The extent of sexual violence against women has been front-page news recently and its prevalence in industry sectors has sparked an outrage that has rippled through social media and the press with calls for, and promises of, change. But change is slow, and for millions of women trapped in poverty the situation is dire: Approximately 11,000 women and children are the victims of domestic violence every year in the UK, millions of women aged 18-30 are living in poverty and in 2013 it was estimated that the trafficking of women for sex work was £130 million.
In an effort to affect true change, Hannah Philip, founder of ELF, the east London branch of the UK’s leading campaign for gender equality, and adviser to the 50:50 Parliament Campaign and sits on the Development Board of the Young Women’s Trust, has organized an initiative to support and raise awareness for the UK’s most vulnerable and underrepresented women. The initiative is Her Stories, an art auction, and dinner hosted by Protein Studios featuring some of London’s most celebrated contemporary female artists. A collective effort to raise funds for Beyond the Streets, Solace Women’s Aid and Young Women’s Trust — charities who will use the money raised to free women trapped in poverty, violence, prostitution, and slavery, and help support them turn their lives around. Philip says, “Poverty in the UK, as elsewhere in the world, has a female face. Women are more likely to be trapped in poverty, in prostitution, and with violent partners, without the financial means to escape. As a society, we are failing these women. Women who, without the support of charity to help untangle these complex challenges, face a life of poverty, violence, and exploitation.”
Curated by former ICA curator, Juliette Desorgues, the fourteen female artists who have donated works for the evening include Jala Wahid (who has exhibited at The Serpentine), Motoko Ishibashi, Hannah Perry, Rebecca Ackroyd and Celia Hempton. Leila De Vos van Steenwijk of Christie’s will be the female auctioneer for the evening. The auction’s all female line up was a decision made by Philip in response to the lack of representation female artists have endured from galleries throughout history – an issue famously remarked upon by The Gorilla Girls in their 1989 work, the satirical advertising campaign ‘ The Advantages of Being A Woman Artist’. The evening will also feature music by Nadine Artois and Pxssy Palace, and comedy by Sindhu Vee. In attendance will be some of the women who have been supported by the charities benefiting.
Hannah Perry – who has donated a piece called ‘There, I Said It’ for the event — is a regular collaborator with charitable organisations and tells me, “As an independent artist I am able to bring people into my work in ways that are not always obvious. I am currently working with young people on creative writing workshops as research and development for a performance and solo show next year at Somerset House. Through this I am bringing in extremely talented people, such as musician Brother May and artist Phoebe Davis, to work with and support young people in developing their creative writing, scripts, and poetry. Young people who, like me, haven’t otherwise had the resources, as structures set up to support those who are in less advantaged or vulnerable positions are diminishing. I have also recently started working at the food bank intermittently, which is a fast-growing organisation since the cuts – waiting lists for other government crisis welfare support have also increased.”
Part of Philip’s mission statement with Her Stories is to encourage more people to take action and organise fundraisers for charities that are overwhelmed by demand but continuously underfunded (particularly in recent years with ruthless funding cuts by this government), in the hope that, with more grassroots initiatives and fundraising like Her Stories, Freedom can eventually have a female face.
Her Stories opens with a private view this evening, 22nd of November with the live auction dinner taking place at Protein Studies, 32 New Inn Yard, EC2A 3EY, on the 23rd of November. Tickets can be purchased at https://billetto.co.uk/e/her-stories-dinner-and-art-auction-tickets-222109