Interview with Maya Ghazal

“It is important that we always keep in mind that we are advantaged somehow and so it is good to share that advantage with others”

As part of our Women and Girls in Conflict month at The Circle, we caught up with Maya Ghazal, the inspiration refugee rights activist to speak about her the challenges that refugees face in the UK and her take on Women Empowering Women. Maya is the recipient of The Diana Legacy Award and is a student of Aviation Engineering with Pilot Studies at Brunel University.

Maya, tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Maya Ghazal, I am 20 years old and I am a refugee from Syria. I left Syria when I was 15 and got to the UK in 2015. I got to the UK in a plane via family reunion visa with my mum and two younger brothers as my dad was already in the UK. I faced many struggles coming to the UK and got rejected by schools in my community, however, after few dark months I was able to get over those struggles and challenges and finally got accepted to a college and was able to get back on track with my education.

Now, I am an advocate for refugees rights, speak in different events and volunteer to raise awareness and spread a message of kindness.

Can you tell us a little bit about the challenges that refugees face whilst living in the UK?

Well, from my own personal experience, I can say that integrating to the new community would be a challenge, learning English, entering the educational system and sometimes finding a job. These normal life activities can sometimes be challenging especially from people from outside the country with no one to help them or to tell them what to do or to guide them along the way.

If you could share one thing with our supporters, what would it be?

Your smallest act of kindness can change someone’s life, don’t keep it in! Something as small as a smile or a nice supportive word to refugees could make a huge difference. I wouldn’t have been who I am and got to where I am without support, help and encouragements from people around me.

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

We can support each other, lift each other and bring each other together. It is important that we always keep in mind that we are advantaged somehow and so it is good to share that advantage with others, it feels good to help and support each other, it truly makes a difference. There are many myths and labels to women and we can change that, together and as one, we can make a change and it is important that we prove to the outside word that we can do it all regardless to whatever labels and society would be giving.

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


Women Empowering Women Through Art and Conversation

“Women are powerful. Women are beautiful and strong. Women are wild, raw and resourceful. We must join together, and we must use our strength and resources to overcome.”

Meet Alice Sinclair and Sophie Gradden, the women empowering other women through an evening of art and conversation on 19th June. Alice, a member of The Circle, and Sophie, a UK-based artist are putting on an incredible event to raise funds for the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre. During the art class, which begins at 6.30pm, you will be able to select a favourite female icon to paint with the aim “go wild on canvas”! As well as having creative fun, you will be connecting with like-minded women and learning more about The Circle’s projects.

This a perfect example of how when women come together and organise, they can be a powerful force for change. We sat down and spoke to them about The Circle, fundraising and feminism …


Photo credit: Fiona Freund

Alice Sinclair works in the healthcare sector and is a member of The Circle.

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I have been based in London for 12 years. I work in the healthcare sector as an NLP therapist and a trainee Psychotherapist. I am also the editor of a local magazine. I have witnessed and experienced gender inequality in many forms throughout my life. I still see it everyday, and with my work as a therapist I see the impacts. Ending violence against women is my passion. It is it very close to my heart (near the cat section). I long for a world one day where the inhabitants are like WTF is inequality? Did that actually exist?

Why did you decide to organise this fundraising event?

This event is the beginning of many. Nothing feels more close to my heart than actively supporting and holding a platform for women to come together and work towards making a difference in the murky environment of gender based inequality. Sophie Gradden is a hoot to hang around with, it will be a memorable evening.

Why do you think the work of Nonceba Family Counselling centre is so important?

As a trainee therapist most of my NHS work has been with women who have experienced violence or abuse in its many guises. It tears you down. It whittles away confidence. The trauma can have a horrifying impact on how you live your life. Abuse can lead to very serious situations such as PTSD, agoraphobia, eating disorders, addictions, self harm and suicide. These can be passed down through generations. Wonderful charities like Nonceba are a vital refuge. They provide hope, and a way forward. For a year they will protect and physically and mentally support victims of domestic abuse. Nonceba gives women a way out. It breaks that generational passing. It de-normalises.

What does Women Empowering Women mean to you?

