Through Needlecraft Towards Revolution in Sweden

Right now, making a pair of relatively simple mittens, knitting feels methodical. Melodic even. Other times, knitting causes every muscle to strain and my temples to pound with frustration. Sometimes I would rather just burn the sweater I’m knitting since it’s turning out all wrong, but I don’t. Instead I keep knitting, because I know I’m backed by a needlecraft community that is spread out all around the globe.

Nea Glad is one of the co-founders of ‘Unifying Progressive Handicraft’ – a needlecraft association based in Malmö, Sweden. She and her friends started the association in the summer of 2012. Since then it has grown and today they get together once a week to hang out and do needlework. Now and then they also participate in political projects or conduct workshops.

Nea says: “Through our association we wish to create spaces that enable people of different ages, colors, nationalities and abilities to meet through their mutual interest. It doesn’t matter where you come from or how old you are, as long as you like to needlecraft. In that way, needlecraft can be a way of connecting people who would never have met under different circumstances. When knitting together, categories, which otherwise might divide people, are less present. Even though education, sexuality, gender identity and health might still be important parts of our identities, they are not the reason we get together.”

She continues: “We wish to create spaces free from the imperative ideals of capitalism and let the results of our needlecraft be measured by a different yardstick than the one of the market. Where the production can be slow and where techinques, simple or advanced, will be passed on and create a linkage between us and the women before us, to whom needlecraft wasn’t always as joyful as we find it today.”

Women have been doing needlecraft through generations but it has never really been considered a valuable skill since it has (almost) always been carried out by women only. “Unifying Progressive Handicraft” wishes to reclaim the value of needlecraft, and also raise awareness of the important role needlecraft has played for women through history. Needlecraft enabled women to organize during times when it was not otherwise possible for them to do so freely.

“Our aim is to keep enable people from different backgrounds to get together, learn and inspire each other through needlecraft. We wish for a community without fixed borders and through our meetings we will keep striving towards a more inclusive, open and equal society. Even though we might not always succeed, we will keep our motto in mind; through needlework, towards revolution!”

Until April 2nd you will find “Unifying Progressive Handicraft” at the City Library in Malmö, where they have an exhibition. If you live in Malmö, or if you’re visiting – don’t miss it!

Cover photo credit: Unifying Progressive Handicraft

Does International Women’s Day Deserve to be an Official Ukrainian Holiday?

8th March, for most in the world, marks an average day.  International Women’s Day (IWD) is often acknowledged but not truly celebrated. It’s mentioned on the news or acknowledged by a local women’s non-governmental organizations, but it could easily be missed if you’re not looking for it.

In Ukraine, as well as many other countries of the former USSR, International Women’s Day is widely celebrated. From little girls to older ladies, each and every woman is given flowers and cards to celebrate.

But in the months leading up to the 2017 celebration of IWD, public opinion and debate have shifted. The Ukrainian Institute of National Memory published a bill which proposed the removal of International Workers’ Day (May 1-2) as well as International Women’s Day (March 8) from the list of official state holidays. To understand why anyone would propose the removal of IDW, you must first understand the history.

The holiday first appeared in the United States and was organized by the Socialist Party of America to commemorate the strike of the International Ladies Garment Workers. On 22 November 1909, garments workers gathered to discusses their dangerous working conditions, unequal wages to men, and unreasonable working hours. The strike lasted until February 1910. The women, led by Clara Zeitkin, were able to negotiate better wages, shorter working hours, and equal treatment.

In August 1910, the general meeting of the Socialist Second International was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. The event was preceded by an International Women’s Conference. It was here that German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual International Women’s Day. For the next few years, women all over the world used the day to march and propose equal rights – including suffrage.

The first IWD was observed by Russian women in 1913, but it wasn’t until after the October Revolution that the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai and Vladimir Lenin made it an official holiday. It remained a working day within the Soviet Union until 1965 and became predominately celebrated within communist and socialist countries following the USSR’s adoption. China celebrated it in 1922, then after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the state proclaimed 8 of March to be an official holiday with women in China being given a half-day off.

It’s these ties to communism as well as socialism that leave many in Ukraine questioning, why is IWD still celebrated? The drafted law reads, “These international days were declared holidays in Ukraine during the first years of the Bolshevik regime, and they were introduced to support the then-current social and political movements.”

