On feminism in Buenos Aires and Chai Day

Photo: Fiona at her Chai Day at the University of Bristol.

The Circle volunteer Fiona Gilligan shares her experience supporting a women’s rights NGO in Buenos Aires and how it inspired her to organise a Chai Day at the University of Bristol.

I was fortunate enough to spend the first six months of 2016 in Buenos Aires, combining my interest in fashion and textiles with a cause I feel incredibly strongly about – women’s rights and gender equality.

In Argentina, it is a widely circulated statistic published by the NGO La Casa del Encuentro that a woman dies every thirty hours due to gender-based violence. That is to say, women up and down the country are being killed every day for being women.

Therefore, in recent years there has been a rise in the number of NGOs dedicated solely to the needs of women. Mediapila is one such organisation. It is dedicated to empowering and mobilising women through sewing and dressmaking workshops. The overall aim of the foundation is to provide women from underprivileged backgrounds with the skills and, more importantly, the confidence, to be able to find employment in the textiles industry.

The foundation works solely with women, as they believe that women symbolise the root to social change. Working towards a better future for these women enables them to also provide a better future for their children and families, thus changing society on a greater scale.

I was struck by the creativity and tenacity of the women at the foundation, many of whom were in the process of developing their own businesses alongside their studies at the foundation.  They all possessed an incredible passion to learn and a genuine desire to change their lives for the better. I formed strong relationships with many of them, in particular María, a former student who had gone on to become a teacher at the foundation. María’s infectious laughter filled the workshop each day and was a reminder to all the women of the power of female strength and beauty. Despite experiencing such hardship in the shape of forced migration, discrimination and poverty, María embraced each day with a smile. I felt privileged to be working with such strong and inspirational women like María on a daily basis.

My experience in Buenos Aires made me very aware that, although we still have a long way to go in terms of gender equality, we have many privileges as women in the UK. All women should have access to the same opportunities in order to reach their full potential in life. This is a joint responsibility, and it is essential that we collectively recognise this in order to achieve gender equality.

This motivated me to get involved with further gender equality projects when I returned to university in Bristol. My friend Erin was doing an internship at The Circle and told me about Chai Day. It is a great initiative that brings people together over a cup of chai in order to raise awareness and funds to combat gender-based violence in the UK, India and South Africa. It was incredibly easy to organise. The Circle provides a detailed information pack, as well as a poster template to advertise your Chai Day around your university, workplace, or wherever you are planning to hold it. All that was left to do was to get baking! I was incredibly pleased with the support from other students and with the amount we managed to collectively raise.

If you would like to hold your own Chai Day to raise awareness about gender-based violence in your community, inspire your friends or colleagues, and raise funds to support women who have survived violence, go to www.chaiday.org.


Annie Lennox’s interview for The Independent: on Eurythmics, Nelson Mandela and global feminism

 

Annie Lennox discusses her career, global feminism, activism and founding The Circle in today’s interview with The Independent.

Annie Lennox is to perform hits including “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and her own personal favourite, “Here Comes The Rain Again”, at a one-night only event at Sadler’s Wells in March. 

Titled Annie Lennox – An Evening of Music & Conversation, the former Eurythmics singer will also share “thoughts, memories and reflections” on her life and career, set against a backdrop of visuals of her in various musical phases, as well as some childhood photographs, in aid of her the charity she founded, The Circle.

“It’s very interesting reflecting at this point in my life,” says Lennox, now 62. “When I was younger I was looking ahead and never knew where I was heading.” 

Go to full article.


What we learn from our members: dental health and its link to poverty and education

Children taking part in the Live Smart project, in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Credit: Dental Wellness Trust.

I am very lucky. My job entails working closely with members of The Circle. And this means that I am constantly learning about their areas of expertise and how they apply them to further gender equality.

They are also women who appear to exceed the limitations of time, which they manage to give so generously to empowering women and girls, in addition to the significant commitments of their professional and personal lives.

On 4 and 5 November I had the pleasure of experiencing a night and day in the world of one of our newest members, Dr Linda Greenwall. Linda is a dentist on the commendable mission to save kids’ teeth. She founded the Dental Wellness Trust in 2011, fulfilling a life goal of setting up a dental health charity for those in need. It was the start of an incredible journey that now reaches 5,000 children enrolled in school programmes and a further 2,000 who are enrolled in the LiveSmart Evening Health Programme, run by mothers in the community of Khayelitsha, South Africa. Khayelitsha is the same township where the Nonceba women shelter is based, which The Circle supports. And for those of you who joined us at the launch of this project on South African Women’s Day, on 8 August, you’ll remember Linda as our exceptional guest speaker of the night.

