Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Ally Christian

“I believe that being an active contributor to change, regardless of your gender, is an essential part of achieving equality for women and girls.”

At The Circle, we are of the strong belief that the fight for gender equality has to be inclusive. To reach it, men can and must stand next to us as allies to the Global Feminist movement. Christian is one of our male allies and supports our work in a number of ways. As part of #WidenYourCircle, we wanted to catch up with him to discuss what it means to be an ally of The Circle.

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I was born in Africa, spent over a decade in Australia where I gained my tertiary qualifications to be admitted to practice as a lawyer, and moved to London in 2009 to experience life and work in Europe. I am currently director of contracts for a US fintech company, an avid traveller, and a global feminist!

Why did you decide to become an ally of The Circle?

When I first came to learn about The Circle, men were not able to join as members. However, I felt a strong resonance with the mission and values of The Circle and wanted to support its work and grassroots projects.

In recent years, I feel that apathy has become a dangerous state of mind that is enabling rather than solving many societal challenges. I believe that being an active contributor to change, regardless of your gender, is an essential part of achieving equality for women and girls.

I decided to gift a membership to The Circle to a number of women in my life who might not otherwise have been able to join and benefit from the connectedness of The Circle’s members, on the condition that when they felt willing and able, they would do the same for another inspiring woman in their life!

I am proud to now have been able to join as an ally, and to stand alongside other members and allies of The Circle to amplify the voices of women and girls who have been disempowered and marginalised.

Is there anything you have gained from becoming an ally of The Circle?

Over the past two years, I’ve attended a number events hosted by The Circle, from film screenings to networking evenings to book talks. All of these have educated me on the challenges that women and girls across the world face each day, and the need for action by all members of society.

Most importantly though, I’ve been fortunate to meet a range of passionate women and allies, a number of whom have become friends and professional contacts, and who have challenged me to become an agent of change.

Find out more about the different ways you can become an ally of The Circle by clicking here.

#GlobalFeminism #WidenYourCircle


On the Road to Iran

 

Susan Ferner is a member of The Calgary Circle who has channeled her experience of coming close to traffickers and her subsequent heightened awareness of the issue into a beautiful creative writing piece. Since becoming a member, she has formed The Calgary Circle and focused their attention on addressing the huge issue of sex trafficking within her own country. This piece and the efforts of their circle on the other side of the pond are testament to Susan’s determination to use her own experience to empower other women.

On a warm September evening in 2017, I walked along a single lane highway that led to the border of Iran and took photos of the Zangezur Mountains and Voghi River valley. I had embarked on an off-the-beaten-track trip in Armenia just two weeks prior. Armenia is a tiny Christian country in the Caucasus that boasts home to the oldest churches in the world, with mysterious monasteries dating back to 200 AD. After spending days exploring ancient churches and fortresses, I set out with two friends to discover the more isolated Syunik Region. My friends were at the hotel when I ventured down the road for a short walk, armed only with my camera.

Transport trucks and buses lumbered by sporadically as they wound their way up the mountain pass, confined by a wall of rock on one side and a steep slope on the other. The borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed, but goods pass freely between Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Iran. One hot commodity is women. We had long ago left behind the red neon lights and silhouettes of naked women that adorn the strip clubs in the outskirts of the country’s capital, Yerevan.

The heat of the day had broken and my shadow formed a long black silhouette ahead of me. Engulfed in a dusty haze, the mountains rose up around me. Dead grass swayed back and forth in the breeze along the steep slopes. I heard a car whizz by, followed by the sound of the

engine as it ground into second gear. I turned to watch a white Lada pull a U-turn before a hairpin curve, a blind spot in the road. The car drove slowly back towards me. Dark tinted windows lowered and four men stared hard-eyed at me. They appeared to be in their early twenties. The car came to a dead stop thirty feet down the road. The front passenger, with black hair, fair skin and dark eyes, got out of the car and walked slowly towards me. He tugged on his cock, unexposed, and called, “Russa?”

“Nyet Canada.” I yelled. I backed away quickly and faced the man.

“Russa!”

“NO! Canada.”

“Russa!” he insisted.

“CANADA. AMERICA.”

My heart raced. My mind was clear. These men thought that I was Russian. A prostitute. Fair game. Then the driver got out of the car and walked slowly towards me. “Russa! We police. You come here!”

I knew the police in Armenia did not look anything like him. I also knew that sometimes pimps pretend to be the police to frighten women to come closer. “Fuck off! Fuck you!” I screamed.

My heart pounded. I ran across the road, seized a large rock on the side of the highway and hurled it in the direction of the driver. It fell purposely short of my target. I picked up another and winged it closer to his feet. I grabbed a third and sprinted back across the highway.

I faced the two men and felt the heavy weight of the rock in my hand, ready to launch it. Surprised, the driver stopped. Angry, the passenger cursed me. “Bitch!”

“Fuck off! Go away. STAY AWAY,” I yelled.

