Annie Lennox has featured in the Spring issue of Women in Leadership Magazine, in which she talks all things Global Feminism. You can download your copy here.
Annie Lennox has featured in the Spring issue of Women in Leadership Magazine, in which she talks all things Global Feminism. You can download your copy here.
Our member Rashmi Dubé, Lawyer, Writer and Global Feminist, has written a blog post about our Member’s Annual Gathering last weekend!
The meeting was held at St. James Crypt in London, with speaker’s video calling from Calgary, Beirut and Uganda. This is only my second event with The Circle and I am excited for the day. .
As a lawyer and business owner, I am used to walking into rooms where most people are strangers – a veteran networker – but this feels different. The room is full of women and the energy feels electric. The room seems to vibrate, reverberating with energy as if to almost form a musical note. This is something new and unfamiliar to me, but at the same time it feels welcoming and comfortable. I am immediately at ease and say hello to a few familiar faces. The women are excited, each talking about what they are doing in their circles and wanting to help change. Even with small actions great change can be done. I am already on a high before I sit down.
Sioned opens the programme with a message I take to heart and will carry everyday – “just do it,” no matter how insignificant you think your act is. This very sentiment is later echoed by Eve Ensler.
Annie Lennox takes the stage, joined by Eve Ensler, an American playwright, performer, feminist, and activist best known for her play The Vagina Monologues.
The two speakers delve into conversation, debating the word ‘feminist’ and its connotations. Both have the united goal: to give women and girls a place where they don’t have to be resilient – they can just be, fighting for all women and their rights, equality for women and girls in a fairer world.
Annie pointed out that there are “So many gaps….divides and divisions…” that we need to come together and work together. She acknowledged that it is still “so difficult to use the word feminist…” I could see her point. There is an uneasiness around the word, much like there is around vagina, but should there be? Annie pointed out that the “concept of feminism is [associated] with man hating [and] this is really a big problem. But I genuinely think if men are not brought into the conversation, how we can have a dialogue and change attitudes? …. We must do this. If we don’t we will be in
combat…” . She is right. The more we come together as one community, the better the discussion. From my perspective, we need to empower men to become feminists or, at the very least, allies. The way we use words and “terminology makes things visible”. Annie went to on to say that “feminism must be for everyone” and at the moment “many men feel defensive, they feel attacked [and] you need dialogue [to overcome these issues]”.
Eve Ensler was on a similar message and wants us all to be change-makers, even if only in our small community. She spoke openly about the traumas of her own life and that when we as women effect change. She reminds us that in order to bring about change and make a difference to others you don’t need an army. She refers to the Castro quote “I began the revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I would do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and a plan of action.” She continued to say all “you have to [do is] believe, have faith in what you are doing in your circle [and]…don’t minimise it [in your mind]”
She then took me back by saying: “resilience. I don’t like that word why do they [speaking about the women in Congo being used as a tool of war and for control] … have to be resilient” She was questioning how they got into the position of having to be resilient in those circumstances in first place. The very definition of resilience is “1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. 2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.” My mind wondered back briefly to what Annie had said and the importance of terminology.
As the day closed, the take home for me was that I, one human being, can in my circle make a difference as a Global Feminist, have open dialogue with men and revisit the terminology we use with new eyes.
This article was written by Rashmi Dube, who is the Managing Director of Legatus Law, lawyer, author and freelance writer for the Yorkshire Post. She is a Global feminist changing attitudes through the written word and legislation a ripple at a time.
This International Women’s Day, Annie Lennox took part in a panel of change-makers and activists including Adwoa Aboah, founder of Gurls Talk, an open community where young girls can talk about the issues that matter to them; Julia Gillard, Former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London; Chrisann Jarrett, Founder of Let us Learn; and Angeline Murimirwa, Executive Director of the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) in Africa and co-founder of CAMA, a pan-African network of young female leaders. The purpose of the panel was to discuss some of the challenges that women and girls still face today, but also to explore some solutions to these issues.
