Who Made Your Clothes?

 

Over the last few years the words ‘sustainability’ and ‘ethical’ in relation to the fashion industry, have been taking the headlines by storm. On 24th April 2013, it was reported that a factory had collapsed in Bangladesh, leading to the deaths of more than 1,000 workers. Bangladesh is one of the largest garment producers in the world. When we shop on the high street there are no signposts signalling that slavery may be prevalent within their supply chains. We see these amazing garments and are excited to try them on and shop the latest trends but, we do not see the faces of the women who make these garments.

As a person who is highly interested in the craftmanship of clothes and the reinvention of trends, I am conflicted by how I can invest in this industry without contributing to the continuing unethical practices of the fashion industry. We need to make changes in how we make, source, and produce the clothes. Government bodies and retailers need to be made accountable: Eco-age is doing just that.

In an interview for the sustainability consultancy Eco-age, our very own Livia Firth who co-founded The Circle, describes the first time she visited a factory in Bangladesh. In 2013 Firth travelled with Oxfam and says it “changed my entire life”. They were “smuggled” into a factory where there were “armed guards at the doors so no one could come in and out”, “armed bars at the windows, no fire escape […] the floor was full of women who had to produce 100 pieces an hour and these women had no rights” such as no sick leave and only two toilet breaks a day. Even if their child was sick, not working would result in a loss of their jobs. As Livia Firth goes on to say, we are so far-removed from this horrific situation that it is hard to believe that the clothes we wear everyday are linked to this inhumane treatment.

Bangladesh is “such a vibrant, beautiful country, and the women deserve so much more” – Livia Firth

 

I love what Livia Firth also says in this EcoAgeTV video which you can watch on YouTube (see link above). The responsibility lies in all of us, not just the retailers and government bodies who have an immense responsibility to make changes.

The day after the crack was discovered in the factory, the garment workers did not want to go inside but they were threatened. The factory was under pressure to fulfil the orders. Nazma Aktar, Founder and Executive Director of the Awaj Foundation says, “the previous night, everybody knew the factory was not safe. The politicians and the manufacturers forced the workers to enter. It is murder.”

The garment industry is a complicated web of problems that are hard to solve. Aktar goes on to say that out of 4 million workers in the garment industry, 80% are women coming from very poor families who live in the countryside and entering into the urban economy. These jobs are very important for them. If their salaries go up, the factory will close down.

“The multi-nationals always said, if you price more we will leave this country, we will leave this business from Bangladesh.” – Nazma Aktay

 

 

On 11th May 2017 The Circle launched The Living Wage report in partnership with TrustLaw and the Clean Clothes Campaign at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. It is the first report to demand the Living Wage for garment workers.

The report 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.

The report starts by clearly stating how efforts to prevent labour exploitation have been non-binding. They have been ‘voluntary codes and initiatives designed, implemented and monitored by the retail companies that control the supply chain, and normally developed in response to negative publicity generated by investigations carried out by NGOs or the media.’ This behaviour is corrupt. It is utterly inhumane that retailers are not upholding their responsibility to protect their workers. This is where the work that The Circle are doing is fundamental to making progress in the debate about the living wage. The Circle are combining activism and research within a legal framework. This report could really shake up the debate.

Ultimately though, as Firth reminds us, we all have a responsibility to change the face of fashion. We live in a throw-away society and when we discard a garment after only a couple of wears, we are not taking a moment to remember who made it. When we buy and buy and buy, we are giving these companies the means to produce more, faster; “we are completely complicit in the system”. But when we do not buy into this industry, we are taking away work from these women.

We “cannot boycott or stop buying because they need to work”

 So, we need to be actively seeking ways to go to the source of the problem, expose the corruption and improve the lives of these women who deserve so much more.

Firth tells Harper’s Bazaar Netherland of some useful tips for how we can shop differently and not treat these women like slave labour. We need to show them that “we really respect their work and we value the things that they make. So, when they sweat on their production line, producing 150 pieces an hour, make them know that we value them, that we are not going to wear them once or twice and then throw them away”

I would highly recommend reading the report (it’s a long one so grab a cup a tea and a couple of biscuits) and get ready to be thoroughly inspired.

Be part of the change. This is just the beginning.