Silence. The men looked me up and down. Was that the sound of a motor in the distance? I was not sure, but maybe that is why they got back into their car. As they drove away, an uncontrollable wave of anger slammed into me. Furious, I raised my camera and zoomed in. I took two photos. One of the driver’s profile with a sneer on his face and his third finger raised high in the air. And one of the license plate. Brakes slammed. Doors flung open. The passenger in the front seat jumped out and came straight at me.

My mind was focused on one thing, and that was getting away alive. I distinctly remember thinking that I am not ending my life in Armenia. I rested my hand on the highway guardrail and leapt over it. I hunched down low and – half running, half skiing – slid down the steep slope. I did not look up until I moved into deeper brush and thorny bushes, fiercely seeking a place to hide. I scanned the top of the slope and guard rail. No one. I scoured the brush. The men were nowhere to be seen.

I had one hour to get off the mountain before dark.

Calm down. Breathe. Think! Which way to go? The steep climb back up was not an option, the white Lada might be waiting for me further along the highway. I had no choice but to angle further down towards the town. My steps were firm and deliberate. I did not want to trip and fall into the empty space – the void – that lay between the top of the bushes and the ground below. My pace slowed as I struggled through the brambles and stinging nettles. I

thrashed along as red welts and deep gashes appeared on my hands and legs and ankles. At last, I saw signs of civilization. The rails of an abandoned railroad gleamed red in the failing sunlight. I followed the tracks which led me to an isolated cemetery. The graves were marked by the somber portraits of men and women, their faces etched into the granite and star at me. They reminded me of the eyes of those four men in the white Lada. Dispassionate and cold.

This was not the place for me.

I continued through the cemetery and followed a rough dirt road that led to the outskirts of town. I heard shouts of laughter from children who played in the streets. Three young girls and a boy chased a dog and threw small rocks at it. I slowed down and passed by row upon row of heavy grey Soviet-style apartments. Apart from a few Toyota trucks, all I saw were white Ladas, but no sign of the four men. I am not sure if I would have recognized them. The entire episode on the side of the road felt like an eternity, but I believe it all happened in less than four minutes.

Seated on the plaid sofa in our hotel room, my friends turned pale as I recounted my story. My arms and legs were dirty, scratched and bloody. Peter looked grim, and gave me a long hug and said, “Those bastards.” Sonia could not believe that I jumped the guardrail. “I would freeze,” she said.

Years ago, I said, I read a story in the Globe about a woman who was forced into a car, repeatedly raped and then murdered. The RCMP say that if you think someone is going to attack you, swear and scream and throw things. An attacker is looking for someone who freezes. He does not want a fight. He wants an easy target. And anyone who wants to drag you

into a car is going to do terrible things, so it’s best to fight and run. Even if he has a gun. Run! It’s hard to shoot a moving target. I never forgot that article.

Although friends at home questioned why I walked alone on the road to Iran, neither Sonia or Peter wondered why. We had been told that Armenia is safe for tourists, a new frontier for backpackers and travelers. Until that moment on the road, I had experienced only gracious and generous hospitality from the local people. It was not too late in the day nor was it too dark. I may be a seasoned traveler, but perhaps I was naïve in this case? Or perhaps it was just bad luck.

We went to the local station and a serious policeman looked over the photographs and noted the license plate. Twenty hours later, the same policeman informed me that he had visited the “boys” that evening and it was all a cultural mistake. He said that the boys thought that I was Russian. They were young and drunk and stupid. The policeman reminded me that Armenia is a safe country and things like this never happen here. Then he said, “This can happen anywhere in the world, can’t it?”

“Yes,” I said. “It can.”

“Did you really throw rocks at them?”

“Yes, I did.”

“What do you want to do now?” he asked.

“Do now?”

Surprised, I stopped to think. In Canada, I would not press charges because there is no case. The men approached me, I swore and yelled at them, the situation escalated, but they did not touch me. I kept my distance, threw rocks, jumped the guard rail and scrambled down the mountain. In my mind, there was no legal battle and even if according to an Armenian law there was a case, it was my word against theirs.

“Nothing,” I said. “I don’t want to do anything. I’m leaving Armenia in a few days and I won’t be coming back for a court case.”

It was only later that I learned from an Armenian friend that prostitutes walk the roads and highways. The prostitutes are Russians. Girls and women who are baited with the promise of work and opportunities and lured away from Russia. They are transported thousands of miles away from home. Enroute and in the new country, they are repeatedly raped, beaten and threatened by pimps who lock them into rooms and brothels and put them on the streets and highways.

When I arrived back in Canada, one thing struck me. Viscerally. I have the freedom to yell and swear and run. I can hurl rocks and I can howl. But the girls and teens and women who are trafficked out of Russia do not have that freedom. They cannot run, and if they flee, where will they go? A Russian woman on the side of the highway has no choice but to climb into that car with four drunk men because a pimp is holding a gun to her head.