“It was fantastic to take part in yesterday’s panel for the Queen’s Commonwealth trust. The discussion was invigorating and inspiring and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to present the case for everyone to start using and identifying with the term ‘Global Feminism’. The trust exists to champion, fund and connect young leaders around the world and is now presided over by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex together. Thrilled to hear the Duchess personally describe herself as a Global Feminist!”
– Anne Lennox
The panel discussed the issue of girl’s education, sharing the statistic that for every year more of education a girl receives, she will increase her lifetime earnings by 25%. The panel opened the floor to questions, the first of which was from Scarlett Curtis, author of Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, who brought up the inequalities surrounding menstrual wellbeing.
Many of the members of the panel, considered how to involve boys and men in the conversation. Each expressed the sentiment that the progress of feminism cannot proceed without their support. Suggestions such as changing our understanding of masculinity, starting an open dialogue and ‘shining light on the invisible man’ were offered. Adwoa Aboah, described the work that Gurls Talk are doing to include men in their feminist space, stating that half of all Gurls Talk members are men.
The conversation continued to come back to the term Global Feminism. It has been the mission of Annie Lennox and The Circle to get the term into the zeitgeist as an inclusive term to acknowledge the disparity between the right’s that we enjoy in comparison to women across the globe who are denied them. 1 in 3 women will experience sexual and physical violence in their lifetime, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence isn’t a crime.The panel was a crucial part of doing so.
‘It is about Global Feminism, it is about equality and parity for all of us’.
– HRH The Duchess of Sussex
We even managed to some of the panelists to share their #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist. Lets continue the success of International Women’s Day 2019 and keep getting the Global Feminism word out there!
This was a truly inspirational panel that we were very grateful to be a part of. We want to thank all the panelists for their endorsement of Global Feminism and hope that by International Women’s Day 2020, we will be one step closer to achieving a fairer world for all women and girls.
It all started with a graphic tee.
“I was in a department store, and I saw a T-shirt that had Wonder Woman on it,” Annie Lennox says of the moment that inspired her latest campaign. It was the summer of 2018, and the music icon was trying to figure out how to take the mission of the Circle, the international women’s-rights non-governmental organization she founded in 2008, to the next level.“I looked at the T-shirts and I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, what if Wonder Woman could connect everyday women and men to the facts about the gender inequality experienced by millions of girls and women every day around the globe?’ So I bought the T-shirt, took it home, and put it on. Then I wrote a list of facts and statistics on sheets of drawing paper and had a series of pictures taken for Instagram of myself holding up the messaging.”The result: #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist, a social-media hashtag campaign promoting Lennox’s message.
Annie Lennox is the special guest on this episode of The Global GoalsCast. The rock star talks about why she moved away from music and into an activist role fighting HIV / AIDS and working to improve the lives of girls and women around the world. She urges women — and men — to embrace the term Global Feminism.
“If you use the term Global Feminism to describe what you represent and what you stand for,” Lennox says, “you understand feminism all around the world. It is not only from a western perspective.”
At its heart, Global Feminism recognises that there are millions of girls and women around the world that “don’t have a voice and by using the term you’re making them present and known.”
Facts and Actions are offered by Sioned Jones, Executive Director of The Circle, the organisation founded by Annie Lennox. You will also hear about the Index of Women Entrepreneurs created by our sponsor MasterCard. Listen now!
Edie Lush, Producer of Global GoalsCast, has told us a little bit about how podcast came about and her collaboration with The Circle:
“I started the Global GoalsCast with my co-host Claudia Romo Edelman two years ago after we met in Davos. We were introduced by Stan Stalnaker, the founder of Hub Culture where I am Executive Editor. The podcast was Stan’s idea! I’m a journalist and communication trainer and Claudia is a development specialist with many years at the United Nations. I was hugely excited to win an award last year from the UN for the podcast.
My goal is to tell you the stories of one of the most remarkable combined efforts in human history. 193 nations have set goals for 11 years from now, ranging from ending extreme poverty to fighting climate change and making the world a better place. Claudia and I have made the Global GoalsCast the place where you come to find the stories of the people who are ticking off the tasks on the world’s to do list.
