This week, Bristol Women’s Voice met with Carly, the organiser of Bristol Women’s March to chat to her about her motivations behind organising a march in Bristol, and ideas about how to encourage action for women to take forward the enthusiasm, passion and drive that they gained from last week’s march.

Carly moved from London to Bristol only six months ago, after years of anxiety about feminism, that her voice doesn’t deserve to be heard and a lack of confidence. Her work in a professional capacity in the women’s fitness community around respecting your body and yourself bubbled away under the surface until Trump came along, and at this moment, she never felt so passionate about wanting to do something positive.

Carly had never organised a march before, so when she noticed four days before that her closest one was Cardiff, she thought that she would march in Bristol, and if she was the only one walking, so be it. She set up an event on social media that evening, and overnight, 200 people had registered. By the Friday morning, it was 600 and then by the Friday evening, 1144 sign ups. She had a bit of a panic, phoned 101 and then emailed attendees to let everyone know that she wanted the march to be happy and positive.

After a sleepless night, she got up at 6am, put on Missy Eliot and thought, well what would Missy do in this situation? Own it and enjoy it. So she did.

When Carly herself arrived on College Green and looked back to still see women on Queens Square, it felt quite emotional that her seemingly small decision four days ago to march herself in Bristol had garnered such an amazing response from women across the city.

Carly’s life changed dramatically over those four days – she had wonderful women across the city emailing her to offer help with supporting her on the march, as well as helping with press releases on the day. And whilst she has her own life and job to go back to, she feels inspired to help empower others to take further action, and is setting up a monthly meeting to provide women with the opportunity to find out about what is going on in Bristol, and take forward action about what is important to them. Can you make it?

WHEN: Wednesday 1st Feb, 6.30-8.30pm

WHERE: The Watershed Cafe Bar @ “The Link” area 

(up the stairs/lift and on the right as you go in. It’s fully accessible!)

Register: Take 10 seconds and click to register HERE.

In the meantime, we spoke about immediate ways women can take forward their action, passion and enthusiasm –

  1. Donate spare money to local women’s charities (like ourselvesSARSASMissing Link, Womankind, One25, Refugee Women of Bristol to name a few)
  2. Donate your time to local charities – many are always on the look out for additional pairs of hands, some will have specific voluntary programmes and many are looking for people to fundraising for them – particularly as women’s charities have felt the impact of the cuts and austerity over the last few years
  3. Donate old clothes and umbrellas to One25
  4. Support local female artists, women-run businesses etc.
  5. Start conversations with friends and/or colleagues about why you decided to march last week – by talking with people, you are creating new dialogues with people who may not have felt the same way!
  6. Let Bristol Women’s Voice know if you have an idea of how to create change – often we can help, facilitate or provide support.

Change starts with you, and you can make a difference.

By BWV Reporter Ana Crespo

By the end of 2014, women in the UK were earning a 17.5 per cent less than men, according to the OECD, which means that women earned 82p for every £1 earned by a man. Across Europe, a woman should work 59 days a year more than a man so as to earn the same wage. Nine years of the Global Gender Gap Report suggest we will have to wait 81 years for gender parity in the workplace. And yet, we women go to work every day without blocking the streets shouting for justice.

Sandi Toksvi, one of the newly born Women´s Equality Party founders, said a few weeks ago “Women are certainly not equal. How is it that we still have a pay gap? What is it, 45 years since the Equal Pay Act?” It was not even an issue mentioned during the general election campaign.

But before all this, before the Global Gender Gap Report existence, before Hillary Clinton´s speech in Beijing (“Women´s Rights are Human Rights”), before gender equality became the third Millennium Development Goal, before UNWomen was born, before data, numbers, promises, projections and pledges, way before, decades ago, exactly 39 years ago, in May 1976, women at the Trico factory in Brentford had already pretty clear ideas. Clearer, it seems, than nowadays. They were 400 production women and, one day, five males were moved, working alongside them, doing exactly the same work. Each man earned £6.50 more at the end of the week. And how did these women from the seventies react? Wrote a letter to the local newspaper? Talked to their MP? Initiated a campaign to raise awareness? No. They went on strike for 21 weeks and did not come back to work until they won.

“It inspired women everywhere”, stated Sally Groves, one of those women who played a key role, last year during an act organized by Bristol University as part of the AHRC Research Network, ‘Women, Work and Value in Europe, 1945-2015’ “We demonstrated what women and what workers can achieve if they stand”. None of them had ever being on strike before. She remembers how twelve men fought with them from the beginning.

Miriam Gluck, author of ‘Women on the line’ has a very clear understanding of how where things for women in the factories. This sociologist spent a year working in a motor parts factory. According to her, the jobs were strongly marked by gender: all the semi-skilled, minimum training, assembly, low pay ones were for women. In contrast, men had training, promotions, access to the career ladder and, of course, they were the supervisors. And this border was unbreakable. “Back then the feminism didn’t seem to involve workers”, she recalled at the same event. “They worked long hours, they were tired, it was difficult to get involved in social movements, in activism”, she added. But they were very aware of feminism: dispute, solidarity and collectivism were part of their daily lives.