Volodymyr Viatrovych, head of the Ukrainian Insitute of National Memory, also alludes to the idea that the modern interpretation of IWD does not celebrate women but further pushes them into  imposed gender roles. He stated, As a historian, I think that it was the holiday format that deprived this day of its human rights meaning and turned it into a holiday of cakes and flowers.”

But this decision has also been met with backlash. “In this case with Viatrovych, we again have a situation in which a man makes a decision regarding the day of women’s fighting for their rights,” says Iryna Zemlyana, a project manager at the Institute for Mass Information.

Since the bill’s drafting, a group of female activists has sent an open letter to Volodymyr Viatrovych. They point out that the origins of the holiday – the meeting of over 100 in Copenhagen in 1910 – should be celebrated.

The letter says: “March 8 is not just Women’s Day, but the Day of Women’s Rights, when every woman – regardless of her age, family status, nationality, religion, residence, health, income or profession – has the opportunity to remind people out-loud that she is an equal person with full rights.

By canceling the celebration of the International Day of Women’s Rights, Ukraine demonstrates that it does not recognize discrimination of women as a serious problem.

The question remains: does International Women’s Day hold value if the meaning has shifted from celebrating  universal suffrage of women and the empowerment of women’s rights in the workplace to ‘girly’ trinkets and traits? Can a nation, such as Ukraine, which has implemented numerous de-communisation programs in the past years, overlook International Women’s Day’s ties to the USSR’s history?

It’s these questions and more that will continue to drive debate for years to come as Ukraine continues to try and redefine its national identity.

Cover photo credit: Ian Schneider 

The Girl Effect Uproots Poverty

Bloggers Diane and Elisabeth with Maria Eitel, Founder of the Nike Foundation
Bloggers Diane and Elisabeth with Maria Eitel, Founder of the Nike Foundation

The Girl Effect, in conjunction with the United Nations Foundation, will launch its Girl Declaration on the International Day of the Girl, October, 13th 2013. The Declaration serves as a call to action for the Post-2015 Agenda to increase its emphasis on adolescent girls living in poverty. In contrast to many other documents, the Girl Declaration highlights voices and stories from adolescent girls in the developing world rather than from organizations and government officials.

The Declaration consists of five recommended goals from the girls’ point of view:

  • Re-orient health systems to work for adolescent girls
  • Give adolescent girls equitable, quality education and learning
  • Eradicate child marriage, FGM/C and other harmful practices
  • Build and protect adolescent girls’ economic assets
  • Prevent and respond to all forms of violence against adolescent girls

Additionally, the Declaration includes five principles of success:

  • Invest early and at key stages
  • Make adolescent girls visible
  • Budget for adolescent girls
  • Design for adolescent girls
  • Eradicate harmful social norms

The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect and the UN Foundation presented The Girl Tree at Women Deliver to promote the Declaration’s launch. The Tree’s 250 stories represent the 250 million untold stories from girls around the world, serving as a creative and powerful reminder of the importance of the Declaration’s mission.

Story of a Girl
Story of a Girl

Rwandan representatives from Ni Nyampinga opened the discussion surrounding The Girl Tree with questions directed at Maria Eitel, Founder of the Nike Foundation, and Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the UN Foundation. Girls’ Globe Blogger Diane Fender participated in the Q and A by posing a question related to direct follow up with the 250 storytellers. Eitel and Calvin responded that The Girl Tree exists to represent the collective voice of adolescent girls around the world rather than only focusing solely on the 250 personal accounts of poverty.

Girls’ Globe bloggers eagerly signed the Declaration and Blogger Justine Stacey became its 500th signature!

Justine signing the Declaration
Justine signing the Declaration

You can help!

Raise your voice and sign the Declaration to  promote adolescent girls’ rights in the Post-2015 Agenda.

Blog Post by: Diane Fender and Elisabeth Epstein 

Quote #1, 2012

“The unfortunate reality is that women’s issues are marginalized, and in any case sex trafficking and mass rape should no more be seen as women’s issues than slavery was a black issue or the Holocaust was a Jewish issue. These are all humanitarian concerns, transcending any one race, gender, or creed”.

– Kristoff, Nicholas and WuDunn, Sheryl, 2009, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, p. 234, Knopf: New York.

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