I love this collaboration with The Circle because The Global GoalsCast is biased towards women both in our organisational structure and the stories we feature. We’ve had some cracking episodes – let me tell you about some of the women we’ve featured:
In the Revolutionary Power of Food, we featured Charity Mulengu, a 32-year old widowed mother of two who is a market trader in Zambia who is using an ‘eBay for Farmers’ to sell produce to help feed her family. Before the app enabled her to advertise and sell her crops, she would haul as much as 550 pounds of produce to a market in the hope of finding people who wanted to buy it. It was expensie and time-consuming – she had to leave her children with her mother to travel. ‘Now I can communicate direct with the farmer,’ she said ‘we agree on the thing which I want. For example, if I want five bags of cowpeas. I will communicate with the farmr .. Then the farmer can send those five bags to me.’
In They Are the Code we featured Senegalese activist and businesswoman Mariéme Jamme who is a living example of how technology can help elevate young women out of dire situations. Raped by a teacher at the age of 11 years old, Jamme was trafficked from her native Senegal to France at age 13 and sold into prostitution. Two years later, French police picked her off the streets. She ended up in the U.K, where she began her education. She told me that ‘I was starting my alphabet when I was 16’. Jamme came to prominence and found activism when she wrote an open and critical blog to Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof and U2 frontman Bono criticizing the way Africa was being portrayed in materials related to the famous concert’s 25th Anniversary. That led to her being tapped for advice on how to represent African women and girls in the media and bring balance to coverage of the continent. Mariéme wanted to be more than just a voice and an adviser. She wanted to give more women and girls the ability to speak for themselves. Her movement, I am the Code, brings girls together to learn life skills and equip them with the technology to do something about it.
In Comedy Can Do More Than Make Us Laugh, we featured three female comedians who are using comedy to break stereotypes. One of the comics we featured is Noam Shuster, an Israeli woman. Noam’s father is a Romanion Jew and her mother was born in Iran, which makes her background a unique cultural hybrid. After what she considers a failed sting in a peace organisation, Noam turned to comedy and found that her heritage allowed her a special way in. She said ‘one of the places that comedy has brought me is to be the first Jewish performer in a Palestinian comedy festival. There were two guys who are sitting in the front row looking at me, like, what is this Jew going to tell us, you know? So I walk on stage and I’m thinking, how am I going to break the ice? Like what? It’s a crowd of 300 Palestinians. So I walk in on stage and I look and them and I tell them ‘Habibi, relax. I’m only here for seven minutes, not 70 years’.
As the women’s rights movement pushes forward, internationally acclaimed singer, songwriter, performer and Human Rights activist Annie Lennox and the NGO she founded, The Circle, have partnered with Apple Music for a Global International Women’s Day initiative launched today.
Together with Sammy Andrews and her team at Deviate Digital, they have created a short film in support of Global Feminism, an umbrella term inclusive of all approaches to women’s equality.
To help her, Annie has drawn support from some of the biggest names in music, film and beyond, including Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Richard E Grant, Emeli Sande, Hozier, Richa Chadha, Eddie Izzard, Gwendoline Christie, Farhan Akhtar, Beverley Knight and Mary J Blige. Watch and share the short film below:
While we celebrate and acknowledge the advancement in women rights over the past 100 years, we must make sure it’s inclusive for all. The short film aims to highlight the injustices still experienced by millions of women and girls the world over – from misogyny, rape and violence to pay disparity.
Every woman and girl, no matter where they live, no matter the colour their skin, no matter what religious faith, no matter what – MUST have access to the same basic human rights. Global Feminists believe in equality of rights, with empowerment and justice made available for every woman and girl in every corner of the world.
Annie Lennox: “Disempowerment creates an appalling way of life for millions of women and girls around the world. While physical or sexual violence affects one in three women, and two thirds of the world’s 757 million adults who cannot read or write are women … these are only two on a long list of disparity and injustice. We cannot ignore the fact that feminism must have a global reach.”
“At a time when there seems to be so much polarity and division in the world, the term ‘global feminism’ offers an opportunity for people from every walk of life, colour of skin, gender or sexual orientation to understand and identify with the bigger global picture. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder in support of human rights, justice and equality for women and girls everywhere in the world, especially in countries where they are not even near the lowest rung of the ladder.”
