The Circle calls for the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Safety to remain

 

The horrific tragedy in 2013 at the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh and the needless death of 1.134 brought to the world’s attention the dangerous and oppressive working conditions that millions of women working in the fast fashion industry face every day.

Out of that awfulness some progress has come in the form of the introduction of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Safety that over the last five years has inspected and worked with hundreds of factories to improve the working conditions for thousands of workers.

We are therefore disheartened to read that the Bangladesh Government now wish to shut down the Accord and instead use their own regulatory body, the Remediation Co-ordination Cell which is still in its infancy in terms of development.

The Circle is working to ensure that women in the ready-made garment earn a living wage.

Currently in countries who are the largest producers of fast fashion workers are not receiving a living wage at all. In fact, in Bangladesh workers receive a minimum wage that is only 9% of a living wage. Whilst we continue our work and campaign on this issue we stand firm on ensuring that other basic human rights such as a right to life are realised.

Sioned Jones, Executive Director of The Circle stated ‘We must not allow any step back in the pushing forward to ensure the protection of workers fundamental human rights. Whilst there is still so much to be done to ensure all work in a safe manner and earn a living wage we were beginning to see progress in Bangladesh in terms of safety. The work of the Accord and their transparent and professional approach to improving working conditions on many factories in Bangladesh must be continued for the foreseeable future.’

Jessica Simor QC, Member of The Circle and the lead author of its report ‘A Living Wage is a Fundamental Right’ added ‘The human rights of the millions of women working in the Ready-Made Garment Industry must be protected. Working in safe and legal conditions are imperative to this and continuing the work of the independent Accord alongside factory owners and governments is essential.’

To find out more about our Living Wage projects click here

#OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist #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


Interview with Josie George, founder of social entreprise AMMA Sri Lanka

 

“I would rather sell less at a fair price and stand by my values”

“Mother made, naturally dyed, handcrafted” are the values of AMMA Sri Lanka, a social enterprise founded by the British couple Josie and Warren in the Sri Lankan highlands. Josie’s qualification and expertise in the field of textile together with the local charity Child Action Lanka helped AMMA to become a successful ethical label that supports women in the community. The Circle member Dushy, who lives in Sri Lanka, caught up with Josie to talk about ethical values in business, the living wage and natural dyes.

At The Circle, we work on projects that create jobs for women and help them start businesses. The unemployment rate in Sri Lanka is much higher among women than among men and most of your employees are women. Why is employing women important to you?

The high unemployment rate amongst women in Sri Lanka, particularly mothers living on Sri Lanka’s tea estates, was the initial problem we wanted to address by starting AMMA. Working with women is important to us because we see them as key change makers within their community; by employing and training mothers we are directly impacting their children and families. It is much more sustainable and inspiring for children if they experience their mother grow in confidence, earn a fair wage and learn new skills as a solution to breaking out of poverty. It also makes sense for us to employ women —all of our women have shown a great desire to work and contribute to the family finances. These are hard working women who still complete their household responsibilities before and after work. Bringing these women together provides them with a space outside of the home to connect and support each other.

You pay a living wage to your female employees. How does it impact on the product’s prices and organisation?

Yes, our starting wage is double that of the starting wage of other local industries in Hill Country, such as tea picking or garment factory work. I believe that it gives our Amma makers value for the skills they have obtained with us and it adds value to our products. It does increase the price of what we make but I would rather sell less at a fair price and stand by my values than get swayed by the few who don’t understand our ethics and what handmade is truly worth.

AMMA is a social entreprise. How do you reinvest back into the community?

AMMA has been running for one year, which we view as a pilot year. This has given us time to explore different models of working and become accustomed to the particular needs of the tea picking communities. We broke even during our pilot year and once we start to turn a profit we plan to reinvest that money back into our new partner NGO Tea Leaf Trust who work extensively with young people living on Sri Lanka’s tea estates through their centers of professional development.

What do you have to do to make sure the product meets and end-to-end eco-friendly approach, within a fair and safe environment for your employees?

