Starting work on the PROCESSIONS project has reminded me of the amazing women I've had the privilege to work with in the past, and none more so than the women I met in Afghanistan when making the short documentary 'A Difficult Birth'. Looking back over a blog I kept during my time there, I found an excerpt that spoke directly about women's emancipation, so I thought the time was just right to share it here:
So I’m coming to the end of my trip to Kabul. It’s been the biggest experience of my life aside from having my kids. It’s really made me aware of the present moment and what is going on around me - probably the most alive I’ve ever been.
I’ve met the most wonderful, courageous people here and have been especially impressed by the many and varied brave Mums who I have met. I feel that these women are well on their way in terms of securing their emancipation although obviously there is a long struggle ahead and much work to be done.
Afghan women are becoming more and more aware of their human rights and as a result there has been a recent outcry after one man cut off his wife’s nose. Most of the women in Kabul used her picture as their Facebook profile for several days in solidarity.
I had the great honour of securing a meeting yesterday with the famous Nancy Dupree - an American woman who has made Afghanistan her home for the last 50 years and who has seen it all - the Taliban, the Mujahedin and the more recent NATO invasion. She says that Afghan women are gaining in force and in fact that she believes women are gathering in strength more and more all over the world. With a twinkle in her eye she joked with us that she has told her male colleagues to watch out because the women are coming! She told us that she believes that even if the Taliban were to come back into power that public opinion would not allow them to close schooling to girls because there has been a fundamental attitudinal change amongst women.
Just like I would in any breach of human rights, I believe it is important to stand by these women and support them in their strength and courage for the fight ahead of them. Nelson Mandela has rather poignantly died whilst I’ve been in Kabul and it reminded me how the whole world stood against apartheid. No-one bought any South African wine or grapes for years. I remember wearing ANC badges when I was a teenager. But we didn’t drop bombs on South Africa in order to get our way. We just stood in solidarity for what we knew was right.
I'm absolutely on top of the world to be part of this wonderful project, working with Jerwood Gallery - one of 100 arts organisations in the country selected to participate. Produced by Artichoke and commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, PROCESSIONS will commemorate 100 years since some women in the UK were granted the Vote.
On 10th June 2018, thousands of women and girls, those who identify as women and non-binary individuals, will make up four epic PROCESSIONS in the four political capitals of our country – Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. Given green, white or violet to wear, representing the colours of the suffrage movement which stood for “Give Women Votes”, they will come together to create waves of colour through our cities, commemorating 100 years since the first success of the suffrage movement.
I'll be helping a group of amazing women from Hastings make a banner to carry at the procession in London, and I'll be keeping a diary of the project on this blog. The women in the group will be today’s campaigners. The ones who don’t let things lie, for whom justice and fairness matters. They contribute to our community giving time generously, really caring for the people whose lives they touch. They can be effective today because of the fairness and equality women fought for in the Suffragist movement 100 years ago.
As a card carrying feminist, and someone who wishes to see equality across all genders, I'll be wearing my green, white and violet on 10th June with enormous pride. Maybe I'll see you there!
If there is an amazing woman that you think should be part of this project please contact Jerwood Gallery by emailing email@example.com or ringing 01424 728377.