Women in the world: An introduction...

By Joanna Francis

Afghan weaving woman

In East Timor, women gather together and weave colourful blankets called Tais. In London, an artist puts her messy bed on display in an art gallery. In Afghanistan, a woman gathers thrown away drink packets and sews them together to make a shopping bag. In Melbourne, I make quilts.

All over the world, in villages and cities, large scale or small, women are creating. We are creative beings us ladies. Despite hearing regular protestations that “oh but I don’t have a creative bone in my body”, I am a firm believer that all of us have an innate desire to build and make and grow.

Perhaps it is just that as we get older, we have this desire educated out of us (if you haven’t seen Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk on this, please make yourself a cup of coffee, put your feet up and spend 20 minutes doing yourself a favour.) Or perhaps it is that we are not given the opportunities we need to nurture our creativity, because of poverty, religion, isolation or the fact that we have ten children.

I am fascinated by this topic. Wherever I have traveled around the world, I have been struck by what seems to be a universal desire or need to create. I am fascinated to see the traditions passed down through generations, fascinated by the resourcefulness of women, by the ability to create beauty out of so little and the urge to make some kind of statement through creativity.

So in this little space here over the coming year, I am going to share with you some of these stories. I want to introduce you to some women I have met who have made creativity a big part of their lives, despite facing huge obstacles. We will meet women from Australia who are working with women in other countries to create products and also income and empowerment. We will explore stories from countries as varied as East Timor and North Korea (yes, I did say North).

I also want to explore some of the politics behind creativity in developing countries and pose some questions. For example, do women’s creative enterprises really bring empowerment and positive change? Or do they just add another burden to a woman’s already overwhelming number of roles? And how can we – those of us living in industrialized countries like Australia – actually have some positive impact on the lives of others, either through things we create ourselves, or through the things we buy?

Stay tuned for all this and more! And if you have ideas you’d like to explore or learn more about, or stories you'd like to share, I'd love to hear from you.

Joanna Francis spends most of her time hanging out with her one year old son. But she also works for a children’s foundation and has recently started her own little business making baby quilts. Her house is a mess. In the past, Joanna has worked as an aid worker in several developing countries, and is passionate about the rights of women and children. You can visit her and her blog at www.miettehandmade.com