#SecondHandSeptember with The Circle Members and Volunteers

The average lifespan for an item of clothing in the UK is only 2.2 years. UK consumers send 11 million items a week to landfill, that’s over 5.5k tonnes of clothing a week (300k tonnes each year) – truly shocking.

To keep prices low, garment workers are often not paid a living wage… these are people from the poorest communities around the world, and this unfair treatment makes it impossible for them to work their way out of poverty.

Some of our team, members and volunteers have shared their favourite secondhand items to celebrate #SecondHandSeptember!

Georgia (Volunteer)

“I bought this bag from Pop Boutique in Leeds. This store is amazing for unusual vintage finds, especially bags. In this photo I wore it for a day out but I love it for an evening bag due to the strap length, unusual shape and the deep chestnut brown colour making it really stand out. I had been searching for a bag like this for ages and was so excited to come across it.”

Chloe (Volunteer)

Chloe is a social media volunteer for The Music Circle who is currently travelling around the world! “I just bought my new favourite dress for 20 reais (£4) in Río de Janeiro!”

Elsa (Member)

“My mum wore this top throughout the 70s and it’s still in pristine condition. It’s an A-shape cotton top, and from the embroidery work over the chest and bottom pocket area, I expect it’s from India. My Mum was Australian and the country imported many bohemian-style items from India in the 70s. It has a grainy texture which I love and have not found in any other item, ever! This is why, in addition to having family history, this top is special to me.

I am lucky enough to have been brought up with sustainable values. For example, my parents never gifted me plastic toys and favoured items that lasted. The same went for clothes: I wore many good-quality hand-me-downs from my sister.

As a result of my upbringing, I’ve not needed to hugely change my consumption habits – I buy as few clothes as possible, and choose items that are ethical and sustainable, like the Stella McCartney denim skirt in the photo which I will keep wearing forever.
Given how little information was disseminated at the time about fashion’s impact on people and the environment, I consider my parents to be pioneers in how they viewed everything, and everyone, as inter-related.”

Anna (Projects and Communications Officer)

“My mum wore this dress to a wedding before I was born! We were doing a bit of a clear out and she’s passed it on to me. I’m trying to increasingly buy secondhand, especially when there are so many great charity shops and vintage markets in London.”

Edie (Volunteer)

“I had a huge vintage clothing haul last time I was in Manchester and found loads of great dresses, shirts and even a pair of jeans. I love this dress and wore it when I went on holiday to Paris.”

Shop secondhand! Why not challenge yourself not to buy any new clothes for the month of September? Alternatively, support the ’30 Wears Campaign’ started by our Ambassador Livia Firth by challenging yourself to ask the question “will I wear this 30 times?” before making a new purchase. The 30 Wears Challenge is a great way to contribute to a more sustainable fashion world. You don’t need to give up buying the clothes you love or spend your days researching how ethical a company is

Read more about our Living Wage work, which sets out the legal argument that a living wage is a fundamental human right, and that companies and governments have a responsibility to uphold this right, by clicking here.

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


South Africa’s Gender-Based Violence State of Emergency

Uyinene Mrwetyana

I’d like to share a bit about my week as The Circle’s Relationship Manager, as dual South African / British citizen and as an empowered woman lucky enough to be born into a reality seemingly more equal than others. I spend most of my professional time and energy connecting inspiring women to each other and finding ways that they can support some of the most vulnerable women and girls globally. The voices we amplify through The Circle tell stories of injustices that are so far removed from my own life experiences that I desperately want them to not be real. But they are.

The women whose stories we share are more than just statistics, they are women like you and me. I could be her; she could be you. As a member of The Circle, I have found many avenues to transform the shock of these stories and my own denial, grief and anger into activism. This is not enough, but is something, and when connected with the energy and action of the other members and seeing women empowered because we are choosing to do something instead of nothing, that feels like claiming back the power to bring about the change we so desperately need. Outside of work I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by kind, supportive people, who have set high expectations for how we should be as human beings. Professionally and personally people in my life give me space to express my passion for equality, to rant, to cry, to rage and this support is essential to my mental health and wellbeing.