When I was ten years old, a teacher discovered I could bowl a cricket ball better than the boys in my class. I was invited to play on the boys team as there was no team for girls. As I ran up to bowl the first ball of my first match, both teams jeered. “she’s wearing a skirt” or “get lost you’re a girl”. I crumbled. That was to be my first and last match with that team.

This was my first experience of gender based inequality. My first experience of gender based violence was when I was eight, I am less inclined to discuss this freely. The point I am getting at is, women are powerful. Women are beautiful and strong. Women are wild, raw and resourceful. We must join together, and we must use our strength and resources to overcome every single face and aspect of discrimination, sexism, misogyny and abuse. Women need women.

Sophie Gradden is an artist living and working in the UK and we’re incredibly excited to have her working with The Circle for this event!

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I am a contemporary artist, temporarily living & working in Buckinghamshire. I’ve not always been an artist mind, but always dabbled in the creative industries of furniture & interior design.

In November 2016 I reignited my love for painting and set up a makeshift studio in my home and began creating, whilst working full time. Since then, the art continues. In April 2018 I had a total mental meltdown, suffering with depression and anxiety, I made the decision to take a break, a life sabbatical as I like to label it, and dedicate myself to my art full time, no more 9-5, just painting, painting, painting. Best thing I’ve ever f**king done.

Why did you decide to organise this fundraising event?

Why would we not? Any group of people gathering together to try and do better in this world, no matter how big or small the overall impact it may have…it’s something right! The more we do it, the more we talk about it, the more people will start to realize that these sometimes minute or minor situations to the absolute horrendous (even unimaginable) us wonderful women find ourselves put into is NOT ok!! Things have got to change. This I hope is a small yet mighty step towards that.

Why do you think the work of Nonceba Family Counselling centre is so important?

We must remember even though we are still fighting for gender equality and ending violence against women here in the UK, some countries sadly are still 10 steps behind us, which is frightening. The woman I am and the women I surround myself with, friends, family, colleagues, have all come up against gender equality issues, thankfully never violence, however I speak for a mere spec of the population, in fact the world. Even bigger problem!! What about the women who don’t have a choice and the support, someone to be there for them when the world has unfairly shunned them and continues to kick them, sometimes quite literally, when they are down, Nonceba is that answer. Nonceba is a positive way forward, one of many great projects that the circle supports.

What does Women Empowering Women mean to you?

Simple…My mum, my sister, my nan (sadly no longer with us) my sister in law, my best friend, my friends, my past colleagues…the amazing woman who I didn’t know, who reached out and held my hand on the train, when I was in a state of emotional anxiety, we didn’t even speak, we only exchanged a smile as she handed me a tissue. You saved me in that moment. Thank you.

Book your place for An Evening of Art and Conversation here. We’ll see you there!

#GlobalFeminism #WomenEmpoweringWomen


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Sophia

“I remember in primary school being taken into a separate room along with the rest of the girls to talk about periods whilst the boys did something else. No wonder it is seen as a taboo subject and no wonder men are not at ease talking about it!”

Sophia is a member of The Circle and a GP based in London. She’s been involved in organising our upcoming Menstruation Matters event!

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I am a GP based near London Bridge who also works in Medical Aesthetics and Sports Medicine.

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

The ethos of The Circle fits in with the kind of difference I want to make as a Global Feminist. Initially it was a charity I only donated to but then I was invited to join a group of members with a shared interest in healthcare to set up a new circle. Over the coming weeks, I will be getting involved with the launch of The Healthcare Circle as one of the co- chairs which I am super excited about!

How are you involved with the upcoming Menstruation Matters event and what has that been like?

I am working with a very inspirational group of women in planning the Menstruation Matters event. We are all volunteers on this project and all in full time jobs, so it has been challenging! However it has been great to meet the other members and work together for a common goal and for something we all truly believe in.

Why do you think the work of Irise International is so important?

