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The Work of Women in the World is worth its weight in Gold

"An exhibition really worth seeing" - Jo Brand

Whether she's an MD of a multinational company or makes sure that a family goes out well fed and wearing clean clothes each day, every woman's contribution to society should be celebrated more often.

This is going to be an exhibition really worth seeing not just to hammer home to men how much more they should value the women in their lives but also because it might boost a woman's confidence in her own achievement.

"I don't know what I'll hold for my cast yet, but I can tell you it won't be a cake!" - Jo Brand

Women's work in all its diversity is celebrated in this exhibition with casts made by 100 women from all walks of life - from volunteers to a Viscountess - and women's voices speaking and singing. The show also features sculptures by Gillian Singer and a centrepiece by international artist Leda Papaconstantinou. This Millennium Festival women's event was organised by Threshold to promote self-esteem and positive mental health, bringing together the everyday and the extraordinary in a 'snapshot' of the many layers of women's activity at the beginning of a new century. It is a testimony to the work of women - so often a labour of love - work that oils the wheels of the world.

This is the title of the Threshold Women's Millennium Event, - a series of workshops that is taking place during 1999, leading to an exhibition for International Women's Day in the year 2000, to celebrate the richness and diversity of the contributions women make to the wealth of the nation, in terms not only of financial productivity but also of social and emotional productivity… the invisible economy of our society. In the workshop's women will learn how to make plaster casts of their hands, holding an object which symbolises for each one part of the contribution she makes to the world. This contribution might be within the family, in the workplace or in the community. There are so many ways that women's work contributes to the wealth of the world; financially, physically, emotionally and socially.

The Workshops:
There will be workshops for at least fifteen different groups from April to December 1999, run by qualified and experienced Art Therapists. Each one will run for two days. There will places for up to eight women in each workshop. There is no charge and materials will be provided. A crèche can be organised if required. They will take place at Threshold in St George's Place on Mondays.

Who Can Take Part?
Any group of women from Brighton and Hove. Each workshop can cater for up to eight women. Such groups might include; retired women, refugee women, female colleagues from a workplace, unemployed women, women from a mother and toddler group, women in a support group, in fact any group of women who meet together, for whatever reason. There will also be some sessions for women who do not belong to a group. We would like the final exhibition to include the casts of hands of many diverse groups; women of all ages and from all walks of life. No previous experience of cast making or working with plaster is needed. Your group needs only to be able to commit to attending for the two days.

The Exhibition
The exhibition will take place at the Fabrica Gallery in Ship St, for two weeks around International Women's Day in the Year 2000. All those women who take part in the workshops will be invited to the Private View, before the exhibition is opened to the public.

After the Exhibition
Once the exhibition has ended each woman who has taken part will be able to keep the cast she has made. We hope that a few casts will be permanently housed in Brighton and Hove's Museums as a tribute to the contributions that women make to our world. We also hope that women in other areas will be interested and inspired by this project.

Other Activities
As well as making the casts women will be invited to make recordings of their thoughts about the work they do. These recordings will be played as a background to the exhibition to give people a fuller picture of women's experiences and attitudes.

Why A Women's Work Project?
For many people the concept of feminism seems to relate mainly to women now being free to do things that they were not permitted to do in the past; to take up professions that men had traditionally done and to break free of the restrictions imposed by their role as wife and mother. It is said that there is no longer any need for feminism because women can now do jobs and earn salaries that only men could have had in years gone by. Whilst this is true it overlooks the status of all the other work done by women as mothers, partners and carers.

Many women still feel they must say that they are 'only a housewife' or that they 'just look after the kids'. This project aims to raise awareness, in both women and men, of the value of all the roles that women fulfil and of the 'double shift' often worked by women who have both a job and a home to run.

It is not surprising that, in a society that places such small value on so much of women's work, many women suffer from low self-esteem and this has a strong negative effect on their general emotional health and well being. Our aim is to remind us all of the wonderful work that women do; of the great strides taken into the workplace and equally of the great mass of 'invisible' work done by women, often unpaid and very often undervalued. This is the work that oils the wheels of the world and we would all be stuck without it.


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