Rachel Newman (Apple Music Global Head of Editorial): “Annie Lennox is not only one of the most prolific women in music, but one of the most dedicated and passionate women’s rights advocates of our time. Her efforts to better this world are truly inspiring and her impact is undeniable. This International Women’s Day we are thrilled and honored to support this incredible artist and share her message of #globalfeminism with our global audience.”
Sioned Jones (Executive Director, The Circle): “Global Feminism is at the heart of what we do as we strive for a more equal and fairer world for women and girls. On this International Women’s Day having a chance to remind us all of the huge inequalities and injustices that remain for millions of women and girls across the globe is important in ensuring no one is left behind in being able to realise their basic human rights. We thank Annie, Apple Music and all the contributors who have given up their time and support to this film and we all stand together as Global Feminists.”
Share your own #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist on social media and tag @thecirclengo and Annie Lennox!
Image Credit: Poet in the City
With International Women’s Day on 8 March, the next few weeks are packed with feminist events! Find out what’s happening near you!
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 2019.
As we know from previous years, it’s also an event full of inspiration and motivation from the range of speakers and fellow guests. This year we are thrilled and honoured to announce that joining us will be our Founder Annie Lennox in conversation with Eve Ensler where they will share what drives their passion and activism for women’s rights and their hopes for the feminist movement.
The Feminist Men Project (FMP) is excited to present two new workshops on Practical Feminist Allyship for Men at Home and at Work.
Since #MeToo we have seen high profile men in the spotlight being exposed for the violence they have committed. Others have come out to raise awareness of their roles as feminist allies and reflect on masculinity and specifically on ‘toxic masculinity’.
Patrick Stewart recently spoke on a panel for Refuge to discuss domestic violence; Idris Elba has challenged why men are resistant to the #MeToo movement; Justin Baldoni and Jackson Katz have spoken at TED about masculinity and men’s role in speaking out against violence against women (VAWG).
We wish to provide a bridge between these ideas and the men who want to engage with them. We provide an environment for earnest discussion of these issues where we can facilitate a practical understanding of how men can be more supportive of women at home and at work.
On 3 March 2019, members and volunteers of The Circle will be taking part in Care International’s #March4Women.
It will be an uplifting afternoon of speeches, entertainment, solidarity and action suitable for the whole family – and it’s indoors so this year you won’t get wet or cold!
We’ll be taking forward the global fight for gender equality by asking you to join us in calling for a worldwide treaty to protect women everywhere from violence and harassment in the workplace. We’ll have contributions from activists from the UK and around the world – and you will have the opportunity to lend your voice to our campaign. Our aim is to ensure that the most vulnerable and marginalised women and girls, including garment workers, domestic workers and those living in extreme poverty, have protection. Please join us to help make 2019 another #March4Women step forward for gender equality!
Tickets to the event are limited, so please make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment. Tickets are £5, but if you feel that you could help contribute towards the cost of running the event, you can also donate £10 when you buy your ticket.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals aspire to end violence against women and reduce violence in general. According to Pinker, drawing on Elias, violence is decreasing.
The new scholarship from women and the Global South has challenged this account, documenting the scale of the violence from the powerful. Moving the analysis of violence from the margin to the centre of contemporary social science requires rethinking the concept of violence, treating it as an institution parallel in significance to economy, polity and civil society. Is domestic violence better addressed as ‘coercive control’ or as ‘violent crime’? Is it connected to gendered economic inequalities or to men’s motivation to control? Is it better addressed by increasing the criminalisation of perpetrators of violence or increased specialised welfare support to potential and actual victims?
The answer offered here is to mainstream gender into the concept and measurement of violence and into a theory of society.
As part of our week-long event series to celebrate International Women’s Day, join us for an evening of drawing, drinking hot chocolate and chatting.
Leeds based artist and teacher Rosanna Gammon will be leading us in an event inspired by great women from history.
This class is totally free and open to women, non binary and trans people of all ages. Under 12’s must be accompanied by an adult.
Equipment will be provided but please feel free to bring your own pencils etc if you have some favourites.
