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8 Mar, 2012

Women are the Fabric, Quilts Reflect their Strength

UN Fund for Population Activities

Everywhere in the world, women weave and mend the social fabric of family and community, as well as clothing and textiles. Quilts, a traditionally female art form, often also serve as tangible expressions of women’s creativity, frugality, love, solidarity or sociability.

A new exhibition of quilts in the lobby of the United Nations headquarters in New York, with a special opening on International Women’s Day, is a tribute to the enduring strength of women and a plea for the support and protection they need to take care of themselves and their communities.

Women are the Fabric displays 20 quilts embedded with powerful messages and appeals for action. Some are cries of pain from women who have directly experienced sexual violence and massacres. Several express anger at the impact of war on women. One depicts the magic of a rainforest threatened by oil exploration. Together they convey the strength of women working together on shared concerns.

Photo: Omar Gharzeddine/UN Fund for Population Activities

Many of the quilts were provided by the Advocacy Project, a non-profit organization that helps marginalized communities to tell their stories, claim their rights and advocate for social change. Over 150 women from 12 countries collaborated on the quilts. Some were made and assembled in the Global South, while others were assembled with the help of quilting guilds in the United States.

Two fabric panels on maternal health were provided by the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, a global movement with members uniting to push for change so that all women and newborns in every country have the life-saving healthcare which is their right.

A set of quilts were also made by North American artists in support of the United Nation’s work on women, peace and security. These were provided by Quilt for Change, a project to raise awareness on issues that affect women around the world and to empower American quilters to become agents for change.

Together, the quilts capture the many facets of women’s lives: workers, caretakers, and survivors of violence – as well as actors who demand that their voices be heard. A new publication, also called Women are the Fabric, explores how women’s special needs and special strengths come into play during humanitarian emergencies.

The exhibition, which will be on display from 5 March through 30 April, is presented by UNFPA, the UN agency that delivers a world in which every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. The Fund is on the ground improving lives in more than 140 countries.