International Women’s Day 2021: Choosing To Challenge through Solidarity, the Arts and Fearless Representation

This year’s IWD 2021 campaign theme was #choosetochallenge, “A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality.” International Women’s Day on 8thMarch is an annual event in Sangini’s calendar. Though Covid-19 has put a stop to many things but regardless of this, in line with social distancing and COVID-19 rules we brought women together to celebrate their acts of courage, determination and achievements that often go unrecognized.  We  organised a virtual event with Srijoni and Sunderland Women’s Art Group SWAG who are making a real difference in a Covid-19 world and who #choosetochallenge.

Women gathered via Zoom, dressed in purple hijabs to signify justice and dignity and shared songs, made posters and composed music by playing the piano with mesmerising melody. They discussed what International Women’s Day means to them. The poster below have words that the women shared.

The opening of this truly remarkable celebration started with Kath Boodhai, the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees at Sangini, who delivered a speech that was uplifting and inspiring for attendees. In her speech Kath spoke about celebrating ‘feminism’ and ‘women’s rights’, inspiring women and everyone to act in the on-going fight for ‘gender equality’. Kath emphasised how important it is to understand the ‘struggles’ that women have endured over centuries, in the first and second wave feminist movements of the 20thCentury and highlighted that we are still to this day ‘fighting for justice’, ‘equal pay’ and ‘better career progression’.

Kath said: “The pandemic over the last year and major significant upheavals across the world has created greater global challenges and has widened the gap in inequalities of all kinds, in our communities, our countries and across the world. We have had to become more alert in a positive way, more empathetic and indeed more resilient to stand up against many social injustices. But we also need to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements and bring more inclusivity and a gender equal world.”

In her speech Kath noted the significant milestone of Kamala Harris being the first African and Indian heritage American women inaugurated as Vice President in the history of America, “as we celebrate this achievement we need to look closer to home and in our communities for women leaders and leaderships in the UK.”

Kath emphasised the importance of looking for leaders in our own “families and communities like mothers, sisters and grandmothers from women in arts culture and heritage industry to form strength and sisterhood, we need more women leaders from Black minoritized community.”

Heartfelt recognition was extended to the team at Sangini, Asma Shohid for her brilliant outreach work, artist Roohia Syed-Ahmed, in helping women to explore and empress their creativity, Sangini partners and allies Sunderland Women’s Art Group SWAG, Friends of the Drop In FODI, Kainat Javed for her support to Padma by injecting new and fresh ideas into the work of Sangini.

She thanked Padma Rao for her “infinite fierce determination and leadership, by taking this organisation from strength to strength”. She also thanked Sreelekha Reddy, founder of Sangini “without whom we wouldn’t have been here together”. Sreelekha was thanked for her resilience, unbounding care, fairness and justness.

Gaynor Clarke, Swag member, in her speech she spoke about how important it is to recognise ‘pride and strength’ and acknowledging what you deserve, she ended her speech with a quote from former Labour Party MP Joe Cox for the Batley and Spen Constituency who was sadly murdered “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

The event also featured poet, Masuma Yesmin, who is a participating member at the Srijoni group and has written hundreds of poems. She courageously read a beautiful poem called ‘Naari’ (translates as ‘women’ in Bengali). This poem was about her reflecting on how she was inspired by her husband to be a fighter and never give up. She said: “With my power I can do anything, I’m not afraid of anyone, I can stand up for my father, my brother, I can stand for everyone.” The tone and the rhythm of her reading portrayed her inner fighter and warrior in a world that often sees Muslim women as weak and fearful. There is no denial that Masuma is a strong woman who will never give up, nor is she afraid of any obstacles that comes her way!

Indeed, this year the need for celebration is far greater than ever as the pandemic has left many women burdened with more struggles, disadvantages and inequality than ever before.

A celebration that will truly be remembered during a time where we had to celebrate in extra-ordinary circumstances. Due to the global pandemic and against a backdrop of real fear and disadvantage for women arising in the news this years celebrations have felt sombre. The revelations made by Meghan Markle and the story of Sarah Everard’s disappearance and news of her murder have been jarring for women across the UK, knowing all too well from each of our own experiences how it feels to be afraid in spaces outside of your home, whether in a new marriage or in a park.

Marking the event allowed us to reflect on the struggles we have faced and still face today, but also look at what we have and how we can support one another through good times and bad. At Sangini, we are a family who support, encourage and empower one another through our arts and craft led projects to achieve our wholesome self. To give women opportunities to express and excel, and to show a true reflection of themselves is an honour and as we stand together, we show solidarity despite the triumphs and tragedy this last year has brought us. 

