As 2021 heralds’ huge challenges for our global communities, it is with a spirit of passion, hope and optimism for change that we at The Circle start the year. In these times collective power is more important than ever, and this is what The Circle stands for.
Whilst the start of the year brought unimaginable violence in the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, we have also been buoyed by the incredible work of electionorganisers such as Stacey Abrams, women’s movements in Poland and Argentina winning hard fought abortion rights, and the incredible campaign to abolish the tampon tax in the UK. It has also been a year since the trial of Harvey Weinstein which brings to the fore the incredible power of the #MeToo movement.
However, the global pandemic continues to wreak havoc with increasing numbers of women and girls facing the nightmare of violence and poverty and many of the gains over the last years are at risk of being reversed.
We still have many bridges to build, human rights to fight for, and injustices to end. And we plan to do exactly this in 2021.
Our commitments include:
Growing our movement;
Raising more funds to help women directly in crisis;
Continue to campaign for a systemic change that ends poverty for garment workers and violence against women
Bringing many more women and girls to join us in our mission to build a better future for all. And we hope to have fun along the way!
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be adding more events to our calendar, new projects partners to our portfolio, and new campaigns to build our advocacy work and tackle structural change. And we will have fun along the way!
If our work inspires you, we would love you to become part of our movement and join us as global feminists. Simply sign up to become a member or join our newsletter for monthly inspiration. Or donate to our Women and Girls’ Solidarity Fund to help us support more women & girls across the world.
The pandemic has forced thousands more women into dangerous circumstances. Many are locked in with an abusive partner, others are at risk of violence as they lose their jobs overnight, and young girls are at increasing risk of child marriage.
During the many years I’ve worked in this sector I have had the privilege of spending time with women and girls across the world. From Bangladesh to the Democratic Republic of Congo to Guatemala, I have heard first-hand accounts of violence and exploitation. Knowing that the pandemic is accelerating these dangers for so many women is something we simply can’t ignore.
The statistics tell a frightening story
The UN estimate there will be 15 million more cases of domestic violence worldwide for every 3 months of lockdown
South Africa has the highest rate of rape in the world with 132.4 incidents per 100,000 people. According to a survey conducted by the South African Medical Research Council, approximately one in four men surveyed admitted to committing rape.
This year the UK saw a 25% rise in phone calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline and police were called out to a domestic violence situation every 3 minutes.
But together we can make a difference – through our Big Give Christmas appeal 2020
We urgently want to raise funds for our incredible partner projects who are working tirelessly on the frontline.
At the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre which provides shelter for women in Khayelitsha, a township near Cape Town in South Africa, women and girls who have survived domestic violence or been victims of human trafficking, are offered a place to stay, counselling, legal support and access to healthcare and victim empowerment groups. Your donation will help meet increased demand and allow women and girls to stay in safety.
Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis provides free and confidential support to girls and women suffering from rape, sexual assault and sexual violence. Your donation will help fund their services so they can respond to the growing numbers of women and girls who need them.
£10 could provide an hour of online support and counselling for a survivor of violence.
£25 could provide ten days safe refuge for a survivor of violence.
By donating to our Big Give Christmas appeal – from 12pm 1st December 2020 to 12pm 8th December– your donation will be doubled. That means double the support to help women and girls who rely on our partner projects.Your donationwill mean thousands more women and girls have a lifeline, a counsellor to talk to, a service to find safety in, and a friend. They can’t wait, which is why together we must act now to give the gift of safety.
The Circle is all about solidarity. Women empowering women
While the implementation of lockdowns across the globe have successfully prevented even greater rates of infection and death, they unfortunately bring with them an unintended, deadly consequence – an increase in domestic violence. An upsurge in violence has been reported in all corners of the globe: in Hubei, the Chinese province at the epicentre of the original outbreak, domestic violence reports rose by over 300% during February.In Malaysia and Lebanon, calls to hotlines have doubled on the previous year. A recent report by the United Nations Population Fund explores the recognised increase in domestic violence cases since the onset of lockdown around the world, stating the primary reason for increased rates of violence as the simple fact that stay-at-home orders and restrictions on movement increase women’s exposure to violent partners. An increased amount of time in the presence of an abuser increases the likelihood that a victim will be subject to a violent attack.
The economic pressure felt in households worldwide resulting from COVID-related involuntary unemployment, reduced salaries and redundancies also contributes to this phenomenon, as financial stress increases incidences of domestic violence. Nearly 60% of women globally are employed in service industries (such as childcare, retail and hospitality) and countless numbers in the informal economy, which are disproportionately affected by current restrictions due to the difficulty of fulfilling such roles remotely. In South Africa, over one third (35.9%) of women who are employed are employed informally. This means women are uniquely impacted by the economic consequences of COVID. This loss of financial security decreases a woman’s economic independence, further reducing their freedom from violent partners and giving them even fewer resources with which to flee a setting of violence.
The increased strain on domestic violence support services is another factor contributing to this ‘second pandemic’ in countries around the world. Lockdown measures and transport restrictions reduce the ability of domestic violence workers to physically meet survivors, or for survivors to access friends and family who act as their support networks. Domestic violence shelters and meeting spaces have in some cases been shut down or repurposed as intensive care clinics or homelessness shelters, with technical issues and staff illness further reducing their capacity to assist victims.
Secondly, the strict nature of lockdown rules in South Africa mean that it is more difficult for victims to report cases and some women are simply unable to do so, meaning the reported number is highly likely to be an underestimate of the true figures. Restrictions on movement outside of the home mean women intending to report abuse or flee may have no valid excuse to give their abuser for leaving the house, and as highlighted earlier, they may be unable to seek refuge in a shelter or other safe space due to those spaces being repurposed or temporarily shut down. Fear of harsh punishment if caught breaching lockdown regulations by one of the 25,000 security personnel enforcing the policy may also deter women from seeking help outside the home. Within the home, many women may now be spending 24 hours a day in the presence of their abuser, rendering it often impossible to make phone calls seeking help or reporting abuse. While some NGOs are striving to establish online and text message services and national hotlines remain open, this only partially mitigates the problem. Intimate partner violence has always been a grossly underreported crime, with a reporting rate of under 40% before COVID-19, so reporting may be far below 40% now due to the unique difficulties presented by lockdown measures. In recognition of this dilemma, the United Nations has stated that “in the case of restricted movement and limited privacy, women are finding it difficult to phone for help. So, the likelihood is that even these figures represent only a fraction of the problem.”
