Women in Action

organised by Extinction Rebellion

8th March 2023

Empowering local women to act – York International Women’s Week

On 7th March, as part of York International women’s week, Extinction Rebellion York proved it does more than block roads by hosting a vibrant community event at one of the city’s most popular venues, SPARK:York. 

The fully-booked event was masterminded by Madeline Brace, one of the group’s youngest members, and hosted by Sophia Cheng, expert facilitator and founder of climate communication organisation With Many Roots

Five women activists were invited to talk about a specific action they took part in, beginning with Judith Rattenbury of Extinction Rebellion York. Judith discussed her arrest at a road block action with Extinction Rebellion Cambridge. 

“As a friend of mine once said to me, when someone asks, what did you do, at least I can say, I tried.” 

Heather Smith of York Stand Up to Racism spoke about her involvement in a powerful rally to protest against refugee deportations to Rwanda. She offered this advice for activists in speaking scenarios. 

“Write down what you’re going to say. Make it sound natural. If you’re great at improvising, go for it. I certainly felt more confident afterwards and I was glad that I did it.” 

Ivana Jakubkova, York Community Energy director and bastion of St Nick’s environment group, revisited a high-profile action at a power plant. The activists wore full Viking garb, showing that action is also about having fun. 

I did not grow up with the idea of trying to challenge authority. I got into civil disobedience at university. You want to defend what you love, and I love nature. From leafleting outside McDonald’s, I got a job working for an activist network. I’m trying to make a difference.” 

Molly Griffith-Jones, representing Axe Drax and the Stop Burning Trees coalition, spoke about an action at a greenwashing event sponsored by Drax. Molly emphasised the importance of planning, and being comfortable with the action you take – whether background or public-facing. 

We split roles and tasks between ourselves – logistics, media, the people who would do the disruption. We talked about what people’s boundaries are and what they were comfortable doing. We did run-throughs. A lot of it was adapting to change.” 

Julie Forgan, teacher and Trades Union Congress member with 35 years as a socialist, shared her experiences of demonstrating against the Iraq war in 2013. 

22 full coaches went from York. It was something you felt you had to be part of you care about what happen to the planet. My partner and I decided to take our three young children on the coach to the demonstration. One of the memories I have is of the Les Miserables cast hanging out of the window chanting no to war.” 

Participants were then invited to break out into smaller groups to discuss what action means to them, what inspires them, and how action could be made more accessible to women. All participants then came back together to share thoughts and feelings. The overarching messages were familiarity and fun, and that action doesn’t have to mean getting arrested or joining mass demos. It’s about engaging in the community and finding acts, however big or small, that make a difference. 

Extinction Rebellion York is preparing to join the pressure group’s most important demonstrations to date, starting in London on April 21st. The group is inviting members of the public to find out more about the demonstrations at a follow-up event on 28th March, 19:00pm, at the Friargate Meeting House. 

For more information about other events on offer this week, visit YIWW | York International Women’s Week (wordpress.com)

To find out more about Extinction Rebellion York, contact 07891015955

Pictured below: 1) Molly Griffith-Jones from Axe Drax captivates the room, 2) Madeline Brace of Extinction Rebellion York sets the scene with a brief history of female activism, 3) Sophia Cheng interviews Extinction Rebellion York’s Judith Rattenbury.