Wednesday, 8 March 2017

International Women's Day 2017 - the Women's Quilt

Today is International Women's Day and this morning a group of women were at Westminster for the launch of a quilt to remember the women killed by their partners and ex-partners between 2009-2015. The Women's Quilt is the brainchild of Gedling Labour Councillor, Roxanne Ellis but is a collective work undertaken by women across the country inspired by the Femicide Census and Karen Ingala Smith's Counting Dead Women project. Each square of the quilt represents a woman killed by a partner or former partner and each is as individual as the women whose names it bears.
Many of us will know somebody who has suffered at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. Hopefully these women are now safe but sadly the statistics tell us this is too often not the case. Between 2009-2015, 598 women were killed by domestic violence, two women A WEEK die and 100,000 people (mostly women) in the UK are at risk of being murdered or seriously injured by domestic abuse. Around 140,000 children live in homes where high risk domestic abuse takes place. Some of these children are at risk of physical harm themselves, all of them are at risk of mental harm caused by witnessing such violence.
Yet despite the shocking statistics there still isn't enough being done to prevent domestic violence. Cuts to local government funding means domestic abuse services have been slashed, 17% of specialist women's refuges have closed down since 2010.  Police budgets have also been cut and there is a disparity between how the various forces use their powers such as domestic violence protection orders to their full effect.

It is vital though that we remember these women were and are far more than these statistics. They were people with real lives and shouldn't be reduced to mere numbers, often only reported (frequently underreported) as victims, forever linked to their killer's name and sometimes even subtly blamed for their own deaths. Their murderers are even frequently discussed sympathetically - they were jealous, depressed, "always seemed so nice", people wonder what " drove them to it".
The Woman's Quilt is firstly a shocking visual representation of the women killed by domestic violence but it's also a touching reminder of who these women were become they became victims. Every square in the quilt bears the name of a woman killed and many have been personalised further to represent more about who they were in life. Sadly little is known about some of the women, quilters trying to research their lives could often only find out about their deaths.

Photo courtesy of Louise Flanagan

There is no doubt that there is a femicide epidemic, perhaps projects such as the Women's Quilt will serve to change how domestic violence is reported. Maybe by focusing more on the victims instead of the perpetrators we will start to work towards the cultural change needed so instead of responding to domestic violence after the act more can be done to prevent it happening in the first place. Already plans are being discussed for the next quilt to honour the women killed since 2015, the hope has to be that no such undertaking will be necessary. Sadly we all know that is unlikely and so the work to remember women will have to continue until such a time where real change occurs. The Women's Quilt represents victims of femicide but it is also represents people coming together to express love for women, anger at this ongoing atrocity and the hope for better.

It is hoped that the quilt can be displayed at venues across the country and there is a Go Fund Me set up to facilitate this. Please consider donating in memory of the 598 women killed by domestic violence.

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