Friday 10 March 2023

North East women share their experiences of inequalities in powerful poems for International Women's Day

Posted by Claire Smiles, Fuse PhD student from Newcastle University and experts by experience Marie Warby and Kayleigh Cookson

Presenters and experts by experience at the Fuse event on International Women's Day 
On International Women’s Day 2023 we at Fuse celebrated by showcasing the lived experiences of women in the North East. This event brought together experts by experience, researchers and practitioners who engaged with presentations, shared experiences and devised top priorities to tackle women’s health inequalities. 

I presented the early findings from the ‘Women’s Sexual Wellbeing’ study alongside wonderful women with lived experience. During my presentation Marie and Kayleigh shared powerful poetry they had written for our IWD Fuse event. Their poetry about womanhood and motherhood reflected on personal experiences and demonstrated the challenges and the resilience of women. A big thank you to Marie and Kayleigh for agreeing to share their poems in this blog post and to Kirsty for taking the videos below.

Catch up with all the discussion on Twitter using #FuseRE and International Women's Day using #IWD2023 and #EmbracingEquity. For more information about the event visit the Fuse website.

** Content/trigger warning: adult language and references to abuse and suicide **

Womanhood by Marie Warby

The road to womanhood wasn’t so kind to me. 

I look at infancy and I see abuse; I look at puberty and I see a noose. 

A very painful past as I recall, I didn’t allow it to stop me, I refuse to fall. 

I felt like an adolescent, stuck in a woman’s body, 

Screaming out hoping someone would hear, my body always stuck in a constant state of fear 

Very submissive that’s what I’d become, all I needed was a way to find home. 

Without a map nor a tool, just a woman to teach me from her school, 

A wealth of knowledge to show me the way, I know ill be powerful and independent one day. 

My inner child is reaching out and ready to kneel, this little girl needs to heal. 

With a blank sheet of paper where do I start, it's time to mend my broken heart. 

I look at my past with no regret, for every challenge of womanhood I’ve met. 

To say it’s been easy that would be wrong, and here I stand singing my song. 

Shining a light for others to see, some days I can’t believe it's me. 

Womanhood is such a beautiful place to be, and now finally I can nurture Marie.

Needs to be everything by Kayleigh Cookson


The expectations of a mother is not easy,
I need superpowers and multi-tasking skills.
I have to be a role model and provide a clean tidy house,
I have to budget and pay all the bills.

I need to be very organised,
Always plan ahead every time I go shopping.
I have to be a cook, a baker, I'm never out the kitchen,
And I am a professional at washing.

I need to be brilliant at cleaning,
Wash the dishes, hoover up, pick up mess.
I have to negotiate and play referee,
My patience constantly at test.

I need to be very responsible,
Be a doctor, nurse, councillor, therapist.
I have to be handy at odd jobs round the house,
There's no problem that I cannot fix.

I need to be an expert encyclopaedia,
To answer all the why's, how's, what's, where's and when.
I have to be fun and play lots of games,
Again and again and again.

I need to be a smart tutor,
Help with homework, teach right from wrong.
I have to be a PA, hairdresser, taxi driver,
And always put things back where they belong.

I need to make lots of dreams come true,
I am Santa, the tooth fairy, Easter bunny.
I have to cure boredom on cold and wet rainy days,
Go out and make memories when it is sunny.

I need to be rich with empathy,
Be supportive, wipe away lots of tears.
I have to be a hero and never be scared,
And chase away all the nightmares and fears.

I need to be a care giver,
A good communicator and be able to detect lies.
I have to be an agony aunt and a shoulder to lean on,
I've got to know how to save lives.

I need to be an active listener,
Good at advice and have psychic abilities.
I have to be ready and always prepared,
To provide mental and emotional stability.

I need to be loving and caring,
Tend to wounds, scars, bumps, patch up scrapes.
I have to be a healer and always the best one,
To pick up pieces every time a heart breaks.

I need to be strong, be a survivor,
Put on a brave face no matter the weather.
I have to paint on a smile, show no pain, head up high,
Always cope, always hold it all together.

I need to always have time,
There's no relax, no switch off, no escape.
I have to put everyone's needs above my own,
Oh the guilt if I make a mistake.

I need to never be ill,
Cope with bleeding monthly and raging hormones.
I have to put up with mood swings, hot flushes and cramps,
Then not to mention the menopause.

I need to be forever perfect,
Can't shout or swear coz I'll face stigma and shame.
I have to never go out coz I'll be a bad mam and a slag,
Not worthy, always judged, the one to blame.

The expectations of a mother is not easy,
I need to also then be a friend, a partner, a wife.
I have to be a daughter, a sister, an aunty, a nana,
I am never just me, a woman living my life.

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