In the age of #MeToo, International Women’s Day takes on a special significance, too large to let pass without marking the event in some way or other. This year, FairFight decided to go big on celebrations; partnering with the Erasmus University College, we hosted a special event titled Women in Action in the lobby of the impressive EUC Blaak campus. The evening featured four very different speakers for a broad sweep of womanhood in today’s society. First up, Ginie Servant-Miklos, chair of the board of the FairFight Foundation, shared our work in empowering young girls from India and Zimbabwe through the practice of martial arts. Lijnie Reijers, a self-employed ortho-pedagogue, aikido master, D66 municipal candidate, mother and wife who travelled with us to Varanasi in January 2017, shared her personal story of struggle - from her experience of child labour and family trauma, to her successful career and life today. Following on, Sarah Hopkins, at the head of a London-City based recruitment agency, incited women to break the glass ceiling and advance their careers within proper support networks. Finally, Aynouk Tan, the Dutch media personality who brought us the NRC Handelsblad series on the impact of clothing on identity, discussed gender theory and the concept of gender as “doing” rather than “being”.
The evening was structured around a feminist art gallery curated by Caterina Sardoni and Nico Skoularkis, both EUC alumni, organised in collaboration with the Rotterdam Arts and Science Lab. The gallery featured up-and-coming artists and students of EUC and the Willem de Koning Academy. Lumi Pulkkinen displayed photographs capturing the liminal space between trust and tension between linear narration and possibility. Marlene Biesendorfer prepared film loops and a lamp display that eerily reflected on women’s position in a consumerist society. Frederica Notari shared a poignant spoken word piece on biblical womanhood and her Italian heritage. Gwenn Le Pechoux conducted a live painting session in the exhibition hall, while Charlotte Schenk and Noa van den Boogaard had prepared a collection of IWD themed stickers. The exhibition also featured paintings and prints from Zimbabwean artist Tinashe Munemo, and British artist Katie Alexander, both of who also practice martial arts and work with the FairFight Foundation. Their artworks reflect the strength of the young vulnerable girls that the Foundation helps, depicting them as they grow through the practice of karate. These artworks were juxtaposed with printed pictures taken by Myrthe Minnaert during her visits to the FairFight Zimbabwe and India projects. Providing atmosphere to the whole evening with songs themed around women’s power, RASL musicians Tim van Breemen, Evelyn Gallard, Gina de Boer and Jonas Nabbe played sets while guests wandered around the artworks, glass of wine in hand. With an attendance of around 80 people, including EUR faculty and students, community partners of the FairFight and the Zonta Club of Rotterdam (a local organisation dedicated to the cause of women), the evening was vibrant, interesting and definitely something to consider again for the next International Women’s Day.