So many of my young female patients in London don’t know enough about their menstrual cycle, or are worried about their periods and fertility. It is sad that even in the UK, it is not commonly talked about and women are not fully enlightened about something that is normal human physiology.. I remember in primary school being taken into a separate room along with the rest of the girls to talk about periods whilst the boys did something else. No wonder it is seen as a taboo subject and no wonder men are not at ease talking about it! Periods, fertility , childbirth etc are the essence of life- literally! There should be no myths, no stigma and no embarrassment surrounding it. This is why I strongly support and admire the work Irise International do. It is sad to think that women in Uganda are not living normal lives because of misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding their periods. Education is key and the most valuable asset anyone can have.

If you would like to attend our Menstruation Matters event this month then book your ticket here. Events like this just wouldn’t happen without our wonderful members. They are truly the lifeblood of The Circle!

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism #WidenYourCircle #MenstruationMatters


Global Feminism Film

As the women’s rights movement pushes forward, internationally acclaimed singer, songwriter, performer and Human Rights activist Annie Lennox and the NGO she founded, The Circle, have partnered with Apple Music for a Global International Women’s Day initiative launched today.

Together with Sammy Andrews and her team at Deviate Digital, they have created a short film in support of Global Feminism, an umbrella term inclusive of all approaches to women’s equality.

To help her, Annie has drawn support from some of the biggest names in music, film and beyond, including Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Richard E Grant, Emeli Sande, Hozier, Richa Chadha, Eddie Izzard, Gwendoline Christie, Farhan Akhtar, Beverley Knight and Mary J Blige. Watch and share the short film below:

While we celebrate and acknowledge the advancement in women rights over the past 100 years, we must make sure it’s inclusive for all. The short film aims to highlight the injustices still experienced by millions of women and girls the world over – from misogyny, rape and violence to pay disparity.

Every woman and girl, no matter where they live, no matter the colour their skin, no matter what religious faith, no matter what – MUST have access to the same basic human rights. Global Feminists believe in equality of rights, with empowerment and justice made available for every woman and girl in every corner of the world.

Annie Lennox: “Disempowerment creates an appalling way of life for millions of women and girls around the world. While physical or sexual violence affects one in three women, and two thirds of the world’s 757 million adults who cannot read or write are women … these are only two on a long list of disparity and injustice. We cannot ignore the fact that feminism must have a global reach.”

“At a time when there seems to be so much polarity and division in the world, the term ‘global feminism’ offers an opportunity for people from every walk of life, colour of skin, gender or sexual orientation to understand and identify with the bigger global picture. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder in support of human rights, justice and equality for women and girls everywhere in the world, especially in countries where they are not even near the lowest rung of the ladder.”

Rachel Newman (Apple Music Global Head of Editorial):Annie Lennox is not only one of the most prolific women in music, but one of the most dedicated and passionate women’s rights advocates of our time. Her efforts to better this world are truly inspiring and her impact is undeniable. This International Women’s Day we are thrilled and honored to support this incredible artist and share her message of #globalfeminism with our global audience.”

Sioned Jones (Executive Director, The Circle): “Global Feminism is at the heart of what we do as we strive for a more equal and fairer world for women and girls. On this International Women’s Day having a chance to remind us all of the huge inequalities and injustices that remain for millions of women and girls across the globe is important in ensuring no one is left behind in being able to realise their basic human rights. We thank Annie, Apple Music and all the contributors who have given up their time and support to this film and we all stand together as Global Feminists.”


Share your own #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist on social media and tag @thecirclengo and Annie Lennox!

#GlobalFeminism #WomenEmpoweringWomen


One Reason Why I’m A Global Feminist

 

Annie Lennox, Founder of The Circle, on why she is a global feminist. Join the #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist movement on social media and tag Annie Lennox and @TheCircleNGO.

Like millions of women and men, I feel hugely inspired by the development of the #MeToo, Time’s Up and Women’s March movements.

I am proud to call myself a feminist and stand in solidarity with everyone who understands the vital need for change in attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls.

The feminist movement is a broad church with different interpretations, opinions and ideas. I identify myself as a ‘Global Feminist’ to describe where I’m coming from.

I believe in equality of rights, with empowerment and justice made available for every woman and girl in every corner of the world.

#OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist is a call to action bringing collective meaning and value to the term ‘Global Feminism’.

