Widen Your Circle: with The Circle member Laura

“No matter what your contribution, being a member of The Circle guarantees that you will be supported and spurred on by an incredible group of likeminded women.”

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:

I’m 35, female, a Partner at Stewarts (a litigation law firm) and, my side hustle (if non-millennials are allowed them!), a Director at Richmond Rugby Club where I used to play.

Why did you become a member of The Circle?

I joined The Circle after attending the launch of Fashion Focus: The Fundamental Right to a Living Wage, which was researched and prepared by members of The Lawyers Circle. It was an incredibly inspiring experience listening to a group of very senior female lawyers explain how they have used their skills, profile, connections and, what can only be very limited, free time to make a real difference to the lives of women globally. I decided there and then that I would join. The Circle facilitates the creation of a network of people that will use their skills and connections for a specific goal, the improvement of the lives of women everywhere. I call it the female equivalent of the “Old Boys Network”: the main differentiating factor being that the network is used for universal rather than individual betterment!

Since becoming a member I have contributed to the Tanzanian Maternal Health Rights project being led by members of The Lawyers Circle, have assisted with creating a skills database to better resource The Lawyers Circle projects, have become part of The London Circle committee, have arranged for my firm to host a number of events and in September I am taking part in The Great River Race in a Dragon boat together with 16 other members to raise funds for Nonceba Family Counselling Centre in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. I’ve also broadened the network. In particular, a friend’s company, Le Bus Vert in Biarritz France, is currently supporting the Dragon Boat fundraising efforts by contributing a proportion of its sales of jewellery and other items made from reclaimed materials (often those washed up on local beaches) to the cause. All because I turned up to an event at a barristers chambers on a week night!

There are so many ways of getting involved in raising funds, contributing to projects or just simply spreading the word. No matter what your contribution, being a member of The Circle guarantees that you will be supported and spurred on by an incredible group of likeminded women.

What does Global Feminism mean to you?

In my mind Global Feminism means recognising that whilst there remain many barriers and disadvantages suffered by women in the UK, I, and others, do have a voice. Having achieved that platform we should use it to advocate for those that are in a situation far worse than our own. In doing so and by taking small steps in improving the rights and opportunities available to women globally, we can make huge strides forward for society as a whole.

Are there any of The Circle’s projects that are particularly close to your heart and can you tell us a bit more about these and why they stand out?

The Fashion Focus: The Fundamental Right to a Living Wage Report really opened my eyes to the staggering inequalities and consequences of our current approach to clothing production and consumption. It not only highlighted the issues but identified the ways in which different jurisdictions, including our own, need to cooperate and legislate to ensure global change. This element of The Circle’s work stands out to me not only as an example of how the law can be used and how a group of lawyers can work together but it has affected my own attitudes as a consumer. The more the issue can be highlighted, and it is certainly being picked up by global media, the more people will start to question the impact of their choices. Consequently, the more pressure there will on governments to legislate to effect change and on fashion companies to be open about their approach. This is an area where I really believe it will be possible to see a visible improvement, hopefully in fairly short order!

Click here to become a member of The Circle and Widen Your Circle.

#WidenYourCircle #WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


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


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


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Brianna

“It’s hard to forget the first time you got your period… it’s scary and uncomfortable enough, even when you have the privilege of knowing what it is and that you’ll be okay.”

Brianna is an Australian trained social worker currently “lucky enough to be working in the community sector around FGM”. She went into social work as she has always been passionate about human rights, social justice and empowerment. Brianna has become specifically drawn to feminist practice approaches and issues surrounding global gender inequalities and gender-based violence.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I moved to the UK 10 months ago, I’m a New Zealand citizen, and I have a social work background, currently working in the charity/community sector around FGM.

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

It seemed such an easy fit with my interests and passions, particularly the notion of Global Feminism and focusing on supporting the amazing work of existing grassroots organisations like Irise.

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

I have been lucky to spend time with Sophia and Jasbir planning what we would like the event to look like, who would be involed, where it would be held. It’s definitely been a new experience for me as I’ve never done event planning or fundraising – but I’m certainly learning a lot!

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

It’s hard to forget the first time you got your period… it’s scary and uncomfortable enough, even when you have the privilege of knowing what it is and that you’ll be okay. I can’t imagine that ‘first time’ without access to such knowledge… and the reality is many girls both in the UK and Uganda don’t. Irise is enabling girls to have understanding, choice and control over their bodies and that is an absolute necessity. They are addressing an issue that has a powerful knock-on effect for girls’ education and future – and that’s what we’re all about!

