Global Feminism in Marie Claire

We’ve been included in Marie Claire’s list of empowering campaigns you need to hear about this International Women’s Day!

“Whilst cognisant of the fact we have come far by way of women’s rights, this campaign reminds us that there is still some way to go. Annie Lennox and The Circle NGO have created a short film to highlight some of the issues girls from around the world still face today. From rape to wealth disparity and all things in between, The Circle are targeting local policy systems to institute real, formative change …”

To read the full article, click here!


‘A Rapist in Your Path’: Exploring Chile’s Viral Protest Anthem

Photo credit: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

On November 25th, 2019 – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – the streets of Santiago, Chile, were filled by thousands of women joined in protest. The Chilean women sang an anthem entitled “Un violador en tu camino” (“A Rapist in Your Path”), a song dedicated to the widespread sexual violence and human rights violations suffered by women in the country. The message of the song has resonated not only with Chileans, but with women across the globe – by the end of December, the song and its associated dance moves had been performed by protest groups as far as Nairobi and Tokyo but what inspired the viral feminist anthem that has swept across six continents?

A deeper look at the lyrics of “A Rapist in Your Path” can illuminate the issues that women in Chilean society are facing today. These roots are deeply political, with the song’s creators – the feminist theatre group Lastesis, based in the coastal city of Valparaíso – aiming to draw attention to the role of institutional actors like the police, the courts and politicians in upholding the structure of violence in Chile. For example, the choice of title by the group is a reference to “A friend in your path”, the official slogan of the Chilean Carabineros police force during the 1980s-1990s. That the song alludes to police as perpetrators of violence is an accurate reflection of reality in Chile; the Carabineros have been the subject of numerous controversies and accusations of brutality in recent decades. The violent history of this police force has been reignited since the onset of the current period of widespread protest in Chile. Beginning in October in response to rising subway fares and severe income inequality in the country[5],  the movement has since expanded to include gender issues among the various causes motivating protestors.  Chile’s National Human Rights Institute (NHRI) reports that the state’s crackdown on ongoing peaceful protests has produced “the most serious and multiple human rights violations” committed in 30 years, since the country was ruled by military dictatorship. Since the protests began hundreds of cases of legal actions for torture and other forms of violence have been filed against the government and as of December at least 26 protest-related deaths have been recorded.  Some of this brutality has taken the form of sexual and gender-based violence. From the beginning of the protests in October until late November, the NHRI filed criminal complaints relating to 166 cases of alleged sexual violence within the context of the protests. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch documents reports of forced stripping in police custody and the observation that “the police appear to be more likely to force women and girls to strip than men”, making the message of Lastesis’ chant even more unsettling: “Over your dreams smiling and sweet, watches your loving cop.”

The likeness the NHRI draws between recent levels of violence from government forces with those seen in Chile 30 years ago – during the right-wing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled the country from 1973-1990 – can help shed light on the sources of the Carabineros’ power and abusive tendencies. During Pinochet’s regime, an estimated 40,000 Chileans were the victims of political detention, torture and extra-judicial execution, human rights violations in which the Carabineros were directly involved. Women suffered in particular as victims of sexual abuse by Pinochet’s forces – sexual assault, rape and forced pregnancy were common acts of torture used in Pinochet’s numerous detention centres across Chile. The dictator was arrested for crimes against humanity in 1998, although he was never sentenced for his crimes.

Chile’s unfavourable relationship with women’s rights extends beyond the direct actions of government agents, to the conditions experienced by women in Chilean society more generally. Chile’s 28-year-old ban on abortion came to an end in 2017, however the circumstances under which it is permitted are still restricted, and doctors can still refuse to perform abortions on ‘moral grounds’. Latin America has been named as the most dangerous region in the world for women according to a 2017 UNDP report, home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world – a reality which has sparked protest movements across the region, most recently and notably Monday’s protest in Mexico which saw women nationwide go on strike in protest of the country’s rampant gender-based violence. 42 cases of sexual abuse are reported to the police in Chile alone each day, but only ¼ of these result in judicial rulings. This contributes to the shocking fact that over a third (35.7%) of women in Chile who have experienced either physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner during their lifetime. Positive news came earlier this week with the signing in of a landmark gender-based violence law, named the ‘Gabriela Law’, which expanded the definition of femicide and increased the range of sentence that can be handed down for the crime in Chile. This milestone was somewhat overshadowed, however, by Chilean President Sebastian Piñera’s controversial statement that “sometimes it’s not just that men want to commit abuse, but also that women put themselves in a position where they are abused.” Piñera’s regressive and victim-blaming comments, alongside the abysmal conviction rate of sexual violence cases by Chilean courts summarise a patriarchal culture in which “it’s the cops, the judges, the state, the president” who are complicit; “the oppressive state is a rapist”.

The summer months of January and February marked a pause in civil unrest in Chile, but 8th March saw over 1 million women take part in International Women’s Day marches across the country. Rallies and marches continued into 9th March as a combined force of feminist groups, students and others protested for wider change. In cities like Antofagasta, the protests were eventually shut down by the Carabineros with the use of tear gas to disperse crowds. Gender-based violence is clearly not a stand-alone cause in Chile, but rather a movement being fought alongside the broader social issues driving Chileans to protest and demand significant institutional reform. As we continue into March, a month often noted for experiencing high levels of unrest in the country as it marks the anniversary of the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship, the international community will watch on as the people of Chile fight for systemic change.