On Friday 8 March in What Now? looks at the here and now. From politics to financial empowerment, from toxic masculinity to the intersection of sexism, racism and homophobia here are the subjects that matter most collated from WOW Thinkins around the world.
Annie Lennox leads a conversation on Global Feminism, and how local activism can turn into international solidarity; Julia Gillard, the first woman Prime Minister of Australia, talks about resilience and her mission to dispel the myths about female leadership, and we put money high on the agenda with a challenge to talk more about our personal finances – in particular, our pensions. Other speakers include: Gina Miller, the woman who successfully challenged the UK government’s authority to trigger Article 50; Rizzle Kicks musician and actor Jordan Stephens on the effects of toxic masculinity; Scarlett Curtis, curator of Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies); Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), actor and co-creator of daisie, a new online community for creative collaboration; stand-up comedian Rosie Jones; cellist and singer Ayanna Witter-Johnson as well as spoken word from some of the UK’s best established and up and coming poets.
Join us to celebrate International Women’s Day with a networking brunch at The Alchemist Oxford on Friday 8th March from 10am!
Tickets are a £5 charity donation (excluding fees) to The Circle, an organisation of women working together to achieve equality for women and girls in a fairer world. Founded by Annie Lennox in 2008, The Circle is inspired by the notion that when women come together and organise, they can be a powerful force for change. They are a network of women from all walks of life and all backgrounds who have something in common: the awareness that we still do not live in a world where women and girls have equal rights and equal opportunities.
We are proud to welcome a speaker from The Circle who will be holding a talk on female empowerment, accompanied by Oxfordshire Mind who will be holding a discussion on women’s mental health in business.
This event provides a chance to meet inspirational women, share your thoughts and stories as a woman in business whilst enjoying panoramic views of the City of Spires.
Hosted by Women’s Strike Assembly, this is an invitation to feminists of all genders to join cis women, trans women and non-binary people of any ethnicity or sexual orientation, who have been marginalised or disadvantaged by the patriarchy to march in Edinburgh on International Women’s Day.
On 8 March they will speak out and resist to say enough!
People from around Edinburgh will gather in joyful militancy and peacefully to draw attention to the situation of inequity of women around the world. Experiences of being marginalised are shaped by interconnecting systems of oppression such as sexism, racism, anti-blackness, classism, dis-ableism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, trans-misogyny, whorephobia, fat-phobia, islamophobia, and antisemitism.
Spread the word and invite your family, friends and community!!! You can also support the movement by signing and sharing their femifesto here.
In honour of International Women’s Day, Freedom4Girls are hosting an Open Mic Night at Lambert’s Yard in the centre of Leeds. This is happening on 8 March and they really hope to see you there to have an amazing night of celebrating women and the work Freedom4Girls has achieved so far!
Period Poverty is a very real issue in the UK and on our door steps here in Leeds. Come and see how this is affecting young women, women and girls across the country as well as the work Freedom4Girls have achieved in Kenya and Uganda.
The event will also take the opportunity to thank all of their amazing volunteers who have supported in our work so far, at our workshops, delivering and donating products, sorting our stock at FareShare…. this is a celebration of your hard work too!
There will be singers, comedians, spoken word artists perform.
And, fitting with the work F4G started in Kenya all those years ago, we are incredibly excited to announce our headline act, Kenyan born UK comedian and author, Njambi McGrath.
Shedding light on some of the most important women from Manchester who helped transform the future of women’s suffrage, the John Rylands Library’s exhibition perfectly captures the individuals’ passion and strength. Read Emmeline Pankhurst’s inspiring letter that called to those prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of equality, and admire the scroll presented to Enriqueta Rylands, the first freewoman of the City of Manchester.
Women’s role in the fight for black civil and equal rights in Britain has been severely marginalised. This walk through Brixton, London will show the life, stories, and activities of numerous African/Caribbean women in the area. Documenting the anti-racist fight in housing, education and politics from the 1950’s to the 1980’s, the two hour and 15 minute walk will cover newspaper publisher and campaigner Claudia Jones, the Depo Provera birth control scandal, the Black Panther Women of Brixton and more.
