We spoke to the Edinburgh University student behind the EmpowerHer exhibition

The event will run from Friday to Sunday and feature the work of 15 ECA students

“There’s an epidemic of women’s mental health and struggles with identity,” says Lily Naylor, a yoga instructor and final year art student at Edinburgh Uni, who feels that often there are few available resources to combat this.

And so, Lily decided to take matters into her own hands through creating the EmpowerHer exhibition – a rah girl’s fever dream, a cocktail of art, yoga, self-love and empowerment – with all proceeds going to Engender, Scotland’s feminist policy and advocacy organisation.

The art exhibition, running from Friday 22nd March to Sunday 24th March, will showcase the work of 15 different Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) students, focusing on women, creativity and expression.

Lily says: “Statistics show that 90 per cent of young girls are unhappy with their bodies and by the age of ten, 80 per cent of girls will be on a diet to change their body shape – one in four girls will self-harm before they leave school.”

The mental health statistics of “young girls and young women are crazy – girls’ mental health disorders are much higher [than men’s]. Both are so severe and need to be treated in such different ways.”

Lily believes: “A lot of these issues stem from feeling confident in your body and brain and job and relationships – being a yoga teacher means those conversations open up quite a lot.

“That’s not to say that men don’t have their own struggles – they definitely do – it’s just that statistics show they’re quite different and should be treated in different ways and from what I’ve noticed talking to so many women and girls is that their issues stem from struggles with identity like confidence in your body and in yourself, emotional resilience, self assurance, self esteem.”

So, she created the EmpowerHer event weekend, which “came from merging together empowering women through art and movement” after seeing the struggles that her peers faced during young adulthood and her mother and her friends’ struggles with menopause. She hopes that this event will leave “everyone having had a nice uplifting experience, feeling empowered and a little bit more confident in some ways or another,” whilst raising money for charity.

Lily says: “The workshops range from yoga to journalling, pilates to art, run clubs to meditation – there’s something for every woman.”

The charity that she is fundraising for is Engender, one that works “to dismantle structural sexism to increase women’s social, political and economic equality, and enable women’s rights” from a intersectional and inclusive feminist angle.

They promote a vision for Scotland where: “Women and men have equal opportunities in life, equal access to resources and power, and are equally safe and secure from harm.”

Lily hopes that those who see the beauty within the art will see it reflected within themselves and their own bodies and move away from self-scrutinisation.

“The artworks exhibited are by young emerging artists based in Edinburgh, each was selected for their concepts mirroring the exhibition’s focus – women, empowerment, movement, connection; and community.”

Over the same dates, Lily will be also holding a series workshops ranging from breath-work classes, walking and running groups, to yoga sequences all in the aim of “empowering women and creating a sense of community and connection.”

On Friday evening, the event will begin with “an exhibition opening night with complimentary cocktails and food and talks from inspirational women in the art industry in Scotland.”

The use of movement, whether through yoga, walking or running Lily finds allows people to get in touch with their body and feel rooted and grounded, especially when the stress of university, deadlines, jobs and social situations constantly surrounds us.

She hopes that these events will help women to relax and let loose of the outside world, even if just for a few hours: “When you move your body in an expressive way, it can be such a freeing experience.

“There are multiple reasons why people would want to come. They could be interested in art; interested in community; in feminism; or just in free alcohol.”

The event is perfect for those students in their final year who would like to take some time to treat themselves, or those looking for a few self-care experiences as the days get lighter and warmer. And although Lily has targeted this event for women from late puberty to menopause, people of all ages, genders and identities are more than welcome to come along as well.

The link can be found here.

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