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ElevateHer 2016 offers five days of workshops, discussions and more

students in class

Women-focused conference coincided with International Women's Day

Innovative workshops, pioneering thought leaders, the world premiere of a feminist documentary, hip-hop music. At the University of East London’s ElevateHer 2016, there was something for everyone with an interest in women’s issues.

Around 120 people attended the five-day conference, which focused on the political, economic, social, cultural and technological achievements of women. The conference coincided with the 105th anniversary of International Women's Day, which took place on 8 March. 

The conference was hosted by the University’s Cass School of Education and Communities.

“The success of ElevateHer is down to the gifts, skills, knowledge and narratives of delegates and attendees alike,” organiser Silhouette Bushay, a lecturer at the school, said. 

She continued: “It is important that women are provided with opportunities to discuss, explore and develop in areas where there is interest and under-representation. 

“To add to this, it is important that women from all sections of society are represented and differences in experiences, as well as commonalities, acknowledged and taken into consideration in both planning and delivery of information,” she said.

The five days of ElevateHer were organised around different themes and ideas: 2 March was the conference launch, with networking and mingling; 3 March looked at feminism; 4 March focused on young women and girls; 7 March was about learning, development, leadership and technology; and 8 March centred on #PledgeforParity, the campaign theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, which called for equality between the genders.

Some highlights of the conference included:

● The world premiere of Heart Sisters, an 18-minute feminist documentary film about the shared experiences of women living in very different places around the world. (3 March, 10:30 am to 12 pm)

● An interactive workshop by writer and performer Patricia Foster that explored how women can empower themselves when changes occur in their lives. 

● A talk by Omolade Femi-Ajao of the University of Manchester on Nigerian women in the UK who have experienced domestic abuse. 

● A workshop that promoted critical thinking around gender issues and gaining self-confidence in using one’s voice through hip-hop, guided by Silhouette Bushay of UEL and performer MC Pariz-1.

There was also music, food and networking opportunities throughout the conference. 

“All sessions were inspiring, reflective and powerful; providing opportunities for personal and professional development,” Ms Bushay said.

Many of the conference attendees were students, she noted.

“A space was provided where students connected with their lecturers in a networking and social capacity,” she said. “Many of them fed back that they have been inspired to be more active in the community and in student life.”

South African Broadcasting Channel News featured ElevateHer in its global coverage of International Women’s Day 2016.