The first week in September 2019 has been a dark one. Media in South Africa has and continues to report stories of victims who were brutally murdered, exposing the epidemic of gender-based violence across the land. Blood of South Africa’s women spilled by men who knew them intimately or not at all. This week the echoing silence of those in power was heard loudly over the lamentations of the people. We have watched as that silence was broken with language blaming the victims for the crimes committed against them. The public lashed back as women and men shared the governments official statement with corrections made in red font, like a learned response from a teacher to a pupil whose work missed the point of the exercise entirely, the only thing missing was a red letter F circled in the top corner.

To many, South Africa represents the most progressive country on the continent. Colonisation instilled the western ideologies and systematic structures as a foundation familiar to tourists from the West. So why shine a light on country with more financial stability that its neighbours? Let’s begin with August 2018. South Africa’s Women’s Day is held on the 8 August and is meant to be a month of celebration of the mothers and daughters of the country in remembrance of the women uprising against the Apartheid Pass Laws in 1956. Instead, thousands of my South Africa sisters halted the empty celebratory tokenisms to unite their voices in protest against the gender-based violence, which currently holds more than half the population hostage to fear and threat of violence, assault and femicide. The #TotalShutdown movement saw uprisings across the country with the clear message #MyBodyNotYourCrimeScene. Fast forward to 1 April 2019, South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa declared that gender-based violence in South Africa as a ‘national crisis’. A declaration was signed with a promise to eradicate the femicide that is taking the lives of South Africa’s women on a daily basis. 2016 data from the World Health Organisation reports that the femicide rate in South Africa was 12.1 per 100,000, almost 5 times higher than the global average of 2.6 per 100,000. In his address to the Nation, Ramaphosa stated that ‘’According to the SAPS Crime Statistics report of 2018, femicide increased by 11% over the last two years,” he told the assembled crowd. “Stats SA reports that 138 per 100,000 women were raped last year, the highest rate in the world.”

Our story continues on 3 September, the date on which the body of a young women, Uyinene Mrwetyana, was found dumped in Khayelitsha, South Africa. Uyinene, a daughter, sister a friend was violently assaulted and raped before being bludgeoned to death with scales at a post office in Cape Town. The horror of crime against a woman who was simply trying to collect a parcel from the Clareinch post office has sparked a national outcry from the people of South Africa . Uyinene’s body was found a mere 15-minute drive from The Circle’s partner project, Nonceba Family Counselling Centre, a refuge for women who are victims of sexual violence and assault. Personally, this fact has hit a nerve for me. I share stories about the women empowered by the life changing work this shelter on a daily basis and our members inspire me with their ideas on how to raise funds essential to continuing this work. Even more importantly, I have heard women tell me personally about how Nonceba has literally saved their lives. Their voices are my beacon of hope this week, knowing that they are reclaiming their lives back from the violence a mere 15 minutes down the road from where Uyinene’s body was found.

I have spilled many tears this week. I have had very difficult, but important conversations with the men in my life, I have listened to the rage of women, and I have grieved for the lives of women taken by men and gender-based violence, especially in South Africa. I took some time yesterday afternoon to cry for the lives lost and those left behind, irrevocably changed forever. I had a cup of tea, put my Relationship Manager hat on and joined a conference call. I listened as members in the USA shared their thoughts with me on how they want to do more to help victims of sex trafficking by supporting our partner project ACT Alberta. Another member reached out to tell me about a series of music events she has lined up to support our projects, one of which will be a Chai Day to raise funds to support victims of gender-based violence. My inbox is full of inspiring ideas and hope from people who are unequivocally demanding change. The women I work with have, without even knowing it, pulled me from my own personal despair this week and I am forever grateful for the connections I have as a member of The Circle.

These glimmers of hope reminded me that in moments of tragedy doing something positive is always better than doing nothing.

So I took action.

I made a donation to Nonceba in the hope that I can help safe another life.

I shared stories of victims with people, in person and online, to help raise awareness and break the taboos.