This article was written by Holly. Holly is 23 years old from East Sussex, England. Since graduating with a degree in Politics and Economics in 2018 she has worked and volunteered in Africa and Asia and is currently living in China. Her interests include human rights, international security and development.

 


What We’re Reading

Photo credit: Verso

Each month, we’ll tell you what we’ve been reading at The Circle to get you feeling engaged, informed, and inspired by the global women’s rights movement.  You might find an interview, a long read, a novel, or just a short news update – so, here is our round up for March!

‘Brands must urgently take steps to minimise impact of the coronavirus on garment workers’ health and livelihoods’ – Label Behind the Label

“The new coronavirus has reached global pandemic levels and is affecting people across the world, including garment workers in global supply chains. Protecting those most at risk means both taking steps to limit exposure and ensuring that people surviving on the poverty line are not pushed below it. Due to their low wages and widespread repression of freedom of association rights, garment workers already live in precarious situations and the economic fallout of the pandemic is having far-reaching consequences.”  It is more important than ever to show solidarity towards the garment workers who are being hit incredibly hard by the outbreak of Coronavirus. From factory closures, to lack of paid sick leave we must protect the workers who make our clothes. Read now!

‘Women in Mexico Are Urged to Disappear for a Day in Protest’ – The New York Times

Published on 26th February 2020, Paulina Villegas and Kirk Semple write in anticipation of the protest in Mexico City which took place on 9 March.  Women were urged to disappear from the public eye and stay at home to ‘protest gender-based violence, inequality and the culture of machismo, and to demand greater support for women’s rights.’ However, the title also refers to the murders that took place in the country earlier this month.  To find out more, search #UNDÍASINNOSOTRAS on Twitter.

Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers Rights – Juno Mac and Molly Smith

In Revolting Prostitutes, sex workers Juno Mac and Molly Smith bring a fresh perspective to questions that have long been contentious. Speaking from a growing global sex worker rights movement, and situating their argument firmly within wider questions of migration, work, feminism, and resistance to white supremacy, they make it clear that anyone committed to working towards justice and freedom should be in support of the sex worker rights movement.

Gender and the Climate Crisis’ – The Circle

Women are disproportionately affected by climate change as they are worse positioned in social, economic and political hierarchies. Women everywhere are less likely to influence decisions that affect their lives and women are more likely than men to be poor. While both men and women suffer in poverty and crises, gender discrimination means that women have far fewer resources to cope.  This year March4Women celebrated the power and passion of women and girls who are on the frontline of responding to climate change. At The Circle, Anna Renfrew and Csenge Gábeli consider the intersection between gender and climate change, effects and possible solutions.

Selection made by Georgia Bridgett and Anna Renfrew.


Gender and the Climate Crisis

Photo credit: Jaipal Singh/EPA

Increasingly, the consequences of climate change are being felt the world over. Recently the media has been preoccupied with fires in Australia, flooding in the UK, changing demands for agricultural practices across the globe in response to changing weather conditions. Most of the humanitarian disasters caused by climate change, such as the food crises in Madagascar, Haiti, or Ethiopia in 2018, went underreported by the global media, despite natural disasters in 2018 alone being responsible for the deaths of at least 5 thousand people and subjected almost 29 million people to humanitarian aid. It is even less frequently reported that women are affected differently by climate change largely because of their additional responsibilities within their families and communities. How and why? We will explore these questions and consider the intersection of climate change and gender throughout this article.

Why?

Women are disproportionately affected by climate change as they are worse positioned in social, economic and political hierarchies. Women everywhere are less likely to influence decisions that affect their lives and women are more likely than men to be poor. While both men and women suffer in poverty and crises, gender discrimination means that women have far fewer resources to cope. They are likely to be the last to eat, the ones least likely to access healthcare, and are routinely trapped in time-consuming, unpaid domestic tasks. They are further disadvantaged due to lack of legal and land rights, which leaves them exposed to exploitation.

People with low income are overall more affected by crisis and the majority of the world’s poor are women. In rural areas, this can be because they depend on natural resources for food, water, and income, which are becoming increasingly scarce. Women are often the person responsible in the family for providing the resources to cook with, to use for heating, and for collecting water. Natural, local resources are disappearing and women in communities across the globe are required to walk further and further to get what they need.

Finally, women are more exposed to the negative impacts of disasters, such as sickness, injury, or even death, due to their lower socio-economic status, behavioural restrictions, and lesser access to information. In the past decades, these disasters have become more frequent and severe due to climate change.

While climate policies are yet to fully address the different impacts of climate change on different genders, there has been a shift towards implementing gender-sensitive climate policies to acknowledge the different needs of those affected and pave the way for climate action by, and for, women. Unlocking the capability of women is an important opportunity to creating and sustaining effective climate solutions.

How?

Education

Families often need to take their daughters out of school so they can help to make money, manage the household, or care for siblings. This creates developmental gaps in women’s lives that have several consequences, for instance, a lack of knowledge on climate change and ways to deal with its effects.

Child Marriage

When families struggle to survive due to the climate crisis, for example, if crops were bad and couldn’t be harvested, or the village was flooded, families might end up marrying off their young daughters to alleviate the financial strain. About 12 million girls are thought to have been married off due to natural disasters and reports have shown that human trafficking rises in areas where the natural environment is under stress. Child marriages are also linked to early pregnancy, which in itself can be a threat to the mother and the baby, in addition to limiting a girl’s access to education.