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


The Circle’s Annual Gathering 2019

Our member Rashmi Dubé, Lawyer, Writer and Global Feminist, has written a blog post about our Member’s Annual Gathering last weekend!

The meeting was held at St. James Crypt in London, with speaker’s video calling from Calgary, Beirut and Uganda. This is only my second event with The Circle and I am excited for the day. .

As a lawyer and business owner, I am used to walking into rooms where most people are strangers – a veteran networker – but this feels different. The room is full of women and the energy feels electric. The room seems to vibrate, reverberating with energy as if to almost form a musical note. This is something new and unfamiliar to me, but at the same time it feels welcoming and comfortable. I am immediately at ease and say hello to a few familiar faces. The women are excited, each talking about what they are doing in their circles and wanting to help change. Even with small actions great change can be done. I am already on a high before I sit down.

Sioned opens the programme with a message I take to heart and will carry everyday – “just do it,” no matter how insignificant you think your act is. This very sentiment is later echoed by Eve Ensler.

Annie Lennox takes the stage, joined by Eve Ensler, an American playwright, performer, feminist, and activist best known for her play The Vagina Monologues.

The two speakers delve into conversation, debating the word ‘feminist’ and its connotations. Both have the united goal: to give women and girls a place where they don’t have to be resilient – they can just be, fighting for all women and their rights, equality for women and girls in a fairer world.

Annie pointed out that there are “So many gaps….divides and divisions…” that we need to come together and work together. She acknowledged that it is still “so difficult to use the word feminist…” I could see her point. There is an uneasiness around the word, much like there is around vagina, but should there be? Annie pointed out that the “concept of feminism is [associated] with man hating [and] this is really a big problem. But I genuinely think if men are not brought into the conversation, how we can have a dialogue and change attitudes? …. We must do this. If we don’t we will be in

combat…” . She is right. The more we come together as one community, the better the discussion. From my perspective, we need to empower men to become feminists or, at the very least, allies. The way we use words and “terminology makes things visible”. Annie went to on to say that “feminism must be for everyone” and at the moment “many men feel defensive, they feel attacked [and] you need dialogue [to overcome these issues]”.

Eve Ensler was on a similar message and wants us all to be change-makers, even if only in our small community. She spoke openly about the traumas of her own life and that when we as women effect change. She reminds us that in order to bring about change and make a difference to others you don’t need an army. She refers to the Castro quote “I began the revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I would do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and a plan of action.” She continued to say all “you have to [do is] believe, have faith in what you are doing in your circle [and]…don’t minimise it [in your mind]”

She then took me back by saying: “resilience. I don’t like that word why do they [speaking about the women in Congo being used as a tool of war and for control] … have to be resilient” She was questioning how they got into the position of having to be resilient in those circumstances in first place. The very definition of resilience is “1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. 2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.” My mind wondered back briefly to what Annie had said and the importance of terminology.

As the day closed, the take home for me was that I, one human being, can in my circle make a difference as a Global Feminist, have open dialogue with men and revisit the terminology we use with new eyes.

Get in touch with The Circle today to make your difference in a girl or women’s life.

This article was written by Rashmi Dube, who is the Managing Director of Legatus Law, lawyer, author and freelance writer for the Yorkshire Post. She is a Global feminist changing attitudes through the written word and legislation a ripple at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


How I’ll Be a Better Feminist in 2019

Photo Credit: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, 2014.

This month we are opening up our blog to our members. Rosie writes about her feminist New Year’s resolutions for the coming year!

Read more

I think that reading about feminism is the best way to become a better Global Feminist. It allows you to understand the viewpoints of other women from around the world and is also a great way to keep up to date on current discussions surrounding contemporary women’s rights. On my reading list for this year are ‘Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies’ by Scarlett Curtis, ‘Why We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‎, ‘I am Malala’ Malala Yousafzai and ‘Eve Was Shamed’ by Helena Kennedy. I think that is an important gateway into the experiences of women from different cultures and backgrounds to my own. I believe that these different perspectives further encourage me to become a truly Global Feminist. These texts are written by women who write from a number of different viewpoints, either having experienced different modes sexism or misogyny themselves, or their professions such as journalists have led them to discover the stories of women who may not have the platform to share their own experiences.

