Hidden Heroines5 min read

In mid June, Peshkar held the third in a series of events under the ‘Hideout’ banner at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. Entitled ‘Hidden Heroines’ the evening explored issues facing young women often in the margins of society and how organisations such as Peshkar can help support them through culture to make a change in their lives for the better.

We asked the following icebreaker questions with the following responses:
“What do you understand by the term ‘Girl Power?”
-‘Women who can live and strive without a man.’
-‘A marketing idea made famous by the Spice Girls’ but didn’t really move much forward for women.’
-‘Men and women are different. Women should have their way with equal opportunities. Girl power encompasses equal rights and everything a man is not.’
-‘It means we are all wonder women.’
-‘False empowerment and sexualisation of young girls.’
-‘Empowering women to have a voice in society and an outlet to project it.’

“Who do you think has done most to advance the women’s movement?”
-‘Emiline Pankhurst’
-‘The landgirls and munition factory works during WW2.’
-‘Red Ellen Wilkinson.’
-‘Rosa Parks. It took a woman to get the civil rights movement going.’
-‘Annie Kenney. The Oldham Suffragette.’

“Who is your heroine?”
-‘Hazrat Khadija. Successful business woman, an inspirational muslim.’
-‘My mum.’
-‘Nawel El Sadaawi. For speaking out about the oppressive status of women in Arab countries.’
-‘Princess Diana.’
-‘My gran.’
-‘Marie Curie.’
-‘Felicia Day. Standing up for the girl geeks.’

“Tell us your favourite female cultural icon…”
-‘The Brontes.’
-‘Barbara Hepworth’
-‘Nina Simone.’
-‘Mother Teresa.’
-‘Grace Jones.’
-‘Aretha Franklin.’
-‘Anne Hathaway.’
-‘Meera Syal.’
-‘Rosa Parks.’
-‘Margaret McDonald Mackintosh.’
-‘Jessica Hynes.’
-‘Frida Kahlo.’

“Name one thing that would advance the rights of women in the UK?’
-‘Stricter regulation around pornography and the sex industry.’
-‘More effective promotion of equality in schools. Encouragement of more open and inclusive thinking.’
-‘100{3c0d36e3735f757d9dabb56545ae857d7c08433cd9155c8b4932af97a8dc8594} equal opportunities in the workforce and an end to sexism and discrimination in the work place.’
-‘More job opportunities for women in the creative arts industry.’
-‘An end to girl/boy segregation and the stress of stereotypes from an early age.’
-‘No more page 3.’
-‘Free childcare.’
-‘More women in politics.’
-‘Greater use of digital technology to enable flexibility in the workplace.’

As with previous Hideout symposiums, the event was articulated through the experiences and knowledge sharing of four keynote speakers. First up was Jennifer Darwen, a young woman from Oldham whose life has transformed through access to a cultural offer to a point where she is working in the Probation service with a view to setting up her own support group for young women in this area.

Our second speaker was our very own Najma Khalid who shared some of the inspiration for her Chai Women’s group for Muslim women. Speaking from the heart of her personal experience, Najma offered some advice for setting up a successful women’s project.

From here, the delegation broke out into its first conversation point around successful, sustainable group development in a trying economic environment. The feedback of which was as follows:
“Using empty shops and local authority buildings.”
“Schools are an underused resource as is the corporate world.”
“Empowering people with the confidence to set up groups.”
“Developing funding that isn’t age restrictive.”
“Diversification of group purpose.”
“Bigger charities branching out and better engagement with smaller charities.”
“Sharing ideas that aren’t duplicated as well as sharing resources.”
“Brokerage to put groups together from any geographical location.”
“Support for volunteers signposting opportunities for progression and development.”
“Belief in the idea even if funding disappears.”
“Keep networking.”
“Be prepared to change with the needs of your membership.”
“Be proud and get out there.”
“Partnerships.”
“Plan. Don’t wait for the money to run out.”
“Maintaining quality of engagement.”
“Sharing results and knowledge.”
“Passion.”
“Invest in new technology.”

In addition to the knowledge sharing and networking opportunities at these events, we also like to take the opportunity to share upcoming partnerships and projects that Peshkar are planning (check out the alliteration there…) With this in mind we were delighted to call on Esther Ferry-Kennington, Producer at the extraordinary Horse and Bamboo Theatre Company in Lancashire to talk about their work and our potential future partner working. In particular, Esther talked about how one of their associate artists would be working on our upcoming ‘Safe’ project linked to the issue of Child Sexual Exploitation around vulnerable young Oldham women.

Having just shown a film from Collective Encounters Theatre For Social Change ‘Transparent Truths’ 2011 project about Child Sex Trafficking, it seemed the perfect moment in proceedings to hear from Hayley Harewood from KOGS (Keeping Our Girls Safe), who showed a film of her organisations previous work then talked about their upcoming collaboration with Peshkar on the ‘Safe’ project.

From this we presented another creative question for the room, this time about how to work with vulnerable young women. The feedback ranged thus:
“Start with the art, not the issue.”
“Go to their spaces.”
“Provide alternatives.”
“Have a young appropriate leader.”
“Have fun.”
“Let them take control.”
“Set boundaries with respect.”
“Have fun.”
“Work with people they already trust.”
“Train the girls to keep up the momentum.”
“Create a fluid artistic process.”
“Positively share with both men and women.”
“Create a ‘tender education’ setting where workshops are not seen as an establishment environment.”
“Allow things to be expressed through the session – don’t force it.”
“Group sessions allow for chat which is less intimidating and safe and confidential.”
“Encourage supportive relationships between participants.”
“Be realistic with the timeframe and pressure of what get’s created.”
“Work with authorities.”
“Identify who your group is.”
“Trust.”
“Honesty.”

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to Louise Sutherland and the team at People’s History Museum for their support and the use of their fantastic space. It bodes well for future collaborations so watch this space.