Health

Climate change can bring unpredictable weather patterns, less food, decreasing access to safe water and unstable living conditions. These factors affect women’s health in various ways. Firstly, women and girls are more likely to starve due to differences in income, employment opportunities and even cultural traditions that allow them to eat last and smaller proportions of meals. Secondly, some diseases are more dangerous for girls due to menstruation, pregnancy or young motherhood as women in these stages are already more exposed to develop complications such as infections, high blood pressure, severe bleeding, or unsafe abortions, especially if they don’t receive adequate healthcare. Additionally, if the country is heavily affected by disasters, there will be a disruption to health services which often leads to an increase in sexual and health problems.

Gender-based Violence

As in many crisis and conflicts, research has shown that the climate crisis increases physical, verbal, and sexual abuse against women. When women and children flee their homes as a result natural disaster or poverty caused by drought or floods, they become more vulnerable to human trafficking, rape, and child marriage and it has been shown that natural disasters have increased sexual trafficking by 20-30%. Migration can also be incredibly expensive, and vulnerable women are forced into owing sums of up to £40,000 in exchange for safe passage. They are told if they won’t pay, terrible thing will happen to their families, therefore they are forced into prostitution across Europe. However, money is not the only way gangs recruit women, they also use false promises of legitimate employment, and traditional ceremonies to have psychological control over them. According to the UN 80% of all Nigerian women who arrived in Italy by boat in 2016 will be trafficked into prostitution.

Additionally, sexual abuse is often found in unsustainable and illegal businesses, for instance in illegal fishing in Southeast Asia, logging in Congo, or mining in Colombia and Peru. There is also an increasing amount of violence directed against climate change activists and defenders.

 Solutions

First of all, we must protect and ensure girls’ education. It is the basis of affecting change across the board and a necessary element of a holistic solution. Not only it is every child’s right to receive an education, but this must be utilised to prepare children for the challenges associated with climate change and provide them with the resources to face these challenges. Through education, girls need to be supported to do the best they can and more, to be ambitious and to become leaders. Secondly, to empower women as agents of change and innovation rather than considering them purely as victims of climate change. If we support women into positions of leadership, climate policy, and decision making then we are enabling an environment for gender-sensitive environmental action to flourish. Despite women’s key role in climate action and coming up with effective solutions, they are still woefully underrepresented at the leadership level, particularly women of colour. We have to start by acknowledging the fact that women make decisions on climate change every day, that they are often responsible for childcare, purchasing decisions as consumers or influencing carbon emissions as farmers. The potential of women to transform their lives is unlimited – if they are given the opportunity to shine.

At The Circle, we aim to address the inequalities that women and girls face across the globe by empowering them directly and influencing change, policy systems, and processes. To find out more about our work click here.

This article was written by Anna Renfrew and Csenge Gábeli. Anna is the Project and Communications Officer at The Circle and Csenge is one of our volunteers. Csenge is a university student, a volunteer, and a feminist. She is originally from Hungary, but has started my university in London, which she loves.


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle member Saz

“I want to open up discussion in the community to these issues honestly, and without repercussion, to allow women to express their voices.”

As part of Widen Your Circle, we have spoken to a number of our members about their involvement with The Circle and what it means to be a member!

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I am a daughter of twice migrants from India. My parents migrated from Gujarat, India to Tanzania, after partition, my father leaving in the late ‘40s and my mother and older sister joined him in the ‘50s. I was born in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania before it decided that it too wanted independence for the British Empire. My father decided to move us, by then we were a family of five, to India for a short period of time while he established himself in England. My mother, two sisters and my brother arrived in 1967, and we settled in Coventry. My father had arrived earlier and had secured a job in a car factory, using his skill as a car upholstery on the production line.

My parents were typical Indian parents of their generation, telling us education is a key to success and encouraged us regardless of our gender to study.

My life has been good, fortuitous opportunities have come my way, I was given a commission straight after university to illustrate a book, a job offer at the BBC in the Creative Arts Department followed where I worked on and off until 2006. I began working as a freelancer for BBC, Sky and other production companies as a motion graphic designer and interactive TV designer. My personal life is great I have a wonderful husband and two gorgeous sons. But, not everything has been smooth sailing and I am glad that I have experienced some lows as well as some highs.

Why did you decide to become a member of The Circle?

I was introduced to Oxfam and The Circle by Santosh Bhanot, the Chair of The Asian Circle. Santosh and I have known each other since our sons were in the same reception class. We have spent many a time over tea and PTA meetings discussing how we could give back to the community. We both had a similar upbringings that included lots of volunteering at the temple helping others. I believe that The Circle’s mission fits well with my goals in life.

In the summer of 2013, a group of high energy women sat around a table at the Oxfam office to discuss ideas on how to bring our vision “to work with vulnerable women in South Asia who haven’t had the opportunities and means to support themselves” to fruition. Since then I’ve been a core committee member, organised fundraising events, and spoken to other Asian Women’s groups about our work. I dipped out from full involvement whilst I went back to university to get my Qualified Teacher Status in 2014.

You’ve been involved with The Asian Circle for a while, can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve achieved with them?

Since its inception, The Asian Circle has grown from strength to strength. We have highly motivated, passionate British Asian women who give their time generously to organise our events, for example, launch at Houses of Parliament, screening and Q&A of True Cost at SOAS, screening and Q&A of Bhaji On the Beach, Chai Day at the LaLit to name a few. We arrange to speak to organisations, universities, women’s societies and we recently hosted a conference with Peepal Enterprise in Leicester on issues of domestic violence and the lack of funding and support here and in India.

