Charities across the UK marked International Women’s Day yesterday with events, festivals and emergency appeals to provide support to the women who need it most.
International Women's Day, held annually on 8 March, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and calls for the acceleration of women's equality.
The women’s campaigning charity the Fawcett Society held a feminist roadshow in Manchester yesterday, involving a debate on what Greater Manchester is doing for women, plus workshops and a comedy night.
Care International held its annual #March4Women event in central London, which began with an indoor rally at the Southbank Centre, followed by a march through central London to a grand finale at Parliament Square, with speeches and performances from guests including Emeli Sandé, Sandi Toksvig and Helen Pankhurst.
The North Wales International Women’s Day festival took place in Wrexham, funded by a grant from the Youth-Led Grants’ Scheme, which is administered by Wrexham Volunteer Centre, the Association of Voluntary Organisations Wrexham, the Wales Council for Voluntary Action and the Welsh government.
The day-long festival included round-table discussions, workshops by leading artists, arts and crafts, and talks from leading female professionals from the area.
But some organisations used the day to highlight the need for services to support women, particularly those fleeing domestic violence.
Women’s Aid launched an urgent appeal to raise £200,000 to keep its life-saving Live Chat service running.
The service is a way for women who are experiencing or have survived domestic abuse to contact the charity. It is run by expert domestic abuse workers who offer survivors free, confidential and non-judgemental advice and support on issues such as finding a refuge space.
In its first three months, 30,000 people used the service, and 70 per cent said it was the first time they had contacted Women’s Aid. However, without urgent funding it risks closure.
Adina Claire, acting co-chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “This is a life-saving service for women experiencing domestic abuse, many of whom have never reached out for support before.
“We know that so many women feel intimidated by the thought of picking up the phone and talking about traumatic experiences, and indeed for many women it is not safe to use the phone with their abuser nearby.
“We launched this live chat service so that women can explain in writing what they’re going through and receive confidential, expert advice on their situations. We are now very concerned that, unless we receive £200,000 in funding very soon, the service faces closure.”
Refuge used the day to launch a campaign to raise awareness of the National Domestic Abuse Helpline.
From 10am yesterday, high-profile women including the actor Olivia Colman and the TV presenter Lorraine Kelly replaced their names and photos on Twitter with 0808 2000 247, the helpline's number, in a bid to ensure as many women as possible saw it.
The number was also displayed in Piccadilly Circus and adverts fronted by Colman ran throughout the day on the broadcasters Sky and A+E Networks UK.
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: “Refuge’s freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline is at the heart of how this country responds to domestic abuse. It is a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of women across the country.
“0808 2000 247 is a number that every woman should know. Today, International Women’s Day, Refuge and an amazing band of high-profile women will work to make this a reality. Women’s lives depend on it.”