I signed this petition calling for South Africa’s  parliament to declare gender-based violence as a state of emergency. According to the Change.org petition, the number of women murdered by men in South Africa is approximately 3000 per year, while approximately 50,000 women will experience sexual assault or physical violence per year. By comparison, Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency in February 2019 when the more than 8500 cases of rape were reported in 2018.

I registered to host a Chai Day for The Circle to raise essential funds needed to empower victims of gender-based violence to reclaim their lives and to be part of the movement to raise awareness and end the violence.

I wrote this blog post to share the pain and stories of our global sisters.

Finally, I am asking you to join me in doing something small too, so that our small actions can collectively be part of something powerful and life changing for a woman or girl facing injustices that no human being should have to face.

The Nonceba Family Counselling Centre: Siyanda and her son

#WomenEmpoweringWomen#GlobalFeminism


Interview with our Living Wage Project Manager

 

Earlier this year, Sharon McClenaghan joined The Circle as the project manager for our Living Wage work. For September, we are focusing on the progress we’ve made with this project and wanted to give our readers this chance to hear from Sharon herself. We sat down and asked her a few questions.

Welcome! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi Anna, thank you for the welcome. I joined the Circle in April 2019 as the part-time project manager of the Living Wage project. I have a background in labour rights having worked at Christian Aid for over 10 years as private Sector advisor and in that capacity as a director on the board of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) for 2.5 years. During that time I helped lead the work on improving conditions for workers in supply chains in South Africa in the fruit sector, working with high street supermarkets such as Sainsburys Waitrose and Co-op. Before that I worked on a DFID project focused on developing supermarket codes of conduct sensitive to the conditions of women workers and before that again I worked on a PhD looking at the conditions of women workers in ‘maquiladoras’ (or sweatshops) in the Dominican Republic. I also work in a team of consultants evaluating UN projects.

What have you been working on since starting at The Circle?

Since April, we have been busy working on the next stage of the Living Wage
project and building on the very strong report which The Circle produced in 2017 with the aim of producing a second report later in the year. The first report clearly establishes the living wage as a fundamental right, making the argument that production can move to other countries where wages are cheaper. In order to counter this, the second report will provide the basis of a new legal directive that will oblige garments/fashion companies to pay a living wage throughout the supply chain in all jurisdictions. New research was commissioned by the Lawyer`s Circle Steering group in April and May and this was developed into a proposal (which will form the basis of the report). In June we held a Roundtable with invited guests, the majority of whom were lawyers from academia and companies, at Matrix Chambers to discuss this and to help us think through the next stages of a legal framework on living wages and and what support we need to develop to enable this to happen.


What can we expect from the Living Wage project over the coming months?

We have a lot planned for the next few months. We are currently writing the second living wage report, due to be completed in September. In October I will attend the PLWF conference (a Dutch based initiative representing the investor sector in Holland) which encourages and monitors investee companies to address the non-payment of living wage in their global supply chains. We have worked with PLWF before to support their work and plan to strengthen this partnership. In November Jessica Simor and Livia Firth, members of the Steering group of the Living wage project will speak at the Trust conference London 2019, a global human rights forum in which they will `soft launch` the report. Towards the end of the year we are planning a Living Wage Symposium which will bring together all those working on the Living wage as well as those working on the wider issue of mandatory human rights due diligence as it relates to companies. The focus of the symposium will be to discuss the legal framework for a living wage as proposed in the report and the different work and initiatives related to this. The symposium will be ‘solutions orientated’ in focus.

What have you found most surprising about the conditions of women working
in the factory industry?

Probably most surprising and depressing s the fact that conditions remain so poor for so many women working in supply chains after so long. Initially, 20 years ago, there was a lot of hope that company codes of conduct would improve conditions but time has shown that this is just not the case. If anything the lack of a legal imperative to change has meant that for many companies, corporate social responsibility, CSR, is a rue and its `business as usual` despite promoting commitments to change.

Are you hopeful about the future of the industry?