Over the last five years, The Asian Circle have worked hard to raise awareness and funds to support a pilot project, created with Oxfam India and local NGOs, amongst the tribal communities of Chhattisgarh, India – to end domestic violence and empower women and girls. We have helped provide support centres for counselling and legal aid, created ‘vigilance networks’ of women to support each other and training programmes for the police. We also have engaged with different organisations, the state government, police and community groups to highlight issues with violence against women. We were thrilled that the local NGO LASS received a prestigious State Award- ‘Nari Shakti Samman’ for outstanding improvement of conditions of women at the margins of society’. This project is now being supported by International funders for state wide deployment of the project.

We are currently sending the sum of £11,500 to Oxfam India on Violence Against Women & Gender Justice Programme in Chhattisgarh – a further build on the VAW project with a focus on Gender Equality.

The new programme will focus on education and change in the community on gender inequity.

● Meeting with a community-based group, using two curriculums “Gendernama” (About Gender) “for men and boys and “Jago and Jagao Badlao ki Aur” (Wake and Awaken for change) for women and girls is being successfully executed in the groups.

● Awareness camps are also being set up in the community, to discuss gender stereotypes in the community and legal services for women.

● Engagement with youth in colleges to discuss various gender related topics like, gender stereotypes, gender and sexuality, patriarchy and gender, power and privilege etc. The BNS (Bano Nayi Soch), champions selected from these youth groups are used to spread the message further afield.

● Running 2 women support centres in Chhattisgarh. These 2 centres are run in space given by the NGO’s partners to provide socio-legal support to survivors of domestic violence.

The Circle is an organisation of women empowering women. How does your upcoming book seek to empower other women?

As I mentioned before, I have had some lows in my life too, and 28 years ago we had the fortune to have a special child join our family. He lived for 8 weeks and we are grateful that he came into our lives.

The first couple of years after his death, I buried my feelings. I have always felt sad in January to March and I have put it down to the worst time of the year for everyone who lives in the Northern hemisphere, short dark days, grey cloud-filled skies. Two years after his birth, we had a healthy baby boy, and three years later another. January become a time of celebration, all our children are born in January. Work, motherhood, life, in general, took me to new levels. I held down a successful, but a stressful job working for BBC News and Current Affairs, my sons were bright and healthy.

As the year’s passed, I heard about other women who also dealt with issues of postnatal depression, anxiety and guilt. Any woman who has had a sick child knows of the guilt, the what if I did this, what if I did that, is it my fault? My mind went into overdrive, and every year the thoughts kept flooding back, that it was all my fault.

In 2006 after leaving the BBC and starting work as a freelancer, we were given the news that my father was diagnosed with bone cancer. I grieved for my father, but I grieved for our son. I joined a creative writing group and the novel just spilt out of me, I remembered every comment, every incident in vivid colour, the feeling of inadequacy, the search for a miracle to prolong his life. Again, life got in the way, my father who had been given 3 months lived for 3 years, so we savoured every minute with him.

In late 2016, I suffered from my first panic attack, and it left me shattered. I am known for my can-do attitude, had retrained to be a teacher and was enjoying seeing my students make good progress and grow into confident young adults. I couldn’t do it anymore, I couldn’t go into the classroom. I started counselling again, and things had moved on from my first session in the ‘90s.

It is important when you have counselling, that the counsellor understands, this time when I mentioned my extended family, she knew. In the ’90s, when I talked of the nuances of Indian families and how I felt my counsellor told me to stop all ties with the people who made me feel this way. Her words still ring in my ears. You don’t have to see your family if you don’t want to, you can always decline the invitation. She had no idea of the cultural pressure and significance of that remark.

My new sessions dealt deeply with my emotions through the lens of my upbringing. She told me to reread my novel and use it as a way to understand my feelings to move beyond grief.

So that is when my novels, My Heart Sings Your Song and Where Have We Come became a reality. I researched and read books to gauge the market, did I want to write a self-help book, should I write a blog and tell people of my experience. Then I came across a group of writers Cecilia Ahern and Jojo Moyes to name a few, who didn’t always write the typical tale of happy ever after. I read books published by South Asian authors, many with experiences that resonated with me, but none that I could identify with. I have grown up in England, I straddle both cultures, I’m a British Asian, foremost. My Gujarati background is the icing on the cake. My parents didn’t once blame me for my child’s illness. Many others did, my reluctance to follow rituals, customs, every superstitious belief, the alignment of planets, anything to beat me with to justify their anger at seeing our child as he was. I believe it’s in the psyche of the South Asian community to first and foremost blame the women. What annoyed me most as I was researching was that nearly thirty years after my experience, women were still being subjected to the same superstitions and customs in Britain. Some of the families that practised this were the third generation out of India. Women who were my age, telling their daughters, daughters-in-law that their child was disabled because of what they had or hadn’t done.

I sent a couple of chapters and an outline to people and received favourable comments, encouraging me to write it, but no-one was interested in taking me on as a writer. The book became a monster, both in its desire to be fed and its size. I edited scenes out, created chapters and asked people to help structure the story. My journey isn’t typical, I decided I would self-publish, whilst I waited for my early readers to get back to me with comments and alterations. I learnt what I could about publishing, the drafting, the formatting, the editing, and eventual publishing. I chose to have all the processes in my hand, after all, it is my story and I didn’t want comment or edits from people who didn’t know it or understand the cultural relevance of it.

