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Young Women in Bristol: Feminist Leadership in Practice

Written by Anya Viljoen

Empathy. Boundaries and Consent. Intersectionality and self-care. These were only some of the concepts that were discussed at the second Young Women’s Forum: Feminist Leadership in Practice. 

In response to the feedback after the first workshop, Bristol Women’s Voice team member Eilidh created a welcoming and safe space to discuss how feminist leadership could apply in the real world. 

Practical tools and thought-provoking activities 

The session focused on practical tools that could help young women enhance their feminist leadership skills.

The poignant activity on consent, which included saying ‘no’ when the women felt as if their partner had entered their personal space bubble, initiated a discussion on the importance of feminist leadership respecting boundaries, and nurturing an environment governed by consent. The young women expressed their thoughts on the difficulty of saying ‘no’ in society but left the activity feeling empowered with their ability to say no and create boundaries. 

The workshop discussed the difference between sympathy and empathy. We explored the importance of the latter in feminist leadership as the value cultivates respect and sisterhood amongst women. However, Eilidh insightfully acknowledged that it is also important to know when empathy becomes overwhelming’ – it is okay to protect yourself and walk away. 

In the spirit of self-care, we delved into the different ways the young women in the room look after themselves. Using the handout of the ‘feelings wheel’, we practiced ‘active listening’ (a skill employed in feminist leadership) and checked in with our own emotions whilst our partner listened and thoughtfully responded. This enabled the room to put the feminist leadership skill of transparent communication into practice and highlighted that feminist leadership aims to nurture healthy, supportive relationships amongst its participants. 

Final thoughts

The workshop concluded with writing a letter to your future self, gently reminding yourself of the skills developed in the session.

The letter coupled with the handouts on internalised misogyny and an intersectional reading list provided the young women with physical reminders of the skills explored in the session.

The session once again highlighted the importance of helping young women navigate being a feminist leader in society, providing them with the practical tools to grow in their feminism and leave the workshops feeling empowered and united. 

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