“IF you are going to engage in these conversations around men’s violence, be aware that for many of us it is not a headline that is up for debate,” says Molly Sterling.
She is the founder of The Reclaim Project - an empowering community space for women and gender minorities who have experiences of power abuse within the arts.
“For many of us, it is a lived experience and, therefore, holding empathy at the centre of these conversations is vital.
“And allowing people to exit the conversation at any time is also so important.”
Domestic violence service, Women’s Aid, has recorded that more than 245 women have died in Ireland because of men’s violence since 1996.
To highlight the extent of this violence and to remember and honour the murdered women behind the headlines, Molly and The Reclaim Project recently collaborated on a public art project called ‘We Remember’ with a group from MTU’s Creativity & Change, including Helen O’Keeffe, Claire Coughlan, Maria Murray, and Richard Scriven, as well as the Cork Sexual Violence Centre.
Creativity & Change is a Crawford College of Art & Design educational programme consisting of a post-graduate course and shorter events, which promote the power of the arts in addressing global justice.
For this ongoing project, members of the Cork public are invited to contribute to the creation of a mural in Cork city centre.
“Each participant will be given a stencil with one of the women’s names to paint on the wall and, as they do so, are invited to reflect on how to do their part to change the culture of gender-based violence, which can be anything from small personal actions to speaking out,” says Helen O’Keeffe.
Molly hopes that this mural will serve as a space for the people of Cork to grieve and commemorate the deaths of these 245 women – “as they should have been commemorated at the time of their death.
"I really hope it can also serve as a space for reflection, particularly for men,” says Molly.
“Seeing all these women’s names on a wall together will highlight the magnitude of the issue of men’s violence against women and will encourage people to take daily actions to prevent violence and to make the women in their life feel safer.
“And these are only 245 names, only recorded from 1996. So, the magnitude really goes far beyond what will be seen on the mural.”
The project also recognises and honours the unrecorded deaths of women by male violence around the world.
“We realise this is a hugely sensitive topic for people, and we would love to extend a particular welcome to any family members or friends of the victims to get involved in the project,” says Helen.
The project is hoping to further necessary conversations about male violence against women.
“There has been a massive social change on violence against women,” says Mary Crilly, Director of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre.
Molly says: “I grew sick and tired of seeing violence affecting the women around me, and no action being taken by the men in my community.
“I was frustrated that there was nothing being done about all the women who have died by men’s violence.
“I was sick and tired of passive reporting and passive language that continues to keep men on the outskirts of the conversation.
“We need to bring them in. We need to come together and speak about the entire spectrum of violence perpetrated by men. We need to deconstruct it together. But we can’t do that without the participation of men.”
The idea of bringing more men to the table to discuss male violence is something Molly feels adamant about.
“I am by no means an expert, but I think what would make a huge difference in the prevention of men’s violence against women is if more men decided to take the issue on in their communities; to examine their behaviours, to talk to each other about violence and aggression, and what the alternative options to that looks like for them.”
Molly cites initiatives like What Does He Need? and The Shona Project as being game-changers in showing young people how they can engage with themselves and others in a healthier way.
What Does He Need? explores how men and boys are shaped by and influence the world they live in. It aims to create significant public dialogue about the current state of masculinity.
The Shona Project visits schools all over Ireland to meet and talk to girls about the importance of being kind to themselves and others, as well as how to find their own place and identity.
Their website gives Irish girls a platform to share their own stories, and a chance to feel less alone by engaging with a like-minded and caring community.
Creativity & Change are presently piloting a youth-workers training programme that uses spoken word poetry to address gender-based violence themes with young people.
All three initiatives are instrumental is creating questioning dialogue that is essential to healing the damage caused by male violence against women.
“We need to not be afraid to speak about men’s violence - which is easier said than done,” says Molly. “We want to live in an Irish society that says no more to violence against women and girls.”
‘We Remember’ will host an exhibition and further events at The Gallery, 46 Grand Parade during April.
To take part in the ‘We Remember’ mural, go to: https://cutt.ly/we_remember
To find out more about The Reclaim Project, follow @thereclaimprojectirl on Instagram.
For more information on Creativity & Change, go to: www.creativityandchange.ie