My only aim is to tell the story, that was the goal I had set myself, but I’d also set another which has helped me through the difficult process. If I can help one woman, someone who is in or has been through a similar situation understand that they are not alone, then I have done my job.

So what’s next for me, I have got the writing bug, I have stories that I want to tell, stories about multicultural Britain, about friendships that grow regardless of background and race. I want my stories to be read by a broader readership, not just aimed at South Asian readers. The University Series that I’m planning deals with issues, such as bereavement, depression, disability, cancer, infertility, caste, interfaith relationships, infidelity, divorce, homosexuality, sex before marriage, topics that are still taboo in the community. I want to grow as a writer, learn the craft, tell stories of women from different communities, stories that people like me can identify with.

As for my anxiety and depression, I’ve heard things have changed; more and more support groups are being set-up in communities up and down the country to deal with depression in the South Asian community. It is a taboo subject that hardly has any airing. No-one, who has a thriving career, a big house, healthy and happy families can get depression. It’s good that finally, we are talking about it. I want to open up discussion in the community to these issues honestly, without repercussion, to allow women to express their voices.

Mostly I want people to realise that there are ways to express your emotions. For me it was storytelling, but it can be music, art, anything that allows you to deal with your emotions. If all you want to do is rage at a mountain than rage at it, it is your right to do what helps you cope. Anything is achievable if you put your mind to it.

What does Global Feminism mean to you?

When I started to work in a male dominant newsroom in the ‘80s I was optimistic that finally women were given the same opportunities as men. As the years’ progress, I began to realise that feminism explores the idea of equal rights for women but not necessarily equal rights to all women in all society.

The world is getting smaller and we hear more and more about the injustices faced by women across the world, how patriarchal societies, poverty, governments perpetuate the inequalities faced by women. Global Feminism for me means the right for every woman to equality at home, in the workplace and in society. It is about giving women opportunities to assert their rights. It is about making change happen by giving our voice to those who do not have one.

For more information about My Heart Sings Your Song & Where Have We Come click here

Or find Saz on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

 


One Member’s Take on Global Feminism

“I am now proud to call myself a Global Feminist and I would invite others to do the same.”

Previously I hadn’t wanted to call myself a feminist, I felt the word was tainted and outdated, a clichéd stereotype excluding men. However, if you look at the facts it’s obvious that things aren’t right. Women make up two thirds of the world’s illiterate people, 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence, a woman dies in childbirth every two minutes, and so the list continues. I realised how wrong I was and how important it is to fight for change. I also realised how important it was to reverse these preconceived notions of what feminism is and promote a feminism that is inclusive of all.  

After graduation, having always wanted to travel, I went to India. Growing up I sometimes sensed being female put me at a disadvantage and struggled with feelings of frustration and limitation – despite being born in the UK – a country that remains high on global gender equality indexes. Gender inequality is visible throughout the world, but witnessing first-hand the obstacles experienced by women and girls in low-income countries in the Global South, I realised the importance of Global Feminism.  

I found The Circle unintentionally through fundraising for Girls Education in India a few years ago. Since then, I have learnt that feminism equates to respect, equality, and the importance of including people of all genders to achieve this. Joining The Circle has been empowering. I have spent much of my life thinking “I’m just … I’m just a girl, a woman, a mother … where is my voice?” Last March I went to The Circle’s Annual Gathering slightly underprepared and suddenly found myself in a network of inspiring women. From the outside, it is easy to see others as strong, successful and powerful but not see these qualities in yourself; we often hold ourselves back with our own perceived inadequacies. When I stepped inside The Circle, I saw female power and realised my own strength. I left the meeting with the phrase ‘just do it’ ringing in my ears, replacing the ‘I’m just’ and I knew that together we could achieve real change. I am now proud to call myself a Global Feminist and I would invite others to do the same.  

My personal interests focus on girls’ education in India and ethics within the garment industry, particularly The Circle’s Living Wage work. Over twelve years ago I started buying clothes in India to sell in the UK and have been visiting India annually since then. Today I run a business that wholesales our unique clothing range to independent shops across the UK and work closely with tailors to ensure that no one is exploited in the production of our garments and that there is transparency throughout our supply chain. The majority of my clothing is made by the same family I have worked with since I met them in 2005 in rural Rajasthan, Northern India. Together our businesses and families have grown, and a strong friendship has developed. Over the years I have returned to India as a solo woman, with my daughter as a single mother and this year I was blessed to take my own mother.  

Despite sharing food and spending time together in the home it has been hard to form close friendships with the women I meet in India. Within my tailor’s family the women are always introduced as sister, wife or mother and whether it is the language barrier, shyness, or fear of speaking out of turn, it has been hard to go deeper in our relationships. In the family home I meet Laxmi, a sturdy bejewelled older woman, proud mother to her three sons (who manage the family tailoring business), all of whom live with her and her husband in the family home with their wives and children. In the domestic sphere it is clear she is in charge. Her daughters in law are beautiful young women and I sit with them in the home as they chat and giggle in Hindi. They cook the most delicious meals to share with me, presenting me with dish after dish of tasty treats. Between them they have eight children aged 1 – 18 years, all of which grow up in the house together. The women work together to bring up the children and keep the home and when I ask them how they are and what they want in life I am met with a coy smile or neutral expression. Of the eight children the eldest girl is 16 and is due to go to college next year to study engineering. She will be one of the first girls in the family to receive further education, but her father is very clear that as soon as she finishes college she will be married. For the men in the family tradition is very important and although they can see the importance of all the children receiving a good education, they feel strongly their traditional values and family life must be upheld.  