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism

This article was written by Georgia Bridgett who is an intern for The Circle. Georgia is a recent English graduate and is passionate about women’s rights and the underlying issues in the fast-fashion industry.

 


The ‘Forgotten’ Victims of the UK’s Domestic Abuse Bill

Photo credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

Across the globe, at least one in every three women has been beaten, physically or emotionally abused, or coerced into performing sexual acts. To ensure the safety and security of women is universally protected, we must continue to fight to elevate the rights of all – including migrant women. We have only truly achieved equality when all of us are free.

According to the crime survey for England and Wales, in the year ending March 2018, an estimated 1.3 million women experienced some form of domestic violence. Considering the sensitive nature of this issue, and the fact that a large majority of cases remain unreported, it is likely that this statistic is even higher. The UK Government’s release of the draft Domestic Abuse bill on the 21st January 2019 sparked hopes for increased support for victims by including an extended definition of domestic abuse to incorporate forms of non-physical abuse and economic abuse, preventing abusers being able to cross-examine their victims in court, and implementing a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner. However, the reality is that migrant and refugee women, one of the most vulnerable groups of victims, still fall short in terms of protection from the government’s amendments to the law.

In the draft bill, little aid is outlined for refugee, migrant and BAME victims, who already seem to receive inadequate treatment in terms of support and escape. The Step-Up Migrant Women (SUMW) alliance warn that, although the government recognises the ‘specific vulnerability’ of migrant victims, their current proposals will fail to provide them with the support and refuge they urgently require.

Many migrant women reside in the UK on a Spouse Visa which appears to offer minimal support or escape to those struggling with domestic abuse. The ‘two-year rule’ provides a probationary period for all marriages to non-British spouses, meaning if the marriage breaks down before this period is over, the partner is returned to their country of origin. For the first five years, victims are unable to access support services such as public funds and will not be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. It is feared that a large proportion of migrant women have applied for a Spouse Visa extension and have chosen to stay in their abusive relationships in order to impede the possibility of deportation and strengthen their immigration claims further down the line.

However, migrants can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain through divorce, also called a Spouse Visa Curtailment, which will not compromise the victims right to reside legally in the UK. In addition to this, if the victim can supply sufficient evidence to attest that they are impoverished and a victim of abuse, they can be granted access to financial support from the government for up to three months; this is known as the Destitute Domestic Violence Concession (DDV).

Despite this, it is reported that as many as a quarter of applications for the concession are rejected annually and, according to the Newstatesman, these figures are increasing year on year. The rigorous application process is a serious impediment to applicants as those who fail to provide the appropriate paperwork or attend a meeting on time, can face immediate rejection. Women who find themselves the victim of domestic abuse may be prevented from retrieving their personal documents or leaving their residence, leaving them dependent on their abuser and further perpetuating their cycle of abuse. Many women on a UK Spouse Visa also fear disclosing their situation as they may be threatened with the risk of deportation by their abuser. Equally, this is an unimaginable prospect for many asylum-seeking victims who have fled destruction and conflict to seek refuge in the UK. Additionally, statistics indicate that incidents involving the police handing vulnerable women over to immigration enforcement rather than assisting them are common; one report from 2015-2017 stipulates that as many as 27 out of 45 survivors were reported. These issues collectively construct an unsettling concept for victims, which may leave them feeling trapped and powerless to seek support from authorities due to a combination of abuse and manipulation, and an absence of faith in the authorities themselves.

With Brexit fast approaching, it is feared that the UK’s departure from the EU may generate increased hardship for migrant and refugee women. For example, victims who find their personal documents withheld by their abuser and are unable to supply these by 2022 to secure their EU Settled Status, could encounter stringent immigration rules and regulations further down the line. In addition, a report from the Equality and Diversity forum reports that the government has made no concrete commitments to substitute the billions of pounds of funding currently offered by the EU to support some of the most vulnerable groups in the UK, including those suffering from domestic violence.

