Activism and... Women's solidarity

IssueMarch 2011

Strongest experience of women’s solidarity? God, I probably think of doing stuff in Ireland. I was involved in Women in Ireland for a really long time. It wouldn’t have been about women’s issues, women’s rights. It was to do with the British occupation of Ireland, British soldiers on the streets.
We would go and stay in people’s houses in a very working- class area of West Belfast and then we’d all go on the International Women’s Day marches outside the prisons where there were women political prisoners.
The demonstrations were there to raise issues about the women political prisoners and bring attention to them because male prisoners tended to get more attention. There was also a big issue of strip searching of women prisoners at that time.
That’s the experience that has most strongly affected me in relation to women’s solidarity. We were women from really different class backgrounds – women coming on the delegation were often middle-class – with really different experiences, and there was really strong sense of solidarity and unity among us.
I remember being really impressed and inspired by how strong the women there were, dealing with very difficult experiences, dealing with army house raids and abuse on the streets, and being arrested, and living with poverty, and living on their own – as men were often in jail. Their roles had changed and they’d become very active. (Or maybe they’d always been active, I don’t know.) I went back several years so I realised how tough it was, and what a toll it took on the women. It seemed to me the whole situation of crisis had made these women draw on reserves they hadn’t known they had.
Woman activist, Brighton

Working in a women-only anti-war group, I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere that that allowed for, relaxed and uncompetitive. The projects we did embedded a social and supportive dimension within them, and were often about the more social impacts of foreign policy on people’s lives, not just the hard line economic impacts. It was about how people’s lives had been affected and looking at that in a very rounded way, through images and objects and people’s words and people’s stories. That partly came out of working with a group of women.
On a different tangent, I went to a feminist library benefit last night and there was a band and a room full of women of all different generations (and some supportive men) and it was just fantastic. To just see all these activist women and to think the Feminist Library has been going such a long time, 35 years.
As for one single experience of women’s solidarity, one thing I’m particularly thinking of was an exhibition we created, it was a physical space where people gathered at the time of the invasion of Iraq. It felt really good at the time to have that.
Woman activist, London

Topics: Women, Activism
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