Women speaking…

With project report time underway it’s time for Mixing The Colours to reflect on our work since July 2013 and plan for the coming year.

Mixing the Colours works with the recognition that sectarianism is not simply a problem of men and football and that people experience

Readings of women's creative writing in Brora
Readings of women’s creative writing in Brora

sectarianism differently and so we are addressing how sectarianism affects women in diverse communities.

To date we have run 23 workshops with 140 women across Scotland who accessed our growing resource of books, short stories and film with sectarian themes, female characters and protagonists through workshops and learning events.

We have discussed the aspects of life that may be touched by sectarianism with volunteers and learners.  We explored women’s personal journeys through discussions about family, community, gender, sexuality, religion, culture, history, economics and education.

Our learners are addressing the noted lack of literature and film resources by contributing their own creative writing, poetry, audio and film interviews. We selected a number of the written pieces to use in subsequent workshops to share the experiences, to inspire courage and nurture discussion of personal experiences and to inspire creative responses.

There was consensus that the ‘best bits’ of the workshops were listening to the stories, sharing experiences and having the opportunity to write about experiences often ignored.

“The storytelling is an insight into other people’s experiences.”

“Listening to the written work involving sectarianism – it felt real and emotive.”

“Loved it – Very informative.”

“Interesting to hear the amazing and moving stories.”

Women are speaking about sectarian bigotry as intersecting with transphobia, homophobia, misogyny and racism and say that there is a similar ‘edge’ to the way these forms of hate and fear are perpetrated.

A predominant theme across the workshops has been women’s attitudes to sectarian behaviour. They have spoken about our human similarities, that the basis of religion should be love and that the Scotland they want to live in is tolerant, pragmatic, accepting and mixed.

These values drive women’s motives to challenge sectarianism.  However, their likelihood to challenge sectarian attitudes within their own families and /or communities is difficult and complex and can be an issue of personal safety in private and in public. Many women spoke of sectarian behaviour as anti-social and spoke of their fear of challenge in these circumstances. Some women said that they would challenge sectarianism where they found it. Many felt that they could challenge sectarianism through creative means such as writing but did not have the confidence to do so in ‘real life’ and said that it would depend on the situation.

There has been a need for awareness raising around gender inequality and confidence building before addressing the issue of sectarianism. This is reflective of women’s historical and contemporary inequality and it’s impact on general self-esteem. Building women’s confidence to encourage them to develop and lead on effective and sustainable solutions to sectarianism is at the heart of our work and will continue to be so should the project continue past March 2015.

Our future work will explore the concept of ‘challenge’ with women by developing workshops specifically around this issue.  This will run as part of workshops exploring women’s attitudes to male sectarian behaviour in public and private spaces.

We have engaged 26 GWL volunteers and developed their expertise within the project through 3 programmes of training in ‘Gender &

Gender and Sectarianism Training with volunteers
Gender and Sectarianism Training with volunteers

Sectarianism’ Oral History’ and ‘Film-making’ and ‘Editing’. We developed creative opportunities for volunteers to participate in the shadowing workshop delivery, undertaking research on women and sectarianism in film, poetry, fiction, academic papers and news items, undertaking project administration, joining a GWL Film Crew and writing blogs.

In the coming months we focus our attention on women from diverse religions, communities and nationalities across Scotland, we plan to run more workshops with young women from LGBT Youth, we’ll be in situ at Wigtown Book Festival, the Harpies, Fechters and Quines Festival in Edinburgh, participating in creative dialogues with women of faith exploring gender issues in relation to the church and sectarianism in Lockerbie and will work with Aberdeen Women’s History Group.  We continue to work with our sectarian project partners across Scotland including Engender, Place For Hope and Xchange Scotland.

On Tuesday 27th May we will run a Women and Sectarianism Workshop for partners to expand organisation awareness of women’s specific position, share our resources and to provide support for planning workshops.

Mixing The Colours will launch a publication and film at our national conference on 20th March 2015.

If you would like to find out more, access the resource or get involved please contact Rachel Thain-Gray on 0141-550-2267 or email rachel.thain-gray@womenslibrary.org.uk

2 Comments

  • Posted 25th March, 2015 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    well done GWL! I am thinking about organising something in Clydebank or West Dunbartonshire where I live. Who should I speak to, does Norma still run a Womens History group here? I guess it’s ok to just use the film as needed? Sisterley Regards, Pauline

    • Posted 25th March, 2015 at 5:29 pm | Permalink
      Rachel Thain-Gray

      Hi Pauline,

      The West Dumbartonshire Women’s History Group is run by Lorna – They are currently working hard on Memory Box project but I’m sure we could host an event to showcase the film in Clydebank in the coming months. I will email you directly for a chat.

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