In blazing heat and glory, we proudly and emotionally escorted our banner through the Processions mass artwork in London yesterday, 10th June. Alongside thousands of kindred spirits and like minded women holding aloft a multitude of beautiful banners, placards and pennants, we snaked our way through the capital's streets from Park Lane to Westminster. As we passed London's landmarks including the Houses of Parliament and the new statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, I was humbled and reminded of the strength, humour and unity that women everywhere display in the face of adversity. From stitching to speech making, women have the tenacity and focus to 'complete what the suffragettes started' by demanding their place in an equal society. This is a wave of determination that has not weakened through the decades that have succeeded the women's suffrage movement and that will continue to gather steam throughout the ones to follow. Women will have equality in the generations to come; I do not doubt it.
Working on this project has turned out to be way more than a simple textile project for me; learning in depth about the suffragettes and suffragists has thrown up questions about struggle and oppression and deeply reconnected me with my own upbringing in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. Born a Northern Irish protestant in a council estate with red, white and blue painted kerbs and murals on the sides of our homes, I witnessed family members march their own marches on the famous 12th July parades as members of the Orange Order. Banners can be used for beauty and brutality in equal measure; both can exist in the motivations of those who carry them as oppression is a complex matter consisting of belonging, tribalism and fear. It's an interesting and sobering stance to gaze at oneself as both oppressor and oppressed.
I am reminded of the women in Afghanistan, the time I spent there and the film I made - women who have a deep relationship with oppression that I will never be so familiar with. I think of their courage in the face of great danger and court my own despair at the heights of global oppression that we must together scale and somehow defeat. All I know is that my resolve has multiplied that the work I do must be meaningful, helpful and connective. That I must take up my place in the fight for good and try with everything I have to treat every person my path meets as an equal. Academic Cheris Kramarae said 'Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings'; we are all human beings and deserve as such to live in peace and without fear.