Celebrating International Women’s Day at The Conduit

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Celebrated all over the world, International Women’s Day is not only a chance for women to be recognised for their skills and achievements across a wide range of fields but has also become an essential rallying point to build support for developments in women’s rights and to draw attention to the work that still needs to be done.

Why is The Conduit celebrating International Women’s Day?

As a platform for supporting and catalysing collective action, and with gender empowerment as one of the 7 themes that drive our programming, it seemed essential that that The Conduit organise an event to mark this significant day. However, once we started to share our ideas for what to include, it became increasingly obvious that one talk alone wouldn’t do justice to the energy, urgency and vast swathes of equally important issues under the ‘gender empowerment’ umbrella. We decided on a Conduit first: a full-day festival, with panels, workshops, performances and break-out spaces dedicated to the most pressing issues affecting women and girls (and, yes, men and boys) today.

While we celebrate the achievements of the women in our community and beyond all year round, International Women’s Day was a chance to create a space that’s both celebratory and complex, reflecting the women within our community and the work they’re doing to create a better future for everyone.

“A long overdue gender revolution is underway. As discrimination slowly fades, women are increasingly able to fulfil their true potential, but men have a particular responsibility to play, not only to end patterns of abusive behaviour but also to join as active supporters of the revolution itself.”

Paul van Zyl, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, The Conduit

Here’s a sneak peek at our line-up…

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MARYAM PASHA

FIRESIDE CHAT WITH ASMA KHAN:

Hear from Asma Khan, chef and restaurateur at Darjeeling Express, and the first British star of Netflix’s award-winning show, Chef’s Table, as she discusses building up her business from a supper club to one of London’s most acclaimed restaurants, as well as her decision to hire female self-taught chefs and her experience as a woman in the traditionally male-dominated food industry.

AI, GENDER & UNCONSCIOUS BIAS:

From chatbots that fail to recognise female voices to skewed data that ignores whole chunks of the population, we’re only just wising up to the ways in which bias, unconscious or not, influences our daily lives through the technology we’re learning to rely upon. How do we prevent human biases from affecting the development and creation of AI? What are the consequences if we don’t? Hear from speakers including Alex Fefgha, Comuzi; Josie Young, Feminist AI Researcher; Sanya Sheikh, Naational Trust Diversity & Inclusion Steering Group; and Kate Glazebrook, Applied.

CHALLENGING GENDER STEREOTYPING WORKSHOP:

This workshop will explore how the seeds for many inequalities manifesting later in life are sown in the gendered stereotyping which surrounds children from birth. Led by Lifting Limits co-founder Caren Gestetner, we will look at the limiting effects gender stereotypes have on children’s lives – for boys as much as girls – shaping their choices, aspirations, behaviour and even achievement. We will then consider the important role all those involved in bringing up children can play in heading off these effects and offer some strategies for challenging gender stereotyping – and crucially how to avoid inadvertently reinforcing it – with our children.

CREATIVE OPPORTUNITIES FOR FEMALE EX-OFFENDERS:

Employment and training opportunities for prisoners and ex-offenders are well intentioned but, more often than not, focused on practical, rather than creative, skillsets. At the same time, creative industries are systematically shutting out working class voices, to the detriment of the UK’s artistic landscape. Hearing from women who have themselves been through the criminal justice system, as well as from those who are heavily involved in creative employment programmes and opportunities for ex-offenders, we’ll learn more about the power of creativity and imagination as a rehabilitation tool, as well as the vital experience and perspective that ex-offenders can bring to the creative industries. Hear from Sally Taylor, the Koestler Trust; Barbara Burton, Behind Bras; Brenda Birungi, Lady Unchained; and Jessica Ball, Serenity in Leadership.

WOMEN’S ROLE IN PEACEBUILDING:

Women in conflict zones play an indelible role in resolution and sustainable peacebuilding – a role which is often undervalued internationally. Hear more about what we can learn from the work being done on the ground, with Andrei Gomez-Suarez, UCL; Shivonne Graham, Women for Women International UK; and Sally Baden, Womankind Worldwide UK.