Earlier this month South Africa implemented the first relaxation of its lockdown measures to a ‘level three’ response, sending an estimated 8 million people (of a population of 58 million) back to work. There are hopes that this will provide some respite for domestic violence victims, allowing them more time away from their abuser and a better chance to contact support networks if they or their abuser are now returning to work. Domestic violence services will also benefit from an increased capacity to help victims, but the resumption of sales of alcohol from June 1st as part of this first phase of relaxation casts doubt upon whether the safety of women in South Africa will improve as a result of these measures. One thing that is certain is the importance of South Africa, and all other countries, ensuring they employ and prioritise a gender-responsive strategy within their COVID-19 responses for the duration of the pandemic. If they fail to do so, and instead choose to de-prioritise gender-based violence during this crucial time, the overall indirect death toll from COVID-19 will be much, much higher.
This article was written by Holly. Holly is 23 years old from East Sussex, England. Since graduating with a degree in Politics and Economics in 2018 she has worked and volunteered in Africa and Asia and is currently living in China. Her interests include human rights, international security and development.
Image: Workers in a garment factory in Hawassa, southern Ethiopia. Eyerusalem Jiregna/AFP via Getty Images
Each month, we’ll tell you what we’ve been reading at The Circle to get you feeling engaged, informed, and inspired by the global rights movement. You might find an interview, a long read, a novel, or just a short news update – so, here is our round up for May & June!
Over the past couple of weeks we have seen hundreds of anti-racism resources being shared on social media. For the May & June reading list we are sharing with you some of the articles that we have been reading and further resources below which have been recommended by on social media.
Kalkidan Legesse, a social entrepreneur and black woman, is the owner of Sancho’s, a black woman owned ethical and sustainable clothing store in Exeter. Legesse has written an incredibly important article for the Guardian, talking about the deep-rooted racism within the fashion industry. Legesse reminds us that the ‘economic exploitation that fast fashion is reliant upon is a legacy of colonialism’ and that ‘Of the 74 million textile workers worldwide, 80% are women of colour.’ If we want to see change in this industry, we need to be holding brands accountable and avidly supporting equal representation.
This was an interview with Marcia Chatelain, assistant professor of history at Georgetown University, published in Summer 2015. Chatelain and interviewer Kaavya Asoka discuss the role of black women in the Black Lives Matter movement andthe importance of recognizing that gender and sexuality are crucial and central todiscussions about police brutality. Chatelain argues, “I think any conversation about police brutality must include black women. Even if women are not the majority of the victims of homicide, the way they are profiled and targeted by police is incredibly gendered.”
‘A Letter From Aurelia: Black Lives Matter’ – Kya Buller, Aurelia Magazine
Aurelia Magazine was founded by Kya Buller in 2018 and publishes a variety of content by women and non-binary people. You will find beautiful pieces on identity, literature, culture and so much more. Aurelia is dedicated to publishing work by black women/non-binary writers and they are doing incredible work to support diversity and representation in the publishing industry. We need more publications like Aurelia Magazine both online and in print. ‘Support Black owned businesses. Listen to Black voices. Sign petitions. Donate to causes. Say their names. Don’t ever stop saying their names.’
This book is certainly one that should be on A-level and university reading lists. The fictional narrative switches between the two main protagonists, Ifemelu and Obinze who live in Nigeria. Ifemelu then moves to America whilst Obinze moves to London and they are both wrestling with what it means to be black in these countries. Americanah is an essential book to read and be aware of in order to educate oneself about racism and immigration.
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.
Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.
Non-essential retail shops in England re-opened today and garment retailers including Primark, TK Maxx and Nike were met with long queues of eager shoppers. Although for many this will signal the beginning of the end in terms of the UK’s nearly three-month lockdown, for the workers who produce our clothing, the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will be long lasting.
As part of the Women and Girls Solidarity Fund, we’ve made emergency grants to partners in Bangladesh to provide essential supplies including food, protective masks and soap to garment workers who have been left destitute.
Garment workers have been left without work as factories have closed due to dwindling orders. Many of these workers are migrant women. With historically low wages, it is impossible to save and workers are now unable to pay for housing or food. We heard a number of stories from workers who have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis:
“I am Suraiya and I am working as helper for last 4 months in Interlink Apparels Ltd. I have a daughter of 5 years old and a son of 10 years old. 10 years ago, I had early marriage at the age of 16. I did not work in the garment factory before but it was very difficult for us to run the family with the sole income of my husband. Due to the struggle of severe poverty I came to Dhaka city four months back and joined in a garment factory. My husband used to run a tea stall in Gazipur area. We have to pay 4000 bdt as house rent. It is still a struggle to run a family of four members after paying half of the wage for house rent.
Due to the lockdown, my husband cannot run his tea stall anymore and I have been laid off by my factory. I do not know whether I will get my full wage or not. We do not have any income now but we have to pay our house rent, we have to feed our children. The situation is the worst now. After paying the house rent we will not have any money to have our food even. We do not know what will happen to us.” – Suraiya, 26
“My factory is a sweater factory where I work in knitting section. In November, 2019 the factory was declared closed informing over the phone without paying the due wage. When we asked the wage for that period the management informed that, if you want to continue the work without wage come into the office, otherwise we need not to come.
The factory re-opened on February 8, 2020. We got the wage of February at the beginning of March then again the factory has closed. The factory declared closure and we are worried about the wages as we were not paid for March. The Eid is ahead and we are worried about our Eid bonus as well.