The Rights Equality and Citizenship Programme has a current budget of £343 million designated for the whole of the European Union, with over a third of this funding being offered to the UK. The Government’s lack of assistance to non-British women who fall victim to domestic abuse has put increased pressure on services such as support groups, many of which receive funding from the programme. According to the charity Women’s Aid, the number of support groups decreased by as much as a fifth between May 2017 and 2018. This decline in support is already disconcerting for victims but the prospect of a rising decline post-Brexit appears increasingly unnerving. Further still, local authority spending for refuges has been slashed from £31.2m in 2010 to £23.9m in 2017, painting an even bleaker picture for these vulnerable groups who already face additional hardship when seeking shelter and aid from domestic abuse.

Despite the Government’s draft bill offering some benevolent and rejuvenated approaches to addressing the issue of domestic abuse, increased protections and support are desperately needed for these victims if we are to ensure that they are treated equally, compassionately, and humanely in the face of such adverse treatment. The fact that victims of abuse feel they must remain in a situation that potentially jeopardizes their life, to retain their legal residency in the UK, highlights something dangerously wrong with our system that if not rectified soon, could continue to enable abuse and present increased hardship for survivors.

This article has been written by Bethany Morris, a content writer for the UK’s leading Immigration Advice Service. | @IASimmigration

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust: International Women’s Day Panel

 

This International Women’s Day, Annie Lennox took part in a panel of change-makers and activists including Adwoa Aboah, founder of Gurls Talk, an open community where young girls can talk about the issues that matter to them; Julia Gillard, Former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London; Chrisann Jarrett, Founder of Let us Learn; and Angeline Murimirwa, Executive Director of the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) in Africa and co-founder of CAMA, a pan-African network of young female leaders. The purpose of the panel was to discuss some of the challenges that women and girls still face today, but also to explore some solutions to these issues.

 

“It was fantastic to take part in yesterday’s panel for the Queen’s Commonwealth trust. The discussion was invigorating and inspiring and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to present the case for everyone to start using and identifying with the term ‘Global Feminism’. The trust exists to champion, fund and connect young leaders around the world and is now presided over by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex together. Thrilled to hear the Duchess personally describe herself as a Global Feminist!”

– Anne Lennox

The panel discussed the issue of girl’s education, sharing the statistic that for every year more of education a girl receives, she will increase her lifetime earnings by 25%. The panel opened the floor to questions, the first of which was from Scarlett Curtis, author of Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, who brought up the inequalities surrounding menstrual wellbeing.

Many of the members of the panel, considered how to involve boys and men in the conversation. Each expressed the sentiment that the progress of feminism cannot proceed without their support. Suggestions such as changing our understanding of masculinity, starting an open dialogue and ‘shining light on the invisible man’ were offered. Adwoa Aboah, described the work that Gurls Talk are doing to include men in their feminist space, stating that half of all Gurls Talk members are men.

Global Feminism

The conversation continued to come back to the term Global Feminism. It has been the mission of Annie Lennox and The Circle to get the term into the zeitgeist as an inclusive term to acknowledge the disparity between the right’s that we enjoy in comparison to women across the globe who are denied them. 1 in 3 women will experience sexual and physical violence in their lifetime, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence isn’t a crime.The panel was a crucial part of doing so.

‘It is about Global Feminism, it is about equality and parity for all of us’.

– HRH The Duchess of Sussex

We even managed to some of the panelists to share their #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist. Lets continue the success of International Women’s Day 2019 and keep getting the Global Feminism word out there!

 

This was a truly inspirational panel that we were very grateful to be a part of. We want to thank all the panelists for their endorsement of Global Feminism and hope that by International Women’s Day 2020, we will be one step closer to achieving a fairer world for all women and girls.

#GlobalFeminism #WomenEmpoweringWomen


Annie Lennox in Harpers Bazaar

It all started with a graphic tee.

“I was in a department store, and I saw a T-shirt that had Wonder Woman on it,” Annie Lennox says of the moment that inspired her latest campaign. It was the summer of 2018, and the music icon was trying to figure out how to take the mission of the Circle, the international women’s-rights non-governmental organization she founded in 2008, to the next level.“I looked at the T-shirts and I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, what if Wonder Woman could connect everyday women and men to the facts about the gender inequality experienced by millions of girls and women every day around the globe?’ So I bought the T-shirt, took it home, and put it on. Then I wrote a list of facts and statistics on sheets of drawing paper and had a series of pictures taken for Instagram of myself holding up the messaging.”The result: #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist, a social-media hashtag campaign promoting Lennox’s message.