Our Project Director, Padma Rao reflected, “having resilience, never giving up and asking for more” is crucial to our progress and continuing to fight for gender equality and women’s rights. “I want to thank Sangini’s Board for their wealth of knowledge and experience in helping to steer the organisation”. And we as an organisation thank Padma Rao, for her fearless determination and tireless efforts in running this organisation for the last 20 years, taking it from strength to strength,

We look forward to celebrating our 20 year anniversary in 2022 and will release further details about the events, gatherings, work and celebrations that will be held in due course. For now, we hope that whatever you did this International Women’s Day, that you did have an opportunity to challenge inequality and made space for yourself to reflect on the incredible achievements of women world wide.

Creative Celebrations to Mark Refugee Week 15th June – 21st June

Over the past weeks creative workshops supported by The Cultural Spring were delivered and we continue to deliver to SWAG and FODI members.

Felting workshops – Four weeks of workshops were delivered by Miki Z, resulting in members creating felted objects. Some of these objects were shared on the Creativity Lockdown group on Facebook.


Mindfulness and Imagination – Led by Miki Z, women will make one piece of work based on the theme of ‘Imagine’ using meditation as a way to focus and inspire ideas, thoughts and emotions. All this would be collated into a short video to be shown during the Refugee Week.IMG-20200613-WA0026Julie Easton

Lines of Migration – Led by Padma, this is a drawing based work that anyone can take part in. The finished pieces will be collated by Padma Rao and exhibited online.


IMG-20200615-WA0010Maggie Hsiao

The Last Call – A specific drawing based work that would be developed signifying the recent protests against racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Please contact Padma if you wish to take part in this.

Photo from sree

Sreelekha Reddy

Art, friendship and a chat over a cuppa with Sunderland Women’s Art Group

Have you ever thought that you wished you could do art but never thought you could. Or feeling lonely and depressed? Art has the power to make a difference in people’s lives in a variety of ways. It makes you feel better, builds confidence and makes you feel good about yourself. So come along. A friendly group awaits you

We invite women across Sunderland to come along to take part in the new course in the art of printmaking. Create interesting patterns and explore colours, techniques and materials to create your own prints.

We look forward to seeing you on Friday, 6 September 10.30am – 12.30pm.

Simply Drawing

Our drawing classes have begun in earnest this summer. The six week course is led by Khaled, a Gateshead based artist, highly experienced in drawing and watercolours. We at Sunderland Women’s Art Centre love drawing and it is great to learn some new techniques and approaches to broaden our skills.

There’s nothing more satisfying and peaceful than seeing your work emerge on paper. Drawing can be great fun and serious at the same time. The scope for creative exploration is huge in this genre of visual expression. Last two weeks have been deeply insightful and informative. Look forward to more.

Women’s House Symposium: It’s Finally Here

Support from the Arts Council of England, SLATE, Sunderland Culture and Cultural Spring has enabled Sangini and CWC members Padma and Miki to develop an arts project ‘Women’s House’, exploring feminism, art and the role of women within the Black minority ethnic and LGBTQ groups.

As part of this project, women from across South Tyneside and Sunderland will come together to take part in ‘Women’s House Symposium’ to be held on Friday, 12thApril, 10 am – 12.30 pm at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland.  A panel of speakers from across the region and beyond are invited to present their experiences, thoughts and views on ‘Women as artists, their art and the place of women’s art in the current climate’.

The symposium invites artists, academics and cultural practitioners to reflect upon and engage in a discourse about Feminism from Black and LGBTQ perspectives, share creative practices that challenge and articulate these concerns and raise questions about the status of women’s art within the wider framework for equality.  So popular this has proved that within days of announcing, the event was sold out.

Women’s House project takes its reference from Judy Chicago’s original feminist art installation ‘Womanhouse’, 1972.

Four decades on, this project – Women’s House, considers BME and LGBTQ women’s narratives around some of the issues the women are facing in current times in the light of the wider political, social and demographical changes.

The Women’s House symposium provides an opportunity to examine the notion of domesticity and space (or the lack of it) and asks women artists about how they negotiate and navigate their practice through these socially genderised structures.

Padma Rao and Miki Z, two diverse women artists leading on this project have been working with women’s groups across South Tyneside, Sunderland and Newcastle.

For more information about the Women’s House Symposium or take part in any of Sangini’s activities, please contact Padma Rao via email: projectsangini@gmail.comor 07930175319

Women’s House Symposium: Now open for booking

Women’s House Symposium

Exploring feminism, creative expression for women and women as artists

Friday, 12th April 2019, 10 am – 2pm


National Glass Centre,

Liberty Way,

Sunderland SR6 0GL


Set in the context of the centenary of suffragette movement and the ‘me too’ campaign, this event is part of an artists-led project Women’s House that looks at how we define, understand and relate to feminism intersecting with identity and sexuality in these current times.

The symposium invites artists, academics and cultural practitioners to reflect upon and engage in a discourse about Feminism from Black and LGBTQ perspectives, share creative practices that challenge and articulate these concerns and raise questions about the status of women’s art within the wider framework for equality.

