Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have noticed that female empowerment is very much on the agenda this year.
With the rise of global movements including #TimesUp and #MeToo flooding social media, and 100 years of the vote being given to (some) British women celebrated just last month, it already feels like 2018 is the year that sisters across the world will make their voices heard.
And that’s exactly what the organisers of this year’s York International Women’s Week (YIWW) are promoting in a jam-packed showcase of more than 30 events across the city.
Organised in conjunction with International Women’s Day on March 8, the event’s nine-strong committee of volunteers has collaborated with poets, playwrights and performers to host dozens of events to inspire, empower and celebrate women not only in North Yorkshire, but across the world.
From cuddle workshops (yes, you read that correctly) and friendly get-togethers to more serious events focusing on sexual harassment, the programme provides something for all women and girls across York.
Co-facilitator of this year’s programme, Ann Kaloski, who has been part of York’s women’s week celebrations for more than ten years, says that the range of events appeals to women from all backgrounds.
Dr Kaloski works at the University of York’s Centre For Women’s Studies, a sponsor of this year’s programme alongside York Human Rights City. She said:
This programme of grassroots and community-led events has been created by an ad hoc group of volunteers, and it has been a real joy to see people come together, which really is the idea behind this week.
I think each event in our women’s week is important to different people. For me, the variety in events represents how the idea of feminism has changed – perhaps even 20 years ago it was seen as more aggressive, but now both men and women are understanding the importance of equal rights.
The week kicks off on March 3 with a collection of spoken word workshops and performances focusing on everyday life for women, including the Say Owt performance poetry workshop from 2pm to 5pm at York Explore library.
Say Owt runs poetry slams, open mics, workshops, scratch events and more across Yorkshire.
The aforementioned Cuddle Workshop takes place on March 4 from 3-4pm on Grange Street, teaching women about consensual touch and the importance of understanding connection techniques.
From cuddles to Kung Fu, the Nurture Your Inner Warrior Princess session takes places at the University of York Heslington campus on March 6 from 3pm to 4pm. Held by the Daoist Arts Society, it is free to attend and encourages all women to take part in beautiful and powerful exercises.
Talks at York Castle Museum between 11.30am and 1pm on March 7 look at the impact of The Suffragettes in York. Learn about the history of women’s suffrage with talks on how women fought for the vote, different tactics of suffragists and suffragettes and how local women contributed towards the movement. The talks are free with museum entry.
The Basement plays host to Women Make A Noise, a night of spoken word and acoustic music on March 8 from 7.30pm to 10pm. Tickets are £10, raising money for Independent Domestic Abuse Services, supporting thousands of people each year in Yorkshire.
Moving the focus to politics, Rachael Maskell MP will be speaking at York Explore’s Marriott Room from 2pm to 3pm on March 9. As York’s first ever woman MP, she will be speaking on women and power, focusing on building women’s confidence.
A highlight of the programme includes a screening of Wadjda, the first-ever feature film to be directed by a Saudi woman. Directed by Haifaa al-Mansour and released in 2012, it was shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and has won numerous awards around the world.
It is being screened at Cinem@Explore, York Explore Library on March 11 at 2.30pm. See for more details.