Prof Pamela Gillies, Vice-Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University

Feminism needs to be relevant, appreciated and respected where the needs are greatest —in countries where women and girls are not even near the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of human rights. I’m impatient to see the ‘glass ceiling’ being smashed in my lifetime, so I’m inviting you to join me and The Circle, to create a massive advocacy wave to establish the term ‘Global Feminism’ and raise a better understanding about the bigger picture of global inequality.

This call to action will only take 5 minutes of your time.

Have your picture taken holding a sheet of paper with one selected handwritten reason why you identify yourself as a Global Feminist.

Post your picture on social media, using #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist and tag Annie Lennox and @TheCircleNgo so we can see your support. Feel free to help grow the campaign by tagging other organisations you support who work for the rights of women and girls and ask your friends, family and colleagues to join in too.

You will then become part of a collective wave for positive change for women’s rights around the world!

Sarah Brown, President of Theirworld.

Here are some reasons to choose from, in case you don’t already know them:

1.There are 757 million adults who cannot read or write —2 out of 3 of these are women.
2.In Africa, 28 million girls are not in education and will never step inside a classroom.
3.Over 750 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday.
4.Every minute of the day, one young girl (aged 15-24) contracts HIV.
5.Women and girls account for 71% of human trafficking victims.
6.Every day approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
7.Women make up only 22.8% of the worlds parliamentarian seats.
8. Across the world 39,000 girls under the age of 18 become child brides every day.
9. In developing countries,20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth every day.
10. 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.
11. 41 million girls living in developing countries around the world are denied a primary education.
12. 1 in 3 women and girls are impacted by physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Love,

Annie Lennox


Young Global Feminists at #March4Women

Photo credit: Judit Prieto.

On Sunday the 4th March, by the houses of Parliament, the air was cold, but the atmosphere was warm, filled with minds and hearts of people from all over — all protesting against the same thing. We were fighting against the abuse and discrimination and political imbalance against women. Above waves of people, flew colourful, hand-drawn and humorous posters in all shapes and sizes. A multitude of different people — men, women, teens, children, introverts — came out to raise awareness about the issue that affects many, daily. It was rainy, but we persisted with our heads high and hearts in our voices and hands. The march ended after drumming and chanting in Trafalgar Square: the place where the whole movement really started. Speeches were said and songs were sung and, most importantly, we gained attention. We gained attention politically and through the media to show everyone how we still need change. Yet again, it was a small step, but that small step felt good. It felt inspiring.

Written by Amelia and Emily, 14 years old. Amelia and Emily attended the #March4Women 2018 with their mum and other members of The Circle. They are the next generation of The Circle members and global feminists.

To find out more about our membership and how to sign up to become a member, click here.


Bina’s Story of Surviving Gender-Based Violence

 

Bina is a survivor of gender-based violence. She has received support from a women’s shelter in India, which was set up by The Asian Circle. This is how it changed her life.

When Bina was pregnant, she was physically and verbally abused by her husband and threatened with more abuse if she told anyone. When she fled to her family’s home, her husband attacked them too.

Bina and her family went to the police station but the police refused to help her. Luckily, one of The Circle’s and Oxfam’s partner organisations spotted the family as they were walking into the police station and offered their help.

The organisation offered Bina counselling and legal support. She has managed to put her husband behind bars, has applied for child maintenance and is learning how to sew so that she can get a job and raise her son Vijay, who is two years old now.

Despite enormous societal pressure, Bina refuses to return to her husband.

The Circle, Oxfam, several local organisations and women leaders in Chhattisgarh and Odisha are working together to set up support centres offering medical care, legal advice, counselling and shelters to survivors of gender-based violence. Click here to find out more about the project.


Feminist Calendar: March and April 2018

Photo: Care International’s #March4Women rally, 2017.

Looking for inspiration from incredible women around the country? The Circle volunteer Anna Renfrew has got it covered with this collection of feminist events near you!

1 March – Both Sides Now (Leeds)

Both Sides Now is a large-scale initiative taking place across the North of England to support emerging female artists and up-and-coming industry professionals to transform the future of the music industry.

Its aim is to create a network that delivers sustainable activity and affects permanent change around the perception, opportunities and profiling of women in music, from the classroom, to the boardroom, to the stage.

