Rochdale’s Women’s Voices 2021

Partners: M6 Theatre Company and KYP

Lead Artist: Mahoobeh Rajabi

Funded by: Lankelly Chase through Greater Manchester Systems Changers

Young women are increasingly speaking out about the rape culture that is all too prevalent in schools, colleges and universities.

21 Aug 2023

The murders of Sarah Everard in London in March 2021 and Sabina Nessa in September 2021 have been a catalyst for a growing uprising across the UK about the lack of safety for women and girls. The #MeToo movement has created a global conversation about sexual abuse.

2021’s WHO report says that one in three women, (around 736 million), have experienced sexual or physical abuse.

Together with M6 Theatre Company and KYPCAN co-created three informal creative spaces for up to 30 women and girls who we met during Rochdale’s Women’s Voices outreach sessions in 2019 – 2020.

The women and girls came from three groups: a self-organised older South Asian women’s group, a group of more recently arrived migrant women from KYP’s ESOL group, and an intercultural group of teenage girls from M6 Theatre Company.

During the project, through a series of co-creation workshops with CAN artist/ facilitator Mahboobeh Rajabi, women and girls identified the issues that matter to them such as safety, childcare, body image, and their absence from leadership roles in their communities.

The subsequent COVID pandemic has created new challenges: women having a larger responsibility for childcare and home education, larger unemployment levels because of the impact of lockdowns on the hospitality and retail sectors where women are predominantly employed, caring for ill family members, and exposure to the virus through health care jobs.

“It’s important for women to be united, celebrate themselves, and be proud.”

“Women’s position is not always in the kitchen…”

“At school, we talk about our period in a way that is like something bad and it makes us feel ashamed.”

“It’s so important to give leadership to women.”

The women wanted spaces for solidarity that champion the social changes they want to be part of. Three spaces hosted the three groups who developed deep bonds of trust and friendship. The groups determined the programme based on their interests.

“It makes me feel so happy coming here, they are like my sisters. I feel safe when I come to the group.”

The groups co-designed unique creative places building on their interests, ideas, and ambitions.

Each space was hosted by trusted women practitioners/community members – from M6 Theatre Company and KYP – alongside Community Arts North West artist Mahoobeh Rajabi who brought her skills in theatre-making, creative writing, crafting, and digital art.

The women and girls shared their creative projects between groups to build intercultural and intergenerational conversations.