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Hastings Women Rising © Sharon Haward 2013

Why International Women’s Day?

Surely every day is women’s day? Xaverine Bates looks at why IWD is celebrated around the world on 8th March & explains the host of exciting local events planned in March this year.

Every day is indeed women’s day. And men’s day. And children’s day. And LGBTQ day. However, in a similar way that Black History Month highlights issues surrounding and achievements by people of colour, which may otherwise not be celebrated in mainstream discourse; IWD serves to highlight issues which pertain solely to women and girls, which are frequently brushed under the carpet. Across the world, we are more aware than ever of the issues affecting women and girls thanks to the power of the internet & social media. Female genital mutilation, honour killings, child sex trafficking, rape as a tool of war, as well as high-profile cases which have brought these issues to the forefront of everyday dialogue: the horrific gang-rape of Jyoti Singh in Delhi, the gang-rape of a young woman in Steubenville in Ohio, the gang-rape and murder of 17-year old Anene Booysen in South Africa – and these are just the cases that reach the media. One in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, according to UN statisticsV-Day was created 15 years ago by playwright & activist Eve Ensler to draw attention to this very fact.

One Billion Rising

One Billion Rising. Image from onebillionrising.org

14th February this year saw the colossal response to Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign – women across the globe came to together & danced in the street to demand an end to violence against women and girls. Hastings Women’s Voice & riart Grrrls coordinated our very own flashmob in Hastings Town Centre and over 100 women, children and men came together to join in the global action. Cynics wonder how dancing in the street can possibly make any difference. Why not do something practical, like raising funds for a good cause that really helps women & girls? Well, we’re doing that too, as you’ll see later in this article. However, dancing in itself is a cathartic act, an energiser, which brings people together from all walks of life, moving to the same rhythms. As a result of OBR, riart Grrrls are looking to harness the creative energy unleashed by the action and are planning practical workshops to take to local schools covering sex & relationship education through creative media such as art, dance, drama and music, amongst other exciting projects.

Hastings Women Rising © Pat Garrett 2013

This will be well supported by local MPs, as on V-day: 14th February in London, Stella Creasy & Hastings MP Amber Rudd spearheaded a campaign to bring Sex & Relationship Education (SRE) to the forefront of political dialogue and took the debate to Parliament to coincide with One Billion Rising. Fiona McTaggart led the discussion, pointing to the weak link between domestic violence and education. She highlighted NSPCC research, which shows that 1/3 of girls aged between 13 & 17 in the UK have experienced physical or sexual violence and 12% had experienced rape. Issues of sexting, honour killings and genital mutilation, all of which happen in the UK, were also raised. Incredibly, the motion was passed without a vote, to which Stella Creasy tweeted her dissatisfaction. This crucial work is just beginning.

As well as the One Billion Rising campaign, there are a host of exciting events planned as part of local celebrations for International Women’s Day:

03.03.13: Walk this way: RUNWAY artists without studios: walk from Hastings to Rye in aid of Refuge. All are welcome to join this artists’ event created to celebrate International Women’s Day and raise funds for Refuge. We will be stopping along the way to take photographs, which may be shown at Domestic Disturbance, and read historical & biographical excerpts about significant women from the local area. This is a sponsored event & the money raised will be donated to our local Refuge to help our women and children. Sponsorship forms can be downloaded here.

08.03.13: Hastings Women’s Voice March & celebrations, White Rock Hotel, Hastings. Join Hastings Women’s Voice March to celebrate International Women’s Day: gather at Warrior Square at 11am to leave for 11.30am and on to the White Rock for celebrations!

08.03.13: Domestic Disturbance

Domestic Disturbance @ The School Creative Centre

To celebrate International Women’s Day,  The School Creative Centre has teamed up with riart Grrrls and Rye Art Gallery to present Domestic Disturbance, an evening of interventions, live music, comedy, story-telling, cabaret and workshops. Running from 6-11pm on Friday 8 March, the evening provides local women with the opportunity to share and celebrate their creativity at the same time as raising funds for Refuge.

The evening opens at 6pm with a multimedia exhibition showcasing work from more than 30 local and international artists, all responding to the theme of Domestic Disturbance. Many of the pieces have been specially created for the event and will be available for sale on the night. Guests can create a unique print as part of Jenny Edbrooke’s body-painting workshop and experience the intimate telling of traditional stories with Hillary Watkins. The evening also includes live art by Xaverine Bates & Miranda Sharp. Rye’s Guerilla Knitters also bring their yarn bombing activities into the theatre, offering the chance for anyone to have a go and knit and knatter!

© Bryony Kimmings 'Sex Idiot'

The evening’s entertainment continues with hosts  Jenny Edbrooke & poet Kate Tym featuring comedy duo Croft & Pearce (‘sketch comedy at its best’ Alastair McGowan****), singer Rachel Cuming (‘a voice full and rich, simultaneously ethereal and swooning’) naïve pop songwriter GardyLoo SPeW, cabaret artist Bryony Kimmings (an unabashedly wacky sweetheart’ Guardian ****) & DJ Jane Marriner. Esther Sam has created a delicious menu for the night with a focus on local, seasonal produce, and there will be a licensed bar. Tickets: £10 (with profits going to Refuge) are available from The School Creative Centre, Martello Bookshop Rye and Knit Connections, Hastings.

'What your skirt length says about you.' Media Watch: Challenge Media

09.03.13: Hastings Slut Cycle: riart Grrrls & From Pier to Eternity present Hastings Slut Cycle for IWD. Inspired by the SlutWalk movement, in which women protest against victim-blaming for rape: the idea that if a woman is raped, she was somehow asking for it according to how she was dressed. The title was inspired as a backlash to a Toronto Police officer’s comments that, in order to remain safe, “women should avoid dressing like sluts.” Bring wheels, bring heels, bring lights! Dress code: slutty & proud! Say no to sexual intimidation in Hastings.

14.03.13: Divine Women free screening: Episode 1 @ Friend’s Meeting House, South Terrrace, Hastings at 7.30pm as part of Quaker Outreach: contact Roz for more information. The series consists of three one-hour BBC Two/Open University programmes shown last year on TV written and presented by historian Bettany Hughes, who “reveals the hidden history of women in religion, from dominatrix goddesses to feisty political operators and warrior empresses.” Episode 1: When god was a girl: “Bettany Hughes uncovers evidence women were present at the birth of religion and encounters fearsome goddesses who controlled life and death.”

21.03.13: Divine Women screening: Episodes 2&3 @ Friend’s Meeting House. Episode 2: Handmaids of the gods:”The lost era of the priestess and Lesbos, home of the poet Sappho.” Episode 3: War of the words: “Bettany Hughes discovers how the period known as the Dark Ages was in fact a golden age for a few remarkable women.”

There are many other exciting events & projects in the riart Grrrls cooking pot, including plans for a series of creative workshops covering sex & relationship education in local schools; a female author series; Ladyfest for IWD 2014 and much, much more. Join the conversation on Facebook!

Finally, for the sake of balanced journalism and for any men feeling excluded by articles covering issues such as these, there is an International Men’s Day too on November 19th – maybe we need to lead the way in the struggle for gender equality to celebrate positive male role models in Hastings too!

Posted 19:22 Sunday, Feb 17, 2013 In: Campaigns


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