This first ‘Open Space’ event is for anyone with an interest in this conversation to come together and discuss what could make a real difference – whether that’s about role models, motherhood, education, social mobility, policy change or something else entirely.

1 March – Consent in the classroom: mapping SRE provisions after #MeToo (Cambridge)

The presentation of GENPOL’s new policy paper, one of the first studies assessing the quality and influence of sexual education across all EU member states. The policy paper examines the links between SRE and gender-based violence, suggesting that comprehensive and inclusive teaching can help challenge and prevent abusive behaviours. It outlines GenPol’s innovative approach to consent-centred SRE, and carefully unpacks the relationship between educational efforts and gender-based violence prevention. It also celebrates the vital work of sex education and gender equality advocates across Europe, whilst identifying existing gaps that need to be addressed.

2 March – The Feminist Disco II (Edinburgh)

Join the joyous rebellion and embrace the fun of feminism with your fellow feministas. The Feminist Disco is back in Edinburgh with more great tunes and excellent company!

2 March – My Life as a Scottish MP (Edinburgh)

The European Parliament Liason Office in Edinburgh will host a panel discussion event for International Women’s Day to discuss women’s issues at national European level and the specific challenges faced by women in politics. This will be an all-female panel with speakers including Catherine Stihler and Elspeth Attwooll!

3 March – Stereotypes of Black Women’s Identities (Bristol)

“A panel discussion led by three women from diverse backgrounds leading the discussion on the stereotyped black woman. For centuries, black women have been shoehorned into a handful of stereotypes — the mammy, the sexual siren, the welfare queen, the matriarch, and the angry Black woman. Arguably, Michelle Obama represents a pushback against each of these, even at the implicit level.”

African Voices Forum leads round table discussions on the identity of black women as part of the General Assembly’s proclamation of this decade as the Decade for People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development.

4 March – March4Women, The Circle (London)

The Circle members will be marching through the streets of London to show solidarity for women everywhere. It’s going to be a fun and empowering way to get to know each other more and support women’s rights. Not a member yet? Join us!

4 March – Imkaan x gal-dem: fundraiser to support women facing violence (London)

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day, for one Sunday filmmaker Jade Jackman, Politics Editor for gal-dem Leah Cowan and the rest of gal-dem will fill the House of Vans with film screenings, several talks, a raffle and a marketplace. All proceeds will be donated to Imkaan, the only UK-based, second-tier women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black minoritised women and girls.

Through celebrating the words and works of women and non-binary folk of colour, we will support women in the UK who will be most affected by the government’s proposed changes to domestic violence funding which will leave some refuges and services without funding. By uplifting and celebrating women, we want to support others.

With workshops and panel discussions focusing on BME women’s experience of sexualized and racialized harassment and ending deportations. There will also be a talk by Paula Akpan, gal-dem’s social media editor, in conversation with activist and model Munroe Bergdorf.

7 March – March of Women, a film from Glasgow Women’s Library and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Dundee)

First performed in 2015, March of Women celebrated the lives and achievements of Scottish women past and present. In this documentary film, you will hear from the women involved as they talk about the heroines they chose to represent. After the film you’ll get the chance to join the discussion and create your own suffragette-style rosette with a message for women today.

This event is for women only.

8 March – International Women’s Day Celebration (Edinburgh)

The Empower Project and WomenBeing have teamed up to host a celebration of women this Thursday for International Women’s Day. The event will feature an exhibition of art and photography, spoken word performances, and live music from women living in and around Edinburgh. Taking place at The Dog House in Newington, they will be taking donations of hygiene products for Homeless Period. Lets have a party!

8 March – Girl TALKS – International Women’s Day Special (Leeds)

Girl Talk is a free, monthly, informal meet up for creative women and non-binary people hosted by Girl Gang Leeds. Their monthly meet-up falls on International Women’s Day so this one is going to be extra special!

With talks from Kristyna Baczynski, Modes of Expression, Equaliser, Four Chambers and Freedom4girls.

8, 9, 10 March – Nasty Women Exhibition: Empowerment (London)

To celebrate International Women’s Day Creative Debuts has joined forces with Nasty Women New York, Amsterdam, Lisbon, North East, and London to celebrate the work of international feminist artists.

