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.
We want to say a huge thank you to all of our supporters, members, allies and friends who have donated to our emergency appeal that we launched to respond to the additional challenges that the women and girls in our projects are facing during this crisis. Thanks to your efforts, we have been able to directly support marginalised women and girls across the globe. We have already made emergency grants to projects support projects in Uganda and Scotland.
Emergency Supplies in Uganda
We have provided funds to Irise International so that they can provide provision and protection to vulnerable women and child-led households in Uganda. Women, unable to leave their houses for fear of police brutality, are struggling to feed their children or access reproductive healthcare and contraception. Irise is working with local government to deliver essential supplies to vulnerable women including food, hand sanitiser, menstrual pads and educational materials.
After ten days of distribution, Irise have been able to reach a total of 398 vulnerable people in 93 households with 136 emergency relief packs.
This is Jess. She is 18 years old and is the sole carer for these children aged 3 and 5. She’s been working as a hairdresser, but like so many others, has been unable to work during lockdown and faces terrifying uncertainty. Irise have been able to deliver essential supplies to her and will ensure that she is able to cope over the coming weeks.
Irise are also using funds to ensure safeguarding within the community. They are working with the local government’s probation service to report and follow-up with vulnerable girls and young people. Cases include identifying three sisters aged 19-13 years old, who have been forced into prostitution to survive. Irise was able to provide them with vital supplies and will continue to work with the Gender Officer and District Office to safeguard these girls.
Survivor Services in Scotland
Across the UK, three million women experience some form of gender-based violence every year, but these numbers have risen dramatically as social isolation policies have left women and girls vulnerable to abuse. Estimates suggest that there will be 15 million additional cases of domestic violence every 3 months of lockdown globally. Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis provides free and confidential support to girls and women who have experienced rape, sexual assault and sexual violence. Due to the UK’s lockdown, the centre are unable to offer their drop-in service that is a lifeline for survivors. We have provided the centre with funds to increase website capacity and launch a dedicated text support service for survivors to access counselling and support. This service will allow the centre to respond to the needs of sexual violence who are not in a position to phone the counsellors. This service will provide vital support for at least 1,500 women and girls.
Supporting Garment Workers
With the money that our supporters have raised, we will be able to provide food and medical supplies to 500 garment workers in Bangladesh who have been left destitute. Supporting garment workers is crucial at this time. As soon as the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, major garment companies responded by pushing risk and costs down the supply chain. Garment workers in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Pakistan have been left without work with factories being forced to close due to dwindling orders. Many of these workers are migrant women. With historically low wages, making it impossible to accumulate savings, these workers are now struggling to pay for housing or essential supplies. We are working with partners to provide emergency relief packages containing food, protective masks and soap.
The need is only going to increase as some of the world’s poorest countries begin to feel the full force of Covid-19. We have long been there for the world’s most vulnerable women and we will continue to do so at this time of great emergency.
The Circle’s Living Wage Team consider the impact of COVID-19 on garment workers and the fashion industry and discuss why, more than ever, a living wage needs to be recognised as a fundamental human right.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposes the extreme vulnerability of workers in global garment supply chains as hundreds of thousands are losing their jobs and livelihoods as a result of demand drying up and brands cancelling manufacturing orders.
The pandemic highlights the weak contractual agreements suppliers have with brands and retailers and lays bare the limitations of the current approach to protecting worker’s rights. For years companies have preferred voluntary codes of conduct, arguing that they can self-regulate their behaviour. Recent events show these have failed – and that we need legal mechanisms to strengthen the responsibilities companies have, to uphold the rights of workers in their supply chain. This issue has never been so important. Understanding exactly what those responsibilities entail is key as we go forward into debates about the recovery of garment manufacturing and how to structure a fair and sustainable supply chain. The Circle’s Living Wage Project can play an important role in creating a space for this, providing legal expertise, facilitating discussion and collaborating with key stakeholders to bring legal solutions that will work.
How is COVID-19 impacting garment workers?
