he day started at 10am when the stalls had been set up, and people were beginning to drift in. The stalls varied from domestic abuse support services and a campaign to challenge gender stereotypes, to women’s craft clubs and a local history project; all there to mark International Women’s Day at the Riverfront.
Launched over a hundred years ago in 1911, International Women’s Day has a different theme each year but always celebrates women’s achievements. This year #PressForProgress recognises the momentum that has been building in gender equality activism, with movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up bringing women’s issues to the forefront, and issues a call to action to men and women across the country to strive further towards gender parity.
Newport City Radio managed to speak to Sally Evans, Community Arts Development Officer at the Riverfront and the person responsible for organising the day’s events. She said that events such as these could reach lots of different people and provide the opportunity to learn from each other which, she said, “as women, I think [is] really important.”
The day had been in the planning since last October, and Sally described herself as a facilitator, to bring together the many organisations that had a hand in delivering the day’s events. Newport Live, SEWREC, Community House, Charter Housing and Family Skills are among the organisations that have been involved, and each has funded different elements of the day – for example, Charter Housing helped to provide some of the food and Newport Live provided the facility. The day has been a collaboration as much as anything else, with Sally saying that the organisations have also been able to provide links to the Newport community.
Talking about how International Women’s Day events have changed over the years, Nichola Davies, Centre & Community Development Manager at the SHARE Centre Newport and someone who has been involved with International Women’s Day for a number of years, said that, whereas it was initially individual women hosting events and trying to get it on the agenda, it now has full support from the local authorities. Sally added that this year was the first that efforts had reversed a little, with people getting in touch looking to get involved.
Nichola said the day itself has become more mainstream and described how, for some people, it no longer seems like this ‘other’, having seen the protests and marches in the wake of Donald Trump’s election to US President and other campaigns such as the aforementioned Time’s Up.
When asked about what changes she would like to see in the future, Sandra Fowler, who established Beachwood Stitchers, a monthly textiles craft club for women, around three years ago, pointed to equal pay and said that progress is “like having a baby, it takes time”.
Nichola, of the SHARE Centre, said that for her, “it’s the recognition that we still need progress. Unfortunately, a lot of people, men and women, girls and guys, they think that equality is there, and it’s not.” She added that she was also, “concerned that what good has been done, can equally be undone as well”, and that progress is not fixed.
If you were able to make it along, what did you think of the day’s activities? Was there a particular talk that stood out to you, or a display that piqued your interest? If you weren’t able to see the stalls, visit Newport City Radio again soon as you’ll be able to read about some of the individual stalls and how you can get involved with their activities.