One of our members is organising an event to raise money for The Circle and celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 in Croydon! The line up will include singers, spoken word performances, dancing and other festivities. This event is free to attend and will also be collecting sanitary products for We-Stap. Come along to hear some incredible performances!
The Circle invites you to attend a new series of films inspired by the Annie Lennox campaign to promote Global Feminism, encouraging everyone to further understand the inequality around the world for the most disempowered women and girls.
The first film, City of Joy, shows a ray of hope in a country where sexual violence is a weapon of war. Turning Pain Into Power is the theme this amazing project, a sanctuary of healing and transformation for women who have been traumatised by the most horrendous violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Annie Lennox urges everyone to watch this inspirational film demonstrating that we can effect changes to enhance and empower the lives of women across the globe.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with a panel sharing their experience of visiting the Panzi Hospital in DRC, founded by 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and City of Joy Consultant Dr, Denis Mukwege.
Guardian journalist Maya Wolfe-Robinson chairs a discussion between activist Marai Larasi and writer and communications strategist Chelsea Fuller. Larasi is Director of Imkaan, a UK-based women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls, and Fuller is Senior Communications Manager at US-based Blackbird, a strategic communications firm which services racial and social justice organisations and is a key innovator behind the #MeToo movement and the Movement for Black Lives in the US.
Intersectional feminism acknowledges that oppression intersects with systems of society such as race, gender and class.
Founded in 2006 by African-American civil rights activist Tarana Burke in response to the sexual violence she saw in her community, the #MeToo movement centres upon the power of empathy between survivors of sexual assault. The movement was popularised on social media in 2017 when allegations against Harvey Weinstein led to his arrest. Established in 2014, the Movement for Black Lives is a coalition of groups across the US which represent the interests of Black communities. It was created as a response to the sustained and increasingly visible violence against Black communities, with the purpose of forming a united front and securing a political platform.
Working at the intersection of racial justice and advocacy against sexual violence, Marai Larasi and Chelsea Fuller discuss the roots of the Movement for Black Lives and #MeToo, examining what has changed since their popularisation, the challenging conversations yet to be had between them, and the potential ground for future collaboration.
Pity Party Film Club presents an all-day event showcasing four on-screen depictions of female friendship throughout the decades. Grab your best friend and make a day of it!
There are 209 women in the House of Commons, and although it’s still a way off gender parity, this does mark the highest female representation there has ever been in UK politics.
To mark 100 years since some women gained the right to vote, and to champion the visibility of women, particularly in male-dominated environments, photographer Hilary Wood has created the 209 Women project.
The exhibition – 204 portraits of the female MPs, all shot by female photographers – can be seen at Portcullis House in London until 14 February. After that, it will open in Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery from 1 March to 14 April.
Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill”
An empowering evening of live poetry performances and discussion inviting you to get to know the mighty voice of Audre Lorde: black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.
A prolific American writer, intersectional feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist, Lorde dedicated her life and creative energies to challenging and addressing discriminations of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. She firmly advocated self-love as an act of resistance, and empowered generations of marginalised individuals to defy the prejudiced societies in which they lived by openly loving themselves and believing in their dreams
Photo Credit: Tim Freccia, World Vision.
This February, news headlines have been focusing a lot on FGM/C due to it being a month in which many individuals, charities and organisations raise awareness of this life-threatening practice.
FGM/C is practiced in at least 30 countries and at least 200 million girls and women have been cut. Over 100 million cases have happened across Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia alone. Despite both the physical and mental health consequences, FGM/C is a practice rooted in tradition. It is a tradition which has been around for hundreds of years which means putting an end to it is a very complex and sensitive issue.
In February 2018, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women stated for International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM/C that “FGM is an act that cuts away equality”. Women suffer immense pain and a lifetime of complications such as neonatal death. Girls are cut with no opportunity to defend themselves, no voice to say no. This is a human rights violation.
FGM/C is usually carried out on young women between infancy and 15 years of age. Before these girls become adults’, the possibility to have a natural childbirth is taken away from them. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), women are at a significant risk of complications such as a post-partum haemorrhage, a prolonged and obstructed labour and worse of all losing their baby. FGM/C has no health benefits; so why are women and girls being forced to suffer such immense pain?