I am not a dentist. In fact, as I sat taking in all the information about children’s dental wellbeing, I was acutely aware that I hadn’t been to the dentist for over five years. I also had an Oprah Winfrey moment of gratitude for the education and the significant time and financial investment my parents made to ensure my dental health was the best that it could be.

So, what does a general member of the public with a professional interest in empowering women and girls take away from the wealth of knowledge presented by some of the best industry experts at the Saving Kids Teeth 2017 conference?

Way more that I can squeeze into this blog post! So, I am going to tell you about three fundamental things:

1. Tooth decay

Tooth decay is preventable. Wholly and completely preventable. Prevention is the only real solution to avoid pain, expensive procedures and a multitude of ripple effects that will impact on a child’s health, wellbeing and development from tooth to toe, body and mind.

Give a child a tooth brush and teach them how to use it and not only do you prevent dental issues, you also ensure children aren’t going to miss school because of unnecessary toothache, aren’t going to be bullied or experience low self-esteem because of the appearance of their teeth. It also won’t inevitably lead to painful, expensive procedures in the future.

There are many obstacles that stand in the way of girls accessing an education, which you can find out more about in our project supporting Educate Girls, India. So, it’s even more important to do what we can to avoid adding more obstacles to that list, especially if they are preventable!

2. Let’s talk about sugar

There is a clear, undeniable link between tooth decay, obesity and poverty in children. All of the speakers, talking from very different professional standpoints, clearly identified the same cause — sugar.

I’ll repeat that — despite their different focus points and experiences treating children with a multitude of different issues, they all identified sugar as the problem. Financial limitations, convenience of cheap products (generally high in sugar) and a lack of education about dental hygiene are the main reasons for the severe lack of dental wellbeing in children globally. In areas of poverty where addiction to sugar is high (because it is accessible, affordable, tasty, considered a treat or a reward, and easily shipped from western countries) tooth decay is much higher.

It felt very forward-thinking to hear the connections being made between dental decay and obesity in children. Encouraging approaches to integrated health are increasing our knowledge of how sugar affects the teeth and the gut, two crucial parts of the digestive system that aren’t traditionally considered together. And it seems obvious from the outside looking in that more integrated healthcare discussions need to be happening across specialisations to ensure a child’s wellbeing.

In my opinion, there is a third prong missing in this triangle, and that is mental wellbeing. Both Dr Sandra White and Prof Terence Stephenson spoke about a lack of confidence and the likelihood of bullying in children who are living with tooth decay and obesity. Sugar is the common enemy, regardless of the side of the health sector from which the story is being told.

Sugar is also the wolf in sheep’s clothing acting as the comforter and temporary solution to anxiety, stress and depression. The little comfort and happiness craved when a child has low confidence is being bullied. I think it would be interesting to bring in a mental health specialist to the table who specialises in understanding how living in poverty, experiencing pain and being bullied all contribute to how and why we make the choices we do, so that we can educate children and their parents to make good choices about their teeth and their food. And, simultaneously, raise the bar on what food is made available and why, for reasons pertaining to health instead of profit.

It is important to talk about issues that negatively impact children. Sugar is a common enemy and we need to be talking about how bad it is for children’s teeth, childhood obesity and the options available to those living below the poverty line globally.

3. Spit, don’t rinse

Finally, I learnt lots of science about fluoride and that water and fluoride don’t mix. The formula for healthy teeth is more fluoride and less sugar. So, remember — SPIT, DON’T RINSE!

Together Linda and I are exploring how our two worlds can meet to further empower women and girls, so if you have a connection to the dental sector, please contact us, sign up as a member if you haven’t already and watch this space in 2018!

 

 

 

@PetaBB
Peta Barrett is a member of The Circle since 2016 and our Relationship Manager since 2017.


Annie Lennox- An Evening of Music and Conversation

On 4 March, Annie Lennox will share thoughts, memories and reflections during a one-night-only event of conversation, musical performance and visual imagery at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, in London.

All proceeds from the evening will be donated to The Circle. Annie founded The Circle in 2008, with a mission that we have preserved to this day: to support some of the most disempowered women and girls in the world as they challenge the injustice of inequality.

The evening is supported by Gucci, whose Chime for Change Campaign has been championing girls’ and women’s empowerment since its inception in 2013.

Sadlers Wells is an intimate venue and when tickets go on sale on the 10th November 2017 at 10am (UK time) we expect they will be incredibly popular.

As demand for tickets is high, The Circle has partnered with CharityStars to launch a sweepstake competition offering the opportunity for one lucky fan and their guest the chance to be flown to London from anywhere in the world, spend some time with Annie during the rehearsal for the show on the Sunday afternoon and then attend the event as a VIP. In addition, as part of the competition, there will be a fantastic range of unique rewards, including a red brocade Gucci suit worn by Annie, signed albums and handwritten lyrics for those wishing to enter multiple times. To find out more and to enter go to www.charitystars.com/Annie.

