International Women's Day is a growing tradition
PUBLISHED: 09:56 24 April 2014 | UPDATED: 09:56 24 April 2014
Saturday March 8 was International Women's Day, which has been observed since the 1900s but has recently taken on a new guise as a celebration of all women have and continue to achieve. This year, Sarah Windrum helped organise one of 422 events in the UK at the Sydni Centre in Leamington Spa.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was Inspiring Change, and greeting women as they entered the Sydni Centre was a display of coloured paper butterflies on which you could write the one thing you wanted to change for women. Next to this was a Wall of Inspiration full of wonderful quotes community artist Sybil Roberson had found and printed. The butterfly theme continued with quotes like “Your time as a caterpillar has expired. Your wings are ready.” But it also included great advice like “On a bad day, there is always lipstick.”
Carrying on through the centre you came to the main hall where local female entrepreneurs had set up stalls from Stacey Calder who runs her own Forever Living business (www.thelifestylegroup.org.uk) to Caterpillar Corner Crafts who specialise in craft activities for children’s parties (www.caterpillarcorner.co.uk). There were also information stands from Citizens Advice Bureau, WREP, BounceBack, and New Ideas Advocacy as well as the Leamington based charity Cord UK that do incredible work across the world particularly with female refugees in Chad, as we heard about later in the day.
After a delicious lunch with dishes from across the globe, the events kicked off with a wonderful performance from Low Wimmen, headed up by Cathie Zara, who are a local a cappella choir. Gloria Godfrey, a member of Low Wimmen herself, then facilitated the international side of our live link up with Rwanda which still gives me goose bumps writing about it nearly a month later. It was a technical challenge using Skype whilst relying only on Gloria’s USB dongle and the 2G signal it could pick up in Rwanda, but the power of the Rwandan women and the energy of their dancing and singing really jumped off the screen and into the room. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life and the poor photos I have taken do not do any justice to the strength of those women. It was so powerful, it took on a force of its own that you felt you could reach out and touch. Gloria’s work in Rwanda focuses on challenging perceptions, particularly around gender inequality, and we then showed a film she had made of a project where women with various physical disabilities staged a fashion show. The women we then conversed with for nearly an hour had come together after struggling with mental illnesses in order to form a support group for each other and to rebuild their lives by learning crafts such as basket weaving and bead-making as a trade as well as a form of therapy.
Although a tough act to follow, some very talented young female musicians then gave a series of performances mentored by the amazing Shanade Morrow (www.shanade.com). My 2-year-old daughter Keva was so entranced by one performer that, when they ended a song to rapturous applause, she screamed out ‘Sing again! Sing again!’ which is as good an endorsement as you can get from a toddler! Rebecca Knight then led a singing workshop and Caroline Dolan gave an excellent presentation on the work of Cord UK, particularly with Sudanese refugees in Chad where something as simple as foil and cardboard can keep girls in school and prevent women from being attacked. Caroline’s presentation really brought home the situation for these families and, inspired to do my little bit, I have taken the Spend a Penny challenge for Lent and plan to run as part of their 10k team later on in the year. For more information on all their great work please visit www.cord.org.uk.
The final topic of discussion for the day was led by Ruth Waring FCILT who runs her own logistics consultancy in Leamington and began her career in the haulage industry over 25 years ago. She spoke about the challenges she has overcome in a male-dominated industry and her advice for women entering non-traditional sectors, as well as those wanting to start their own business.
So the day encompassed every form of woman, from entrepreneur to trail blazer, from nurturer to campaigner, and this was all embodied in the art project community artist Sybil Roberson created with the help of her volunteers. An image of the Hindu Goddess Kali with her many arms, this wonderwoman held a mobile phone, a spanner, a rolling pin, a computer, a torch; along with her other symbols. If you would like to see it, please head down to the Sydni Centre in Leamington and don’t forget to come and see us on International Women’s Day next year!