In the market square you will regularly meet strong women; these women have been working on the streets since childhood, selling anklets and henna tattoos to tourists. Always dressed immaculately in traditional Rajasthani costume, these women are always happy to share their stories and regularly invite tourists to their makeshift homes on the edge of the dessert. This is a combination of Indian hospitality and entrepreneurship, these women have generally been married young but often have no financial support from their husbands (stories of domestic abuse and alcoholism are common, as well as the inability to find work due to disability or illness) and the impossibility of finding employment themselves with little or no education and children to bring up leaves them no alternative but to tout on the streets. There is no social security for these women and their voices are not often heard. 

Unfortunately, gender inequality in still deeply ingrained in many aspects of culture in India. Sadly, girls are at a disadvantage from before birth with increasing incidents of gender-based abortion. Domestic violence, sexual harassment, female illiteracy and child marriage are all common problems. In rural India, 70% of girls are married before they reach 18. The country is experiencing a wave of awareness surrounding the prevalence of sexual violence occurring, a woman is raped every twenty minutes.   

Women’s rights in India have reached a crisis point and education, unemployment and gender discrimination are forming a barrier to women’s empowerment. As well as campaigning for political reform, there needs to be a focus on education for girls. In rural areas of Rajasthan, girls are three times more likely to be out of school than other children in India and the female rate of literacy in Rajasthan is the lowest in the country and six in ten girls in Rajasthan marry as children.  

The Circle works with Mumbai based NGO Educate Girls, a charity focused on getting girls into school and providing them with the support needed to stay in school. They use a Creative, Learning and Teaching curriculum to aid girls, particularly if they have fallen behind or have missed periods of school due to having been kept home for domestic work. Support from The Circle has enabled Educate Girls to provide CLT learning kits to 301 schools, improving the education of 7,000 children. As well as previously fundraising for this, this year I visited the Fior Di Loto Foundation, a private girl’s school in the village in which I work. The Foundation was founded in 2003 to provide education for some of the poorest girls living in and around Pushkar. The school provides everything a child needs to attend school, such as transport, uniform, school meals, and books. There are government schools in India but children from the poorest communities are often unable attend due to these constraints. For some families, the school provides extra support with food so that girls are not encouraged to drop out to look after the home or to marry. The foundation has also started a new project to support women during and after childbirth, providing a clean and safe environment. Through the foundation, I sponsor a girl to ensure she receives a full education and I am committed to promoting and fundraising for girls’ education in Rajasthan.  

I live in Somerset and it is my aim to introduce The Circle to my local community. Last year I hosted a fundraising event, talked to people about The Circle’s work and promoted the organisation through social media by sharing the #GlobalFeminsm campaign and provoking articles. This year we will be marking International Women’s Day and continuing to spread the word about Global Feminism. 

This article was written by member of The Circle, Emma Chance. To find out more about becoming a member click here. You can also hear the stories of some of our members on our blog.


Global Feminist Calendar March and April 2020

Photo: The Perfect Candidate

3-4 March – Because We Are Girls (Glasgow) 

Three sisters, Jeeti, Kira and Salakshana, have been fighting for more than eight years to finally gain some form of justice against a male cousin who abused them as children. For years they stayed silent for fear of blame and punishment. As the final verdict draws near, the sisters reflect on why they stayed quiet for so long. Deciding to focus more on the family dynamics that are prevalent in Punjabi culture rather than the grisly details of abuse, this is an important documentary that shines a light on the importance of support from the people that are closest to you. 

5 March – Women Behind Artivism (London)

Artivism – this is the concept of merging art & activism together. This coming March is very important for a number of reasons, but mainly as it is a month dedicated to celebrating women! Phaedra Peer X Brick Lane Gallery present ‘Women Behind Artivism’ an exhibition/event that will celebrate women that use their work to make bold statements. Panelists will explore the motivation behind their work, what makes them passionate about giving their work a pulse & the response they get to some of their more controversial pieces! Discussions will be centred around the importance of showcasing female bodies, sex in art & ‘art’powerment!

5-15 March – SheFest 2020 (Sheffield)

SheFest’s annual fringe festival is a 10-day event in Sheffield that “provides a female fronted addition to the region’s cultural calendar”. Aligning with International Women’s Day, the festival will include interactive activities, feminist film screenings, art, music, theatre, and feature panels and guest speakers.

It promises to be the biggest SheFest fringe in the festival’s history as the organisers collaborate with organisations across South Yorkshire, aiming to become the northern capital for International Women’s Day.

6-8 March – WOW Festival (London)

WOW is back in London this International Women’s Day for their tenth anniversary and to celebrate, the WOW Foundation presents their biggest and bravest festival yet. 

Over three days, WOW’s line-up of world-class speakers, activists and performers are joined by thousands to explore the state of gender equality across the globe and tackle the subjects that matter most to women and girls across the world today. 