Expect to see a range of contemporary artwork including photography, sculpture, craft, fine art, and film whilst raising money for End Violence Against Women. RSVP is essential!

9, 10, 11, 17 March – POWERFUL WOMEN: A Hidden History, at the National Gallery (London)

It’s back!

“Did you know that of the 2,300 paintings on display at the National Gallery, only eleven are by women? Did you know that only around five per cent of the works in major permanent collections worldwide is by women artists? Did you know that on average less than five per cent of the artists in permanent collection’s modern art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female? Can you name the female heroes and seductresses of the old testament? Do you know their stories? Have you ever heard of a Maenad? Medusa? Madame Pompidour? Saint Catherine?”

London Drawing Group is addressing this imbalance: “POWERFUL WOMEN: a Hidden History invites you to step inside London’s Iconic National Gallery with a celebration of powerful female figures throughout history; from Grecian Goddesses to the wonderfully vicious Old Testament heroines, stories of Saints and Martyrs, Witches, Monsters and the too-long-forgotten female artists of the National Gallery”.

Let resident LDG tutor Luisa-Maria MacCormack guide you through the gallery and spend the afternoon practicing drawing exercises that are designed to help you understand and engage with these paintings and stories in new and creative ways.

9, 10, 11 March – WOW Festival(London)

WOW – Women of the World festival celebrates women and girls, and looks at the obstacles that stop them from achieving their potential.

Around the world, individuals and communities are insisting on the simple proposition that women and girls must have equal rights and asking the question: why is gender equality taking so long?

Southbank Centre’s WOW – Women of the World festival is a global network of festivals which provides a platform for celebrating what has been achieved, and exploring all the ways we can change the world for the better. The Circle will have a stall at the WOW Market Place, so come and meet the team!

12-13 April – Queer Modernism(s) II: Intersectional Identities (Oxford)

After the resounding success of the first Queer Modernism(s) conference in 2017, Queer Modernism(s) II: Intersectional Identities, will be held on 12 and 13 April 2018 at the University of Oxford. Queer Modernism(s) II is an interdisciplinary, international conference exploring the place of queer identity in modernist art, literature and culture, with an emphasis on intersecting identities. Panelists will question, discuss and interrogate the social, sexual, romantic, artistic, affective, legal and textual relationship between queer identity and modernity.

The Keynotes will be Dr. Sandeep Parmar (University of Liverpool) and Dr. Jana Funke (University of Exeter). Dr. Parmar is a BBC New Generation thinker and has published widely on women’s literature in the 20th century, especially lesser known and non-canonical women. Dr. Funke is a Senior Lecturer in Medical Humanities in the English Department at the University of Exeter and a Wellcome Trust Investigator. Her research cuts across modernist studies, the history of sexuality and the history of science. She has published on modernist women’s writing, the history of sexual science and queer literature and history.

Click here to see the provisional programme.

26 April – Empower Her Voice: Mothers in the Arts (London)

Empower Her Voice – London is an organisation which aims to promote education and create discussion amongst women around the world; it was set up by Zainab Majid and Amira Fateh in 2017 and since then has run successful talks and events that aim to increase positive networking between self-identifying women for a charitable cause.

For the first ever Empower Her Voice event in London, a group of fascinating women will discuss what it means to be a working mother in the arts today, whilst raising money for girls to attend school in Lahore, Pakistan.

With a fantastic lineup of speakers on the panel: Yana Peel (CEO of the Serpentine Galleries), Fiammetta Rocco (Arts & Books Editor at The Economist), Elif Şafak / Elif Shafak (author), Margy Kinmonth (film and television director), Joanna Kirk (represented by BlainSouthern), Martine Rose (fashion designer) and Alice Murphy (historian), this is not to be missed!

 

 

 

 

Written by @AnnaRenfrew. Anna is a student at The University of Edinburgh and a volunteer at The Circle.


Sexual violence in conflict and the use of women as weapons of war

Photo credit: Jan Dago. Published by Alexia Foundation. Internally-displaced civilians during the Sierra Leone civil war.

