Women Power Protest: A Visit to Parliament

1 March 2019

As part of an inspiring community partnership between Birmingham Museum Trust and homelessness charity Shelter, developed alongside National Partners exhibition Women Power Protest, women from Birmingham travelled to London at the end of last year to meet with Birmingham MP Jess Phillips in the Houses of Parliament.

The theme of the day was women’s activism, and in line with the engagement work around the Women Power Protest exhibition, Birmingham Museums Trust’s Learning Officer, Jon Sleigh facilitated a meeting with MP Jess Phillips as a way for women, including those from Shelter Birmingham and The Precious Trust, to take their stories to Westminster.

Jess Phillips opened the meeting talking about what she sees as the real people and problems in Birmingham, primarily homelessness, immigrant housing issues and domestic violence against women and girls. She stated her frustration around the disconnect between the issues on the streets and the bubble of parliament.

“As a parliamentarian the biggest issue I deal with is violence against women in all of its forms. I’m using people’s stories to try and change the law in these buildings”

Sharing from Shelter Birmingham

Taiba Rafakat from Shelter, shared her views and echoed feelings around the issues of domestic violence against women and the lack of support if they stand up for themselves or try to get help. Jess Phillips’ response was heartfelt, she is also frustrated with the lack of support from the state;

“We have to create space for women to come forward and not be put in prison for being abused. Women with no recourse to public funds.”


Sharing from The Precious Trust

Marcia Shakespeare from The Precious Trust put forward the issues facing young women in Birmingham mentioning there is a lack of support for young women and a lack of funding to support Pupil Referral Units (an alternative to mainstream school) and schools; “There are grassroots organisations out there trying to help, but there is not enough funding to support them”.

What does power look like?

Jon Sleigh brought the conversation back to the exhibition, Women Power Protest which enabled the people around the table to come together to be heard. This included a series of coffee mornings held before the exhibition opened, where Shelter invited local service users to discuss artworks being considered for inclusion, discussing the ideas and themes behind them as well as talking about their experiences of homelessness and domestic abuse. 

Jess Phillips also closed on a positive note; “you should all feel proud in this room, you are all women in power, you are leaders. In Birmingham on every street there is a woman trying to organise for the greater good of her community. In every area there is a mum organising the school run, in every crisis that happens it’s the women who take to the streets and show leadership. We need to change what power looks like and stop diminishing the power we have as women.”

She finished:

“You are powerful, your testament brings this place to life, the voices of experience will make change.”


National Partners Programme exhibition, Women Power Protest shows at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery until 31 March 2019.
Watch our Store to Tour film to find out more about Birmingham Museum Trust's work with Shelter.

The Arts Council Collection : Women Power Protest: A Visit to Parliament

The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.