The full economic and social impact of COVID-19 on workers in the garment supply chain is as yet unknown, but the effect is global. Economies are slowing, many tipping into recession. Shops have closed, demand for fashion has dried up and companies are facing huge losses in revenue. In an effort to bolster much needed liquidity to keep them afloat, many brands and retailers are aggressively cutting costs overseas, in effect shifting the risk onto their suppliers. As a result, many companies are refusing to honour their contracts with suppliers, either through non-payment of orders already complete or in process, refusal to pay for materials already purchased by factories, cancellation of future orders or forcing the extension of payment deadlines.
There is also the issue of the impact of the pandemic on the workers themselves, who risk exposure and lack essential protection such as face masks. Workers therefore have limited ability to protect themselves and limited access to services such as childcare facilities, medical insurance or hazard pay.
While we recognise that many people are also losing their jobs in the West, here there are regulations around corporate behaviour and employment standards that garment workers in the Global South are not protected by. Additionally, many garment workers live in countries with no social protection mechanisms and having received poverty wages for years have no savings to offer any form of buffer in even the short term, let alone if the crisis continues for months – as is predicted. The nature of global supply chains is such that companies in Western markets have profited for years from cheap labour in production countries and now are able to withdraw without any responsibility towards the millions of workers who have helped generate their huge profits.
What should we expect fashion brands to do?
In the first instance brands and retailers must honour their contracts and ensure that the workers who have made their products are paid, that is the minimum. Secondly, brands need to work with their suppliers and as far as is possible support them to keep their workers employed. For many workers if they lose their employment status, they not only lose their income but also risk falling off the radar completely should any state support to factories become available.
In the coming months, questions around how to establish social protection floors which will support workers will need to be addressed, and brands and retailers must be part of that conversation.
How do I know what brands are doing?
It is difficult to know the details of what individual brands are doing but the Workers Rights Consortium (an independent labour rights monitoring organisation) are tracking brands and their commitment to pay in full for orders completed or in production in countries such as Bangladesh. See here.
Another reliable source of information is Clean Clothes Campaign’s live blog, which is updated daily with news reports, categorised by country, detailing the impact of COVID-19 on garment workers around the world.
Why is this important to the Living Wage Project?
The aim of the Living Wage Project is to bring about legislation in the form of a new EU legal framework, to ensure the payment of a living wage by fashion brands to millions of women and men in global garment supply chains. A living wage is a wage that goes beyond a minimum wage and provides the worker with the means to not just survive but also to put some money aside for education and savings. This means they can provide for their family with a buffer against the worst conditions of poverty. Such legislation is more important than ever going forward. Although we don’t know what supply chains will look like after the pandemic is under control, there is no reason to believe globalisation will markedly change and there is the real possibility that conditions could further worsen for workers in global supply chains as economies move into recession.
Does this change the work of the Living Wage Project?
Yes and No. What the pandemic has shown us more than ever is that voluntarism does not work. The ‘trust’ we have that companies will do the right thing by their workers is misplaced – it’s not enough. Depending upon CSR (corporate social responsibility) to address employment conditions is always going to be piecemeal, and dependent upon the good will and resources of an individual company. To that extent our work going forward on the living wage is critical, strengthening human rights legislation through ensuring workers get paid a living wage.
What can I do to support garment workers?
We must continue to put pressure on fashion brands and retailers to do the right thing by their suppliers and support workers where we can. As individuals it can seem overwhelming and we wonder what role we can play, but brands do listen to customers. Below are some suggestions for action:
Write to the brands
Write to brands that you buy from asking them what they are doing to ensure that garment workers are being paid during this period. Are they honouring their payment for orders already placed? Can they vouch that the payments made are reaching the workers?
For guidance on what to write, you can find a useful template at Fashion Revolution. If you would rather sign a petition, then have Traidcraft Exchange have a letter you can sign your name to.
Donate to The Circle
A donation to The Circle’s Living Wage project will mean we can continue in our work to ensure that workers are paid a living wage. By donating to this project and you are helping to create a “race to the top” to protect the right of millions of workers to receive a living wage. Every contribution will make a difference.
As a result of ongoing campaigns, it has been officially reported that:
Awaj estimates 71% of garment workers were paid in April.
Garment Diaries estimates 86% of garment workers were paid.
