Engaging With Gender Issues: A Knowledge Exchange with Women’s Community Groups


Wow. What a day. Lots of heads are certainly better than one.

And the Phd experience is certainly no exception. I don’t learn from sitting in a room reading books, I have to get out there, listening to others, interacting, bouncing ideas. What I love about my research topic is it’s so real, so tangible, and people will talk all day about it.

I certainly don’t see attending conferences forums and events an add-on, an optional extra, to me they are a core component in this research adventure.

Sharing knowledge and experience and formulating ideas with practitioners, peers and interested parties is so energising and makes me beyond excited about my own research, as well as excited by what others are doing.

I must thank the amazing Charlotte Barlow of University of Liverpool who arranged the Engaging Gender 2 day conference at the fabulous Blackburne House. Please make this an annual event. Charlotte has also been organising the upcoming North West Gender Conference 2014: Constructions of Gender in Research at the University of Lancaster, which I am very much looking forward to presenting at.

I also again saw the value of social networking. To be able to ‘introduce’ international researchers via twitter, to pass on and share links instantly, to invite to future events. To pay it forward. If you see a reference that is useful to someone else, pass it on. Hear about a new journal article or book? Pass it on. It takes 30 seconds to send a link but could really benefit a fellow researcher, especially those who feel isolated.

Blogging is invaluable too as more people read my posts than will probably ever read my written work. Blogging is accessible, fun, and serves as a diary of events as well as a record of how ideas have developed. Plasticdollheads is over 1 years old now and I am so happy I started this. I appreciate it isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but it serves its purpose.

Today’s event was a combination of senior academics, phd students and NGOs delivering short 6 minute papers and taking part in streamed 90 minute round tables. This format really works and sparked passionate debates all day long. I presented in the Women, Intersecting Vulnerabilities and Inequality panel on my research Female Sex Workers’ Experiences of Prison: From Punishment to Exiting?. I am keeping an updated list of conference papers here, so please do get in touch if you are attending an event listed.

Meeting Camille Stengel was brilliant, Camille’s paper talked about her research about harm reduction in drug use that uses Photo Voice (the method I originally wanted to use, and hope to use post-phd). Camille’s fascinating research blog is here I strongly recommend you take a look.

Laura Jarvis-King University of Leeds gave a passionate and timely paper on her exciting research into the relationship between indoor sex workers in Leeds and austerity. Working in partnership with Genesis Leeds under the wonderful Rosie Campbell, Laura has been developing a Needs Assessment . The economic downturn has led to increased risk for sex workers and their working practices. I hope to hear more of Laura’s research very soon and look forward to her paper at our Sexed Spaces stream at the RGS in August.

Eleanor MacPherson spoke about Understanding Gender Power Relations & Transactional Sex in Fishing Communities in Southern Malawi. Eleanor is based at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and was examining the HIV risks in these highly gendered communities. Hiring the services of an extremely talented visual artist, Eleanor had a map of her research, which has given me a lot of food for thought about how to present my own findings. It was very effective and a great way to disseminate findings.

Rachael Eastham spoke about using life histories as a method to go beyond typical and piecemeal understandings. Life histories can show narratives of resistance and dissent in a textured way. I am very interested in this method as it works with what I’m doing.

Professor Jude Robinson briefly mentioned her research with CRILS which I have been influenced by. ‘An Evaluation of a Pilot Study of a Literature-Based Intervention with Women in Prison’ (Robinson,J. Billington, J.,2013). The full report can be downloaded here. . Other reports of the benefits of reading aloud groups can be accessed here at The Reader Organisation website.

I am greatly influenced by the work of Professor Maggie O’Neill and it was wonderful to hear Maggie speak about Participatory Action Research and show her powerful film Searching For Asylum. Prof O’Neill spoke about the value of art giving voice, and women having space to create work when language is an issue. Maggie also spoke about the importance of working with not for. I strongly recommend Prostitution and Feminism: Towards a Politics of Feeling.

I have had a great day and am excited that so many researchers are using creative methods. Today was a valuable encouraging space to share ideas and learn from others, I am already looking forward to the next one.