There are four members in our family and we are going through terrible suffering due to poverty. We are surviving somehow by having only one time meal a day and the condition is same among other co-workers as well. We do not have any money in our hand now and the shops are not allowing further buying without paying the prior dues. The landlord is also asking for the rent and asking to leave the house if unable to pay the rent. Where we will go and what we will eat now? When we do not have any food, maintaining social distance and thinking about hygiene issues seems like a luxury to us. We need support to live.” – Md Shahin Alam
Image: National Garment Workers Federation
“I work in a garment factory. Our factory has laid us off and we have not received the due wages. We are worried about not getting paid, but if we do that the amount will not be in full. They will deduct our wage. According to the labor law I have heard that, we can get the half of the wage for the laid off period but that will be very small in amount. How we will manage our house rent and food with this amount? I went to the local government official for the government’s relief support but the officer said as the government is supporting the RMG sector that I am not eligible for this support.” – Mos. Laboni Akter Salma
These are just a few stories of the millions of garment workers impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. We need to hold brands and retailers accountable and ensure that garment workers are provided for in this time of crisis.
While violence against women in Guatemala is the focus of much research and discourse, less is said about the connection between migration and the perceived vulnerability of women in Guatemala. From January to September of 2019, one percent of Guatemala’s population migrated to the United States. According to a 2019 study by the United States Agency for International Development, 1 in 4 Guatemalans intend to migrate from Guatemala. 85% of those respondents listed the United States as their destination of choice. How do economic factors and gender-based cultural constructs influence who migrates and who is left behind in Guatemala? What are the implications for our understanding of gender-based violence and sexual assault through the juxtaposition of migration and the perceived vulnerability of women in Guatemala?
Image: A statue in a popular roundabout of a man departing home, an homage to the Guatemalan immigrant, near Totonicapán, Guatemala
My perspective on these issues is informed by over five years of living in rural Guatemala and working on gender-based sustainable development projects with indigenous communities. This began when I was a Peace Corps volunteer from 2006-2008 in the remote province of Totonicapán, Guatemala, one of the smallest and poorest departments in the country. In 2014, I moved back to Guatemala and founded the non-profit organisation Mujerave with a network of indigenous women from Totonicapán. Using a gender mainstreaming framework, Mujerave builds on the powerful contribution women have made to family and community health in indigenous Maya communities for millennia. Mujerave collaborates with the foremost experts on indigenous family well-being in Guatemala, rural women’s groups, to carry out high-impact projects to generate income and improve family health. Mujerave also provides employment for women in rural Guatemala. I am not Guatemalan, nor a woman, nor a victim of gender-based violence. I have done my best lift the voices of Guatemalans on these issues, including a victim of gender-based violence who is a board member for Mujerave in Guatemala.
Image: Author and Founder of Mujerave, Kody M. Gerkin, attends a meeting with a women’s group in Totonicapán, Guatemala
Modern migration from Guatemala – who migrates, and why?
During Guatemala’s brutal 36-year civil war, hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans fled north to escape persecution from the Guatemalan military. Indigenous Maya, roughly half of Guatemala’s population, suffered a targeted genocide that left hundreds of thousands dead or disappeared. The worst of the atrocities occurred in the early 1980s. Even after the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996, formally ending the war, security conditions in Guatemala remained abysmal. Today, safety concerns continue to motivate many Guatemalans to flee their homes and migrate to the United States.
Since the signing of the Peace Accords, however, economic concerns have come to rival security concerns as the primary motivating factor for Guatemalans to migrate. In surveys of Guatemalan immigrants along the U.S. border and of undocumented immigrants being deported, economic concerns have equaled or even surpassed the threat of violence as the impetus for making the journey. One Guatemalan immigrant, we’ll call him Marvin, said “what motivated me to emigrate was that I had land to build a house, our own house, for me and my wife and our two children,” Marvin said. “But, with the salary I earned in Guatemala, it would never be enough for me to build the home,” Marvin continued, recalling what motivated him to migrate north in 2005.
It is important to make distinctions about who migrates from Guatemala due to economic concerns—not all Guatemalans live in poverty or extreme poverty. One difference in migratory patterns exits between ladino Guatemalans, those whose blood lines can (at least in part) be traced back to Spain, and indigenous Maya, like Marvin and his family. Since the dawn of colonisation in Guatemala, lucrative farmland, political connections, and industrial might have been maintained—by force when necessary—by the ladinos. As a result, Maya in Guatemala are among the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere. Indigenous communities increasingly rely on remittances, money sent from relatives working abroad back to their family in their country of origin, to meet their basic needs. More than ten percent of Guatemala’s economy as measured by gross domestic product is generated by remittances. While data in recent years is suggesting a “genderization” of immigration, migrants from Guatemala who migrant for economic reasons tend to be male. Women who migrate are more likely to do so with other family members, while men are more likely to migrate alone.
In my work in Southwestern Colorado with immigrants from Guatemala, most immigrants I worked with who migrated alone were, like Marvin, male and motivated to migrate because of poverty. Migrating to the United States is, for many young men, a rite of passage in Guatemala, a journey imbued with cultural merit stretching beyond mere economics. One 17-year-old immigrant from Totonicapán shared with me that it wasn’t even his decision to come to the United States. His father sat him down one day and bluntly told him it was time—it was his turn to travel to the United States and do as his father had done.
Guatemalan migration and perceived vulnerability
Do male-dominated migratory patterns heighten the perceived vulnerability of women and children who are left behind in Guatemala? To answer this question, we must explore the culture of indigenous communities in Guatemala through a gendered lens. To begin, land in rural areas is almost never owned by women. When men die, land and other resources are often transferred to the husbands’ male children or other male family members, upholding a longstanding patrilineal tradition for land and other resources in Guatemala. This is important in areas where subsistence farming is the primary source of employment—those who don’t own land are dependent on those who do. Indigenous women constitute nearly 90% of the informal economy in rural areas and seldom hold jobs in the formal economy. Women are trained to weave traditional clothing, cook, and practice small animal husbandry—all activities that can be done in or near the home. Indigenous women will, on average, attend only four years of formal schooling in Guatemala. These factors influence who eventually makes the long, difficult journey north—those who are perceived in these communities as having the potential to earn more money. Many families support or encourage migration because they assume the remittances will act as buffer between their family and extreme poverty. This means that if a family can only afford an expensive coyote to smuggle one family member across the border, it will likely be male.
