We’d sent a wish list ahead of us – everything from samosas to trifle. By the time we arrived, Barny and the Square Food team had sorted what was do-able in our two hours and had prepared pastry and bread ready for us. Some of the tasks were done by all of us and some in pairs. It was really fun – all of us racing to finish 10-minute tasks like Saturday Morning Kitchen meets Master Chef! Like everybody, our women function at different levels with various skills and areas for development. But the cooking and the way it was facilitated put us all on a level playing field. The common purpose was cooking food.
The week before the party, women at drop-in worked with creative volunteers to reflect on their chosen theme: ‘how are we so inspirational?’ They made beautiful, insightful collages to illustrate their own ambitions, hopes and dreams as well as their own personal strength.
International Women’s Day shines a light on inequalities all over the globe. And the women we meet street sex-working here in Bristol are immersed, at the very blunt end, of exploitation and injustice. They‘ve been abused, lost children, have next to nothing and literally sell themselves every night of the week.
I’ve no idea how I would react to any one of these things. But they still make it to drop-in, to services and to appointments, taking those difficult and sometimes gradual steps away from the streets. They are the most resilient women I’ve ever met – that’s why they’re still here. And why we absolutely must be here for them.
On the day, we basically just laid the table and opened the doors… and an impressive seventeen of our marvellous women came to celebrate with us. Sometimes there might be a little bit of aggro or whatever but it was chatty, there was laughing – the noise of joy. The food, the environment, the conversations… all who came were talking about how lovely it all was. Drop-in made a space free from the demands of society and free from male expectations. It’s a space where women support each other as well as being supported by One25.
For us, International Women’s Day was about celebrating our own unique and wonderful individuality. That’s a level playing field too. For me, it was so meaningful that One25 staff attended along with volunteers and staff from Bristol Drugs Project as well. We were all women. That was the commonality. It wasn’t ‘you’re street sex workers, you’re coordinators, you’re volunteers, you’re service providers….’ There was no hierarchy and labels disappeared. As we move beyond International Women’s Day 2017 we can all continue to help each other to be bold for change.