In modern wars, it is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier on the front line. Women can endure violence, rape and even see their children killed.

In 2008, the United Nations formally declared rape a “weapon of war”, and Major General Patrick Cammaert, a former UN force commander, spoke of the spread of rape as a war tactic, saying: “It has become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict.”

The first order of business in conflict zones is usually to deprive women of education and health services, restricting any kind of participation in economic and political life. However, in recent conflicts, sexual violence statistics have skyrocketed with staggering levels of mass rapes being reported.

Declared over in January 2002, the civil war in Sierra Leone had raged for more than a decade, leaving half of the pre-war population displaced, 50,000 dead, 100,000 mutilated and over a quarter of a million women raped.

In a three-month time period during the 1994 genocide, more than 250,000 women and girls were raped in Rwanda.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo – also known as the rape capital of the world – 48 women were raped every hour during the 2011 conflict, making the statistics almost one woman per minute.

There’s no denying that rape in wartime is an act of violence that targets sexuality. Moreover, militias quickly discovered that the most cost-effective way to terrorise civilian populations is to conduct rapes of mass brutality. The humiliation, pain, and fear inflicted by perpetrators not only dominates and degrades the individual victim, but also her community.  

Christina Lamb, foreign correspondent for The Times, told in a TEDxExeter talk in May 2017 of some of the things she had witnessed when working in the field.

“Over the last year I’ve seen worse things than I’ve ever seen before,” she said.

“In Northern Nigeria three years ago, around 200 girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok and the story made international news for around two weeks. I went there and found out that, actually, more than 1,000 girls had been abducted, unreported. And when I spoke to these girls, they had terrible stories about being gang-raped by Boko Haram fighters and being forced to marry them.

“Some of them had escaped and were in camps but they told me that their own families wouldn’t take them back because they saw them as being sullied or they were worried they’d been indoctrinated. In fact, one of them – a little girl – had been so badly raped that she couldn’t walk. She shuffled like a crab.”

Modern wars are increasingly characterised by these barbaric acts of sexual violence to terrorise populations and destroy communities.

“And then there was the Yazidi girls. 5,000 of them abducted by ISIS and sold for less than the price of a cigarette packet. I spoke to one of them who had been released and she told me that the worst night of her life was when her captor – a fat judge – brought back a 10-year-old girl and raped her in the room next door to her, as she cried for her mother all night”, said Christina Lamb.

ISIS continues to unleash violence that disproportionately targets women and girls as young as three and the victims are often enslaved, sexually abused and traded like chattel in the human trafficking underworld where their payment is then used to fund the war and further terrorist attacks.

Even after conflict has ended, the impacts of sexual violence persist, with unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and stigmatisation rife in post-war communities. Widespread sexual violence itself may continue or even increase in the aftermath of conflict and meeting the needs of survivors — including medical care, HIV treatment, psychological support, economic assistance and legal redress – often requires resources that most post-conflict countries do not have.

So, what can we do to help?

Advancing women’s rights and empowerment is vital in addressing the needs of female survivors worldwide. Not only do we need to raise awareness of atrocities against women and girls, but we also need to fight for justice and reforms in policy and foreign diplomacy.

We must work to remove the stigma around sexual violence, help women and girls tell their stories and create and help existing support systems for survivors. The Circle strives to achieve all of these.

By supporting projects worldwide, The Circle works with women who have experienced sexual violence in projects such as the Nonceba Women’s Shelter, those fighting domestic violence in India and the courageous female journalists of the Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network, who give a voice to the incredible – and undoubtedly brave – survivors of conflict from around the world.

 

 

 

 

Written by @shanhodge.
Shannon is a Journalism graduate and a volunteer at The Circle.


8 Inspiring Quotes by War Correspondent Marie Colvin

As part of The Circle’s month celebrating women in journalism, today we remember the incredible Marie Colvin, one of the bravest foreign correspondents of our time and a passionate advocate of women’s rights and influencing change.