Image: In rural indigenous communities in Guatemala, women remain largely relegated to traditional roles of cooking and childrearing
Other cultural and socioeconomic factors increase women’s perceived vulnerability when their husbands migrate north. When couples marry in Guatemala, it is common for them to build a house adjacent to their parents’ home, or an extra room connected to that of their parents. Often, the newlyweds join the husband’s parents on or near their farmland due to the patrilineal access to resources. When a husband migrates, women are forced to rely on their in-laws for access to basic needs like shelter and food. Within the context of extreme poverty, women are unlikely to report perpetrators to police in these situations. Doing so would essentially cut off their immediate family’s link to basic needs. Patriarchal cultural patterns ensure many family members, men and women, will strive to keep abuse a family secret. This allows would be perpetrators of interfamilial violence or sexual assault the foresight of near-guaranteed impunity. According to Marvin, “for those of us who have to emigrate to another country, we leave our families behind, we leave them homeless in a sense, and many people take advantage of the vulnerability of family members left behind. Not just sexual assault, but in other ways, too.”
Seeking justice for gender-based violence in Guatemala
Maya women in Guatemala face what is known as three-pronged discrimination—they are indigenous, they are poor, and they are women. It is extremely rare for marginalised indigenous women to contact the police or hire a lawyer if they are a survivor of sexual assault or interfamilial violence. Take Carmen, a Guatemalan woman from Xesana, a small village in Totonicapán. Carmen married at a young age and had a son, but soon realised her husband drank too much. He began to abuse her physically, and demand sex by force. Carmen said she did not initially report her abusive husband for a variety of reasons. “Most police officers won’t do anything when you do report violence within the family…in our communities, they see it as a family problem the family needs to solve,” Carmen said. Many indigenous women, like Carmen, view the mostly male Guatemalan police force to be corrupt, inept, and lacking the resources to assist in crisis. Guatemalan police will often demand gas money to travel to remote areas to take police reports. No money for gas? Do not expect the police to arrive. Carmen also said that “it’s too easy for men who have been accused of violence to hide out,” as local police simply do not have the resources to track these perpetrators down. “Women rely on men,” Carmen continued, “they are isolated from their families…of course, some women will say they are in love and that’s why they don’t report it, because they don’t know better”. Earned through her lived experience, Carmen displayed a clear understanding of the destructive cycle of gender-based violence during our interview.
Marvin, for his part, has been trying to seek justice for his daughter, who he learned in 2018 had been sexually abused by his brother-in-law years earlier. When asked if he felt his presence in Guatemala may have prevented the abuse suffered by his daughter, Marvin’s answer was revealing. “I think that if a person wants to sexually or physically abuse a person in a situation of vulnerability, they will do it one way or another. I do think I could have avoided this situation altogether if I had not decided to emigrate to this country, but the perpetrator would have sought another victim if he felt my daughter was protected by me still living with my family in Guatemala,” Marvin said. Marvin said that “many people who are in my same position decide to leave everything as it is and not seek justice because of how frustrating and expensive the process can be”. Neither Marvin, nor other male migrants, are responsible for the victimisation of their wives and children in Guatemala. We must hold the perpetrators responsible for their actions. However, there remains value in exploring why so many women experience a perceived increase in vulnerability due to migration. These explorations can contribute to our understanding of the root causes of gender-based and interfamilial violence in Guatemala and elsewhere.
Carmen took her fight to local courts. “In the end, though the police wouldn’t do anything, I took him to local court, and they granted me a divorce and child support for our infant son,” Carmen said. She moved in with her maternal grandmother, and she raised both her son and a nephew who was left in her care by a sibling. Since then, she has worked for the local municipal Oficina de la Mujer, the Women’s Affairs Office, and five years ago, she joined Mujerave’s board of directors. Carmen’s strength and tenacity have made her an invaluable asset to Mujerave in Guatemala. Since 2015, Carmen has delivered capacity building workshops for Mujerave’s Community-Based Education Program. This gives Carmen a platform and a safe space to lead conversations and facilitate women-to-women indigenous knowledge sharing. In this role, Carmen share her experiences, shares her strength, and inspires other women to seek justice.
The Response – Next Steps
In Guatemala, there is growing support for policies that promote equitable gender-based access to political power, education, and the ownership of land. Other proportional representation democracies in Latin America have codified women’s political representation by passing legislation mandating that parties include a minimum percentage of female candidates on their ballots. In Costa Rica, for example, it is 50%. These measures could impact the root causes of sexual assault and interfamilial violence identified herein. Lobbying leaders in our home countries to support such policies abroad is a powerful tool.
Grassroots organisations like Mujerave, who are mission bound to operate through a gender-specific lens, also play a role in dismantling the patriarchy in Guatemala and beyond. Mujerave’s workshops explore the imbalance of access to resources for women in Guatemala and bring seldom discussed topics like sexism and interfamilial violence into the open.
Image: Catarina Osorio Tum leads a workshop on gender equity for Mujerave in Totonicapán, Guatemala
Image: Local women who attend three workshops and plant 15 trees are eligible to receive a Mujerave cookstove
These workshops compliment other projects Mujerave carries out as well. Take, for example, Mujerave’s Income Generating Program. These are primarily greenhouses that Mujerave builds close to the homes of the women Mujerave collaborates with. This strategy makes our greenhouses culturally appropriate spaces for women to spend time in, and they promote gender equity by increasing the share of land and income women control within the family. Combined with workshops involving men and women from participating families that explore sexism and interfamilial violence in indigenous communities, and Mujerave is transforming neighbourhoods! To read about how gender informs Mujerave’s work, refer to Mujerave’s Needs Assessment.
