Our Vote 100 project set out to empower young women and Gypsy, Romany and Traveller Communities. A series of workshops, discussions and collaborations led to some powerful outcomes
Supported by The Women’s Vote Centenary Grant Scheme, we have brought together a new partnership with Dorset Race Equality Council and Development Education in Dorset (DEED). They worked across Dorset with young women aged 16-30 and Gypsy, Romany and Traveller Communities. Together with artistic director Sharon Muiruri Coyne they created an original screenplay exploring their perspectives on citizenship and democracy. They’ve also written a series of manifestos and delivered workshops to school students.
Helping young women find their voice
Participants of this project met regularly at St. Aldhelms Academy for creative sessions. During these sessions, participants learnt about the Suffragettes, gypsy culture and how local decision making can often affect their own communities. Participants also shared their own stories and experiences, which were used in creating the screenplay. Shannon Mahoney, a student from St. Aldhelms Academy, attended every session and took on the lead role, Violet. Her experiences growing-up as a sited traveller has greatly inspired the story. She had this to say about the project:
“At school they don’t teach about my culture because no one knows- but the film can teach others”
Some of the young women involved in this project also helped to run workshops with students at Bourne Academy. This was organised and led by Louise Boston-Mammah from DEED. They each delivered a compelling speech about a woman they had researched, performed a section of the screenplay and assisted with the practical exercises. Students were engaged and passionate throughout. They left talking about the extreme lengths the suffragettes went to for the right to vote.
After the workshops, two of the participants discussed how this project has impacted them:
“I considered myself a feminist before this. I have a big passion for women’s rights and equality for both men and women, but I never spoke out about it. The people at school didn’t really have an opinion, but now I feel like there’s so many other people that are just like me. I now feel like I need to get my voice out there, especially if I could teach the younger generation about it.”
“I’ve learnt how important it is now to vote. They fought so hard, and we’ve finally got the privilege to vote. We need to get that across to the new generations.”
New manifestos to improve the lives of young people and Gypsy, Romany and Traveller communities
We worked with participants on creating new manifestos. These will improve the lives of young people, particularly women, and Gyspy, Romany and Traveller communities.The manifestos are written for individuals or organisations in Dorset and they aim to:
- Improve relationships
- Help to get marginalised voices heard
- Create a more positive, supportive community for everyone
Speaking up at the Youth Parliament election night
We were honoured to receive an invite to speak about this project at Dorset County Council’s Youth Parliament election night. One of our participants opened the evening. She spoke about her experiences of the project and how it has impacted her. Attendees, including Chief Executive of the new Dorset Council Matt Prosser, also had the opportunity to read the manifestos and take away a printed copy.
What’s next? The legacy of this project
- DEED is currently creating free, online teaching resources that will be available soon.
- The manifestos are available online and will be circulated to organisations and individuals.
- Filming of the screenplay, ‘Ghost Gypsy’ is now complete and the final edit will be released soon. With thanks to Kushti- Bok for their support, Life-Changing Choices for allowing their boxing gym to be used for filming and to Hands on Media for filming and editing this screenplay.
Part of the national Vote 100 celebrations
This project is part of a nation-wide celebration. It marks 100 years since Parliament passed a law that allowed the first women, and all men, to vote for the first time.