FGM/C is rooted in tradition and culture. Mlambo-Ngcuka stated this month how this practice is a form of gender-based violence and cannot be isolated from other forms of violence against women and girls. Neil Williams of World Vision UK reported for girlsnotbrides.com about travelling to Ethiopia to meet girls at risk of FGM/C and their families. Through the conversations Williams had with the girls and their families, we begin to understand how FGM/C and child marriage are intrinsically linked. Parents fear abduction and pre-marital sex and so remove their daughters from school and arrange to have them cut and married at an early age. Devastatingly, this is considered a safer alternative.
In a statement for the 2017 International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted how children living in communities where FGM/C is practiced will not finish school and will therefore have limited employment prospects. The cycle continues as girls who have mothers without an education are more likely to be subjected to FGM/C. They see their daughters being cut as adding value to their lives, securing a future marriage and family honour. Then again it is also seen as suppressing their sexuality. Young women and girls are cruelly stripped of the opportunity to make their own choices about their future. In some communities’ girls are not educated beyond lower secondary school, leading them to get married as it is believed their future prospects will be greater. There are also a lack of job opportunities and these jobs are prioritized for boys’. But educating girls can prevent the reoccurrence of child marriage and FGM/C. Education can create a future for girls where they are not limited by decisions made about their bodies without their consent.
According to UNICEF, in Djibouti where 78% of women and girls are subjected to FGM/C, a woman named Mariam Kako was cut at five years old. A razorblade was used to perform the type of FGM/C called pharaonic. When her daughter was born Kako told her mother that she would be not cut. Her mother ignored those wishes, showing her deeply held belief in this tradition. Kako’s baby girl died 40 days later at six months old. Kako now works to educate the population through encouraging people to tell their stories and refuting the myth that FGM/C is associated with religion. Many communities believe that child marriage and FGM/C are a ‘marker of their religious identity’. However, in religious scripture, this is not a requirement.
Experiences like Mlambo-Ngcuka’s and Mariam Kako’s stories are deeply personal and these women are incredibly brave to speak up about what they have been through to help expose the brutal effect FGM/C has on women and girls;
Photo Credit: Ashenafi Tibebe, The Elders. 2011.
According to BBC News, by 2020 secondary school pupils in England will be educated on FGM as a dangerous practice. This education is incredibly important. According to UNICEF, between 2019 and 2030, 68 million girls will be cut if active steps are not taken to stop this brutal practice.
Many do not realise that FGM/C happens in the UK. Hibo Wadere told her story to the BBC, published on 4th February 2019. As a women she graphically describes the experience she went through as a six-year-old girl; the memories of blood and the screams still distressingly vivid.
UN Women are working with traditional leaders across Africa to increase commitment to ending child marriage and FGM/C. FGM/C is prevalent across 30 countries: 28 of them are in Africa. Queen Mother Best Kemigisa of the Tooro Kingdom, Uganda supports the work of UN Women. The Queen Mother states how people will listen to the religious and traditional leaders who uphold these practices as adding value to the lives of women and girls. The work UN Women are doing is vitally important. We need to work with these leaders and listen to their perspective in order for them to hopefully choose to listen to the reasons why these practices are unnecessary and harmful. If the minds of these leaders are changed, so too will the minds of their communities.
Annie Lennox’s Global Feminism campaign addresses how as feminists we must be looking at gender inequality on a global scale. It is about recognising that “Feminism needs to be relevant, appreciated and respected especially where the needs are greatest —in countries where women and girls are not even near the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of being able to realise the most fundamental of human rights.” – (Annie Lennox). Feminism is about reaching out to individual women and girls and addressing their individual needs which vary depending on where you live in the world. We must make sure to help encourage and strengthen the platform for women to speak up about their experiences of FGM/C and empower social and cultural change.
The UN have made it one of their sustainable development goals to “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation” (Goal 5.3).
It is incredible that we dedicate February to raising awareness of FGM/C. We need intense periods of time where we gather together to educate people who are not aware of FGM/C or indeed the scale of the problem. But the campaigning cannot occur only in February. In order to continue fighting for women and girls to lead healthy lives, we must carry on discussing the issue and taking action to end it.