Image: Mujerave’s Income Generating Program was built to address gender-based income inequities in rural Guatemala
Support for Mujerave would fall under the theme of prevention, one of four intervention themes identified by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in their 2017 report From Commitment to Action: Policies to End Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean.Other interventions in the report are categorised under the themes of care, punishment, and redress. This report serves as an excellent source for readers seeking more technical, detailed examples of laws and policies proposed in Guatemala and the region to end violence against women. The report also details the large gap between enacting laws and enforcing them. This is a critical gap that must be filled in order to create social and cultural change in the region. This report includes steps Guatemala is already taking to ensure culturally appropriate access to justice for indigenous women, like Carmen, to combat sexual assault and femicide.
Each month, we’ll tell you what we’ve been reading at The Circle to get you feeling engaged, informed, and inspired by the global women’s rights movement. You might find an interview, a long read, a novel, or just a short news update – so, here is our round up for March!
“The new coronavirus has reached global pandemic levels and is affecting people across the world, including garment workers in global supply chains. Protecting those most at risk means both taking steps to limit exposure and ensuring that people surviving on the poverty line are not pushed below it. Due to their low wages and widespread repression of freedom of association rights, garment workers already live in precarious situations and the economic fallout of the pandemic is having far-reaching consequences.” It is more important than ever to show solidarity towards the garment workers who are being hit incredibly hard by the outbreak of Coronavirus. From factory closures, to lack of paid sick leave we must protect the workers who make our clothes. Read now!
Published on 26th February 2020, Paulina Villegas and Kirk Semple write in anticipation of the protest in Mexico City which took place on 9 March. Women were urged to disappear from the public eye and stay at home to ‘protest gender-based violence, inequality and the culture of machismo, and to demand greater support for women’s rights.’ However, the title also refers to the murders that took place in the country earlier this month. To find out more, search #UNDÍASINNOSOTRAS on Twitter.
In Revolting Prostitutes, sex workers Juno Mac and Molly Smith bring a fresh perspective to questions that have long been contentious. Speaking from a growing global sex worker rights movement, and situating their argument firmly within wider questions of migration, work, feminism, and resistance to white supremacy, they make it clear that anyone committed to working towards justice and freedom should be in support of the sex worker rights movement.
Women are disproportionately affected by climate change as they are worse positioned in social, economic and political hierarchies. Women everywhere are less likely to influence decisions that affect their lives and women are more likely than men to be poor. While both men and women suffer in poverty and crises, gender discrimination means that women have far fewer resources to cope. This year March4Women celebrated the power and passion of women and girls who are on the frontline of responding to climate change. At The Circle, Anna Renfrew and Csenge Gábeli consider the intersection between gender and climate change, effects and possible solutions.
Selection made by Georgia Bridgett and Anna Renfrew.
Three sisters, Jeeti, Kira and Salakshana, have been fighting for more than eight years to finally gain some form of justice against a male cousin who abused them as children. For years they stayed silent for fear of blame and punishment. As the final verdict draws near, the sisters reflect on why they stayed quiet for so long. Deciding to focus more on the family dynamics that are prevalent in Punjabi culture rather than the grisly details of abuse, this is an important documentary that shines a light on the importance of support from the people that are closest to you.
Artivism – this is the concept of merging art & activism together. This coming March is very important for a number of reasons, but mainly as it is a month dedicated to celebrating women! Phaedra Peer X Brick Lane Gallery present ‘Women Behind Artivism’ an exhibition/event that will celebrate women that use their work to make bold statements. Panelists will explore the motivation behind their work, what makes them passionate about giving their work a pulse & the response they get to some of their more controversial pieces! Discussions will be centred around the importance of showcasing female bodies, sex in art & ‘art’powerment!
It promises to be the biggest SheFest fringe in the festival’s history as the organisers collaborate with organisations across South Yorkshire, aiming to become the northern capital for International Women’s Day.
WOW is back in London this International Women’s Day for their tenth anniversary and to celebrate, the WOW Foundation presents their biggest and bravest festival yet.
Over three days, WOW’s line-up of world-class speakers, activists and performers are joined by thousands to explore the state of gender equality across the globe and tackle the subjects that matter most to women and girls across the world today.
We are honoured to have been invited to WOW once again. The Circle team will have an information stall on Sunday 8 March in the marketplace allowing those who have heard of us and those who know nothing about what we do to find out more about our projects and the issues they aim to tackle, including gender-based violence, the living wage and women in crises. We look forward to seeing our members, engaging with visitors of the WOW Market Place and making new friends!
CARE International’s #March4Women is a global movement for gender equality: it’s for anyone and everyone who wants to see a more equal world. Everyone is welcome.
This year #March4Women will be celebrating the power and passion of women and girls who are on the frontline of responding to climate change. They are holding a pre-march event at the Women of the World festival: Emeli Sandé and RAYE will be performing alongside a star-studded line-up of musicians, actors, climate experts, youth activists and women directly impacted by the climate emergency.
In a small Saudi town, Maryam, an overworked doctor at an under-resourced clinic, impulsively decides to run for a seat on the municipal council. She faces endless hurdles as the town’s first female candidate: she can’t directly address groups of male voters, and isn’t supposed to show her face in her campaign video. Despite this, a determined Maryam’s popularity grows… This joyful and timely film offers much-needed optimism and hope for positive change. On International Women’s Day we’re pleased to celebrate this film and its director Haifaa Al-Mansour, herself a pioneering woman – her debut feature Wadjda made history as the first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and the first made by a Saudi woman. Followed by Q&A with director Haifaa Al-Mansour.
Know your Pankhurst from your Pink, Miuccia from your Manson, Lamarr from your Ladytron and Austen from your Atwood?
Join The Scottish Circle girl gang this International Women’s Day at BAaD in Glasgow for an unashamedly fun day celebrating the world’s most inspirational women.
DJ Queen Hannah Currie of famed club night MILK will soundtrack the afternoon, playing out the greatest ever all-female anthems, whilst the formidable Quiz Mistress Queen Bev Lyons of The Showbiz Lion will host. Will you be crowned International Women’s Day Quiz Queen for 2020 and take the top prize?