For us, as a young start up it means constantly working towards improving our supply chain. We have just started working with a women’s cooperative in the North of Sri Lanka who weave all our raw unbleached cotton fabric. This means we employ more women in the process of making our products and we have greater knowledge of where our fabric comes from. We dye this fabric naturally using plants (eucalyptus leaves, madder root, indigo, Nelli fruit) and food waste (onion skins, avocado stones, pomegranate skins) some of which we forage locally or collect from hotels and cafes. Using plant dyes means its safer for our employees, safer for our customers and doesn’t pollute water ways. It is also a good way to repurpose waste produce before composting. Our employees work in a nice environment, with child care provided by Child Action Lanka, a local NGO. They work 9 am – 1 pm whilst the children are in school. We pay them a fair wage for their work, and because of this we have many women each month asking if we have vacancies.

Can you tell us about the women you employ and what they like about working at AMMA?

The women we employ are currently aged between 24 and 27 and are all mothers to young children. They live on Sri Lanka’s tea estates in line rooms, which are simple concrete structures comprising of two rooms. These buildings haven’t changed much since the British built them at the height of the tea industry, when people of Tamil Indian origin were brought over to work on the plantations. The estates are hard places to live in, with 80% of tea estate men being alcoholics and 83% of women suffering from domestic violence (of which 20% is sexual). The women we employ have decided against working as tea pluckers, all have married young. Some had not worked previously and other worked at garment factories across Sri Lanka.

The whole process of extracting colours from natural sources sounds interesting and challenging. What is your drive to persist in order to give us an ethical and sustainable output?

Natural colour is a delicate ever-changing medium to work with; so many factors contribute to the final outcome —water quality, light, diversity of plant matter, time and the mordant used. It takes a lot of patience and experimentation to achieve the colors you want. The difference in our dyeing practice when we started a year ago to now is huge. Day by day it feels like we grow more aware of the process and the various elements that need to harmonize to produce the final outcome. The drive and patience to build a social enterprise using natural dyes comes from a belief that true sustainability is growing, from our desire to harvest and cultivate our colour from the land and from the prospect of how many jobs this can offer to a region with high unemployment levels. We aren’t there yet, these things take time and my belief is that you just need to start somewhere and the rest you’ll work out along the way.

Written by Dushy Rabinath, a member of The Circle with an interest in sustainable fashion and The Lawyers Circle’s Living Wage project.


Menstruation Matters: understanding the solutions with social enterprise Sanitree

Photo: Bharat Singh and Martha Reilly, co-directors of Sanitree

This May we are celebrating Menstruation Matters and focussing on how we can make women and girls feel confident about menstruation. Sanitree, a social enterprise founded and run by a team of nine students of Edinburgh University, is an organization already doing incredible work with these aims in mind. Sanitree produce sustainable, reusable sanitary products for women living in India. This year, The Music Circle is planning to support Irise International, a similar project in Uganda, as well as donate sanitary products to foodbanks in the UK and raise awareness about Menstruation Matters. I caught up with Bharat Singh and Martha Reilly, the co-directors of Sanitree, to discuss the role that projects such as these play in the wider issue of period poverty and our attitudes towards our bodies.

A social enterprise is a business model that reinvests its profit margin back into the project and directly benefits local communities. Sanitree, a project that is working under the umbrella of Enactus, is still in its nascent stages as it was established in September of last year but already provides employment for twenty-seven women in the Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, India. Shocked by the stigma surrounding menstruation in his home town Bhind, Bharat spoke about some of the devastating effects of period poverty in this community. He claims that “young girls in India can miss out on as much as 25% of their education, or even drop out” as a result of the difficulties association with menstruation. The pair tell me that affordability is a key factor in this. Some women simply cannot afford sanitary products and use unclean and unsafe substitutes such as sawdust. Furthermore, even with a conventional plastic sanitary pad, women face difficulties in disposing of them as they are not allowed in the household waste.