According to a Brand Tracker, regularly updated by the Worker Rights Consortium, over a dozen large companies, including Uddin’s buyers, as well as Primark, Bestseller, Walmart (Asda), Under Armour, Kohl’s, Ross Dress for Less, Urban Outfitters, and Gap Inc. (Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic), among others, have canceled orders or renegotiated payment terms to demand discounts and payment delays.
Image: Annie Lennox and Eve Ensler at The Circle’s Annual Gathering 2019
We kicked off the year at our Annual Gathering encouraging everyone to be courageous and confident in their actions to empower women and ‘Just do it’. The day was full of inspiration and especially from Annie Lennox, Founder of The Circle, and Eve Ensler who talked about their activism and passion for women’s rights and left us all energised by their drive and commitment to ensure the world is an equal and just one for women. Since then our wonderful members, volunteers, allies and supporters have truly taken the words to heart and the past year has been incredibly successful and impactful for The Circle. We’d love to share with you some of the highlights of our year!
Global Feminism Campaign
Last International Women’s Day, in partnership with Annie Lennox and Apple Music, we released a short film in support of our Global Feminism campaign. Both the short film and the campaign highlight the injustices still experienced by millions of women and girls the world over from misogyny, rape and violence to pay disparity. Every women and girl, no matter where they live, no matter the colour of 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 to every woman and girl in every corner of the world.
Annie drew support from some of the biggest names in music, film and beyond to help us, including Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Richard E Grant, Emeli Sande, Hozier, Farhan Akhtar, Richa Chada, Eddie Izzard, Gwendoline Christie, Beverley Knight and Mary J Blige. The film was shared far and wide and gave us the chance to remind the world of the huge inequalities and injustices that remain for millions of women and girls across the world. On the need for this campaign, Annie Lennox has said that:
‘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 the lowest rung of the ladder.”
Image: Dua Lipa/Global Feminism Film
An Evening of Music and Conversation with Annie Lennox
In September we and 3,000 fans of Annie travelled to Scotland for An Evening of Music and Conversation with Annie Lennox in the SEC Armadillo, Glasgow. Following an incredible similar evening held in 2018 at Sadler’s Wells, Annie once again took to the stage to share thoughts, memories, and reflections in addition to treating the audience to a phenomenal musical performance. It was wonderful to see so many members and supporters there, many of which had travelled from far and wide to join us for this magical evening. We were very honoured and thrilled that Annie was willing, once again, to deliver this wonderful event and raise valuable funds and awareness for The Circle and our work. Using her platform on the stage to address the audience on some of the issues faced by women globally and to highlight the need for us all to be Global Feminists. A huge thank you to all who were involved, including the onstage and backstage teams, The Hunter Foundation, The Scottish Circle, our wonderful volunteers and all those that bought tickets. It was our largest net fundraiser to date and all the proceeds go directly to empowering marginalised women and girls across the globe.
A Living Wage
It was a year of significant achievements for our Living Wage work. We published our latest report, Fashion Focus: Towards a Legal Framework for a Living Wage, which sets out a proposal for a new legislative framework for ensuring a living wage for garment workers. The report was launched in November at the Living Wage Symposium we held at the offices of Pinsent Masons in London. There we were joined by incredible change-makers from the legal, investment, corporate and NGO sectors as well as academics, and policy makers including Jessica Simor QC, ASOS, Continental Clothing, BMO Global Asset Management, ASN Bank, Kempen, ACT, Fair Wear, Livia Firth and Clean Clothes Campaign among others. The need for a significant change in the area of a Living wage, after decades of small-scale pilots and gradual changes along with more transparency were the key themes throughout the day and came up again and again across all of the panels and discussions. Moving forward, we were reminded by our Ambassador Melanie Hall that:
“Everyone has a part to play, everyone in this room today is a consumer.”
This was significant step in the project in gaining significant buy-in to the need for legislative change and input and contribution about the type of legal framework needed to ensure manufacturing brands, retailers, and importers introduce a living wage within their supply chains. Our Living Wage team have continued working to develop this work further and deliver our outline for a legislative framework to policy-makers and experts within the EU and beyond. We are excited for what the year ahead holds for our Living wage work and will press ahead to find a legislative solution to improve the lives of garment workers who struggle daily to provide for themselves and their families.
