By Miriam Brittenden
Both University students and staff alike have been organising a series of activities and projects to celebrate International Women’s Day.
This week, Academic departments across the University have been hosting events to
Events include an evening of ‘Celebrating the Bronte’s’ with the English Department, a lecture on Women and Education past and present by the Education department, and the School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health: Creative women who have inspired us.
The week is also being celebrated through the arts, with a free concert for International Women’s Day hosted by Music Durham. A showcase of drama, poetry, song and comedy put on by Pitch Productions Theatre Company in association with Durham Student Theatre took place on Sunday.
Music Durham’s concert on Tuesday celebrated the creativity of female musicians throughout the ages, and presented a number of works by female composers, ranging from early Byzantine hymn writers up to the present day. All the works were conducted and directed by female students inside and outside the music department.
Music Durham said: “the percentage of female conductors, and musical directors is much lower than males. This is a trend which can be traced equally throughout history and on the wider international level.”
Palatinate spoke to Isabelle Culkin, creative director or the International Women’s Week Drama Showcase.
She said: “International Women’s Week is a good time to focalise and raise awareness of important women’s issues, and to just generally bring attention to gender inequality which still exists on both a global and national scale”
“The gender imbalance so inherent to theatre as an industry means a lot to me, as great male characters dominate the canon, which gives little outlet to the huge number of great actresses who are so vastly underused. It’s a great way to celebrate female achievement and talent in a field I care so much about”
Culkin said that the most important aspect of the showcase was: “to give a platform to female voices and talents”.
“It’s a little farfetched to think it’s somehow going to change how theatre works as a whole, but even if it just gets some people thinking or talking about some of those issues, that would be fantastic.”
As well as celebrating the achievements of women, a particular issue both university staff and students have been tackling as part of International Women’s Week is the lack of sanitary product provision for many women in the local area.
The Colleges Office is organising a University-wide ‘Tampons and Towels Donation Drive’ for homeless and vulnerable women in Country Durham and Newcastle throughout this week.
Cathy McClive, Lecturer in Early Modern European History at Durham , said: “With limited or no access to sanitary products, homeless women are often forced to go without. It doesn’t bear thinking about, and that’s the problem”
The places where the products will be donated to are Sanctuary 21, Wear Valley Women’s Aid, who operate a refuge for women and children fleeing domestic abuse and Ron Eager House, which is a drop in for people sleeping rough in Newcastle.
A similar project, is being run by Durham student group Just Love. ‘Giving: Strings Attached’, co-ordinator Catherine Braddock, told us that the project differed from the University’ collection by having collection points in several student houses, in the Viaduct, Claypath and Gilesgate, and a local church, St. Nicholas, and running for a month rather than a week.
The products will be donated to three local Durham charities, A Way Out, Oasis Aquila Housing and Durham Foodbank.
Braddock told Palatinate: “We’ve been in touch with the university collection and are considering how we might collaborate in the future.
“It’s important because it’s an issue which hasn’t got very much attention in the past but is a real struggle for the women it affects.”
Charlie Evans, a member of the Giving Strings Attached team, said “As a guy I don’t ordinarily have to buy female sanitary products, so this is not an issue I would normally consider.
“It’s definitely an important need and one of the reasons this collection is great is that everybody can contribute really easily. ”
Lettie Broom, President of St. Mary’s college Feminist Society, and also a member of the Giving: Strings Attached team said: “I think it’s really important for us to talk about issues like this, and the taboo surrounding menstruation has a lot to do with firstly, why there’s no funding, and secondly, why there’s a lack of donations of sanitary products”
The University collection will run until the end of the week, and Giving: strings attached will run until the end of Epiphany term.