Dialogue, Deeds and Determination in Oldham

By Chloe Jeffery (Student, The University of Manchester)

On the 8th July, I had the honour to attend the fourth GM4Women2028, with this event taking place in Oldham. Being my first event, I was unsure as to what to expect. However, I was overwhelmed by the sheer mass of open arms and kindness from the attendees and the amazing volunteers. 

The Support Was Incredibly Diverse

After initial networking with the attendees, we were able to partake in a short netball session with ‘Netball England’ which pumped us up for the day of amazing workshops to follow. A great way to start a Saturday morning, however if this wasn’t your cup of tea they had stalls around the hall filled with amazing women’s charity groups from Greater Manchester. It was amazing to see the hall fill up with a variety of attendees, from the local community to researchers as well as other charities, the support was incredibly diverse.

The workshops available throughout the day were diverse in subject matter from the importance of ‘Male Allyship’ to exploring and understanding the ‘Young Voices in Education’. It was a difficult choice as all the options were enticing, but I chose to spend my first session in the GMCA Women and Girls Equality Panel Workshop. Within the session we were split into two groups to discuss our opinions and experiences of the barriers women face in the health sector; specifically how the health sector creates a huge divide amongst themselves and women, such as the inflexible hours for appointments granted for working mothers with busy schedules . With both groups being diverse in age and race, we were able to explore a number of problems and perspectives. The most common barrier identified amongst the group was ‘access’, with each attendee having their own experience of having limited and inflexible access to these services. Listening to the women surrounding me, it was clear that something needed to change. The passion will be the motivating factor to drive this change. Speaking up on these barrier issues, our workshop leader Anabel took note of each of the issues raised and will bring them up at her panel meeting. Hoping to drive change as this information is being used to inform the ‘Women and Girls Equality Panels’ second year health strategy. Knowing that the issues women face are being addressed and understood gave me a great sense of relief, as after listening to some of the experiences of the attendees I became frustrated at the great complexities the women had and were facing. 

After the eye opening workshop we all reconvened in the hall, using this time to explain to the other workshops what we had discussed . It was during this time that the male attendees spoke about their learning experience of the male allyship workshop. Hearing Pete, who was attending this type of event for the first time and had not previously considered what it means to be an ally, was truly heartwarming. He spoke about what he had learned about the inequalities women face and how he could help them achieve equal rights.

The Data Was Very Eye Opening”

Following a scrumptious complimentary lunch, I endeavoured into my second workshop – ’Young Voices in Education’. As a sociology student I have previous knowledge on the inequalities faced by young girls in their school environment, however I have never heard of the experiences a teacher had witnessed. The lovely Laura explained the lack of awareness that schools have in regard to inequalities, prompting her to conduct a voluntary survey amongst the pupils to gather data on how the pupils felt, with shocking statistics such as the majority of students not reporting the inappropriate behaviour they had experienced and displayed this data to her colleagues. These results were so shocking to her work staff that they didn’t even believe these were from their school – very eye opening to many of the women in the room. Afterwards, I partook in another exercise to discuss our opinions as to whether or not we agreed with some pre-written statements. An example of these statements would be whether or not we agreed with all areas of the playground being opened to all genders, to which we discussed the playgrounds as being sectioned up per gender as a result of stereotyping. Opening up this discussion with women from many backgrounds was once again shocking, seeing the vast range of inequalities the different individuals faced once again inspired and created determination for me to speak out about the need for change. 

Thus, the event was an amazing source of creating a community amongst women and men to understand as well as explain the barriers women and young girls are facing. Creating the drive of determination to speak up about change! I am extremely looking forward to the next event!