Image: Female garment worker
The Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network
The Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network (MCJN) has continued in its incredible work supporting its 170 network members who are female journalists working in conflict and fragile states across the Middle East and North Africa region. The network has given them access to training, emergency assistance, and legal aid.
Many of the MCJN’s members and mentors have been instrumental in covering historic events in countries from Iraq to Yemen, to Egypt and Morocco. Unlike foreign reporters who are sent in to report on a story and then taken out to either go elsewhere or because it’s too difficult to stay many of the MCJN members remain, in the communities they live in, with war and violence around them and dealing with the aftermath. So, we have provided counselling for members and are part of a wider community of organisations supporting journalists to deal with the issues of mental health. Dima, the MCJN Editor, and one of our counsellors spoke about the issue and action we are taking to deal with it at the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism Forum in Jordan last Autumn.
This has been a huge year for the Network and they have grown from strength to strength. Dima had this to say on their growth and success:
“We started with a concept four years ago that has now grown into a vibrant online community of more than 170 Arab, female journalists. Not only are we proud of this achievement, but also humble and grateful to have had the chance to support amazing and resilient women who battle against the odds every day to speak truth to power.”
The Nonceba Family Counselling Centre
Another one of our project highlights was to continue our strong relationship with the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre. The centre is located in Khayelitsha, a township just outside of Cape Town. Khayelitsha is the largest township in the Western Cape province and has a high level of overcrowding and poverty. For years, unemployment and crime rates have been high, particularly around violence against women and children with little services and support for the victims. The Nonceba Centre was established to make up for the lack of effective intervention services and has a shelter for women who have survived domestic violence or have been victims of human trafficking. We have been supporting Nonceba for the past few years and have been inspired by their resilience and determination to empower their community and to ensure that the centre can provide a place of safety for women and their children. Most of the women in the shelter are HIV positive, are struggling to access healthcare and have received limited education and training. Thanks to our phenomenal members, The Circle have been able to continue to fund the shelter so that women can stay as long as they need rather than for the few weeks that the Nonceba Centre receive government funding for.
Image: Siyanda at the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre
More broadly our impact has been felt through a number of projects aiming to address Global Goal 5: Gender Equality including, but not limited to, expanding Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis’ service capacity for young survivors of gender-based violence, improving quality education for girls with Educate Girls in remote areas of India by providing 301 learning kits that will impact over 7,000 children, providing funding for the cost of 425 casework hours that enable ACT Alberta to carry out their Victim Support Services for survivors of trafficking which include trauma recovery, advocating for victims and improved access to the justice system, and training educators and entrepreneurs in Uganda to provide affordable sanitary products and educate girls and boys about menstrual health with Irise International.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without our wonderful members, supporters, allies, and volunteers who have been fundraising and using their expertise and platforms to empower marginalised women and girls.
Great River Race
Some members of The London Circle truly took ‘just do it’ to heart and at the Annual Gathering put a shout out for others to join together and form a team to enter the Great River Race in London last September. 17 women came together for this huge challenge to paddle a dragon boat 21 miles down the River Thames and to raise valuable funds for the women’s shelter at the Nonceba Centre. Although a few of them were experienced rowers, none of them had ever paddled in a dragon boat before and regardless of ability, they all trained hard and work together to achieve their goals. They had a wonderful race and raised over £20,000. Everyone at The Circle found it incredibly motivating and inspiration to watch the team throughout their training and fundraising. It costs just £125 to allow a woman and her child to stay at the Nonceba centre for one month, so the money they raised will be able to make a huge impact to the lives of women at the centre and we couldn’t be prouder!
Image: Friends and Members of The London Circle for The Great River Race
After the huge success of The Oxford Circle’s Jumble Fever in 2019, the team held an event even bigger and more ambitious this year. Having outgrown its original location, this year’s event was held in Oxford Town Hall and raised over £11,000 for the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre and the Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network. Special guests included commentator, activist and TV presenter Caryn Franklin MBE and performances from Oxford bands The Mother Folks and The Kirals, DJs, and MC for the day Her Who. The volunteer team were incredibly busy in the months before the event and on the day to ensure the day was a success and all the people who came could find a great bargain in mountains of donated items. There were numerous stalls selling everything from women’s clothes, children’s items, books and bric a brac and there were celebrity donations including those from Colin Firth and Annie Lennox.
