On the 29th of February, Forward UK hosted an exceptional program of Black Community leaders and community activist with the agenda of ‘Strengthen our collective voices’ through an informative discourse on the systematic disenfranchisement of African Diasporic women. As a young BAME women myself, I find it imperative to contribute to such discussions of gender and race. This is implicit to my work with KORI, as I hope to contribute my own experiences and passions to this extremely important cause. Despite the torrential rain earlier that morning the turnout of participants stood as an extraordinary testament to the success and importance of such forums.
The key speaker was Dr Jane Goldsmith, writer, activist and an important figure in the 1995 ‘World Conference on Women’ in Beijing. Dr Goldsmith explained the various objects underlying the Beijing conference, highlighting such points as the empowerment of women as not only an important end in itself but as an essential tool in realising the full potential of society as a whole, quoting Hilary Clinton’s famous proclamation at the very same United Nations women’s conference; ‘Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.’ I found that the events of the Beijing conference have essentially paved the way for BAME organisation such as Forward UK to cater to the needs and voices of women from the African diaspora. The results of which are evident in the mainstreaming of the gender discourse within modern politics as well as spear-heading legislation and equality policies for many nations around the world. In particular, Dr Goldsmith explained that government response to the shift in the social milieu surrounding gender politics, set up women’s equality units and ministries for women.
An important sentiment I personally took away from the event was that ‘When spiders unite they can tie up a lion’, an allegory for the work of marginalised groups such as black women, both in the west and global south; through united and focussed efforts women are able to demand the rights and liberties due to them. Dr Goldsmith legacy is undoubtedly a monumental figure for women of the African Diaspora Women’s Movement. Although, previously ignorant to the Beijing initiative, I was so moved by Dr Goldsmiths words I purchased her extraordinary biography: ‘The Space Between Black and White.’
After her passionate presentation, a panel of community leaders and young black women were introduced. All of whom took a proactive and impressive stance to their own activism. Moderated by the lovely Rainatou Sow from the ‘Make Everywoman Count’ organisation, the focus of this section of the day’s programme was to discuss the African women’s agenda and the implications of ineffective, and even at times crippling, Sustainable Development Goals enforced by organisations such as the UN and World Bank. The panel itself was made up of Motunrayo Fagbayi from the organisation, ‘Diasporic Development,’ discussing the implication of the Beijing UN conference and Sustainable Development Goals ’s (SDG’s) for young women in the Diaspora. As well as Sophie Efange from the ‘Gender and Development Network, discussing the underlying mechanism of macroeconomic policies to the scope and success of BAME programmes within the UK, highlighting the importance of visibility and fundraising. Undoubtedly, all panellists contributed to my extremely enriching experience and have evoked a new ambition and focus for my own endeavours within this field.
The day closed off with further workshops, in which I chose to part-take in the ‘Nurturing Young Women’s Leadership Development’ and ‘Mental Well-being’ Programme,’ co-led by representatives from both Diasporic Development and Forward UK. I found this to be particularly interesting as we discussed the implications of mentoring for young BAME women and the denial of such resources within institutions. We spoke about the values of mentoring and our individual contribution or experiences of such mentoring, to which I was able to share KORI’s work. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with all these truly awe-inspiring women and hope to attend many other similar events.