I am cautiously hopeful (as is my nature!) about the future of the industry. I see the growing phenomena of `fast fashion` and its dependence upon cheap labour as alarming especially examples where clothes are produced here in the UK for a few pounds. However, at the same time I see a growing trend in the UK and other European countries to call companies to account for their human rights and to push for a legal solution to ensure that they take responsibility for workers`s rights. In that context I think the Circle`s legal work on the living wage is critical- while there are those working on mandatory `human rights due diligence` as it relates to companies and their supply chains, only the Circle is working on that as it relates to Living wage.

What can we do, as consumers, to support women across the globe working in the garment industry?

As consumers the most important thing is be thoughtful and questioning as to the conditions in which clothes are made. Ask questions of brands as to the conditions under which garments are produced. What is their policy on labour standards and in particular on the Living Wage? Do they have full disclosure of their supply chains and are they transparent about this? How do they investigate allegations of abuse? Ask these questions of all brands. I think its very hard to know currently which brands are `good` and which are `bad` especially since there is still no way to ensure that clothing has been produced in an ethical way with living wages paid to workers. By asking questions and demanding answers of brands we can help push them further along that road and when there is a campaign for binding legislation.

Finally, what does ‘Women Empowering Women’ mean to you?

I love the idea of women empowering women and it was that which first attracted me to The Circle. I have always been very proud to call myself a feminist and one with a lovely husband and two lovely boys so there isn’t anything remotely anti-male about the idea to me, despite it being threatening to some men. However, yes, the focus is on women making changes happen for themselves and for other women in a non hierarchical way and in a way where there is no competition or threat just the desire to improve the conditions of all women, which benefits everyone, men and women.

To support our Living Wage work click here. Sharon McClenaghan will be hosting The Circle Connects: Living Wage on 24 September for our members to find out more about the project – register here.


Global Feminist Calendar September and October 2019

Photo Credit: March4Women

In addition to The Circle’s own events taking place throughout Autumn, there are plenty of feminist events happening in your area. So get inspired!

5 September – GalCal IRL – Community (London)

Get to know that Instagram friend, that artist, the founder and more. This is your opportunity to talk about the power of real conversations with talented people, getting right to the straight talk, a chance to really network and understand the importance.

Taking place at Peckham Levels, meet a new network of inspiring women!

8 September – Stretch in Solidarity (London)

As part of fundraising for the Great River Race, one of our members is hosting a charity yoga day to raise money for Nonceba Family Counselling Centre in South Africa.

The team have set themselves an ambitious fundraising target and in addition to donations, Vasiliki is holding a series of yoga events at The Power Yoga Company for those who want to support her in achieving her target and do a little yoga.

There is a minimum donation of £5 and only 30 spaces so its first come, first served.

10 September – The Period is Political (London)

In preparation to galvanise period activism across the country (world?), Bloody Good Period invites you to The Period Is Political.

Yes! Led by Gabby Edlin, the founded of Bloody Good Period, the panel discussion will be involving the US menstrual equity activist Jennifer Weiss Wolf, The Body Shop’s Head of Brand Activism Jessie Macneil-Brown, and #endtampontax campaigner Laura Coryton.

12 September – Brave Education for Trafficking Prevention (Calgary)

A night of optimism, empowerment and jaw dropping performances in Calgary to raise funds for the victims of trafficking. There will be a silent auction where you can win incredible prizes and a number of talks from activists and experts in the field.

By supporting BRAVE Education programs, you are helping provide life-saving prevention education in schools and communities. Our Goal is to have sex trafficking prevention education included in curriculum for all Alberta children from Grades 4 and up, given the average age of recruitment is 12-14, across all demographics.

Get your tickets now!

14 September – The Great River Race (London)

Members and friends of The London Circle, a collective within The Circle, will be rowing the Great River Race in September to raise funds for The Circle to go towards supporting the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre in South Africa. They will be completing this challenge in a dragon boat, a skill new to the entire team, who will be training hard over the coming months.

The Great River Race is London’s River Marathon, a spectacular boat race along the River Thames that attracts over 330 crews from across the globe.
For the seventeen women who are taking part, this will surely be a challenge. Although some are experienced rowers, none of them have ever paddled a dragon boat before and regardless of ability, they will all be pushing themselves for a fantastic cause.

There is still time to donate to the team, or how about going to cheer them on?