As a truly special event, ‘An Evening of Music and Conversation’ offers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not only to see Annie Lennox perform, but also to hear her share fascinating stories from her life and career.

Tickets for ‘Annie Lennox – An Evening of Music and Conversation’ will be available to purchase from 10am on 10th November 2017 online at ticketmaster.co.uk/annielennox or by phoning the Sadler’s Wells Theatre box office on +44 (0) 207 863 8000.


Annie Lennox on CBS The Talk

Photo credit: Johnny Vy/CBS ©2017 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

The Circle Founder Annie Lennox was on The Talk, on CBS, on Tuesday 7 November, to talk about her career and activism.

Annie talked about who inspired her as a young musician, being a mother and being described as a “gender bender” in the eighties. She also explained how she found her passion for women’s rights, and how seeing the devastation that HIV/AIDS has caused in Sub-Saharan Africa motivated her to become an activist.

About The Circle, Annie said “14 million girls around the world are not getting an education. One in three women around the world are exposed to gender-based violence, violence and abuse… There are huge things going on with women around the globe. This is why I call it ‘global feminism’ and this is why I founded The Circle, to inspire women”.

If you would also like to support women and girls around the world, click here to donate or become a member of The Circle.

 

 


Feminist Calendar: November and December

Photo credit: She’s Beautiful when She’s Angry, 2014.

Looking to be inspired in the run-up to Christmas? The Circle volunteer Jessi Wells has got it covered with this bi-monthly roundup of feminist events

5 November — TEDxUCLWomen 2017 (London)

TEDxUCLWomen is a movement celebrating women’s achievements and critiquing barriers to further change. This year’s theme is Home, encompassing notions of community, belonging, race, class, familiarity and discomfort. An incredible line-up of speakers will challenge participants’ perceptions and enrich their thinking around the theme.

9 November — The Space Between Us: Female poets on time, place and identity (Oxford)

At this event, curated by Poet in the City, contemporary female poets will draw on the past to explore their own modern identities and sense of belonging. Inspired by the venue — St Hugh’s College, whose first principal felt she slipped back in time when visiting Versailles — Victoria Adukwei Bulley and Patience Agbabi will explore stories from across time and space, reflecting on their own work and that of the female poets who preceded them.

16 November — Sara Ahmed and Everyday Feminism (Manchester)

Sara Ahmed’s celebrated new book, Living a Feminist Life, reveals how feminist theory is generated from ordinary experiences at home and at work — from everyday feminism. On 16 November, Ahmed will be in conversation with host Muzna Rahman. She will read and discuss extracts of her work, with a focus on intersectionality and queer and race studies; this will be followed by an audience Q&A and a drinks reception.

18 November — Feminist Futures Conference (London)

The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading charity promoting gender equality and women’s rights. Join them on 18 November for their annual conference, a day of networking, panel discussions and interactive workshops. Hear from inspiring feminists including broadcaster June Sarpong and feminist writer Caroline Criado-Perez.

24 November — Amazons and Women Warriors: visual talk by Max Dashú (London)

This live visual presentation at The Feminist Library will illuminate the hidden realities of women warriors. From the Qyrk Qyz (Forty Maidens) of Central Asia to the female general Trung Trac in Vietnam, historian Max Dashú will place the women of Amazon legend into historical global perspective.

25 November — Chai Day (nationwide)

25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Events will be taking place around the world raise to awareness of the issue: globally, 1 in 3 women experience violence in their lifetime, and in some countries this rises to 7 in 10. The Circle will be playing its part by hosting Chai Day, a chance for friends and colleagues to get together over a cup of tea, to discuss and raise funds for a good cause.

1 December — Peggy Seeger ‘First Time Ever’ UK Concert Tour (Wigan)

American folksinger Peggy Seeger is a feminist icon, “an activist, an advocate, a mover-and-shaker”. At the age of 82, she’s taking to the road this winter to promote her recently published memoir and accompanying CD. She’ll be performing hits from a career spanning six decades, interspersing her songs with readings from her book. It will be an unforgettable night!

6 December — Community Film Festival, Swindon Feminist Network (Swindon)

Over the past year, as part of the Swindon200 project, community groups and charities have been working together to produce a series of short films on the topic of equality and inclusion. The films will be screened for the first time at the Community Film Festival, which will run from 14 November to 12 December. Come along on 6 December to watch the Swindon Feminist Network’s new film, and to find out more about the issues that affect women.

10-16 Deceber — FiLiArt: Refuge (London)

FiLiArt’s theme this year is refuge, both literal and metaphorical: they will be working with at-risk women and girls, and creating a safe haven through art. Visit their exhibition at Oxford House to see creations by thirty women artists working in all different media, from sculpture to photography and everything in between.