“Sanitree’s conception is just as much about challenging the stigma as finding a solution”

The Sanitree team, upon visiting Bhind, found that there was a wider cultural issue of a lack of awareness and encountered popular beliefs such as the myth that if you are to touch a boy whilst you are on your period that this can result in pregnancy. However, this stigma isn’t just the case in India. In the UK, there is also a huge stigma surrounding menstruation that can be difficult for young women. This stigma, I would argue, contributes towards the exclusion and dismissal of menstruation related issues in politics. Period poverty is a huge issue in the UK. It is estimated that the average woman spends £18,000 throughout her lifetime simply on having a period and in Scotland 1 in 5 women admit that they struggle to buy sanitary products —statistics that are woefully underrepresented in the media. The ongoing campaign to end the “Tampon Tax” and the classification of sanitary products as luxury items is indicative of the dismissal and lack of understanding shown by political bodies of the economic challenges currently posed by menstruation. In both India and UK there is a lack of knowledge about the issue and projects such as both Sanitree and Irise raise awareness simply by existing. Both Bharat and Martha are resolute on the fact that Sanitree’s conception is just as much about challenging the stigma as it is finding a solution.

An ecofeminist organization

In addition to the tangible benefits in terms of cost, the reusable sanitary pads do not incur the same environmental issues of similar plastic products. Bharat tells me that one sanitary pad can have the same amount of plastic as up to three plastic bags. As environmental sustainability is at the heart of Sanitree’s philosophy, the project considers itself an ecofeminist organization. The term ecofeminism originated in the 1970s and is grounded in the contention that the connection between the oppression of women and the rest of nature must be recognized to understand adequately both oppressions. Sanitree defines itself as ecofeminist as its aims are rooted in the shared concepts of environmentalism and feminism.

Both Bharat and Martha talk about the sense of agency that derives from taking control of your plastic consumption, likening it to “remembering your bag for life” and even quoting Simone De Beauvoir and her theory of transcendence versus immanence. Transcendence being the act of making decisions outside your personal sphere and immanence, traditionally associated with the feminine, as not engaging with projects outside of that sphere. Sanitree identify the decision to cut down one’s use of plastic as a transcendent act and, in what has been coined the “Blue Planet Effect”, argue that there has been a significant shift in our cultural consciousness regarding plastic and that this developing environmental consciousness can be viewed from a feminist perspective as a reclaiming of agency.

It is this sense of agency that I feel lies at the heart of why initiatives such as Sanitree and Irise are so powerful. Not only does Sanitree provide employment opportunities for women within their own community and have the end goal for the business to be completely taken over by these women, but they also engage people of all backgrounds and builds a community in speaking up against period stigma. The experience of menstruation is a transnational one and cannot be solved if there is no discussion surrounding it. Both Martha and Bharat wanted to establish from the start that not all women have periods and not all people who have periods are women and so Sanitree, and the ongoing debate surrounding menstruation, is a step towards coming to terms with our bodies in a way that is positive without being gendered.

One of The Circle’s key drives is “Women Empowering Women” and in the case of Sanitree it is clear that a sense of solidarity is becoming more and more visible as campaigns such as this grow. Both Martha and Bharat express the immense amount of support they have had from both the community in Bhind to the Scottish government’s commitment to this issue. They both believe that Scotland is a leader on progressive legislation and with the help of a number of MSPs, the group are campaigning for the provision of free sanitary products for those children who are offered free school meals, in addition to running pad making workshops and campaigning in the streets of Edinburgh.

The conversation surrounding menstrual wellbeing needs to be more open and frank to empower women and girls everywhere. Get a bloody education and find out more about The Circle’s Menstruation Matters Campaign and donate to our project with Irise International.

 

 

 

 

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


Why Menstruation Matters: tackling menstrual taboos in India

Photo: Volunteers at Restless Development, in Tamil Nadu.

The Circle member Shannon Hodge volunteered in rural village Thiruvalangadu in Tamil Nadu, India, for three months with youth-led development agency Restless Development, as part of the International Citizen Service, a global volunteering programme sending UK volunteers overseas to work with in-country volunteers. In Shannon’s placement community, she volunteered with six other UK volunteers and seven Indian volunteers, working on projects including livelihoods, health and menstrual health management.

In February 2018, the world’s first feature film addressing period poverty hit screens in India —and as I was working on a menstrual health project in one of South India’s rural villages at the time, the team and I went to see it.

The film is a fictionalised account of Padma Shri awardee (the fourth highest civilian award in India) Arunachalam Muruganantham, a school dropout from a poor family in southern India’s Tamil Nadu who revolutionised the manufacture of low-cost sanitary napkins for rural women.

Despite being an unlikely advocate for women’s menstrual health, Muruganantham’s story has opened up conversations across the country and the film’s themes are tackling many of the taboos long-engrained in Indian culture.