Ensure that my feminism is intersectional

All sexism and misogyny is deplorable and all women’s experiences matter. I recognize that my experience does not reflect the whole spectrum of oppression faced by women around the world and I want to be an ally for all women. For those experiencing forced marriage or FGM, for the women that have been trafficked for sex or have been failed by the law after suffering rape or sexual assault, those who are unable to access a safe and legal abortion, and others who have to give birth in dangerous conditions. It is for these women that I vow to support. Global Feminism is about all women coming together and sharing cultures and experience, it encourages us to understand inequalities and oppression on a global scale.

Put my money where my mouth is

I love clothes and I love fashion, but I also plan to find out more about the inequalities rife within the garment sector. I know that 80% of garment workers are women and that they often work in unsafe conditions for long hours with little pay and fewer labour laws. This also puts them at risk of sexual harassment from their bosses and in a lot of instances maternity leave is limited to non-existent. This year, I really want to make sure as many of my clothes as possible are made in an ethical way, even if this means buying less. I will commit to learning more about sweatshop free brands to make sure my purchasing decisions don’t enslave the women making my clothes.

Educate friends and family

This year, I want to educate my friends and family about Global Feminism at every chance I get. I find that many men don’t engage in feminism and are not always aware of their privilege. This mindset also applies to women who are purely interested in Western feminism, to those who will happily wear a ‘Girl Power’ shirt without considering the plight of the woman who made it. Taking the opportunity to talk to these men and women in your life is an opportunity to communicate the values Global Feminism and some of the shocking statistics that quantify the level of inequality across the globe. Speaking to friends and family is also a good way of communicating an accurate definition of feminism and what that entails. I know men who admit that they were hesitant to support the feminist cause because they believed that the movement was rooted in a hatred of men. This year I want to spread the word by inviting my friends to watch feminist films, lending them books and recommending podcasts.

Empower other women

Every day I want to try and take little actions that help other women. This means that I won’t wait until the next big protest or social media hashtag to assert my feminism, but I will support women at every chance I get. I resolve to make space for my female colleagues to speak in work meetings, to back up their ideas and to make sure they get the credit. I will help women who are being harassed in a bar or on the street and call out sexist comments. I already call out everyday sexism in my social circle, but 2019 will be the year that I take this further – to work, to the street and online.

Network with like-minded women

In 2019, I want to connect more with other global feminists. I have a bit of a fear of networking situations, so I also want to take every opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. I also believe that I could learn a lot from the perspectives of others, which in turn will make me a better feminist. Types of networking I would love to take part in includes charity events, social media, feminist book clubs and debates. I would also like to volunteer with charities that support women globally so I can learn more about how I can help other women.

Be kinder to all my sisters

The world is harsh enough on women already so we should all be making the effort to empower each other. We need to support one another to make real change. We don’t need to be complicit in unrealistic beauty standards by judging each other on what we wear or how much we weigh. Nor should we be shaming other women for their sexuality, career or lifestyle choices. Stick up for your sisters in 2019!

This article was written by Rosie Greenfield, member of The Circle.

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #WidenYourCircle #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle member Laura

“We are often led to believe that there is only space and resources for a few of us and that whatever other women get will be taken from us”

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!

Laura is a set and costume designer with a background in fashion. The inequalities present in the fashion industry are incredibly important to her and she is currently trying to engage more people in the complex matters that surround it.

Why did you decide to become a member?

I had heard about the work of The Lawyers Circle on the Living Wage Report and I was interested in the organization, but what really made up my mind was finding myself at an event in this room full of women who had come together because they wanted to help change things. I left full of inspiration, motivation and energy.

What does The Circle mantra “women empowering women” means to you?

For me, it’s a reminder that we should always try to be other women’s first supporters. We are often led to believe that there is only space and resources for a few of us and that whatever other women get will be taken from us. However, I am convinced that helping others succeed also facilitates our own achievements.

What impact has The Circle had on your life?

It has allowed me to meet women with innovative and exciting ideas that I may have never have done. It has given me a chance to connect with women who work in different industries from mine, have different connections and with whom I have been able to start projects that are important to me. At The Circle I have found a great community that has helped me to become a more active citizen.

Can you tell us what project is important to you and your circle and why?

The Fashion Circle is reshaping at the moment, which I guess is a great opportunity to start exciting new projects. The issue of a Living Wage in the Fashion industry is still very important to me. This is why I organised a Chai Day in December with another member, Lydia, in which we talked about the idea of the Living wage and the difference it could make in the life of female garment workers. We encouraged our guests to be curious, to ask questions about the issues of the fashion industry, and to act to change them.

#WidenYourCircle #WomenEmpoweringWomen #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist