A Remarkable Weekend of Empowerment and Discussion at FiLiA Conference 2023

From Friday, October 13th to Sunday, October 15th, 2023, Glasgow played host to FiLiA, the annual women’s conference organized by the British women’s rights group FiLiA. Drawing in 1,400 attendees from 35 countries, this event was a powerful platform for discussing global activism, persisting challenges, and the oppression women face.

A Rocky Start: Counter-Protest and Resolution

The conference began with a disheartening incident on Friday morning when a small group of protestors, led by Tom Harlow of “Cabaret Against Hate,” targeted female attendees with deeply offensive remarks as they arrived at 8:30 AM. Despite the initial disruption, the gathering pressed on to address critical topics such as FGM, sexual assault, rape, access to education, and forced prostitution. Notably, Tom Harlow’s actions were later condemned by the Scottish First Minister.

Forth Valley Feminists were unable to attend on Friday and fortunately “Caberet Against Hate” did not return on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday Morning: A Deep Dive into Feminism

Saturday morning started on an emotional note at 9:00 AM with a session led by Kim McCabe, the Author of “From Daughter to Woman: Parenting Girls Safely Through Their Teens” and Founder Director of Rites for Girls CIC. Kim delved into the intricacies of raising feminists, leaving a lasting impact on the audience.

At 11:00 AM, the conference tackled political involvement with a session titled “Working in Political Parties Across the UK.” Attendees found the session inspiring, emotional, thought-provoking, and even humorous, thanks to the presence of the charismatic Elaine Miller. This session rekindled hope for Scottish politics, transforming scepticism into optimism.

“Sisterhood is Powerful”: A Profound Finale

The final session on Saturday, titled “Sisterhood is Powerful,” featured a panel discussion. The panel delved into sex-based issues affecting women in specific countries and on a global scale, interspersed with singing, dancing, and poetry.

Sunday: A Day of Insights and Inspirational Voices

The following day, attendees kicked off their Sunday with a panel event titled “The Fight For Women’s Rights P1.” Hosted by Rhona Hotchkiss, this session featured influential speakers who left a lasting impression:

  • Dr. Margaret McCartney, Director of Beira‚Äôs Place, stressed the importance of evidence-based advocacy for women survivors of sexual violence.
  • Johann Lamont, former leader of the Scottish Labour party, highlighted the toxicity of the current parliamentary debate on this topic.
  • Maria Mahmed, CEO of Amina MWRC, provided insights into the marginalised in Scotland, with data suggesting that BAME women face the most significant challenges.
  • Alison Weir, spokesperson for sport at “For Women Scotland,” discussed fairness in sports and the need to challenge existing categories and criteria.
  • Lucy Hunter Blackburn, partner at Murray Blackburn Mackenzie, voiced concerns about the power dynamics in evidence collection for policy-making.
  • Susan Smith from “For Women Scotland” emphasized the importance of women’s voices in activism, advocating for more accurate data and representation.

An Emotional Session with J.K. Rowling

For the second session, an incredible lineup, including J.K. Rowling, Claire Heuchan, Julie Bindel, and Prof. Jo Phoenix, discussed the fight to protect women’s rights. J.K. Rowling underlined the importance of this struggle and the need for open dialogue, while Jo Phoenix hoped for more room for debate in academic settings. The session moved many to tears.

Exploring Women’s Empowerment in Zimbabwe

The final session of the day was a captivating discussion with Patricia Chinyoka, an Equity, Inclusion & Diversity Consultant from Zimbabwe. She explored the work of “Women of Zimbabwe,” a Not-For-Profit Organization dedicated to gender equality, women’s empowerment, and sustainable change. The talk covered fascinating and poignant aspects, including the persecution of women as witches in Zimbabwe.

The FiLiA Conference 2023 in Glasgow was a powerful and inspiring event, characterised by resilience, determination, and the celebration of women’s activism and solidarity. As attendees return home, they carry with them the strength to continue the fight for women’s rights and equality. Looking ahead, the next FiLiA conference is set to take place in the autumn of 2025, promising more impactful discussions and moments of empowerment.

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