The film starts in 1998 when, discovering the dirty rag his wife used during her period, Muruganantham wanted to help. The rag was so dirty, he said, that he “wouldn’t even clean his scooter with it”, but to buy sanitary pads would mean sacrificing the family’s milk budget. As they couldn’t afford to buy them, he decided to make her one.

Due to not having the correct materials, it failed and despite begging his wife to try each new adaptation he made, she refused, leading him to look for other product testers.

However, due to the culture of silence and shame surrounding people openly discussing menstruation, the village found out about Muruganantham’s period project and he lost everything, including his family, home and wife.

Rather than giving up, he devoted the next twenty years of his life to inventing a simple machine to create low-cost sanitary pads. And what started as a selfless act of love for his wife’s health and safety turned into an enterprise that has helped millions of rural women in India.

Speaking to moviegoers afterwards, we heard lots of positive feedback, with both men and women saying it was: “very moving, thought-provoking and amazing to see what can come from such a small idea” and “it’s something everyone should see, as many villages are still facing these problems today”.

A woman who brought her nine-year-old daughter to the film also added: “My little girl came with me today as it’s such an important film and definitely worth seeing for girls like her. Everyone should see it”.

However, despite the feel-good ending of the film, the debilitating stigma and statistics surrounding menstrual health still exist today.

What is —and should be seen as— a normal biological process is viewed as impure. In fact, 70% of Indian mothers consider menstruation “dirty”— further perpetuating the culture of silence surrounding periods.

This is demonstrated in the film when Padman’s wife says: “For a woman, there is no bigger disease than shame”, as she admits that her husband openly talking about, making, and testing pads is worse than her getting a urinary tract infection from using her dirty cloth.

Like in the film, many women are still subjected to social, religious and cultural restrictions during their periods, which we learned more about when we held a female-only menstrual health management (MHM) session, made up of national and international volunteers.

We learned that activities such as worshipping in the temple, cooking, touching the water supply or even touching other people are forbidden for some girls during their periods. In many cases, girls are also made to eat separate meals and, though not as common today, some are made to sleep outside of the home in what are known as “menstruation huts”.

We also were told about the “entering into womanhood” ceremony which is held for some girls when they first start their period, to let the village know that they are “ready for marriage”. This is also something demonstrated in the film and something that I witnessed being advertised in the village where I stayed.

Once a girl has gone through the ceremony and starts having regular periods, she may also face difficulties at school gaining access to safe menstrual hygiene products and clean toilet and changing facilities.

In a study conducted by sexual and reproductive health and rights organisation, Rutgers, it was found that in rural India, 23% of girls listed menstruation as the chief reason for dropping out of school. And as many as 28% of them said they do not go to school during their period because they lack clean and affordable protection.

Compounded by the already high cost of pads, proper menstrual care remains out of reach for many rural women and girls in India. Without access to a basic cotton pad, many resort not only to rags but in some cases ash, newspaper and leaves.

When surveying women in the village of Thiruvalangadu, we had an aim to tackle the culture of silence around menstrual health management and research into ideas for a future income generation project.

Our findings showed that 25% of the women surveyed did not have access to sanitary pads, and despite the government having a scheme to provide free pads to girls between the ages of 10-19 in Tamil Nadu, we also found that 91% of women surveyed were offered no free menstrual hygiene products —and of the 9% who were, they weren’t given enough to see them through their monthly cycle.

Because of this, around two thirds of girls in India only change their menstrual cloths once daily. Women and girls using poor menstrual hygiene practices are 70% more likely to get a reproductive tract infection.

As part of our menstrual health management sessions at schools in the community, the team explained not only the biological process to young girls, but also worked with them to bust the myths surrounding periods and how they can manage their time of the month in the safest possible way —by really “pushing the pad” as a go-to product.

We also made the sessions a safe space where girls could ask questions anonymously throughout by posting them in a box and we would pick them out and answer them at the end of each session.

Working on menstrual health management projects with women and girls during my time in India really led me to look at how I can help within my own community, as period poverty is not only an issue overseas. In fact, in statistics published by Plan International, 1 in 10 girls have been unable to afford sanitary wear in the UK and 12% have had to improvise sanitary wear due to affordability issues.

