Back in November 2018 I attended an event to celebrate 100 years since women were able to vote and looked at some of the issues facing women in the past, the present and the future. As a Freedom Kit Bags Ambassador I went to spread the word of our charity, distribute newsletters, promote our ‘Day in the life of 100 women in Britain’ book and generally highlight the plight of period poverty and the perceived stigma of menstruation in Nepal.
But rewind a moment to the title.... ‘Women hold up half the sky’ an attention grabber from the start. Everyone woman I've spoken to and used that phrase, well, smiles! "Of course we do!" they say.
I was intrigued with the phrase, so of course, asked Mr Google about it. The main reference is that it was spoken by a man ( honestly!) and that man was Mao TseTung!! Yes, I was surprised too.
Back to the event. It was held in Faringdon Corn Hall and was a a collaboration between Faringdon Library, Faringdon Health Centre, Faringdon Community College, The Pumphouse Project and local businessess. It was organised by Liz Rothschild and ably assisted by the WI -ll looking magnificent in period costume! Various organisations (all women related of course) were represented with their own stall and I was fortunate to be positioned next to Swindon Soroptimists who are valued contributors to our cause. They were spreading the word about their campaign against Domestic Abuse and abusive relationships.
There was an abundance of feminist literature to browse, some dating back to the 70's and accounts of women of note, chosen and described by individuals involved in the event so a broad representation of women through time. Music played in the background, rousing tunes to summon the Suffragettes to arms, tales of adventures and meaningful words.
If I'm honest, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest our stall attracted. Quite often at events, people circle the area, not too close in case you get pulled in to a converstaion you can't escape from, but no, by and large the visitors were straight in and conversations were struck up from the start. I talked about our work in all areas, (I had great photos to show,) but in particular about the women’s projects helped by our book (and sold some!!!) and taking Freedom Kit Bags into communities. I explained we didn't just drop off the bags, we taught how they were to be used, well let's face it, if you've never worn a pair of knickers, would you know how to put them on! – and that we advised about menstrual hygeine, and most importantly, work to break the taboos strongly held in remote areas. I didn't see a single person glaze over, all were passionately interested. Newsletters were handed out and the ‘Kit Bags’ were handled and examined closely and well received, - especially that they were made by women, for women, in Nepal.
A lively, spontaneous discussion took place before me when a visitor commented she "could never see her daughter using such a method", another responded "why not, so much better for the environment!" Food for thought indeed. Incidentally, interested visitors were not all female!
Freedom Kit Bags was nominated as the charity to receive a generous donation from the proceeds of the day, wonderful news. Even better news is that Liz is exploring the idea of setting up an initiative for local young women to support our charity. Watch this space
Anne Fisher Trustee