For more information about FGM/C visit the following link
This article was written by Georgia Bridgett who is an intern for The Circle. Georgia is a recent English graduate and is passionate about women’s rights and the underlying issues in the fast-fashion industry.
The Asian Circle are celebrating their 5th anniversary, an achievement that shows their devotion and dedication to fighting against the inequality of women and girls. Founded by Santosh Bhanot in 2013, The Asian Circle have become an established group of women who tirelessly fundraise for the projects close to their hearts.
Santosh describes The Asian Circle as “a passionate community of diverse women who want to support women and girls that haven’t been given the same opportunities in life in South Asia”.
Their 5th Anniversary celebration commemorates their efforts over the years which have been particularly impactful in rural areas of India. Violence against women is the most common form of human rights violation in India. It is such a deeply ingrained, socially accepted “right” for men to beat their wives, that women are trapped in a life of violence. Shame, stigma, and a lack of support from the police and the legal system prevent many women from reporting domestic violence and seeking help.
The Asian Circle have been supporting this project since the beginning and their dedication has helped it make massive strides. In Chhattisgarh, there has been a state-level consultation on the State Gender Equality Policy, a policy that had not been revisited in more than a decade. Women from across the state took part, reflecting their concerns and issues with the policy gaps. In Odisha, Gender Times sessions were organised at colleges, which increased engagement of adolescents and youth groups with gender issues.
“Our project in Chhattisgarh has been extremely successful with the programme recently receiving a State Government Award, ‘Nari Shakti Samman’ in recognition of outstanding improvement of the conditions of women at the margins of society. This Award will have a significantly positive impact on women in this State. International funders have stepped-up to adopt and expand our initial pilot programme with statewide deployment. By working in the community, the programme helps reduce violence, provides education, training and development of skills for jobs and helps reduce poverty.” – Santosh Bhanot
The Asian Circle also know how to add pizazz when bringing the harsh realities of their project to their well established and generous community. Their five-year celebration is no exception! With a high chai tea and drinks reception at the breath-taking LaLit Hotel, guests had the opportunity to support victims of domestic abuse with the chance to walk away with some amazing prizes through an online auction to mark this special occasion. However, the auction is not only available for guests and you can still support victims of gender-based violence by browsing the bespoke gift selection. The two featured items include a specically commissioned print and a signed copy of Eurythmics’ In the Garden. In the Garden was the debut studio album from Eurythmics originally released in 1981. This edition was produced as part of the one-off re-release, by Sony Records, in 2018, of all Eurythmics’ albums and is very much a collector’s item with both Annie and Dave having signed it. Annie donated the album to support The Asian Circle’s work and show her appreciation for all they do. All the funds will go to help victims of gender-based violence – a key issue that The Circle’s work focuses on and one that is at the centre of Chai Day. So she even surprised guests with a personal message via video.
The Asian Circle conceived Chai Day back in 2016 as an initiative to raise funds and awareness for the victims of gender-based violence. Since then it has grown from strength to strength. Their support for some of the most vulnerable women and girls and the impact that their work has had is truly a testament to The Circle’s manta: women empowering women. This innovative fundraising idea has become one of The Circle’s key foci and its development into a global campaign is a result of the success of The Asian Circle’s back in 2016.
In addition to Chai Day, looking back over the years, The Asian Circle have hosted a number of fundraising and networking events over the years in London and organised film screenings including The True Cost and Chalk ‘n’ Duster. Every summer, they have their popular Summer Party, which was attended by comedian Shazia Mirza in 2017. They created the concept of Chai Day and launched it in 2016. The Asian Circle and their supporters organised several Chai Days in 2017, including one at the British High Commission in New Delhi and the official The Asian Circle Chai Day at Montys, in Ealing, which was attended by The Great British Bake Off star Rav Bansal. All these events have raised huge contributions.
Thank you, to The Asian Circle, for all your incredible work and long may it continue! We can’t wait to see the pictures from their celebrations today.
#ChaiDay #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist #WomenEmpoweringWomen