This year sees the long-awaited centenary of women’s partial suffrage: 100 years since the Representation of the People Act gave the vote to some, not all, British women. The anniversary – marked by the unveiling of Parliament Square’s first ever statue of a woman, suffragist Millicent Fawcett – called for a moment of retrospect.
This weekend, events initiative Artichoke Trust will encourage extended solidarity through PROCESSIONS - a peaceful walk that will work to promote collective activism. The day (10th June), will see women and girls in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London come together, dressed in green, white or violet, the colours of the suffragette movement, to celebrate change, and push for more.
In 2018, we can appreciate how far women’s rights have progressed through historical moments like PROCESSIONS. However, we must also use opportunities like this, to consider how to eradicate partiality for good. Below, we look at the women fighting for a type of change that is broad, inclusive and accepting of all voices – particularly those that have been marginalized throughout history.
On discovering that one in ten British girls are unable to afford sanitary products, and nearly half are embarrassed by their periods, Amika George initiated the #FreePeriods movement.
Speaking to us earlier this year, Amika shared her long term plans: “to provide menstrual products to all children in the UK”. She was also very clear on her immediate concerns: “No child should be missing school because they bleed and can not afford pads or tampons,’ explains Amika. Through a series of peaceful protests, panel talks and letters to the Government, Amika is working to ensure all girls who qualify for free school dinners are given the sanitary products they need, but can not afford.
Last summer, Gina Martin was waiting to watch The Killers in Hyde Park, when two men took photos up her skirt with their phone. When she realised what was happening, she grabbed the phone and ran to the police with it. However, their response was short lived and passive. They told her to delete the images (of her crotch), and that was that. Case closed.
After researching into her rights, Gina quickly discovered she didn't have any. “I found out that upskirt photos aren’t specifically listed as a sexual offence in England and Wales”, she told the BBC. “Perpetrators don’t often get charged with voyeurism, either - voyeurism laws only protect victims if they’re in a private place”.
Over the last few months, Gina has teamed up with the photography project @cheerupluv to tell the stories of women who have been affected by this, and to call on the Government to #StopSkirtingTheIssue and make upskirting illegal under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003.
The erasure of black heritage from British history is well-documented. Frustrated by the lack of representation and continued discrimination, Tottenham-born Reni-Eddo-Lodge wrote a (now viral) blog post in 2014. Three years and thousands of comments later, the post evolved into an award-winning book, Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race.
Published by Bloomsbury, the book is made up of a collection of essays and is an epitome of her work to date as an activist, author and public voice. Spurred on by the post, Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race. - and all Reni does - brings to light a number of societal issues and encourages readers to find a new way to talk about them.
From the eradication of Black history to whitewashed feminism, Reni offers up a “new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism today”.
Six years ago, when Malala Yousafzai was just 15-years-old, she was shot at point blank range in the face by the Taliban for advocating the right of girls to be educated.
Born in Swat Valley, an area in the north-west Pakistan which has historically banned girls from attending school, Malala rejected these notions outright. Subsequently, she stepped up her campaign for girls to be allowed to go to school and was targeted for doing so.
Malala made a full and miraculous recovery and is now known for her vocal support of women’s rights. Her cause is one for concern. Girls are far less likely to attend school than boys in many of the world’s poorest countries. In Malawi, of those that enroll, 22.3% of boys complete primary compared to 13.8% of girls. In rural Burkina Faso, 61% of girls are married by the age of 18 and over 85% never get to see the inside of a secondary school.
Today, Malala is using her story and standing as a Nobel Laureate to make way for educational and systematic change.
Last year, Munroe Bergdorf became the first transgender woman to feature in a L'Oréal Paris UK campaign. It felt like a pivotal moment—a beauty campaign, finally celebrating the potential of trans bodies and challenging the rigid boundaries of gender, race and womanhood, all at once.
This giant leap was sidestepped after the Daily Mail dredged up an old Facebook post that Munroe had written about racial bias - she was then promptly fired from the campaign.
However, Munroe’s voice isn’t one that can be stilled easily. Rather, the model and social activist used a string of high-profile publications, media outlets and television interviews to express her opinions surrounding gender, race and sexuality—all of which, gave her, and in extension, the trans community exposure.
Today, the former resident DJ at London’s Pxssy Palace - a safe space for women and the trans community to party free from discrimination - fronts campaigns for Illamasqua, speaks at televised events like Genderquake, and has most recently starred in a new documentary on Channel 4, What Makes a Woman.
Although #MeToo only really caught traction last year, its origins can be traced back to a conversation Tarana Burke had with a 13-year-old girl in 1997. The teen was said to be describing her experiences of sexual assault, when Burke felt words failed her.
Ten years later, Burke launched Just Be Inc - a non-profit, all-girls programme aiming to support African-American girls. As more and more girls and women came forward, all recounting stories of sexual harassment, Burke gave the movement a new name. ‘Me Too’ would allude to collectivity and the significance of coming together.
In October 2017, these words found wide-ranging reach as a hashtag on social media accounts, as actress Alyssa Milano tweeted them in response to the accusations against Harvey Weinstein. Now the words are used to connect women all over the world and bring attention to a form of abuse that is built into the fabric of daily life for many women.