We are honoured to have been invited to WOW once again. The Circle team will have an information stall on Sunday 8 March in the marketplace allowing those who have heard of us and those who know nothing about what we do to find out more about our projects and the issues they aim to tackle, including gender-based violence, the living wage and women in crises. We look forward to seeing our members, engaging with visitors of the WOW Market Place and making new friends! 

Photo: Beverley Knight at March4Women 2019

7 March – Never Going to Beat You Film Screening (London)

‘Never Going to Beat You’ threads together the varying and different stories of the 18 Gypsy and Traveller women, and it will raise awareness about domestic abuse within all communities.

The screening is followed by a panel discussion about domestic abuse, mental health and well-being within the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

8 March – March4Women (London)

CARE International’s #March4Women is a global movement for gender equality: it’s for anyone and everyone who wants to see a more equal world. Everyone is welcome. 

This year #March4Women will be celebrating the power and passion of women and girls who are on the frontline of responding to climate change. They are holding a pre-march event at the Women of the World festival: Emeli Sandé and RAYE will be performing alongside a star-studded line-up of musicians, actors, climate experts, youth activists and women directly impacted by the climate emergency.  

8 March – The Perfect Candidate (London)

In a small Saudi town, Maryam, an overworked doctor at an under-resourced clinic, impulsively decides to run for a seat on the municipal council. She faces endless hurdles as the town’s first female candidate: she can’t directly address groups of male voters, and isn’t supposed to show her face in her campaign video. Despite this, a determined Maryam’s popularity grows… This joyful and timely film offers much-needed optimism and hope for positive change. On International Women’s Day we’re pleased to celebrate this film and its director Haifaa Al-Mansour, herself a pioneering woman – her debut feature Wadjda made history as the first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and the first made by a Saudi woman.  Followed by Q&A with director Haifaa Al-Mansour.

8 March – All the Queens Big Quiz (Glasgow)

Know your Pankhurst from your Pink, Miuccia from your Manson, Lamarr from your Ladytron and Austen from your Atwood? 

Join The Scottish Circle girl gang this International Women’s Day at BAaD in Glasgow for an unashamedly fun day celebrating the world’s most inspirational women. 

DJ Queen Hannah Currie of famed club night MILK will soundtrack the afternoon, playing out the greatest ever all-female anthems, whilst the formidable Quiz Mistress Queen Bev Lyons of The Showbiz Lion will host. Will you be crowned International Women’s Day Quiz Queen for 2020 and take the top prize? 

There will be fizz on arrival. There will be top chat. There will be bingo and a raffle with prizes galore. There may even be a crown! What’s more, proceeds from All the Queens Big Quiz will directly benefit our friends at Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis. 

8 March – Her Century at RBCFT (Dumfries) 

Glimpse into the work, home life and leisure of Scottish women during the twentieth century.
Scotland’s women lived through major social change in the twentieth century, challenging their roles in society and fighting for equality: at work and at home, classroom to croft, girlhood to motherhood. In this programme there are crofters, campaigners, factory workers, psychologists, mothers, pilots and educators. 
Discover their stories and hear their voices in ‘Her Century’, a timely collection of archive film curated by the National Library of Scotland and guaranteed to spark debate. These films are screened together for the first time in a touring program full of contemporary relevance.
Featuring work by professional documentarians such as Sarah Erulkar, Budge Cooper, Jenny Gilbertson and Jenny Brown as well as amateur footage from Grace Williamson.

Screening to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March. A post film discussion will be facilitated by artist and researcher Dr T S Beall. 

8 March – Pen Your Own Logo (Leeds) 

Front Bum in collaboration with FLF is inviting you to come and create your own bad ass wall slogan for International women’s day. 

You will be loaded with good quality gsm paper and lots of exciting materials to create your perfect mantra with plenty of that Front Bum creative guidance to keep you feeling inspired. There will also be a selection of frames to buy on the day so you can immediately hang up your creation with pride. 

8 March – International Women’s Day Festival (Birmingham)

Join the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as they reflect on and celebrate diversity in the music industry.

Exciting and thought-provoking events will include; live performances from RBC students alongside guest musicians, visual and sound installations, yoga and mindfulness classes, networking, female-led practical workshops, and panel discussions.

9 March – The Oxford Circle X Oxford Women International (Oxford)

OxWomIn and LMH FemSoc have invited The Oxford Circle to speak to students about Global Feminism! Leanne, Chair of The Oxford Circle is excited to be attending and will shed some light on what it means to be a member of The Circle.

10 March – The Goddess Space (London)

Chair of The Healthcare Circle, Alice Sinclair is teaming up with Anoushka Florence of The Goddess Space for an evening of goddess vibes for a good cause. Anoushka will be creating a sacred space in the beautiful Boca Cha Cha in Little Venice. You will be invited to step into this space as Anoushka guides you through the power of a women’s circle. This will be a journey of meditation, sharing, intention setting and ritual that will leave you feeling empowered, inspired and connected. 

For those who are not familiar with this practice, rest assured that this a safe and secure space that aims to leave you grounded, with a sense of purpose moving forward. Held at the beautiful Boca Cha Cha, tickets are £30. 

10-14 March – Sabrina Mahfouz: Lilith & Karaokay (London)

This lyrical play draws on the Jewish mythological figure of Lilith, Adam’s first wife, who refused to take the subservient role in their marriage and so was vilified as a sexually wanton night hag, and baby killer. Lilith takes place in a heightened present day, with Lilith working as a hotel room attendant: Adam runs the reception. Hotel guests Gloria and Ed have returned to the room where their daughter Eva was conceived some years earlier. Tragically, she was stillborn. Now, it is Ed’s fortieth birthday, and time to scatter Eva’s ashes. But can things go to plan when so much has been left unsaid and Lilith’s ancient fury is simmering just below the surface?