A few weeks after I got home, a friend at work told me a story. His wife’s friend, Claire was shopping at Market Mall with her 15-year-old daughter, Emily. They were eating at the food court and Emily went to the washroom. Claire waited and waited. Emily was taking a long

time, so Claire went to check on her. She found the teen slumped semi-unconscious between two women.

“What’s the matter”?

“Oh nothing,” one of the women replied. “Our friend is sick and we are taking her outside.”

“Your friend? Sick?? That’s my daughter!”

The women dropped Emily and ran. Claire later learned from the police that abductions happen in Calgary and across Canada. She also learned that a teenage girl has a street value of $260,000 a year to a pimp and an organized crime ring.

Late in October of that year, I saw a young Indigenous girl on the downtown streets of Calgary on a cold rainy night. She was on the corner of an intersection with an older man. The traffic light glowed neon red on the wet pavement. The man walked between a few cars and panhandled until the light turned green. The girl waited on the sidewalk. Feeling utterly useless, I drove off. Then I pulled over about a block away and stopped. I paused. Then I called 911. After I explained the situation, the woman on the emergency line asked me if I thought the girl was in imminent danger? Was she being prostituted?

“I don’t know,” I said. “All I know is that it is late at night and the girl is so young, only about thirteen. She seems excited to be there, wide eyed and innocent. She’s not tough and beaten up. She’s alone with a man who is in his forties. It’s a rough corner. So yes, I think that she is in imminent danger.”

The 911 operator promised to send a car over. As I drove away, I thought about how the girl should be at home, sleeping, and going to school the next day. She would be in Grade 7. I have no idea if that phone call made any difference. All I know is that the policeman in Armenia was right, sex slavery is happening everywhere in the world, hundreds of thousands of miles away. And right here in Canada. Just a few kilometers down the road from home.

If you are feeling inspired by Susan then click here to find out more about becoming a member!

This short story was written by Susan Ferner. Susan presently works in the areas of stakeholder engagement and social impact assessments for industrial developments in Canada and around the world, which have a human rights component. Susan started her career in the late 1980’s with a focus on women’s equality and poverty alleviation. When Susan joined The Circle in 2017, she felt that she was coming back ‘full circle’ to where she started – devoting time and energy to join like-minded women to address the brutal reality of the human rights violations that women suffer, including gender discrimination, domestic violence, rape, sex trafficking and poverty. In her spare time, Susan is happiest hiking to the top of a mountain, snorkeling in the sea and dancing to classic rock.

 

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #WidenYourCircle


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Rosie

 

“To me, global feminism means supporting and advocating for all women on a global scale”

This month, 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:

In 2016 I started my Masters in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at the University of Sussex. I have always been a feminist, so during this degree I was drawn to research topics that explored the criminal law in relation to women’s rights and women’s experiences in the justice system. In particular I focused on the laws governing the use of sweatshops in the fashion industry, sex trafficking, rape laws in Saudi Arabia and the way the British law treats female victims of domestic and sexual violence.

During this time, I often visited The Circle’s website to keep up-to-date on their work on women’s rights. I have been a member for nearly a year now, and I have loved hearing updates about their projects and going to The Circle events. Two weeks ago I watched the Webinar about human trafficking by members of ACT Alberta which was really interesting. I’m really looking forward to meeting more members, and getting more involved in the Lawyer’s Circle.

Tell us about your work:

I work for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women as the Entrepreneurship Programmes Officer. The Foundation provides support to women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries, helping them to set up and grow their businesses, advocate for their rights and access finance. I love that our work helps these women to realise their potential, empowering themselves and their communities in the process. One of my favourite programmes that I work on is an app for women with small and medium sized business, which teaches them entrepreneurship skills in bite-sized chunks. The app is great, because it means that the women don’t have to take time out of their busy lives to go to classes and because it is free and accessible.

Why did you become a member of The Circle?

I became a member of The Circle because I wanted to support the amazing projects that they develop to support and empower women and girls all over the world. The Circle is a really special community where women from different walks of lives can come together to discuss women’s rights and their mutual passion for global feminism, and I wanted to be a part of that. I follow The Circle on social media, and I kept seeing their posts about their upcoming events and members’ meetings, and I decided to join to that I could become more involved in those as well.

What does Global Feminism mean to you?

To me, global feminism means supporting and advocating for all women on a global scale. It’s not about wearing your ‘feminist’ t-shirt from Primark, but about taking the time to wonder who made that t-shirt, whether she was paid enough for her labour and whether her workplace was safe.

It means that it doesn’t matter if they come from a different country, a different socioeconomic background, or a different religion. It doesn’t matter who they have sex with, or if they are sex workers, victims of sexual violence, or how they identify as a women.

It is important to listen to your sisters all around the world – we can never achieve true equality between the sexes until women globally are paid the same as men, are free from sexual and physical violence, and are allowed to spend their childhoods at school rather than becoming a wife.

I am proud to be a global feminist.

#WidenYourCircle #WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


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.