The Speaking Out Celebration Conference

Our Celebration Conference took place on Saturday 2nd September. We were joined by dozens of inspiring women (and an inspiring man) for a wonderful day of exploring and celebrating the history of Women’s Aid in Scotland. Even the sun came out! (But then again, we heard it’s always sunny in Dundee). If you didn’t manage to join us, here’s what we got up to. We’ll also be making all of the talks from the day available as podcasts soon – stay tuned on Facebook and Twitter to find out when.

After a fantastic opening performance by Dundee Women’s Aid choir, we were welcomed by Dr Marsha Scott, CEO of Scottish Women’s Aid. She reminded us that women are great at many things, but something we’re not great at is recognising our success, and celebrating. The tone was set for the day – it would be spent celebrating everything Women’s Aid had achieved. And there is a lot to celebrate!

The programme kicked off with our first keynote speaker, Dr Lesley Orr – historian, writer and activist. Dr Orr offered an insight into the 30th anniversary of Scottish Women’s Aid and the oral history project which she co-facilitated, which formed the basis for the Speaking Out Project. She also pressed the need to continue recording the history of Women’s Aid in Scotland as an integral part of a broader social movement.

 

 

We then heard from Hannah Telling of Women’s History Scotland, who exposed harmful attitudes to domestic abuse in the 19th century and their continued prevalence today, before commending Scottish Women’s Aid for the work they’ve done to combat them. Nicola Maksymuik of Glasgow Women’s Library was up next, telling us about the origins of the library and the inspiring community work it does.

 

 

We hosted breakout sessions before and after lunch to give conference goers an insight into four key parts of the Speaking Out Project – the oral history interviews, the film, the touring exhibition and the archive. Some of our project volunteers joined us and spoke about their contributions, before audience members were invited to ask questions.

After lunch, Mridul Wadhwa, one of our project interviewees and former worker at Shakti Women’s Aid, performed two powerful poems in both Urdu and English after our lunch break – The Wedding Dress, and The Story.  The poems were a perfect choice for the day, vocalising women’s experiences of solidarity and oppression.

 

 

A highlight of the day was discovering the collective amount of years’ experience in the room. After lunch, we asked each table to tot up their years of working or volunteering for Women’s Aid, before we added them together for a grand total. The number was… *drumroll* … 484 years! Such an impressive figure really brought home how many stories were in the room – we’ve captured many of them in this project, but there are plenty more to hear.

 

 

We heard more from our volunteers after the breakout sessions, with a volunteer panel featuring Dot Aidulis (project interviewee), Yvonne McFadden (archive volunteer) and Morag Allan Campbell (oral history interviewer). In one of the most moving parts of the day, Dot gave a brave and eloquent account of her own experience as a user of Women’s Aid services, and said that the Speaking Out project had given her the opportunity to tell her story, and be believed. She spoke of how seeing a leaflet for Women’s Aid services whilst being in the relationship with her abusive ex-partner had “planted a seed” in her mind, leading her to seek out the services later. This was a powerful reminder to everyone in the room on the role of Women’s Aid in helping women to regain control of their life, and to feel supported in their experiences. We are immensely grateful and moved that Dot felt able to share her experiences with us.

After a quick break, Dr Rebecca and Dr Russell Dobash, authors of the revolutionary 1979 book Violence Against Wives, offered another highlight of the day. Unfolding a huge double-sided map of the world, they explained that on one side they had fixed white fabric to the locations that had domestic abuse services in 1976 – a grand total of three. On the other side, they had fixed white fabric to the places that offered these services now. They flipped it over to reveal the difference, and the whole room burst into cheers and applause. The difference is incredible – have a look for yourself!

 

 

Writer and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch delivered our closing keynote speech, with a rallying call to women to build a better future for Scotland and their local communities. It was a fitting end to a day so full of inspiration and recognition of the power of women working together.

 

 

As the day drew to a close, we invited all of the project volunteers present up to the stage to receive a gift. We’ve said it a million times during this project, but our volunteers really are wonderful, and this project could never have happened without them.

 

 

The day was moving and motivating in equal measure. We were so delighted to see so many of you there! Check out more coverage of the day on Twitter. If you have any photos or feedback you’d like to share, please email us. Thank you again for celebrating with us, and for all of the work, energy, and support you have given Women’s Aid in Scotland the last 40 years.

 

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