Strong Women in Walthamstow

Submitted by: Deborah Nash

Local community hub and craftivist organisation Significant Seams has teamed up with independent cinema Stow Film Lounge to curate a series of films cut on a feminist bias.

The launch of the ‘Strong Women’ programme on 26th February heightened awareness of International Women’s Day (8th March) and the Significant Seams ESL classes that teach English as a second language complemented by a sewing activity.

The ‘Strong Women’ film series aims to raise funds through ticket sales to support the ESL classes and Girl Rising was chosen as the film to launch the programme.

Catherine West, chief executive of Significant Seams, says: “The film is about female access to education in a way that connects to our ESL programme, however, it is also about the creativity of children, which we at Significant Seams find is often taught out of them.

“We spend a fair bit of time telling people it’s okay not to be perfect. There is beauty in difference – we call it personal style.”

Nick Bertram, founder of Stow Film Lounge took bookings for the evening at Orford House and in the chandeliered comfort of the green walled lounge, punters sat down with reasonably priced drinks from the bar to watch an inspiring documentary showing the struggle of nine girls from different parts of the world who overcome forced marriage, poverty, slavery, environmental disaster and prejudice to gain an education.

Beautifully shot in each of their countries – Cambodia, Nepal, India, Egypt, Ethiopia, Peru, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Haiti – the girls’ stories were scripted by local writers and intercut with statistical evidence showing the importance of educating girls to effect economic and social change.

“I am a girl masked,” says Amina, from Afghanistan. “My body is a resource to be spent for profit and pleasure.”

“I am a child of the dump,” says another, “hunting for a glint of gold in the rot. I am a girl thrown away.”

As education, particularly tuition fees and student debt, is likely to be one of the hot topics for political debate in the forthcoming General Election, it was illuminating to be reminded of its international significance, in countries where millions of girls are still deprived of basic schooling.

Another film in the ‘Strong Women’ series, How to Make an American Quilt, starring Winona Ryder and Maya Angelou (shown 6th March) was wonderfully apt as Signifcant Seams is currently making its fifth community patchwork quilt themed on the changing role of women.

The individual patches will be stitched together to create a richly distinctive community craftwork, unique to Walthamstow but telling a global story. It will go on display for the E17 Art Trail.