouth.
Mrs Scott, who worked for more than 40 years, including 20 years in education as a pupil assessment officer, added: "We're fighting for our pensions which we should have.
"We're sick of being worked into the ground.
"We made 45 years of contributions with the promise of a pension at 60."
Mrs Scott led the chants at the protest, which began on the steps of City Hall at 10.30am, and saw speakers including Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis, television personality Helen McDermott, and Labour county councillor Mike Smith-Clare, speak out in support of the cause.
READ MORE: 'We will not be silenced' - Norfolk women 'cheated' out of state pensions set to stage Norwich protest
Dawn Medley, a 62-year-old bar worker in a Norwich hotel, said she was angry about the effect the change had had on her life.
"I had Christmas off for the first time in 12 years," she said.
"I just want to be with my children and grandchildren.
"They've stolen our lives.
"CVs from 62, 63, 64-year-old women just go straight into the bin."
And Jane Connor, 65, from Fakenham, said: "I got my pension in July and that was five and a half years late.
"The government think that once we've all got our pensions we'll forget about all the other women underneath us - but we're obviously not going to.
"We're going to carry on fighting for this and for everyone affected.
"I think they seriously misjudged that.
"They thought we'd get fed up and go away, or we'd get our pensions and go away, or we'd die off because of ill-health and overwork.
"But that's not happening."
READ MORE: 'People won't have a retirement' - campaigner slams proposed increase in state pension age
Speaking after the demonstration, Mr Lewis said: "The stories are heartbreaking.
"These are women who have few savings.
"We know how society works and these are some of the most vulnerable.
"This government is refusing to pay up and fix this mistake."
Mr Lewis added: "A Labour government would extend pension credit to these women.
"The bottom line is this is our mothers, our grandmothers, our aunts.
"It's a badge of shame."
And organiser and PAIN co-founder Lynn Nicholls said: "It's gone really well today.
"We're really pleased with the numbers of people of turned out and the support we've had."
'It's been a struggle' - Norfolk woman's shares impact of pension loss following heart attack
One woman who attending the rally shared the impact not getting her state pension at the age of 60 had had on her life.
Trish Chapman, 65, from Fakenham, said: "I had a really severe heart attack aged 61 and I've had to continue working.
"I'm now on my own and I rent so any income is my responsibilty.
"I've had to cut down my hours.
"It's been a struggle.
"The local supermarket give their vegetables to the community where I live so being able to make soup from really cheap vegetables has been a godsend."
And she added: "It's the fact that several governments have lied to us.
"I have never, ever received any letters telling me the age had gone up.
"The government will be very interested in 3.81 million of us 1950s women that are going to be voting in the next election.
"They will be interested in us then."