Since returning, I have made it my mission to find projects preventing period poverty in the UK —including The Red Box Project, which provides free sanitary wear in schools nationwide; Bloody Good Period, which gives menstrual supplies to asylum seekers, refugees and those who can’t afford them in the UK, and Binti International, which has a mission to provide menstrual dignity to all girls, working on projects in India, Kenya, Swaziland, the US and here in the UK.

I’ve also located a local community project called Helping Homeless Women North East, where I’ve helped pack sanitary care packages which are handed out in homeless hostels and refuges across Newcastle.

If you don’t have time to volunteer but would like to put some money towards a cause preventing period poverty, then listen up… The incredible ladies at The Music Circle are raising funds for Irise International —an organisation educating girls on menstrual and reproductive health and making sanitary products available and affordable in their communities. Click here to learn more about the project and donate.

As Padman himself said: “Woman strong, mother strong, sister strong —then whole country strong”.

Written by @shanhodge.
Shannon Hodge is a Journalism graduate and a member of The Circle.


5 biggest health concerns faced by the women and girls of the Rohingya plight — What can we do to create awareness about it?

Photo credit: VOA.

Since August 2017, an estimated 655,000 Rohingya refugees have joined the other 300,000 refugees in the camps in Bangladesh. There are now in excess of one million refugees in fear for their lives. Among them are countless vulnerable women and young girls.

A rapid needs assessment from the Inter-Sector Coordination Group shows that 60% of these new arrivals are women, who urgently require for their reproductive and sexual health needs to be met.

The five biggest concerns faced by Rohingya women and girls are:

1. Emergency obstetric and newborn care

Home deliveries are a frequent occurrence. Unhygienic conditions, coupled with the scarcity of ambulances and transport, means women are at high risk of potentially life-threatening health complications.

2. Safe abortion

Abortion is illegal in Bangladesh. Despite the fact that menstrual regulation through medication is practiced in Bangladesh, it is scarcely available and little understood. Menstrual regulation is a type of abortion that uses a concept called “vacuum aspiration” to empty the uterus in early pregnancy. There are currently only ten health care facilities around the camps which provide this service, but its use remains low due to a lack of awareness of its process.

3. Post-rape care

For many Rohingya women, rape has been an inevitable by-product of the Burmese military campaign. The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, NGOs and journalists have provided evidence of widespread rape against Rohingya people in Rakhine State, in Myanmar. Yet, post-rape care, including emergency contraception and safe abortion, remains largely unaccounted for.

4. Voluntary contraception

Refugees are required to provide their proof of address to access the most effective contraceptives, which they often do not have due to being displaced.

5. Treatment and prevention of STIs

The combination of a lack of awareness and the lack of trained (female) service providers or privacy makes this a great challenge. HIV/AIDS treatment is available in hospitals, but refugees have their freedom of movement restricted and they can only access the treatment if referred and escorted to hospital.

 

What can we do to help?

Raise awareness

Among the global mainstream, there is a noticeable lack of awareness and understanding of women’s health issues and their rights in not only in the Rohingya community, but in many other displaced communities around the world. The recognition of these key issues is the fundamental first step to addressing and ultimately overcoming them.

Recognise the obstacles

There is an ongoing stigma epidemic surrounding women’s health rights, which is a barrier to tackling and solving the main issues. We must recognise the reality of cultural and historic taboos surrounding issues such as sexual health and abortion and seek to build a constructive dialogue with those directly affected, while engaging with the societal background from which they come.

Provide ongoing support and cooperation to NGOs and the Bangladeshi government in tackling the problems

Women’s health rights are a global issue, which means they require collective and cross cultural action, whether from grassroots, bottom-up movements, governments, local communities or INGOs. All together, we can make a difference.

In response to the imminent global health issues facing women, The Lawyers Circle has partnered with the UN Every Woman Every Child campaign to reduce maternal mortality in Tanzania, which remains prevalent. It has set out to help the Tanzanian government with incorporating international conventions on maternal health rights into its national jurisdiction, through legal advice, negotiations and multi-stakeholder initiatives, to generate recommendations for the ratification of international conventions into Tanzania’s domestic law. In addition, The Lawyers Circle is helping to raise greater awareness among the Tanzanian public through the dissemination of information identifying maternal health rights. This is an incremental step towards overcoming stigma surrounding women’s health as well as a testament to cooperation between an INGO and national government.

