Happy International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day! Today we will be thinking about gender equality and celebrating the historical, local and international women close to our heart.

For International Women’s Day 2016 we created a new project called ‘Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Tales’. We set up in Central Library with a map and tags and asked people to share a story of an inspirational woman in their life and the location attached to that person. We had stories, within Greater Manchester spanning North, South, East and West Manchester, but we also had some international stories (mapped at Manchester Airport) that came as far as Libya, Texas, Spain and Denmark.

This project was part of this year’s International Women’s Day programme of events themed ‘Women’s Voices – Changing Manchester’. The project enabled us to collate and celebrate the unsung heroes in our local communities, the women who have inspired us, dedicated time to supporting and encouraging us. We had stories of mothers, sisters, friends, mentors, colleagues, activists, grandparents, great-grandparents and women who have come in and maybe out of our lives.

We met 127 people over our three days at Central Library, hearing stories which made us cry, dance and jump for joy in four different languages! We gained stories in written and oral form and also through social media which were all added to our map.

In exchange for people sharing stories of women who have made a tremendous impact on their lives, we gave everyone an ‘Inspirational Woman through History’ pack from our lucky dip box. The packs contained information about past and present historical figures, how they helped change and shape history, and where you can find more information about them within the Library. We also gave away ‘You’ve Inspired Me’ Postcards for people to give to the inspirational women in their lives.

One young women called Rachel, aged 10, shared a wonderful story, then cheered when her ‘Inspirational Woman through History’ was Malala Yousafzai “I love her!”. Rachel and her brother Tommy chatted to us for quite a while and told us about a Computer Coding course they were both on their way to. Rachel was so passionate about learning new things, Sarah even added her to our map for inspiring us to upskill ourselves at Art with Heart.

As part of International Women’s Day we took over Girl Gang’s hashtag #WWOTD (Wonder Woman of the Day) to celebrate women living in Greater Manchester who are doing great things for their community. Our Wonder Women of the Week were: Sharon Raymond, Claire Holmes, Tamzin Forster, Beena Khetani, Rachel Roger and Jemma Tanswell, Claire Mooney and Minna Moffatt-Feldman. If you click on their names you’ll be able to see why they were all nominated.

On Saturday we attended the International Women’s Day Conference where we met some wonderful people who are doing great work across the city. We collected some more stories, debated if the ‘Manchester Boom’ is working for women, and looked at what we would like Manchester to be like in 10 years time. It was great to meet, speak to and work with (in a workshop) students from Manchester College who were there create a film for the event about what Manchester means to them and the changes they want to see. We left thinking about how we can make positive change across the City together.

The International Women’s Day Conference is curated by a Steering Group, which we are hoping to be part of next year. Manchester City Council are looking for a diverse group of people who would like to shape the IWD festival next year – would you like to be part of it? We’ll be sending information out soon so join our mailing list if you would like to know more by emailing Rachel with Mailing List in the subject line)