If blinded in one eye by shrapnel, many journalists would consider a career change or at the very least avoid working on the front line. But Marie Colvin’s tenacious attitude and drive to give a voice to those caught in conflict helped her overcome her injury, which she sustained while reporting in Sri Lanka for The Sunday Times. The American-born reporter returned to the field donning a black eye patch to continue reporting on some of the world’s largest atrocities including 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza and the Arab Spring.

Known to plunge to the point of deepest conflict and remain there for longer than anyone else, Marie had been stranded on a 12,000-foot mountain in Chechnya after escaping Russian paratroopers, chased by a mob of around 100 men in Egypt, interviewed the infamous Colonel Gaddafi and Yasser Arafat and reported from some of the world’s most brutal conflict zones during her 25-year career for The Sunday Times. She sadly died in a rocket attack reporting the uprising in Syria in February 2012.

Risking her life over and over again, Marie Colvin was not only a courageous and tireless reporter across the world, she was also an incredible inspiration to women in her profession. In fact, her determination to portray the stories of in her own words “innocents” around the world and her passionate belief in the rights of women is what influenced the creation of The Marie Colvin Circle.

Marie took every opportunity to offer advice and mentoring to young female journalists just starting out, as well as being a well-loved friend to her fellow, experienced reporters.

Not long before Marie’s death, she was introduced to The Circle—so her friends Lyse Doucet, Lindsey Hilsum and Jane Wellesley wanted to commemorate Marie by setting up The Marie Colvin Circle, to continue her practical support for women producing quality, independent journalism.

To celebrate the life and work of Marie Colvin, we’ve rounded up our favourite inspirational quotes from the exceptionally brave, warm, intelligent and formidable woman the world grew to love.

1. “Simply: there’s no way to cover war properly without risk…”

“…Covering a war means going into places torn by chaos, destruction, death and pain, and trying to bear witness to that. I care about the experience of those most directly affected by war, those asked to fight and those who are just trying to survive. Going to these places, finding out what is happening, is the only way to get at the truth. Despite all the videos you see on television, what’s on the ground has remained remarkably the same for the past 100 years. Craters. Burnt houses. Women weeping for sons and daughters. Suffering. In my profession, there is no chance of unemployment. The real difficulty is having enough faith in humanity to believe that someone will care.”

The Sunday Times, 21 October 2001. Bravery is not being afraid to be afraid.

2. “These are not just numbers. I want to tell the stories of each person.”

2005, Bearing Witness documentary.

3. “Our mission is to speak the truth to power…”

“…We send home that first rough draft of history. We can and do make a difference in exposing the horrors of war and especially the atrocities that befall civilians.”

November 2010. A speech Marie gave on the importance of war reporting during a service for war wounded at St Bride’s church, London.

4. “Bravery is not being afraid to be afraid.”

A speech Marie gave when she accepted an award for her work in Sri Lanka.

5. “War reporting is still essentially the same—someone has to go there and see what is happening…”

“…You can’t get that information without going to places where people are being shot at, and others are shooting at you. The real difficulty is having enough faith in humanity to believe that enough people, be they government, military or the man on the street, will care when your file reaches the printed page, the website or the TV screen. We do have that faith because we believe we do make a difference.”

November 2010. A speech Marie gave on the importance of war reporting during a service for war wounded at St Bride’s church, London.

6. “When it stops mattering to me, I’ll stop doing it.”

2005, Bearing Witness documentary.

7. “These are people who have no voice…”

“…I feel I have a moral responsibility towards them, that it would be cowardly to ignore them. If journalists have a chance to save their lives, they should do so.”

Marie said in one of her BBC broadcasts in 1999 in East Timor, where she reported from a besieged compound containing 1,500 women and children. They were later freed after Marie’s broadcasts made international leaders put pressure on the Indonesian government to let them all go.

8. “Be passionate and be involved in what you believe in, and do it as thoroughly and honestly and fearlessly as you can.”

BBC, 22 February 2012. Her mother on Marie Colvin’s legacy.

 

The Marie Colvin Circle is currently running the Marie Colvin Journalists Network project, which provides a network for female journalists working in the Middle East and North Africa, to create a vibrant online community that provides practical support, mentoring and lively discussion.


Written by @shanhodge.
Shannon is a Journalism graduate and a volunteer at The Circle.