 

 
 
Written by Tania Hardcastle.
Tania works in the legal sector and volunteers for The Circle.


Inspiration Is in the Everyday Woman

Photo credit: Nader Elgadi | Members of The Circle at the Annual Gathering 2017

As a woman, I feel we are always encouraged to name our “inspirational woman”. We are surrounded by the media plugging the likes of Emma Watson, Beyoncé and Jessica Ennis-Hill, who have all made their mark in society regardless of their gender. I am not disputing this. These women are amazing, have amazing talents and have achieved amazing things. Unfortunately, what I think is sometimes forgotten is that we are not all aiming to be the best actress, musician, sports person or a world leader — we are aiming to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.

With this in mind, why are we constantly looking at the “stars” for inspiration and guidance? Why are we looking at Cosmopolitan’s “Woman of the Year” awards, or Sport England’s “This girl can” campaign to drive us forward? Personally, I feel we need to be looking closer to home more often. As cliché as it may be, my mum is one of my biggest inspirations, as I’m sure yours is to you. Running her own business, being a single parent and dealing with all the fun that goes into looking after two mood-forever-changing children is clearly very admirable.

But it is not just my mum that inspires me. I take inspiration from my friends, the ones who spend every day in the library slaving away for their degree, but still are able to hold down a part time job and enjoy a good night out. I take inspiration from the ones who are still smiling and laughing when they have broken up with a boyfriend; the ones who no matter what time of the day will always be there with a cup of tea/bottle of wine when you need it the most and the ones who are strong enough to say “no” to things they do not want to do. I take inspiration from my aunts who have had the courage to travel the world and constantly experience new things and I take inspiration from my nana who can barely walk but still has one of the most active, creative minds I know, and my grandma who at nearly 80 has just come back from Australia!

I don’t believe we should just have one role model. I personally don’t believe that me trying to be Beyoncé is the most realistic thing either (although after a few glasses of wine I think my rendition of “Single Ladies” is pretty much on par with hers, to be honest). But what I do believe is that we can do anything we put our mind to, whether male, female or nonbinary, and it is the people who surround you, your family, your friends, teachers, colleagues, lecturers (the list is endless), who make you believe that you can too.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s not Beyoncé, Emma Watson or Jessica Ennis-Hill who inspire me to try and be like them, but the women around me who inspire me to believe that I can. Let’s face it, it’s 2018 and we are still fighting for feminism to be heard. Women in this country are still being paid less than men for the same jobs; the least we can do is look around us. Look around and remember that we all have something to offer; to someone we are their inspiration. So be the best possible you, not just for yourself but for the people around you, because someone is looking up to you —maybe it’s me, maybe it’s your friend, your sister, your mum, your boss, that girl who always sits four spaces away from you in the library— whoever it is and whoever you are, we all deserve to inspire and to be inspired. Inspiration is a beautiful, amazing thing which leads on to even more beautiful and amazing things— and who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

To my family I am still a girl, to my work colleagues I am woman, and to society I am female, but to me I am Hatti and I hope I am simply Hatti to you too. Each one of these labels has a different connotation, which of course you don’t need me to explain, but thanks to the women around me I hope to be the best Hatti I could ever possibly be.

At The Circle we’re inspired by our members and volunteers every day. If you would like to find out more about our membership and how you can become a member, go to our Become a Member page.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Hatti Briggs, a volunteer of The Circle since 2016. You can read more articles by Hatti in her blog.


The Circle Member Ann-Marie O’ Connor reflects on #March4Women

Photo credit: Judit Prieto | #March4Women 2018, London.

On 4 March 2018, several members of The Circle attended the #March4Women rally in London with their friends and family. Ann-Marie O’Connor is one of those members. She has written about why she marched and why she will continue to support feminist causes in the future.