There will be fizz on arrival. There will be top chat. There will be bingo and a raffle with prizes galore. There may even be a crown! What’s more, proceeds from All the Queens Big Quiz will directly benefit our friends at Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis.
Glimpse into the work, home life and leisure of Scottish women during the twentieth century. Scotland’s women lived through major social change in the twentieth century, challenging their roles in society and fighting for equality: at work and at home, classroom to croft, girlhood to motherhood. In this programme there are crofters, campaigners, factory workers, psychologists, mothers, pilots and educators. Discover their stories and hear their voices in ‘Her Century’, a timely collection of archive film curated by the National Library of Scotland and guaranteed to spark debate. These films are screened together for the first time in a touring program full of contemporary relevance. Featuring work by professional documentarians such as Sarah Erulkar, Budge Cooper, Jenny Gilbertson and Jenny Brown as well as amateur footage from Grace Williamson.
Screening to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March. A post film discussion will be facilitated by artist and researcher Dr T S Beall.
Front Bum in collaboration with FLF is inviting you to come and create your own bad ass wall slogan for International women’s day.
You will be loaded with good quality gsm paper and lots of exciting materials to create your perfect mantra with plenty of that Front Bum creative guidance to keep you feeling inspired. There will also be a selection of frames to buy on the day so you can immediately hang up your creation with pride.
Join the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as they reflect on and celebrate diversity in the music industry.
Exciting and thought-provoking events will include; live performances from RBC students alongside guest musicians, visual and sound installations, yoga and mindfulness classes, networking, female-led practical workshops, and panel discussions.
OxWomIn and LMH FemSoc have invited The Oxford Circle to speak to students about Global Feminism! Leanne, Chair of The Oxford Circle is excited to be attending and will shed some light on what it means to be a member of The Circle.
Chair of The Healthcare Circle, Alice Sinclair is teaming up with Anoushka Florence of The Goddess Space for an evening of goddess vibes for a good cause. Anoushka will be creating a sacred space in the beautiful Boca Cha Cha in Little Venice. You will be invited to step into this space as Anoushka guides you through the power of a women’s circle. This will be a journey of meditation, sharing, intention setting and ritual that will leave you feeling empowered, inspired and connected.
For those who are not familiar with this practice, rest assured that this a safe and secure space that aims to leave you grounded, with a sense of purpose moving forward. Held at the beautiful Boca Cha Cha, tickets are £30.
This lyrical play draws on the Jewish mythological figure of Lilith, Adam’s first wife, who refused to take the subservient role in their marriage and so was vilified as a sexually wanton night hag, and baby killer. Lilith takes place in a heightened present day, with Lilith working as a hotel room attendant: Adam runs the reception. Hotel guests Gloria and Ed have returned to the room where their daughter Eva was conceived some years earlier. Tragically, she was stillborn. Now, it is Ed’s fortieth birthday, and time to scatter Eva’s ashes. But can things go to plan when so much has been left unsaid and Lilith’s ancient fury is simmering just below the surface?
For Oxford SU’s final Women*’s Week Event, The Circle are hosting a living wage workshop! We will be talking about fast fashion, consumer responsibility and how we can help. This session aims to encourage participants to think about their behaviour as consumers and inform on the progress of our living wage work.
On Thursday 19 March, join The Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network for a special event at Leighton House Museum, celebrating an exciting new partnership between MCJN and Waad’s campaign, Action For Sama.
Come along for an evening of drinks, canapés and conversations, with a chance to hear from Waad herself, plus the opportunity to watch a screening of her groundbreaking documentary, ‘For Sama‘. This event is now sold out.
Our Annual Gathering is an opportunity to bring our valued members together to thank and acknowledge you all for your support in our work, as we reflect on our achievements over the past 12 months and share our plans and strategy for 2020. As we know from previous years, it’s also an event full of inspiration and motivation from the range of speakers and fellow guests.
Last year we had the pleasure of hearing from Annie Lennox and Eve Ensler, women from across our projects and a range of members. Melanie, Santosh, Laura, Annie and Susan all described how they had brought their transferable skills, their connections, and their passion to be active global feminists through their membership with The Circle.
This year we are incredibly excited to be joined by Helen Pankhurst CBE, an international development and women’s rights activist and writer. Helen is currently Care International’s Senior Advisor working in the UK and Ethiopia and her book, Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women’s Rights Then and Now was published in 2018.
The extraordinary story of a singular group of women in a pivotal time and place – Paris – between the wars – how the lesbian community fostered the shock of the new.
In the summer of 1945, just after the Nazi occupation, Truman Capote visited Romaine Brooks’s abandoned studio in Paris. The portraits there, large and imposing, were of women: Ida Rubinstein, Una Troubridge, Gluck, Elisabeth de Gramont, Renata Borgatti, Bryher. Romaine’s lover Natalie Barney said that Paris had been ‘the Sapphic Centre of the Western World’, and these women defined it. Capote himself called them ‘the all-time ultimate gallery of famous dykes’. This book is about that gallery and celebrates the central role they played in the cultural revolution that was Modernism.Free to attend!
Periods: A Brief History will open at the Camden gallery in April, looking at stigmas and perceptions around menstruation.
From Ancient Greece to the present day, the free exhibition will explore how attitudes towards menstruation have been impacted by culture, religion and lack of understanding, as well as tackling long-held taboos.
Exhibition curator Sarah Creed said: “It is more pertinent now, more than ever, to be focusing on periods – menstrual health activism is growing throughout the world and the UK is no exception.”
She highlighted the rise of campaigns from Free Periods getting free menstrual products into schools and colleges throughout the country, to grassroots charities such as Bloody Good Period, Red Box Project and Tricky Period.
More than just a slogan on a t-shirt, feminism is a radical tool for fighting back against structural violence and injustice. Feminism, Interrupted is a bold call to seize feminism back from the cultural gatekeepers and return it to its radical roots.
Lola Olufemi explores state violence against women, the fight for reproductive justice, transmisogyny, gendered Islamophobia and solidarity with global struggles, showing that the fight for gendered liberation can change the world for everybody when we refuse to think of it solely as women’s work. Including testimonials from Sisters Uncut, migrant groups working for reproductive justice, prison abolitionists and activists involved in the international fight for Kurdish and Palestinian rights, Olufemi emphasises the link between feminism and grassroots organisation.