Relationship Manager Musings: Teabags and Hashtags

 

Peta Barrett, the Relationship Manager at The Circle, on the Chai Day 2017 launch and why you should organise a Chai Day to raise awareness about gender-based violence

Colourful falling leaves, busy squirrels and tea go hand in hand for me. My autumn is always tea-inspired. Tea spiced with meaningful discussions with friends; cosy evenings in with a hot brew as energy levels start to cool with the weather; tea steaming up the windows, and tea’s magically unique comforting warmth, like a hug in a mug.

As a member of The Circle, chai tea and autumn brewed together in November also means confronting hard truths and saying enough is enough. Last month, Chai Day was launched with our members. An inspiring evening with speakers — The Circle Executive Director Sioned Jones, who shared The Circle’s mission; Santosh Bhanot, Chair of The Asian Circle, who started the Chai Day movement and shared her experiences of visiting women supported by funds raised through Chai Day, and Gina Conway of Gina Conway Salons — an inspiring member who shared her experience of hosting Chai Day at her salons in 2016.

Chai Day is an opportunity to gather people around a hot beverage on 25 November — significantly the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women — to look at how gender-based violence manifests in our community and what we can do about it. Last month was also the month when the #MeToo hashtag flooded the internet. With all the awareness scrolled and clicked through on smart phones, tablets and screens, the importance of Chai Day is more significant than ever before. It is the vital next step to engaging and talking about the issue (and I don’t mean via 140 characters in the comments thread).

As a professional working for women’s rights, a friend to many who have experienced more than just a “tap on the arse”, and as someone who can freely identify as a woman in a city where I am more empowered than most, I feel that it is important to facilitate conversations around this topic. Chai Day offers people a platform to do this. If we can ensure that dialogue about gender-based violence in our communities, and those around the world, continue past social media trends, we will be winning one small battle in the current war on women and girls.

The #MeToo storm that has hit social media is important because it has demonstrated that experiences of gender-based harassment and assault are commonplace amongst women, and that it exists across women of all ages, races, culture and class. The #MeToo trend is, in isolation, far from perfect because the victim is still being expected to place herself in a vulnerable position (by speaking out) as well as lead the discussion in a world that still largely blames the victim. It also ignores other genders affected by gender-based violence and is in danger of ignoring the serious disparities that exist between experiences and why these occur.

To prevent the hashtag from existing only as a social media flurry that will fizzle out, we need to be inspired by the overwhelming outcry and use it proactively to initiate and establish dialogues between all genders. This is important not only for the reality of the situation to take hold, but also to ensure that all people are able to reflect on the roles we play in contributing towards the inequalities that exist between genders in 2017. Uniting and talking about experiences to bring about lasting change is the real intention behind the initial Me Too campaign initiated by Tarana Burke ten years ago. It is also the inspiration behind The Circle’s Chai Day as part of the global movement for gender equality.

For these reasons and so many more I will be arming myself with my #ChaiDay and #MeToo hashtags, some hard facts about gender-based violence, videos of The Circle’s inspiring projects and some chai teabags. My invitations have gone out and we will be opening our home in London on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to friends, colleagues and people we would like to get to know better.

I am asking my guests to bring their questions, experiences, opinions and an open mind. If they enjoy the treats, hot drinks and discussions and feel inspired to donate towards projects aimed at ending violence against women – great I’ll have a money box for their small change and a PC ready for any online donations. If they don’t, it’s more important for me that they turn up and be part of the conversation. Why? Because 38% of all men and 34% of all women who participated in a study conducted by the Fawcett Society in 2016 said that if a woman goes out late at night, wearing a short skirt, gets drunk and is then the victim of a sexual assault she is fully or partly to blame. Because across the world 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate male partner. Because globally 71% of human trafficking victims are women and girls. Because I want our daughters to grow up and talk about gender inequality as something that happened in the “olden days”.

At an event at Southbank with Margaret Atwood discussing her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the question of “what can I do” was asked. Margaret simply and eloquently answered, “Imagine the world you want to live in and act accordingly”. I want a world where gender-based violence does not exist. In the meantime, I will imagine a world where women (and other genders) can talk about their experiences of gender-based violence without shame and fear of being blamed.

If my passion for this subject has inspired you and you would like to host your own Chai Day in your home, office, yoga studio, football club or hairdresser, visit our website to find downloadable invitations, promotional materials, helpful tips, videos and facts to use as conversation starters.

I look forward to raising my tea cup with yours on 25 November for a better, safer world.

 

 

 

@PetaBB
Peta Barrett is a member of The Circle since 2016 and our Relationship Manager since 2017.