In this historic year that marks the 100th anniversary since some women got the right to vote, it could not be a better time to mobilise the surge of feminist energy currently being displayed throughout the world. History certainly appears to be repeating itself with the involvement of Helen Pankhurst, great-grand daughter of Emmeline, who also marched for women with us on 4 March 2018. I was reminded through her various media interviews that the struggle was never just about getting the vote. In an interview before her appearance at the Women of the World Festival 2018 at London’s Southbank Centre, she said “it was about individual women saying enough is enough, and there’s more that I want to do with my life, and I feel that my daughters should be able to do more with their lives” (Global Citizen, 7/3/2018).

Yes, my sentiments exactly and one of the reasons I wanted to take my own daughter with me to the march. But another reason for me was creating for her an understanding of the importance of taking the baton from one generation and passing it to the next. In these turbulent times we live, rights that have previously been won and fought for cannot be taken for granted and still need to be maintained. Women’s rights are still the fight of our generation. Keeping up the strength and resolve that is needed for current struggles is a legacy that hopefully we can, by our own participation, pass on to future generations of women, so that they can empower themselves for future struggles.

The Circle gave me the ideal opportunity to march alongside other members whilst also hearing speeches from many inspirational women. Especially heartening was having the march endorsed by Mayor Sadiq Khan, espousing the message that London should be a beacon for gender equality. In fact, it was wonderful to see so many men of all ages marching also. As I have a son as well, I do feel a responsibility to educate him about gender equality, particularly with regard to the area of relationships and respect towards women. As he also deserves to be treated with equal respect, I hold on to the hope that this reciprocity should lay the foundation for all future healthy relationships. Now that his sister has experienced her first march and had fun, I’m hoping he will join us next year!


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.


8 Women’s Rights Books to Choose from this Spring

 

Our mission at The Circle is to bring women together, defend women’s rights and give them a voice. Here are eight books by authors who do just that, to get you feeling inspired for the spring…

1. Jess Phillips, Everywoman: One Woman’s Truth About Speaking the Truth

Jess Phillips is bold, she’s unapologetic, and she’s out to empower women. From violence to sisterhood to building a career, Phillips tackles her themes head on, providing gritty insight and no-nonsense advice. Her underlying message? “We’re women and we’re kick-ass. And that’s the truth”.

2. Anne Elizabeth Moore, Threadbare: Clothes, Sex, and Trafficking

From the sweatshops of Cambodia to the ateliers of Vienna, Moore takes us on a whirlwind tour of the sex and garment supply chain in this beautifully illustrated feminist zine. She examines the fraught interplay between gender, labour and production, highlighting individual voices to show the true cost of fast fashion. The result is a practical guide to a growing human rights problem too pressing to ignore…

3. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

In her most recent work, Adichie offers fifteen feminist principles – guidelines, as it were – to a friend, the soon-to-be mother of a baby girl. Though addressed to Ijeawele, Adichie’s suggestions are universally applicable: we could all benefit from questioning social norms, or being more open about female sexuality. Adichie’s writing is warm, frank and inspiring.

4. Hibo Wardere, Cut: One Woman’s Fight Against FGM in Britain Today

This powerful, devastating work aims to shed light on the oft-overlooked issue of female genital mutilation. Wardere shares her personal journey, from her cutting as a six-year-old to her present role as an outspoken anti-FGM campaigner. A vital read.

5. Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

A tireless advocate for girls’ education and equal opportunities, Malala here tracks her journey from war-torn Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. I Am Malala shows the potential of young women and girls; this one will inspire a generation.

6. Sue Lloyd-Roberts, The War on Women: And the Brave Ones Who Fight Back

During her forty years as a video journalist, Sue Lloyd-Roberts met women who were victim to unspeakable atrocities, from rape to FGM to honour killings to imprisonment. Here, she gives voice to the forgotten women, and to those who fought back. A must-read from one of the most acclaimed TV journalists of her generation.

7. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Set in a dystopian totalitarian future, The Handmaid’s Tale offers a terrifying glimpse of what happens when the legislation of women’s bodies is taken to extremes. Now a major TV series, Atwood’s chilling narrative is as relevant today as it was thirty years ago.

8. Julie Bindel, The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth

Justice for Women co-founder Julie Bindel spent two years travelling the world, meeting pimps, pornographers, sex workers and abolitionists in a bid to uncover the truth about the sex trade. The Pimping of Prostitution is the remarkable result of her journey.

 

Written by Jessi Wells, volunteer and member of The Circle.