Reclaiming feminism from the clutches of the consumerist, neoliberal model, Feminism, Interrupted shows that when ‘feminist’ is more than a label, it holds the potential for radical transformative work.
During these unprecedented times, it is imported to stay connected to people and communities who add value to your own life and wellbeing.
To jazz up your nights in we are introducing Ladies’ Night at The Circle. Our first Ladies’ Night event is a virtual, women’s rights themed quiz on Thursday 16 April at 7pm exclusively for our members.
An online coffee morning for people in Oxford seeking a community during these tricky times. One of our fantastic members has organised a weekly coffee morning starting on Monday. It’s an opportunity to check in, catch up and support each other through this uncertainty.
Audre Lorde – the Berlin Years 1984 to 1992 documents Audre Lorde’s influence on the German political and cultural scene during a decade of profound social change, a decade that brought about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the re-unification of East and West Germany. This film chronicles an untold chapter of Lorde’s life: her empowerment of Afro-German women, as she challenged white women to acknowledge the significance of their white privilege and to deal with difference in constructive ways. Supported by Lorde’s example Afro-German women began to write their history and their stories and to form political networks on behalf of Black people in Germany. Film screening produced by The Batty Mama Film Club and in association with Evidence To Exist Research Group.
Chair of The Healthcare Circle, Alice Sinclair is teaming up with Anoushka Florence of TheGoddessSpace for an evening of goddess vibes for a good cause. We spoke to both Alice and Anoushka to find out more about this event to raise funds for The Circle’s projects and what you can expect from the session.
Alice, what advice would you give to someone thinking of fundraising for The Circle’s projects? What inspired you to collaborate for this workshop with Anoushka?
People like to get behind a project, especially if they can really see the benefit of it. So Clarity is important, such as where the funds are going and how they are directly help. The cardinal rule of fundraising is that if you don’t ask, you won’t get anything! When Anouska and I met to discuss the possibility of collaborating to raise funds for The Healthcare Circle, it was serendipitous; when we both came to the meeting with similar thoughts as to what we wanted to do and how we wanted to work together on fundraising.
Fundraising takes time and you need to consider what time you can afford to invest in trying to raise funds, my preferred way to manage projects is to figure out how much time i would like to dedicate (or can spare) then see where i can fit it in (usually at weekends) then i plan accordingly. Drawing on local resources is also very helpful, turn you head to who you know and don’t be afraid to approach when an opportunity arises.
I think its fairly self explanatory as to why team up with Anoushka, she has been holding these wonderful supportive circles for years, empowering women.
Anoushka can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
I founded The Goddess Space 5 years ago, seeking to create safe and sacred space for women. My work is based on the ancient feminine practice of The Women’s Circle and seeks to revive these spaces around the world. Helping women remember and access the deep power within.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your upcoming event with Healthcare Circle and Goddess space?
Working with the energy of the Full Moon and harnessing the glow from InternationalWomen’s day you will be invited into a dreamy, magical space to reconnect back to yourself, your sisters and the universe. From meditation to intention setting, sharing, and energy cleansing it will be an evening filled with magik.
What inspires you to work with women, and what does global feminism mean to you?
My inspiration in working for women lies in my deep knowing that to empower ourselves and each other will lead us back to the remembering of our true nature.
How would you describe this gathering to someone who hasn’t experienced it before?
It’s like a big hug; a space for you to leave the outside world behind, to just be, exist and reconnect to your true essence.
Empowering women is clearly something that is at the heart of your work. At The Circle, we aim to empower some of the world’s most marginalised women and girls. In your opinion, how important is it for women to come together and make change happen?
I believe this is the very thing that will, in fact, heal the world.
We’re back with a list of 24 things that you can do every day from now until Christmas. From feminist panel discussions and fundraisers for marginalised women and girls to arts and crafts sessions and inspirational films to watch. Many of these events will sell out, so be sure to get your tickets early!
1 December – Peta’s Chai Day in Wimbledon (London)
Join The Circle’s Relationship Manager Peta at her Chai Day in Wimbledon! Go along for some fantastic tea and cakes and to learn a little bit more about gender-based violence. This is a global issue and women’s organisations providing support to survivors are woefully underfunded.
Join Peta and friends on 1 Dec from 2-4pm at Coolangatta, 281 Kingston Road, Wimbledon Chase, SW20 8DB.
The Circle would like to invite you to attend the award-winning Active Bystander training programme which aims to empower us to challenge poor behaviours which have become normalised in our workplaces and in our communities and bring about change through the reinforcement of messages defining the boundaries of unacceptable behaviour. We have asked Scott Solder, an advanced communications skills expert to facilitate the session. We hope that you will find the training valuable!
Renowned curator Rose Issa and academic Lucia Sorbera end their third part series by reflecting on the aesthetic, conceptual and socio-political concerns of artists in the Arab world over the past four decades and the new shape of women’s street art, the challenges they face and the legacy of feminist revolutionary art.
TED are turning their attention to uncovering how women and non-binary and genderqueer people the world over are ‘Showing Up’, breaking out and pushing boundaries.
Whatever their focus and talent – business, technology, art, science, politics – these pioneers are joining forces in an explosion of discovery and ingenuity to drive real, meaningful change. Speakers include ANAÏS, Angela Francis, Dr Julia Shaw, Jamie Windust, Mary Portas, Nathaniel Cole, Nikita Gill and Onjali Rauf. Book your ticket now for this is sure to sell out!
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, which began in the early hours of Saturday, 28 June 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street defended themselves against police oppression.
This one-day conference rethinks the movements that the riots supposedly spawned in a European context. Gay liberation was never a one-way flow from across the Atlantic but the Gay Liberation Front was an important catalyst for similar groups in Europe.
This conference is co-organised with Dr Craig Griffiths, Dr Rebecca Jennings and Dr Dan Callwood.
