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Art Galleries and Women’s Rights

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Art Galleries and Women’s Rights

Another exciting weekend as my third week in India draws to a close. Working days in the office so far this week have been fairly uneventful. I’ve been busy getting on with my assigned tasks, and though it’s very difficult working six days a week, sat in an office all day, I’m starting to get used to it.

Each morning I trawl the same six newspapers and select articles relating to human rights violations, or issues in general, and collect them to put into a quarterly report. This is my daily task for the year, and I’ll be doing four such reports, and hopefully the data will then contribute to a much larger annual report from SICHREM as a whole.

In addition to that, I’ve been working on a funding proposal for their Human Rights Helpline. My other longer-term task is to conduct a larger research project into the functioning of the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission; interviewing Members and the Chairperson, as well as several civil society groups dealing with the Commission. I’ll hopefully finish my research and get the report written at least by May, which will then be published as part of SICHREM’s series of short reports they are bringing out. My own name in print!

VIGBYOR 2013

More excitingly though, Julika and I got called into Mr Mathews’ office on Friday. Thinking this could only be bad, I was totally surprised when he asked if we wanted to go to Kerala on SICHREM’s behalf, all expenses paid. “I’ll give you some days to think about it and give me your decision,” he says. Julika and I both instantly told him it was a definite yes. So as of this Thursday, we’ll be manning a stall at Thrissur’s own international film festival – VIBGYOR – raising money from the sale of SICHREM’s own branded mugs etc. Even better, we’re free to watch whatever films we like in between stall sessions, and attend talks and debates that are also happening alongside. I’ve already been poring over my Lonely Planet guide for things to do.

On Saturday I got the chance to accompany Chithra to a meeting with representatives from several other NGOs, where the discussion centred around an upcoming event they were planning. It was only when we arrived that I learnt we were at the offices of Vimochana – a charity I’d heard about in England, who work with gender issues and women’s rights – so I was in my element! The event being organised was to coincide with the global movement 1 Billion Rising. This movement is a protest by women the world over against the growing culture of violence in so many countries, and aims to use dance and movement as a means of resistance and hope.

 

So the event is going to focus on these two themes, using dance, music, poetry and spoken word, street plays, painting, rangolis on the street, and a candle-lit march at sundown. Amidst the continuous stream of argument and voices talking over one another, it emerged that they hoped to mobilise between 5000 and 10,000 people! I had no idea how big this way going to be. So many passionate individuals from youth theatre groups were there, and people were talking about flash mobs, and occupying the Police Commissioner’s office to get permission for the day. I can’t wait to be involved! I’m hoping I might be able to offer to document the day in some form with my camera, or blogging – who knows.

After the meeting, I went back to my original plan for the half-day, and continued onto a supposedly good area to shop called Kammanahalli, where I ended up buying material for four outfits (they’re just all so nice).

Sunday came and I left to meet a fellow volunteer from 2WayDevelopment called Emma, who was stationed with street children’s charity BOSCO. After Thalli, and exchanging stories of our respective placements, we spent the hot afternoon in CubbonPark. It was free – a nice surprise in a country where even looking is a commodity – and full of couples and children playing cricket. The place was stuffed with huge bamboo stalks and lots of massive, spreading trees that I wish I knew the name of. To tick some things off the tourist list, we headed over to the Government-run museum and art gallery within the park, which again was only 4 Rs, with no foreigner’s tax! Though the museum was full of poorly-labelled pottery fragments and weaponry (some shining examples were “brick”, “clay pieces”, and “swords”), the art gallery had plenty of interesting statues (read lots of very busty women in a state of undress) and some modern canvases upstairs.

We discovered a quiet spot next to a lily pond, and sat for a bit in the shade, before following the sound of loud drum beats and music to an event in a stadium nearby. It turns out this was an inspirational event being held to encourage young Bangaloreans to volunteer in their communities. We could glimpse some men dancing and playing drums, but felt a bit out of place with everyone else there wearing the event’s branded t-shirt.

Leaving for MG Road, the main shopping street, we stopped at India’s version of Starbucks – Café Coffee Day. Though ludicrously priced, the slice of chocolate cake I had, with melting sauce and toffee centre, was so delicious I didn’t really care. I’ve been craving cake since I got here! After a quick look at some books further up the road, the afternoon was getting late, so we parted ways and planned to meet up again. Hopefully at 1 Billion Rising!

ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.

ONE BILLION WOMEN VIOLATED IS AN ATROCITY

ONE BILLION WOMEN DANCING IS A REVOLUTION

On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, 14 February 2013, we are inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders.

What does ONE BILLION look like? On 14 February 2013, it will look like a REVOLUTION.

via One Billion Rising.

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Etsy

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Following on from the disappointing sales of the WI craft fair, I’ve finally got around to finishing the creation of my Etsy store. For those of you who don’t know, Etsy is an online community for selling craft and handmade items, rather like a virtual version of traditional craft fairs.

Making a shop on Etsy was something I had been planning to do in the likely event that I wouldn’t sell out all of my stock. So today I’ve been busy photographing all of my items in artistic ways – it’s so difficult to get things just at the right light and angle so they look as gorgeous on the internet as they do in real life. You have to think of ways to make up for the fact that buyers can’t touch them.

After endless trials with the camera and software that didn’t want to work, I got to the last stage of choosing the best ones, and uploading them – all ready to go. To have a look at my fantabulous creations and get your tactile senses tingling, go to Abigail’s Secrets on Etsy.

A Busy Week

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As the title suggests, this week has been a bit jam-packed. Thus, despite my good intentions, I have again not come around to putting up this blog post as soon as I would have liked.

Anyhow, I received a call late on Thursday night last week from a lady I have been liaising with from Brigg Town Council, asking if I wanted to gatecrash another event (not quite her words) the following evening. I went along with bucket and fresh raffle ticket book in hand, and perched at the top of the stairs waiting for any unsuspecting attendees to walk in. My placement was clearly spot-on, as it enabled me to capture £46 from all the people who didn’t manage to sprint past me fast enough. What a fantastic and rapid way to boost my fundraising! I also succeeded in inundating all of these lovely people with flyers for my upcoming fundraising evening with local business Design Orchard. Looks like my efforts might be more successful yet!

The Saturday following this was devoted then to a pre-planned stall at Wrawby Autumn Fair, in the village hall. I was indecisively umm-ing and aah-ing about going beforehand, as I was meant to be at work that day, but committed in the end to the fundraising task ahead – and I am so glad I did!

I walked into the hall during the initial set-up expecting it be dead, and was shocked at the number of stalls that were already in place. I think I was the last one to be ready. I had a huge table (which I spent about 20 minutes re-arranging, much to my Nan’s annoyance – thanks Nan for the help by the way!).

My Nan, the ever-faithful helper

There was a real village atmosphere (or was that just me?) as I saw old faces from my primary school years coming in  and pretty much every one of them bought something from me. Even though the completion of some of the Christmas tree decorations was still ongoing during the 2 hours that the fair was open to the public, I managed to make £42.50! That’s over £80 in two days – enough for…about a month’s food in India? Or perhaps a quarter of the cost of my visa if you want to put it that way.

I was so pleased with myself, and the stall looked fantastic, as did all the decorations.

Some girl stood behind a stall

The professional touch…

After clearing up and taking the remaining stock home, I spent the rest of my week putting the finishing touches to the final few decorations still needing buttons/ribbons/wire. It may not sound like a lot of work, but such small things can take a very long time to get through, especially when you keep stabbing yourself with the needle. If I wasn’t self-employed, I’d be able to sue my boss for damages.

Just when it seemed that all was nearly completed, with only the final 20 or so pieces to finish, my poor, overworked sewing machine had a massive tantrum and started eating anything I put under its foot. Feeling confident, I pulled out my special lubricating oil and subjected every moving part I could see to rivers of the stuff. After this didn’t work however, and my machine continued to make a horrible clacking noise, I enlisted the help of my Dad. Together, we nearly dismantled the thing in an attempt to get at the inner machinery. Eventually I found the problem, smothered all the cogs in petroleum jelly, and it began sewing again like a dream. Pity it only took me a whole afternoon to figure that out.

Thursday evening then saw the completion of the final favour, which brings us to today.

This Saturday was the date I’ve been counting down to for over a month and a half, the one which began the entire crazed sewing project. The Humberside WI Christmas Fair. I therefore expected to sell as much of my stock as possible, and in the best scenario sell out, making a couple of hundred pounds in the process. I also had some silk scarves imported from India which sold like hot-cakes at the Wrawby fair.

Scarves imported from India, modelled by my mannequin

But I was bitterly disappointed by the lack of customer interest. Despite a great deal of footfall throughout the day, and the fair being open for six hours, I only sold 5 items from my stall, and made up the rest of my pitiful £34.50 profit from raffle ticket sales. In all honesty it wasn’t really worth me going, and I’ll now have to put the rest of my (mountain) of stock onto ebay or etsy (more to come on that). It’s ironic that I did much better on an event which only arose because I was already planning to attend this one. It wasn’t for lack of customer interest. I think the people who came to the fair were in general more interested in having an afternoon out than seriously purchasing goods, as several of the other stall holders also did poorly on sales.

Well, the experience has still served me a valuable lesson. I’ll now be focussing more of my attention onto selling raffle tickets – they’re easy to carry on me at all times and have a low mark-up price which encourages more people to buy. Furthermore, they don’t need to run out, as I can always purchase another book. 🙂

On a brighter note, my next upcoming event should be great fun. Scunthorpe’s Amnesty International group have kindly agreed to hold a joint fundraiser evening for me, where some of the profits will be mine, and the rest Amnesty’s. It’s basically a curry evening where people pay to attend and get their meal. I still need to think of something to contribute, edible or otherwise…until next time!

Over-excitement

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Phew, it has been a while! Lots of things to update on – the most important being that I have a couple of new fundraising events coming up.

I met with the Amnesty International group and we’re now planning to put on an Indian food evening on November 23rd (a Friday I think) and split the proceeds, which will be fantastic! I’m not cooking though as I have no idea what to do with food. I might try to make some Indian sweets though, as they’re my favourite, and the chef always gets to lick the bowl.

I’m also now attending my village’s Autumn Fair on November 10th, selling the same Christmas tree decorations that I’ll be selling at the WI Fair on the 17th. Everything is happening in November! It’s going to be a chaotic month. I’ve attached some fantabulous pictures of the various works in progress, again as a photo-diary of how things are getting on.

I did a little presentation for the village’s WI group as well last week, which was far more successful than I’d anticipated. Handing out flyers for my upcoming fundraising events, and a sponsorship form for my (still-stupid) bungee jump, it seemed like everyone gave me a donation or said that they would attend one of the events. It feels fantastic to have so much support from my local villagers. I can’t wait now for each one to happen, and to see who turns up.

My raffle ticket book for the raffle (surprisingly enough) also turned up today. Time to start selling! I’m thinking a pound a strip. I’m still collecting prizes from businesses and other places – I’m very good at getting freebies – so I already have some chocolate boxes, a voucher for Roe’s Farm Dairy, a £25 treatment at Earth Energies, and £20 for Bengal Spice, where part of the evening is being held. I must keep going!

Looking at visas today also made me realise that the departure date is starting to get quite close now. Up until this point I’d been very good at keeping calm and pretending to think about other things, but now I’M SO EXCITED. My internet history list is becoming increasingly dominated by India-related sites. So much so, that google keeps giving me ads for shalwar kameezes and flight comparisons, and deals for mobile phone rates to India. Stop it, I’m already excited enough! As soon as I step off that plane I’m going to have to grab the nearest mehndi tube and find a saree shop to release all the urges that have been building up for the past 3 years. Sigh, still two months to go.

I also met my supervisor at the charity over skype last week, and she seems spot on. We’ve agreed that I’ll be staying with a family for the first two months on a probationary period. I’ve also had a couple of offers to stay from my colleagues at work who have relatives in Bangalore, and both my (Indian) bosses are going back to the city whilst I’m there! It’s a small world.

Anyway, I’m off now to go and watch a Bollywood film. It might give me a temporary fix.

Dressmaking

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I realise I haven’t updated my blog in a couple of weeks. To explain why, I’ve made a little photo diary of what I’ve been up to…

Basically lots of sewing christmas crafty things for a stall I’m now booked onto for the Humberside WI’s christmas fair. Can’t wait! I’ve been making little favours, or bags to put sweets/jewellery/gifts into, and lots of tree decorations. I got all my fabric scraps out which are no good for anything else as they’re too small, spent hours ironing them all out, and had loads of fun designing my own patterns.

The favours took the longest to make surprisingly, even though they only required hemming and a line sewing for the tie to go through. In contrast, the tree decorations look amazing and are really quick. I’ve probably only spent four or five hours on them so far and all I have left to do is stuff them and stitch up the gaps. That’s for about 50 as well, so on average each will be about 10 minutes to make.

I’m also super-busy trying to organise an evening with the local Amnesty International group in Scunthorpe, and still gathering sponsorship for my bungee jump. I got an article in the local rag last month too – nearly half a page spread! Hopefully people will be interested in what I’m doing and want to help support me.

Enjoy the pics. I’ll post some new ones up from the next thrilling event in the build-up to India!!!