A co-hosted event between the Institute of Development Studies and Pathways of Women’s Empowerment (an international research and communications programme),
There was an impressive turnout, with every seat, step and nook filled to capacity with a diverse mix of people, including a good proportion of men, and one dog.
There was an impressive turnout, with every seat, step and nook filled to capacity with a diverse mix of people, including a good proportion of men, and one dog. The evening was introduced and chaired by Professor Andrea Cornwall, Head of Global Studies at the University of Sussex. To begin with we were shown a short film made by contemporary artist Anna Cady, commissioned by Pathways and Screen South, called 30%: Women and Politics in Sierra Leone. Beautifully shot with scenes of painstakingly-crafted oil painted animation, Cady documents the work of three Sierra Leone women from differing ethnic backgrounds and political parties who are campaigning for legislation to ensure a minimum of 30% women in parliament.
The film was used to launch the discussion and first the panel, and then the audience, were given the opportunity to air their reactions to the film. The panel was made up of a distinguished and inspirational selection of women with demonstrable power to change and influence from various positions - whether culturally, academically or politically. There were the young activists: Ifrah and Muna Hassan, junior trustees of Integrate Bristol and activists in the campaign to end FGM (female genital mutilation); an artist (the aforementioned Anna Cady); an academic: Melissa Leach, Director of IDS; and two local politicians: Penny Thompson, Chief Executive of Brighton & Hove City Council and Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion.
A well-managed, interesting and sometimes passionate debate ensued, in which a range of voices were to be heard speaking about women’s access to power, encompassing both feminist issues and matters of social justice. The question ‘What if Women Ruled the World?’ is a deliberately loaded one (why replace one form of dominance with another?) that plays with assumptions about women in power and raises the key question, where is the power to effect change located? While the aim was clearly to invoke discussion and get people thinking about how they would like things done, there did seem to be a recurring theme to the responses: the need to be heard and a politics that places value on what people have to say. An idea ironically underpinned by the image of the male politician dozing off in the background as Dr Bernadette Lahai, of the Sierra Leone People’s Party, passionately holds forth on the need for increased participation of women in parliament.
What if Women Ruled the World was an enlightening and stimulating event that, by providing inspirational role-models, creates a platform for diverse voices and an opportunity for people to listen - supplying some of the very solutions people were calling for.