During the Trico 21 weeks strike they had 24hours pickets while police was helping the company. Groves recognizes the huge financial support from the Trade Union (Labour) and also the backing from the women´s movement. The day of the final negotiations, when they achieved equal pay, they all marched into the factory under pouring rain. “If you stick together and fight for what you believe in, you can move mountains and multinationals, as we proved”, she concluded.

Stick together. “Alone we are weak, together we are strong”. These powerful words belong to Mila Navarra, from the campaign organization ‘Justice for Domestic Workers’. “I have difficulties of speech and no time to prepare but I thought if I spoke from the heart it would be ok”, and it was. It was more than ok. Sharing the panel with Groves and Gluck, her testimony moved the whole audience. Navarra started claiming that domestic workers are now more vulnerable due to a change in law: the “tied visa” regime which prevents overseas domestic workers from changing employers, a step back for women´s rights. She told how domestic workers “shifts” are 9.30am to midnight with no tasks, no times and no privacy. They face physical abuse and sexual harassment. They are hidden, isolated, invisible, voiceless, vulnerable.

“Domestic workers employers sometimes say they don´t pay them because they are part of the family”, she complained referring to the au pair system. “It is very difficult to win our cases and sometimes we don´t have choice but to remain silent or come back to our countries. If we are brave enough, go undocumented” And she demanded people to “treat us like any other workers. We are not slaves!”

Gluck pointed that back in the 20s-30s domestic workers going to factories were happy to leave because for them it meant liberation: “When they left the factory gates they had their own lives”, she explained.

Tireless Navarra indeed used her heart to speak: “I have physical problems but I think if I study and prepare myself I will be able to be a more empowered woman and help other women (…) I hope I will not always be a domestic worker although I am proud of it”

Through history, women have been used and exploited to keep the lowest wages, the lowest status. Groves, Gluck and Navarra teach us a priceless lesson: if you fight, you may well win. Let´s have the confidence to do it.

Screening of Free Angela Davis and all Political Prisoners directed by Shola Lynch at the Watershed. Presented with Hairpiece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People by Ayoka Chenzira as part of the Festival of Ideas 10th May

By BWV Reporter Emma Husband

I wandered down to the Watershed in the May rain and gloom to see Free Angela Davis and all Political Prisoners, and came out with far more than I bargained for.

The screening started with the brilliant short film Hairpiece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People by Ayoka Chenzira. Through animations and painfully insightful commentary, Chenzira brings to life what it’s like to be an African American woman living in a society that values hair that ‘blows in the wind’. Tracing the history of hair products and techniques used on black hair, this exuberant satire was a perfect complement and introduction to the Angela Davis documentary, where the image of Angela’s afro becomes a theme of steadfast, solid defiance against systematic racist and sexist oppression.

“This is change. This is earthshaking, I want to be there” was Angela’s conviction behind returning to America from Berlin in the late 60’s. Amidst a wave of police brutality against black people and continued, perpetual state racism, a new surge of resistance was happening with the Black Panthers and others.

With just one line from an activist, that the police were “there to contain us, to brutalise us, to murder us” it becomes clear that this documentary is not just recuperation of history or of one woman’s story, but an essential bearing to witness to the continued truth of that statement. Davis herself notes how black people are never allowed to be radical, only ‘militant’ and again these words span the decades, to the present situation regarding the characterisation of black protestors in America today.

Angela was never a member of the Black Panthers. She took issue with what she saw as their sexist approach to black power, where women took a back seat and kneeled at the feet of the men. This force of insight into the interconnected issues of racism and sexism was repeated numerous times throughout the film, most significantly when she addressed the court in her trial. With the threat of life imprisonment looming, and the characterisation of the trial in terms of deep-seated racism, Angela brazenly told the court that the prosecution’s argument was sexist and immediately fractured the rigid polarisation of black vs white.

The focus of the film is Angela’s 1971 trial for conspiracy, kidnapping and murder, after a plan by Jonathan Jackson to interrupt a Marin County trial ended in 4 people being killed and it was discovered that the guns used had been purchased by Angela. Although nowhere near the crime scene, she was immediately put on the FBI’s most wanted list and went on the run.

By splicing archival footage, photos, and newspaper reports with present day interviews and commentary from Angela Davis, her attorneys and supporters, even if you already know the outcome of the trial, you are made the live through the tension, fear and hope. Angela’s wisdom and wit drench the proceedings and serve to humanise her; when she initially faced three charges that each carried the death penalty, before it was outlawed in California, she says she realised “this wasn’t about me. I couldn’t be killed three times!” On a more serious note she perceives that indeed it wasn’t about her, but the “construction of an imaginary enemy” which she embodied.

When the film ended, the audience applauded the screen. There was a shared energy that came from witnessing this incredibly intelligent and powerful woman, along with her thousands of supporters, standing up and fighting against state injustices. Personally I was buoyed by seeing how the efforts of an individual can build and generate larger collective movements and walked away motivated to take this into my own life. It was still raining outside but the gloom had lifted.

Screening part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas