Forty Voices, Forty Years celebrates change created by women in Welsh society
A heritage project led by Welsh Women’s Aid in collaboration with the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling at the University of South Wales (USW) has been launched in Cardiff.
The Forty Voices, Forty Years final exhibition recalls and celebrates the significant change created by women in Welsh society since 1978, when the movement was founded to challenge and prevent domestic abuse in Wales.
A year of activities and events has culminated in the exhibition, which was launched yesterday - St Dwynwen’s Day - at St Fagans Museum of Welsh History.
It profiles the memories and stories from women involved in the movement in Wales, who have been responsible for placing domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women on the public, political, and social agendas.
The exhibition includes a collection of 40 oral histories in the form of digital stories, an exhibition of photos and objects from the movement’s past, and a timeline of major events for the movement over the past 40 years. It runs for a month.
Eleri Butler, CEO of Welsh Women’s Aid, said: “This is a remarkable, unique exhibition and archive collection which captures and commemorates the pioneering women in Wales who’ve worked relentlessly to challenge violence against women and support survivors of abuse.
“We’re opening the exhibition to the public on Dydd Santes Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, because she devoted her life in the fifth century to promoting loving relationships after surviving rape by her partner and escaping being forced to marry a man she did not love.
“Dwynwen’s legacy lives on in the thousands of women who have experienced abuse, and who still rise, every day, to hold families and communities together, build movements and change lives.“
“We know women’s memories, voices and lives tend to be written out of our national heritage, so the stories and memories from some of these inspiring women will be available together, for the first time, at this exhibition.
“I’m delighted that people in Wales now have the opportunity to not only learn about our achievements but also to join us to achieve our shared goal of eradicating violence against women, for good.”
Dr Emily Underwood-Lee, Research Fellow at the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling, said: “We are delighted to have worked with Welsh Women’s Aid on this important project to capture the heritage of the movement to end gender based violence.
“Partnership working is central to the USW’s ethos of undertaking research that makes a real difference to the lives of people in Wales and beyond.
“The stories that these women have so generously shared with us can help us to both learn about our nation’s history and imagine the kinds of stories we would like to see written about the future.”
Forty Voices, Forty Years is a heritage project by Heritage Lottery Fund, the Big Lottery Fund’s National Lottery Awards for All, and Hanfod Cymru.
Richard Bellamy, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, said: “So much of our history is woven into people’s experiences and memories. Forty Voices, Forty Years is a fine example of HLF’s Our Heritage programme that, thanks to National Lottery players, makes it possible for people to choose what history is important to them, what they want to save and make available for future generations, and how they want to help the wider public understand its significance.”
After the exhibition, the materials will go on to form an archive at the National Library of Wales, and be made available online and through the People’s Collection Wales.