In his book ‘The Turning Point - Science, Society and the Rising Culture’ written in 1982, Fritjof Capra talks of the emergence of the age of feminism. This Monday, at the celebrations of our ‘VoiceboxCafes’ project, I had a glimmer of hope that he might be right.
Voicebox Cafes is a year-long project funded by the Women’s Centenary Fund, designed to support women to understand, participate and celebrate democracy. Through Online Centres across the country, and using our digital learning platform ‘Learn My Way’ as an enabler, over 1,000 women to date have been inspired to get involved.
We celebrate high profile courageous women in public life who have made an incredible contribution to democracy and equalities, from Emmeline Pankhurst to Rosa Parks, and more recently Malala Yousafzai to Jacinda Ardern, but it is also important to recognise the extraordinary brave women and role models acting in their families, neighbourhoods and communities, seeking to change the world from their corner of the globe.
This event was about exactly that. We heard a story from Victoria, a young woman trade unionist, a rising star fighting for her causes amidst a traditional, white male majority. Two more young women, Isabella and Niamh shared their aspirations for the future and called for action on period poverty. We heard a brilliant poem about women from Rheima. We heard from Mala from Skills Enterprise who won best Voicebox Cafes community video with their East End Election! We also heard from Lord Knight who is using his privilege to open doors. He talked about how important it is to create listening spaces for people like these amazing women to tell their stories and have their voice heard.
I lost my Mum last year, it was her who gifted me the Frijof Capra book and who encouraged me to use my voice to help achieve equality and social justice. As one of five of her daughters, I couldn’t help but be deeply touched by the poem Hafsha from Smartlyte shared with us. She kindly agreed to let me publish it on this blog.
She looked down at her dark mop.
Took in her nose, the dark eyes as they wandered taking a new world in.
What a world
With its noise and clutter
The rush to live, to succeed
To be the best …at everything
At sports, at idle chatter, at the giggles that enchant
At school the best parties, the biggest frocks. The mostest grades of course
The most liked profile, the vlogs, the blogs and the likes
And of course, to have read the most books, most travelled
To have the bestest of work, A+ always
To thrive at maths, at languages, at understanding the world of science
And art and then philosophy
The smartest of suitors, the bestest and bestest of friends who all compete
On the Hamster’s Wheel of Life
She’ll find the cures, the secrets to world peace. Create more land. Write the books to change her time
She will host and smile and achieve it all
Of course it will all come easy. For her World will be fair
No ceilings to smash. No twitter or Facebook placards to build and burn.
Her world will smile, and help and push
Her world will serve.
But only if she wants it all.
(Hafsha D. Shaikh)
An enormous thank you to all the daughters (and the sons) who contributed to the Voicebox Cafés; to the politicians like Helen Jones MP and Cllr Kaltum Osman Rivers; to the wonderful Helen Milner, Liz Williams, Nat Thorpe and the dedicated, behind-the-scenes team; and most of all, to the extraordinary women who supported each other in their communities to explore the power of democracy, find their purpose and amplify their voice.
In these bewildering political times, you give me more than a glimmer of hope!
Women, daughters, you are changing the world!
You can read about many of the women who were part of, or who inspired the Voicebox Cafés project, in our booklet, Use your voice: Women who are changing the world.