We would like to thank each and every one of our supporters who held a Chai Day this year. Chai Day is a fundraising initiative beginning on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to bring people together over a cup of Chai and raise funds for survivors of violence. This year, we will use the funds raised to support the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre, ACT Alberta, Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis and the End Violence Against Women Coalition. Our amazing supporters held Chai Days in schools, universities, churches, community halls and offices and we really appreciate their support.
Image: Chai Day
This year The Healthcare Circle was launched at their first event welcoming speakers from various specialism and expertise from the healthcare sector. FGM/C specialist midwives Joy Clarke and Huda Mohamed, Obstetrician Dr Brenda Kelly ad Psychotherapist and Activist Leyla Hussein joined the for the panel discussion Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: How best we can support women and girls?
Other highlights included being joined by Lorna Tucker and Charon Asetoyer for our screening of Amá to shed light on the important story of abuses committed towards Native American in the 1960s and also at our launch of Chai Day 2019, at which we were also incredible privileged to have our friends from Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis in attendance.
The Music Circle also took on the ambitious challenge of organising a series of fundraising events in collaboration with record label Trash Like You. Tallulah, a new member of The Music Circle, brought together fellow members and fantastic womxn artists for some incredible performances to support The Circle’s project with Irise International.
Image: Members and guests at the launch of The Healthcare Circle
We want to say a huge thank you to all of you for your continual support over the last year to help us change the odds stacked the most disempowered women.
We’ve been included in Marie Claire’s list of empowering campaigns you need to hear about this International Women’s Day!
“Whilst cognisant of the fact we have come far by way of women’s rights, this campaign reminds us that there is still some way to go. Annie Lennox and The Circle NGO have created a short film to highlight some of the issues girls from around the world still face today. From rape to wealth disparity and all things in between, The Circle are targeting local policy systems to institute real, formative change …”
On November 25th, 2019 – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – the streets of Santiago, Chile, were filled by thousands of women joined in protest. The Chilean women sang an anthem entitled “Un violador en tu camino” (“A Rapist in Your Path”), a song dedicated to the widespread sexual violence and human rights violations suffered by women in the country. The message of the song has resonated not only with Chileans, but with women across the globe – by the end of December, the song and its associated dance moves had been performed by protest groups as far as Nairobi and Tokyo but what inspired the viral feminist anthem that has swept across six continents?
A deeper look at the lyrics of “A Rapist in Your Path” can illuminate the issues that women in Chilean society are facing today. These roots are deeply political, with the song’s creators – the feminist theatre group Lastesis, based in the coastal city of Valparaíso – aiming to draw attention to the role of institutional actors like the police, the courts and politicians in upholding the structure of violence in Chile. For example, the choice of title by the group is a reference to “A friend in your path”, the official slogan of the Chilean Carabineros police force during the 1980s-1990s. That the song alludes to police as perpetrators of violence is an accurate reflection of reality in Chile; the Carabineros have been the subject of numerous controversies and accusations of brutality in recent decades. The violent history of this police force has been reignited since the onset of the current period of widespread protest in Chile. Beginning in October in response to rising subway fares and severe income inequality in the country, the movement has since expanded to include gender issues among the various causes motivating protestors. Chile’s National Human Rights Institute (NHRI) reports that the state’s crackdown on ongoing peaceful protests has produced “the most serious and multiple human rights violations” committed in 30 years, since the country was ruled by military dictatorship. Since the protests began hundreds of cases of legal actions for torture and other forms of violence have been filed against the government and as of December at least 26 protest-related deaths have been recorded. Some of this brutality has taken the form of sexual and gender-based violence. From the beginning of the protests in October until late November, the NHRI filed criminal complaints relating to 166 cases of alleged sexual violence within the context of the protests. Furthermore, Human Rights Watch documents reports of forced stripping in police custody and the observation that “the police appear to be more likely to force women and girls to strip than men”, making the message of Lastesis’ chant even more unsettling: “Over your dreams smiling and sweet, watches your loving cop.”