Art + Feminism is a campaign improving coverage of gender, feminism, and the arts on Wikipedia. It is a do-it-yourself and do-it-with-others campaign teaching people of all gender identities and expressions to edit Wikipedia. Less than 10% editors on Wikipedia are women! The group wants to ensure that women tell their stories and that gaps in the coverage of knowledge about gender, feminism, and the arts on one of the most visited websites in the world.
Looking to get involved and discover how you can help reduce period poverty in Wolverhampton? Join Homeless Period to help pack donations and deliver them to vulnerable women and girls and those experiencing period poverty across the city.
Looking for a unique Christmas gift? Head to this sex positive, feminist and queer friendly space where you can buy alternative gifts, meet lovely people. There will be great music, mulled wine and a raffle so this is not to be missed.
This event is aimed at young people and individuals or groups who work with young people in a range of capacities from the voluntary and statutory sectors. The interactive displays and workshops will highlight current research about gender stereotyping and provide an opportunity to engage with the material, interact with peers and representatives from different sectors.
This workshop is being held by STAMP (Stamp out Media Patriarchy) a project which aims to tackles gender stereotypes in the media and encourage more positive use of the media amongst young people.
This event is completely free – just register to reserve your place!
The refugee crisis is a feminist issue and Hackney Stand Up to Racism and Facism are holding their annual fundraiser for Care4Calais. The evening will feature music, comedy, a raffle and speakers all in aid of the work Care4Calais do. Winter has started and for those living in the appalling conditions in Calais there are no ways to get warm. Please support their cause and attend this fantastic fundraiser on 14 December.
Once you’ve hosted your Chai Day to support survivors of gender-based violence, remember to hand in the money that you’ve fundraised! This will go directly to our Chai Day projects and can be donated via the link on the Chai Day webpage. You can also find us on Virgin Money Giving.
This book talk discusses women’s own patriarchal conditioning in relation to their bodies and sexuality, arguing that this can be the hardest enemy to defeat as feminism moves forward. When it comes to our sex lives, few of us are free of niggling fears and body image insecurities. Flo Perry explores body-positive sex and dispels myths with the goal of getting more people to talk openly about what they do and don’t want from every romantic encounter.
Flo will be taking questions and signing copies of her book after the talk!
15 December – Watch City of Joy on Netflix
How does one find joy amid unspeakable tragedy? Madeleine Gavin’s documentary City of Joy, about a community built around women who have survived horrific violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), gives us a glimpse at both an incredible injustice still occurring today, and how Congolese women are combating it with their own grassroots movement.
“Everything is about love at City of Joy,” Schuler Deschryver told the Guardian. She described how many of the women who first arrive at City of Joy associate being touched only with violence. “So when you hug her and tell her she’s beautiful, that you love her, that you will fight for her, suddenly she’s like: ‘Oh my God, I exist. I’m a human being.’ You see the joy that [the women] have and know what they’ve passed through. I think that’s one of the reasons I wake up every morning.”
Adorn yourself or a loved one with an elegant and unique piece of jewellery from the SeeMe X The Circle collection. See Me and The Circle have launched a beautiful and ethically-made jewellery collection to celebrate ten years of Women Empowering Women. SeeMe employs women, often single mothers, who have suffered violence and were ostracised from their communities in Tunisia. Through training SeeMe employees learn the craft of jewellery making following ancient Tunisian techniques. Therefore, while fostering their country’s traditions, they also secure a workplace for themselves and a future for their families.
Take part in Annie Lennox’s #GlobalFeminism campaign by selecting a statistic that exemplifies the inequalities women face across the world, write it down and photograph yourself with it. Then, share the photo on your social media, hashtag #GlobalFeminism and tag both @thecirclengo and @AnnieLennox.
Fast fashion generates vast revenues, using a business model that turns around enormous quantities of cheap clothing produced with very short lead times by globally-sourced cheap labour. Multinational fast fashion companies are able to quickly move their production to countries with lower wages. The risk of losing this investment acts as a disincentive for countries to improve their labour laws and provide fair wages.
The Circle has recently published its second report on this issue which makes a proposal for a new legislative framework to stop the “race to the bottom” and ensure a living wage. Read the full report now!
20 December – Donate sanitary products to a local food bank or body shop
Period products are not cheap and for anyone menstruating they are an absolute necessity. Sadly, there are many people living in the UK who are unable to afford them. People often forget about this essential item when donating to food banks so if you are thinking about donating food and other supplies then consider including some tampons or sanitary pads! The Body Shop have started a fantastic initiative in partnership with Bloody Good Period which can currently be found in several cities across the UK. Find your closest participating store here or food bank here.
We have added the option to Gift a Membership on our website! Whether the recipient is your mother, your daughter, an aunt, a colleague, a partner or friend; The Circle membership is the perfect gift for a woman who wants to become more actively involved in the global women’s movement, bring attention to important issues and amplifying the voices of vulnerable women. The perfect Christmas gift of empowerment this year!
For Sama is both an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war. A love letter from a young mother to her daughter, the film tells the story of Waad al-Kateab’s life through five years of uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her.
Her camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as Waad wrestles with an impossible choice – whether or not to flee the city to protect her daughter’s life.
After the huge success of The Oxford Circle’s Jumble Fever last January, they are back again but this year, in the Oxford Town Hall, to raise funds for the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre. Collect your preloved items, jumble and bric a brac and set it aside to make room for Christmas gifts! If you bring a bag of donations with you, entry to the Jumble Sale is just £1.
Catch Annie on the first episode of Hozier’s new podcast series Cry Power in partnership with our friends at Global Citizen. You can listen here!
The Cry Power podcast is hosted by Hozier in partnership with Global Citizen, talking to inspirational artists and activists about how to change the world. In its inaugural episode, Hozier talks with Annie Lennox about why feminism must be inclusive of men; how her personal story of activism is rooted in her family; and how music can make change happen. But it’s not all talk — you can join the Global Citizen movement and take action below to end gender inequality all over the world. Subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or Acast now.
Have a wonderful festive period from everyone here at The Circle!