Women’s House project takes its reference from Judy Chicago’s original feminist art installation ‘Womanhouse’, 1972. Hence, the symposium provides an opportunity to examine the notion of domesticity and space (or the lack of it) and asks women artists about how they negotiate and navigate their practice through these socially genderised structures.

The project Women’s House is supported by funding from Arts Council of England, Slate and Cultural Spring.  The symposium is supported by the Arts Council of England and Sunderland Culture.


Please register on Eventbrite to book your place:


For more information, contact Padma Rao – 07930175319/ email:

City by the Sea

Big Congratulations to Sangini and its art group –  SWAG (Sunderland Women’s Art Group)

Sunderland Women’s Art Group is selected to design a bespoke surfboard to be on permanent display in THE BEAM at VAUX.

The VAUX is an ambitious and ground-breaking site that aims to bring new opportunities to live, work and play in the heart of Sunderland city centre.   The City by the Sea surfboard exhibition at THE BEAM represents the first step for the VAUX site of celebrating and promoting the creative and cultural excellence within the region.

This project gives talented women from Sunderland Women’s Art Group to take part in the exciting fast developing cultural landscape of Sunderland.

A Heroine’s Journey

Sangini marks International Women’s Day with a women’s art exhibition

An exhibition of artwork produced by the members of Sunderland Women’s Art Group (SWAG) of Sangini to mark International Women’s Day.  The Exhibition looks at the women’s stories using myths, fairy tales and stories with female protagonists and how they resolve their conflicts without resorting to violence.

Over the past few weeks, women from SWAG have been exploring the themes of feminism, in particular how we understand narratives of a heroine’s journey within the social norms and find positive personal interpretations through creative expression.

The workshops were led by Lyn Killeen and part of a wider project ‘Women’s House’. Set in the context of the centenary of suffragette movement and the ‘me too’ campaign, the ‘Women’s House’ investigates female identity, domesticity and art through research, community workshops and personal reflections, led by two artists Padma Rao and Miki Z.

The project Women’s House is supported by funding from the Arts Council of England and the workshops were funded by the COUNTY DURHAM COMMUNITY FOUNDATION from the Tampon Tax Community Fund. This exhibition is supported by Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, through Sunderland Culture’s Great Place programme.Flyer SWAG exhibition

Women’s House: Explores diverse women’s identities and expressions

Women’s House

Women from diverse backgrounds, specially BAMER and LGBTQ are invited to take part in Women’s House through fun-filled, informal conversations, collaborative, participatory workshops.

Set in the context of the centenary of suffragette movement and the ‘me too’ campaign, the Women’s House investigates female identity, domesticity and art through BAMER and LGBTQ perspectives, led by two artists Padma Rao and Miki Z.

Using creativity and art, the women can express their ideas and views, share their own experiences whilst investigating female identity, domesticity and art.

The project aims to inspire, enthuse and encourage diverse women from all walks of life to look into the status and roles of women, whilst exploring a variety of themes such as domesticity, equality, violence and abuse, voting rights and feminism.  Join us to learn new skills, explore and create your story.

Free workshops are held across Tyne & Wear area.

Thursday, 21stFebruary, 10.30am – 1pm, Makaan Art Gallery, South Shields NE34 0RG

The workshop is open only for women who identify themselves as LGBTQ.

Friday, 8thMarch, 10.30am – 1 pm,  Makaan, South Shields

Open for all women, especially from BAMER and LGBTQ background, the workshop helps explore female narratives, domesticity and personal space through creative expressions.

Saturday, 9thMarch @ WHIST, South Shields 11.30am – 12.30pm

As part of International Women’s Day event, this workshop offers women an insight into the issues of feminism and help explore personal narratives.

Sharing event:  Friday, 12thApril 2019, 10.30 am – 2pm, National Glass Centre, Sunderland. There will be opportunities for women and artists from diverse community groups to take part in a sharing event on where lead artists, as well as guest artists, will present their experiences and resulting artwork. Please book your place in advance.

Final exhibition: 3rdMay till 31stMay 2019 at Makaan Art Gallery, South Shields. Using mixed media, print making, drawing and painting, the two artists would convert a terraced house into a site-specific art installation.

For more information or to take part in the project please email: or Padma Rao – 07930175319




Free Course in A Career in TV or film

Come along to a free course in

A Career in TV or film
and have fun while learning
CHANCE Community Centre
8, Rickaby Street, East End
Sunderland. SR1 2DL
Starts from
 Friday, 9th November 
10 am – 12.30 pm
This is an 8 weeks course for women of all ages and backgrounds, aimed at giving the participants: 
  • Key skills at the workplace
  • key tools for accessing the best version of yourself
  • Completion of a 30-second pitch to the camera
  • Discovery of own self-image
At the end of the course, participants will be presented with a TICBOX Supporting Artist Course Certificate, be listed as a 5 star Supporting Artist on the NE14TV website, and be given priority over certain jobs that come through to the agency. 

For more information or to register your place by 1st November, please email: or Padma – 07930175319 

Course Poster - Chance Community Centre JPEG