11 March – Living Wage Workshop with The Circle (Oxford)

For Oxford SU’s final Women*’s Week Event, The Circle are hosting a living wage workshop! We will be talking about fast fashion, consumer responsibility and how we can help. This session aims to encourage participants to think about their behaviour as consumers and inform on the progress of our living wage work.

19 March – For Sama (London)

On Thursday 19 March, join The Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network for a special event at Leighton House Museum, celebrating an exciting new partnership between MCJN and Waad’s campaign, Action For Sama. 

Come along for an evening of drinks, canapés and conversations, with a chance to hear from Waad herself, plus the opportunity to watch a screening of her groundbreaking documentary, ‘For Sama‘. This event is now sold out.

Photo: The Circle’s Annual Gathering 2019

31 March – Annual Gathering (London)

Our Annual Gathering is an opportunity to bring our valued members together to thank and acknowledge you all for your support in our work, as we reflect on our achievements over the past 12 months and share our plans and strategy for 2020. As we know from previous years, it’s also an event full of inspiration and motivation from the range of speakers and fellow guests. 

Last year we had the pleasure of hearing from Annie Lennox and Eve Ensler, women from across our projects and a range of members. Melanie, Santosh, Laura, Annie and Susan all described how they had brought their transferable skills, their connections, and their passion to be active global feminists through their membership with The Circle. 

This year we are incredibly excited to be joined by Helen Pankhurst CBE, an international development and women’s rights activist and writer. Helen is currently Care International’s Senior Advisor working in the UK and Ethiopia and her book, Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women’s Rights Then and Now was published in 2018. 

2 April – Book Launch: No Modernism without Lesbians with Diana Souhami (London)

The extraordinary story of a singular group of women in a pivotal time and place – Paris – between the wars – how the lesbian community fostered the shock of the new.

In the summer of 1945, just after the Nazi occupation, Truman Capote visited Romaine Brooks’s abandoned studio in Paris. The portraits there, large and imposing, were of women: Ida Rubinstein, Una Troubridge, Gluck, Elisabeth de Gramont, Renata Borgatti, Bryher. Romaine’s lover Natalie Barney said that Paris had been ‘the Sapphic Centre of the Western World’, and these women defined it. Capote himself called them ‘the all-time ultimate gallery of famous dykes’. This book is about that gallery and celebrates the central role they played in the cultural revolution that was Modernism. Free to attend! 

4 April – Periods: A Brief History (London) 

Periods: A Brief History will open at the Camden gallery in April, looking at stigmas and perceptions around menstruation. 

From Ancient Greece to the present day, the free exhibition will explore how attitudes towards menstruation have been impacted by culture, religion and lack of understanding, as well as tackling long-held taboos. 

Exhibition curator Sarah Creed said: “It is more pertinent now, more than ever, to be focusing on periods – menstrual health activism is growing throughout the world and the UK is no exception.” 

She highlighted the rise of campaigns from Free Periods getting free menstrual products into schools and colleges throughout the country, to grassroots charities such as Bloody Good Period, Red Box Project and Tricky Period. 

19 April – Feminism, Interrupted: Disrupting Power (London) 

More than just a slogan on a t-shirt, feminism is a radical tool for fighting back against structural violence and injustice. Feminism, Interrupted is a bold call to seize feminism back from the cultural gatekeepers and return it to its radical roots.

Lola Olufemi explores state violence against women, the fight for reproductive justice, transmisogyny, gendered Islamophobia and solidarity with global struggles, showing that the fight for gendered liberation can change the world for everybody when we refuse to think of it solely as women’s work. Including testimonials from Sisters Uncut, migrant groups working for reproductive justice, prison abolitionists and activists involved in the international fight for Kurdish and Palestinian rights, Olufemi emphasises the link between feminism and grassroots organisation.

Reclaiming feminism from the clutches of the consumerist, neoliberal model, Feminism, Interrupted shows that when ‘feminist’ is more than a label, it holds the potential for radical transformative work. 

16 April – Ladies’ Night Quiz (Online)

During these unprecedented times, it is imported to stay connected to people and communities who add value to your own life and wellbeing.

To jazz up your nights in we are introducing Ladies’ Night at The Circle. Our first Ladies’ Night event is a virtual, women’s rights themed quiz on Thursday 16 April at 7pm exclusively for our members.

20  and 27 April – The Oxford Collective Virtual Morning (Online)

An online coffee morning for people in Oxford seeking a community during these tricky times. One of our fantastic members has organised a weekly coffee morning starting on Monday. It’s an opportunity to check in, catch up and support each other through this uncertainty.

30 April – Audre Lorde, The Berlin Years (London) 

Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 documents Audre Lorde’s influence on the German political and cultural scene during a decade of profound social change, a decade that brought about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the re-unification of East and West Germany. This film chronicles an untold chapter of Lorde’s life: her empowerment of Afro-German women, as she challenged white women to acknowledge the significance of their white privilege and to deal with difference in constructive ways. 
Supported by Lorde’s example Afro-German women began to write their history and their stories and to form political networks on behalf of Black people in Germany. Film screening produced by The Batty Mama Film Club and in association with Evidence To Exist Research Group.