SEX, CENSORSHIP & SAFE SPACES:

Pornography is ubiquitous, with porn sites receiving more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. At the same time, there is an increasing crackdown on ‘safer’ sexual content online, with Tumblr facing enormous backlash after announcing that they would be removing erotic content from their platform. How do we encourage, fund and access digital and physical spaces where women and queer people of all ages can explore their sexuality without feeling threatened or isolated by aggressive, male-gaze pornography? Hear from speakers including Kathleen Richardson, Campaign Against Sex Robots; Jodie Ginsberg, Index on Censorship; Dolly Padalia, Sexplain; Ky Hoyle, Sh!; and Grace Gould, SODA.

POWER DYNAMICS & EQUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE:

From the #MeToo movement to revelations around the gender pay gap, how much has really changed in terms of workplace equality? This facilitated, solutions-focused fishbowl discussion will kick off with insights from an expert panel, before members of the audience are invited to share their personal experiences and practical suggestions for change. The fishbowl will be facilitated by Thom Dennis, Serenity in Leadership, and feature insights from Sagra Maceira de Rosen, Vital Voices; Bonnie Chiu, The Social Investment Consultancy; and Claudine Adeyemi, Career Ear and Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion.

WOMEN’S CIRCLE:

Founder of The Goddess Space, Anoushka Florence’s work is based on ancient spiritual practices that are grounded in the belief that the power to heal and manifest the life we want to live comes from within. Her Women’s Circle is a beautiful and safe space designed to support and empower women to connect back to their intuition, femininity and truth.

MEDITATION WITH UNMIND:

Kick off the day with a guided meditation, led by UnMind, comprised of Mollie Mendoza and Sam Garrett. Mollie has been sharing practices of Embodiment, Mindfulness, Sound and Ceremony for the last 4 years. She is dedicated to finding the tools that empower each individual to move in their own unique rhythm and to begin a new, more compassionate conversation with themselves and others. Sam is a musician whose journey has led him to use sound as a way to inspire healing and spark curiosity.

Hear from our speakers

We asked Caren Gestetner and Anoushka Florence, two of our workshop leaders at International Women’s Day, to share their reflections on International Women’s Day, what they make of the day’s theme, #BalanceForBetter, and their call to action for women this year.

Caren Gestetner, Co-Founder Lifting Limits

The official theme for International Women’s Day this year is Balance For Better. What does that phrase mean to you?

To me, ‘Balance for Better’ means that balance is better for everyone – balance at home, in the workplace, in health outcomes and in public life. It’s about more than just fairness – balance enables a society to draw on those whose skills and interests best meet its needs, regardless of their gender.

What would you say to those who criticise or question the need for a day celebrating women?

Many gender unequal outcomes can be seen across our society which disadvantage women and men in different ways. International Men’s Day in November celebrates the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities. Gender equality is not a ‘zero sum game’!

Why do you feel it’s so crucial for people of all genders to delve into issues surrounding gender empowerment?

It’s crucial because ‘balance is better’ for everyone – as individuals and as a society.

If you had one message and/or call to action for women or female-identifying people this year, what would it be? And for men?

Tackling gender inequalities can feel too big to know where to start. My message is the same for everyone, regardless of gender – just start somewhere, with whatever issue matters to you.

Anoushka Florence, The Goddess Space

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What inspires you about women, in particular?

I think what most inspires me about Women is our conscious / unconscious ability to connect.

Women hold a subtle power; to birth all that they hold within them. Women are so connected with nature; we cycle just like the moon. With each phase of our life, we are given a new opportunity to grow, to shed, to expand.

When I see women, I see their journeys. I honour all that has been. for it has led them to exactly where they are right now.

For deep down, all Women know, that just like the moon, our greatest power comes out in the darkest of times.

The official theme for International Women’s Day this year is Balance For Better. What does that phrase mean to you?

To be balanced means to be whole. When a Woman is balanced she can show up to the world in her fullness. She can embody the true power of the Feminine. As such I feel the theme for this year is to find your centre, the stillness within you in order to shine the brightest.

What would you say to those who criticise or question the need for a day celebrating women?

For me Womens day, is less about the world “Celebrating Women”, and more a call for Women to celebrate themselves. To celebrate all that they do and all that they bring to this world.

If you had one message and/or call to action for women or female-identifying people this year, what would it be?

To not be afraid of your power, to understand the magic that lies within the Feminine & to embrace all that being a Woman means to you.