19 September – Bloody Funny (London)

On September 19th, join the Bloody Good family for an extra special evening maxi-packed full of menstrual centred comedy, hosted by Jen Brister for Bloody Good Period.

Join Felicity Ward, Josie Long, Sophie Duker, Bridget Christie, Rosie Jones, Rose Matafeo and Ingrid Dahle at Union Chapel for an evening full of stand-up. Tell your pals, bring your pads and get ready for an evening full of all thing’s menstruation.

26 September – Annie Lennox: An Evening of Music and Conversation (Glasgow)

Following the resounding success of the first evening held in March 2018 at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London – Annie Lennox will once again share thoughts, memories and reflections during an event of conversation, musical performance and visual imagery on 26th September 2019.

We are absolutely thrilled that Annie will be doing this event again to raise funds and awareness for us and our work. All proceeds from the evening ‘Annie Lennox – An Evening of Music and Conversation’ will be donated to The Circle to help us create transformative change in the lives of girls and women facing the challenges of gender disempowerment across the globe.

Unfortunately, this event is now sold out.

27 September – The Oxford Circle X After Hours (Oxford)

From September, The Oxford Circle will be rolling out a regular programme of events and are inviting you to join them for their next event, The Oxford Circle x After Hours at The Ashmolean.

Network with incredible women, enjoy live music, and enjoy the surroundings of some of the exquisite Ashmolean galleries. There will be a cash bar, and we will be running a raffle with prizes donated by local businesses to raise money for The Oxford Circle’s current project, the Nonceba Women’s Shelter.

2 October – Global Feminism: Amá (London)

Amá is a feature length documentary which tells an important and untold story: the abuses committed against Native American women by the United States Government during the 1960’s and 70’s: removed from their families and sent to boarding schools, forced relocation away from their traditional lands and involuntary sterilization.

The Circle are screening this incredible film as part of our Global Feminism film series. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the Director, Lorna Tucker who will be joined by Charon Asetoyer.

3 October – Chai Day Launch (London)

We would like to invite our members to the launch of our Chai Day 2019 campaign. This evening will be an opportunity to network with fellow members, learn more about our Chai Day projects and hear from some incredible speakers, including Isabelle Kerr from Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis.

We hope that you will join us on 3 October to show your support for the survivors of gender-based violence and that you leave feeling inspired to host a Chai Day to raise vital funds for our projects.

5 October – New Suns Feminist Book Fair (London)

A bookfair and day of talks, workshops and screenings, exploring contemporary feminism and technology.

The day will include workshops, talks and screenings exploring technofeminism, storytelling, sonic ritual, gender identity, reproductive justice and indigenous knowledge with writers, artists, mystics, poets and academics. In the spirit of the 1980s international feminist bookfairs, there will also be over thirty stalls to explore across Level G, and selected events for free.

6 October – Invisible Women (Manchester)

Join campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez as she chats to Alex Clark about her new book, Invisible Women. The book explores the data biases that impact on women’s lives and health – from the use of male crash test dummies to the temperature of our offices, so many things have been designed with men in mind. What would the world look like if things were a bit more equitable?

16 October – Girl Space (Leeds)

A day festival celebrating and showcasing female creatives.

The day will include performances from dancers, an art exhibition and a number of workshops, a skate workshop, panel discussions, djs, spoken word and much more!

Head down to Hyde Park Book Club for this event!

23 October – In Our Own Words: Women of Colour in Scottish Media (Glasgow)

Throughout history, black women’s voices have been missing from the media. New platforms offer opportunities to hear new voices, and BBC’s the Social is one way that women of colour have reached new audiences for their work. Join Gender Equal to hear from contributors to the Social, revisit their work, and explore questions around creative freedoms, precarious work, and speaking out.

24 October – The Lawyers Circle Networking (London)

Connect with other like-minded women at The Lawyers Circle’s first networking event to discuss how our legal community can do even more to support and empower marginalised women.

Join us on the 24 October at Stewarts for an evening of bubbles, networking and thought-provoking speakers. Please bring along any friends or colleagues who may also want to join