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Meet... Ellie Vowels

Ellie is a coordinator at Bristol Women's Voice and manages projects on Health, Maternity and Volunteering as well as coordinating International Women's Day activities.

Q: Tell me about your role at Bristol Women’s Voice?

I manage three projects which are Health, Maternity and Volunteering. They all aim to empower women in different ways. So, maternity is about discrimination but we are expanding that into other issues during maternity that you might have, including renting and benefits as well as your employment rights.

The Health project is looking at young women at the moment and alcohol, substance abuse and self-harm are some of the topics we’re tackling.

Then our volunteering project aims at empowering women to realise and use their skills and to get into education or employment in areas they’re interested in. So those are the three we’re focusing on at Bristol Women’s Voice.

And then we have International Women’s Day which I also coordinate.

Q: So can you tell me a little bit about what you’ve been doing in terms of celebrating the centenary?

The biggest thing so far has been the lantern parade, which was on February 6th. It was amazing, it kind of shocked me how many people came.
Photos copyright Evoke pictures

Q: Do you know how many people did come?

It was about 3,000 people … and it rained and rained. And it was snowing, it was freezing I thought people wouldn’t come. And it was honestly the most emotional thing that’s ever happened to me, seeing it come together. It was the resilience of people coming out with their families, there were loads of kids and men and women, all sorts of people and we reached a lot of people we don’t usually, so that was great. Mostly thanks to Dee Moxon, one of our artists who made all the puppets and ran workshops making stuff so that really got people going. We did some sessions on the history as well so that people were aware of what’s been happening in this city and why it’s so amazing. I think it really got people.

Photos copyright Evoke pictures

Q: Well they turned out in this horrible weather!

Then we had International Women’s Day and it’s been great all over the country, this year has been a big year. This was my first time organising it and again, it snowed, which we thought would put people off and thousands of people came again.

Q: What was the event?

We did a take over of City Hall and ran a programme with workshops on everything from recognising domestic violence, to singing, dancing and photography workshops and all centred on the talents that women have as well as tackling some of the problems that face us.

It was wonderful, very celebratory.

We wanted to examine inequalities that still exist and why it’s really important to still be fighting for people to get involved because although everyone over 18 has the vote (actually not everyone, but almost everyone) there are still people that can’t access it, or don’t access it or feel disempowered and uninformed and challenging that is as important as having the vote in the first place, enabling people to actually use it. So that’s what we want to do this year, make people aware (especially women but everyone) of how important it is and how much change you can make. And I think we’re doing that through showing people how hard it was fought for and how much when you don’t have it you want it.

Q: What are your hopes for the future in terms of what will come out of this year – before 2028 and what would you hope could be achieved before the next centenary?

I guess to keep the momentum going that’s been built up this year with the people we’ve reached and that have been reached by the other organisations in the cities so that people are aware and fighting because I think a lot of people haven’t been. Recently, with all the #metoo and Trump, people are more interested. I think getting 50:50 representation for women in all parties, in Councils and in Parliament would be an amazing step. In Bristol we’ve nearly made it there but it’s yet to spread. And to maintain that in Bristol. I think health inequality is huge so to have more understanding – it is getting better but to have more understanding for women-specific health needs in Bristol and everywhere else. And I guess just that people are getting involved, I would hope that people feel more empowered in ten years time and are getting involved in the democratic system, that’s what we all want I guess.


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