Women’s Voices oral history project launched on UC QuakeStudies

Stories about the experiences of women during and after the Canterbury earthquakes have been released online through the UC QuakeStudies digital archive.

'Women's Voices: Recording women's experiences of the Canterbury earthquakes' is an oral history project conducted by the Christchurch Branch of the National Council of Women in collaboration with UC CEISMIC.  Co-ordinated by Adjunct Associate Professor Rosemary Du Plessis, UC Department of Sociology, with the assistance of Dr Rosemary Baird, the project involved over 30 volunteer interviewers who conducted 100 interviews with women in different parts of Christchurch, particularly in the suburbs most affected by the quakes.

The stories recorded by the project document the formal and informal contributions of women to the well-being of families, neighbourhoods and communities since 4 September 2010, and will provide researchers with a better understanding of the impacts of the earthquakes.

Professor Du Plessis says, "These are the stories that did not make the front page of newspapers or feature in TV news reports. Women talk about fears for their children, their partners and their elderly parents; sights in the inner city that still haunt them; practical support for neighbours and friends; coping with no water and no sewerage; negotiating damaged roads and the day-to-day impact of aftershocks. Humorous stories about being trapped in the toilet are juxtaposed with accounts of delivering food to the eastern suburbs via helicopter; working in the CBD post 22 February; coordinating  the Student Volunteer Army and long shifts in Christchurch hospitals.  All the research participants reflect on the future of the city and offer their hopes and fears about the rebuild. UC QuakeStudies Digital Archive makes it possible for anyone to access these stories and for researchers to use them in future analyses of the impacts of the Canterbury quakes."

The President of the Christchurch Branch of the National Council of Women, Judith Sutherland, says, "Against the background of media attention to acts of heroism and men's predominance in leadership positions associated with earthquake recovery, we wanted to ensure that women's quake stories, their responses to family and community needs and their aspirations for the city were recorded. The outcome was this project - a huge undertaking for a voluntary organization. It was possible because the NCW Christchurch Branch gave the project their total support, because we had enthusiastic volunteer interviewers, and because so many women agreed to talk to them. The NCW Women's Voices Research Committee has committed many voluntary hours to the management of the project and is currently preparing a report on the research findings. Other publications are in process."

The project was co-funded by the Christchurch City Council, UC CEISMIC, Z Energy, Canterbury Community Trust, Altrusa International, MDS Law, Kidsfirst and private donations.

Watch a recent CTV news item on the Women's Voices project here