Read the full article here!

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


Annie Lennox asks “Are you a Global Feminist?”

 

Annie Lennox is the special guest on this episode of The Global GoalsCast. The rock star talks about why she moved away from music and into an activist role fighting HIV / AIDS and working to improve the lives of girls and women around the world. She urges women — and men — to embrace the term Global Feminism.

“If you use the term Global Feminism to describe what you represent and what you stand for,” Lennox says, “you understand feminism all around the world. It is not only from a western perspective.”

At its heart, Global Feminism recognises that there are millions of girls and women around the world that “don’t have a voice and by using the term you’re making them present and known.”

Facts and Actions are offered by Sioned Jones, Executive Director of The Circle, the organisation founded by Annie Lennox. You will also hear about the Index of Women Entrepreneurs created by our sponsor MasterCard. Listen now!

Edie Lush, Producer of Global GoalsCast, has told us a little bit about how podcast came about and her collaboration with The Circle:

“I started the Global GoalsCast with my co-host Claudia Romo Edelman two years ago after we met in Davos. We were introduced by Stan Stalnaker, the founder of Hub Culture where I am Executive Editor. The podcast was Stan’s idea! I’m a journalist and communication trainer and Claudia is a development specialist with many years at the United Nations. I was hugely excited to win an award last year from the UN for the podcast.

My goal is to tell you the stories of one of the most remarkable combined efforts in human history. 193 nations have set goals for 11 years from now, ranging from ending extreme poverty to fighting climate change and making the world a better place. Claudia and I have made the Global GoalsCast  the place where you come to find the stories of the people who are ticking off the tasks on the world’s to do list.

I love this collaboration with The Circle because The Global GoalsCast is biased towards women both in our organisational structure and the stories we feature. We’ve had some cracking episodes – let me tell you about some of the women we’ve featured:

In the Revolutionary Power of Food, we featured Charity Mulengu, a 32-year old widowed mother of two who is a market trader in Zambia who is using an ‘eBay for Farmers’ to sell produce to help feed her family. Before the app enabled her to advertise and sell her crops, she would haul as much as 550 pounds of produce to a market in the hope of finding people who wanted to buy it. It was expensie and time-consuming – she had to leave her children with her mother to travel. ‘Now I can communicate direct with the farmer,’ she said ‘we agree on the thing which I want. For example, if I want five bags of cowpeas. I will communicate with the farmr .. Then the farmer can send those five bags to me.’

In They Are the Code we featured Senegalese activist and businesswoman Mariéme Jamme who is a living example of how technology can help elevate young women out of dire situations. Raped by a teacher at the age of 11 years old, Jamme was trafficked from her native Senegal to France at age 13 and sold into prostitution. Two years later, French police picked her off the streets. She ended up in the U.K, where she began her education.  She told me that ‘I was starting my alphabet when I was 16’. Jamme came to prominence and found activism when she wrote an open and critical blog to Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof and U2 frontman Bono criticizing the way Africa was being portrayed in materials related to the famous concert’s 25th Anniversary. That led to her being tapped for advice on how to represent African women and girls in the media and bring balance to coverage of the continent. Mariéme wanted to be more than just a voice and an adviser. She wanted to give more women and girls the ability to speak for themselves. Her movement, I am the Code, brings girls together to learn life skills and equip them with the technology to do something about it.

In Comedy Can Do More Than Make Us Laugh, we featured three female comedians who are using comedy to break stereotypes. One of the comics we featured is Noam Shuster, an Israeli woman. Noam’s father is a Romanion Jew and her mother was born in Iran, which makes her background a unique cultural hybrid. After what she considers a failed sting in a peace organisation, Noam turned to comedy and found that her heritage allowed her a special way in. She said ‘one of the places that comedy has brought me is to be the first Jewish performer in a Palestinian comedy festival. There were two guys who are sitting in the front row looking at me, like, what is this Jew going to tell us, you know? So I walk on stage and I’m thinking, how am I going to break the ice? Like what? It’s a crowd of 300 Palestinians. So I walk in on stage and I look and them and I tell them ‘Habibi, relax. I’m only here for seven minutes, not 70 years’.

Look out of more episodes of this incredible podcast!

#GlobalFeminism #WomenEmpoweringWomen