By Community Reporter Laura Hiller & Photographer Mireya Gonzalez
On 7th November 2019, Bristol Women’s Voice held its 2019 Annual General Meeting at the Station on Silver Street. Throughout the evening, the past year’s achievements were reviewed, future plans were outlined and we were joined by some special guests.
Kicking off the evening was comedian (and former firefighter!) Cerys Nelmes, with an engaging and interactive stand-up routine. She encouraged attendees to get to know one another by sharing experiences and reflecting on topics including the menopause, relationships and online dating. We were also joined by Melissa Benn: writer, campaigner and daughter of politician Tony Benn. Melissa spoke passionately about the involvement of women in politics and public life, encouraging us to make use of our right to vote in the upcoming general election. She also highlighted the power that we have to make positive change as individuals, and how it important it is to “keep fighting to maintain progress. Don’t give up – you have to keep going!”
Next on the agenda was the Chair’s report, delivered by Penny Gane – Chair and one of the founders of Bristol Women’s Voice. She began her report by reminding us of BWV’s purpose as a “powerful voice for women, making women’s equality in Bristol a reality”. She provided an overview of many of the past year’s events, achievements and projects, including: Talking About Menopause; the Maternity Discrimination Project; the Women of Laurence Hill Project; Black Women 100; Women in Trade; Bristol Zero Tolerance; and of course, the fabulous International Women’s Day celebrations. Penny also thanked both current and outgoing staff members for all their hard work and contributions to women in Bristol, and welcomed new faces to the team.
One of these is BWV’s new director, Barbara Brown. She has a doctorate in gender, is a campaigner for racial and gender equality, and was described by Penny as a “force of nature, who is passionate about women’s rights”. Barbara delivered the financial report, summarising the income and funding received by BWV for their projects, and thanking these funding sources for making our work possible. I spoke to Barbara during the event about her thoughts on becoming the new Director, and she said “I’m really excited to be part of something that has the potential to change how women experience life in Bristol – there is loads of potential in Bristol to reduce inequalities where they are found. Over the next year, we are looking to venture into areas that we haven’t before – and are certainly planning to diversify”.
Last (but certainly not least) on the agenda was a short, round table task, delivered by the team on the new “City Listening” project, including Debra Newrick. The aim of the project is to amplify the voices of unheard women in the city, and will involve conducting interviews with 400 women in Bristol. To carry out this project, partnerships have been established with 14 local organisations and 10 community researchers will be involved. The project is being funded by the Government Equalities Office – Bristol was one of three locations to receive funding, with BWV as the only charity being commissioned to deliver the project. For the task, AGM attendees were asked to give their ideas on what needs to be improved for women in Bristol, and what can be done to achieve this. This was a really engaging way to have our say on how Bristol could be a better place for women to live in the future, and I’m really excited to see how the work of the City Listening project – and our BWV initiatives – unfolds over the next year.