Swindon Central Library and the Artsite gallery were buzzing with visitors attending Swindon’s International Women’s Day events on Saturday 8 March designed to inspire respect, empowerment and creativity, writes Rhona Jack.
Activities included crafts, henna hand painting, make-overs, seminars on journal-writing, a businesswomen’s panel and discussion, and a great deal of networking and sharing of experiences.
Amnesty International and Women’s Aid had displays while a stand selling crafts raised awareness of The Friends of Angel’s Orphanage in Nepal. Their most successful project teaches women to farm herbs for medicine, which raises families out of abject poverty so they can afford to send children to school.
Pictured, above, event organiser Rosa Matheson with Swindon women and men supporting International Women Day. Below, men wearing the Respect Not Violence t-shirt with Mandy Thomas, centre.
All photos this page by Richard Wintle of Calyx
To mark the RESPECT NOT VIOLENCE: MEN’S VOICES campaign, over 100 people gathered outside the Library for the launch of balloons where the purple ones represented one in four women affected by domestic abuse.
Singers, Asian dancers and women from the town’s Zambian Community added colour, joy, wonderful music and drumming. Many men wore T shirts with the message: “I say NO to violence against Women”.
Domestic abuse affects twice as many women as men and covers emotional blackmail, financial, mental and physical abuse as well as coercive control where victims are increasingly isolated from family and friends.
Olywn Kelly, manager of Swindon Women’s Aid with Kangwa Faith Sinaunbenuu, Elizabeth Sikzawe, Gloria Zimga
Conservative MP Robert Buckland said: “Today’s positive message is that we need to celebrate the contribution of women in all our lives. We also need to let abuse victims know they are not alone, there is a network of support and they will be believed.
“The RESPECT agenda allows men to send a message to other men that this is not acceptable behaviour. It’s not good for individuals and it’s not good for society! I’m delighted to support this event.”
Director of IT company Excalibur James Phipps, right with Swindon Robins manager Alun Rossiter, commented: “I think it’s the responsibility of all men to show solidarity with women, whether they are businessmen, politicians, or speedway riders. Men need to stand together to shame other men. I wore this T shirt to the gym today and people just stared. More needs to be done. It’s good to celebrate our unity over this cause.
Swindon X-Factor singer Jahméne Douglas’s mum, Mandy Thomas gave a short, very moving speech. In 2003 hers was one of the worst seven cases of domestic violence in the country and her injuries still cause excruciating pain. In court the judge imposed the maximum sentence of 15 years but Mandy’s ex-husband was released after just six.
Her heartfelt cry was “Make sentencing make sense”.
She wants the authorities to listen more closely to victims’ fears so there will be fewer mistakes and fatalities. She was delighted the event brought so many nations together and was impressed so many men were prepared to take a stand by wearing T shirts.
Right, Swindon Town Football in the Community staff Beth Thompson and Chyna Collings with ladies of the town’s Zambian community
ARTSITE held an exhibition and the evening party with performances from several international dance and drama groups. All proceeds from the event are being donated to Swindon Women’s Aid.
Below, Swindon College media make-up students gave demonstrations at Artsite. Pictured: Phoebe Street and Tessa Disney who were made up by Emily Cutts and Lisa Murphy