The likeness the NHRI draws between recent levels of violence from government forces with those seen in Chile 30 years ago – during the right-wing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled the country from 1973-1990 – can help shed light on the sources of the Carabineros’ power and abusive tendencies. During Pinochet’s regime, an estimated 40,000 Chileans were the victims of political detention, torture and extra-judicial execution, human rights violations in which the Carabineros were directly involved. Women suffered in particular as victims of sexual abuse by Pinochet’s forces – sexual assault, rape and forced pregnancy were common acts of torture used in Pinochet’s numerous detention centres across Chile. The dictator was arrested for crimes against humanity in 1998, although he was never sentenced for his crimes.
Chile’s unfavourable relationship with women’s rights extends beyond the direct actions of government agents, to the conditions experienced by women in Chilean society more generally. Chile’s 28-year-old ban on abortion came to an end in 2017, however the circumstances under which it is permitted are still restricted, and doctors can still refuse to perform abortions on ‘moral grounds’. Latin America has been named as the most dangerous region in the world for women according to a 2017 UNDP report, home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world – a reality which has sparked protest movements across the region, most recently and notably Monday’s protest in Mexico which saw women nationwide go on strike in protest of the country’s rampant gender-based violence. 42 cases of sexual abuse are reported to the police in Chile alone each day, but only ¼ of these result in judicial rulings. This contributes to the shocking fact that over a third (35.7%) of women in Chile who have experienced either physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner during their lifetime. Positive news came earlier this week with the signing in of a landmark gender-based violence law, named the ‘Gabriela Law’, which expanded the definition of femicide and increased the range of sentence that can be handed down for the crime in Chile. This milestone was somewhat overshadowed, however, by Chilean President Sebastian Piñera’s controversial statement that “sometimes it’s not just that men want to commit abuse, but also that women put themselves in a position where they are abused.” Piñera’s regressive and victim-blaming comments, alongside the abysmal conviction rate of sexual violence cases by Chilean courts summarise a patriarchal culture in which “it’s the cops, the judges, the state, the president” who are complicit; “the oppressive state is a rapist”.
The summer months of January and February marked a pause in civil unrest in Chile, but 8th March saw over 1 million women take part in International Women’s Day marches across the country. Rallies and marches continued into 9th March as a combined force of feminist groups, students and others protested for wider change. In cities like Antofagasta, the protests were eventually shut down by the Carabineros with the use of tear gas to disperse crowds. Gender-based violence is clearly not a stand-alone cause in Chile, but rather a movement being fought alongside the broader social issues driving Chileans to protest and demand significant institutional reform. As we continue into March, a month often noted for experiencing high levels of unrest in the country as it marks the anniversary of the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship, the international community will watch on as the people of Chile fight for systemic change.
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.
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.
We are thrilled to announce that The Circle have become partners of the incredible Global GoalsCast.
“Our partners are the heart of the podcast. The stories that prove we are making the world a better place all come from our partners – from rock stars like Annie Lennox to female farmers in Zambia to girls learning to code in refugee camps. We can’t make the podcast without them. So delighted to be working with The Circle.”
– Edie Lush, Co-Presenter of Global GoalsCast
Global GoalsCast is a podcast that inspires and empowers listeners to make the world a better place by sharing the stories of individuals, companies, and organisations that are advancing and achieving a more sustainable world.
In 2015, 193 world leaders signed a global agenda with 17 goals to achieve a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable world by the year 2030. These goals cover a range of issues, such as poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, environment and social justice. The Circle’s projects on Global Goal 5: Gender Equality, but there is often a Global Feminist angle to many of the issues that the podcast covers.
The podcast will make the goals easier to understand, more relatable, and feel more attainable for every listener. Each episode offers listeners inspirational stories, high quality data, and numerous ways in which they can take action and personally contribute to the global efforts making the goals’ achievement possible.
Recent podcasts episodes have featured the stories of migrants, perspectives on preventable diseases, girls in tech, and even an interview with The Circle Founder Annie Lennox on why we should all be Global Feminists. The podcast’s episodes are often inspired by their partners so watch this space for episodes amplifying the stories of the women and girls in our projects.
Annie Lennox is the special guest on this episode of 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.” Click here to listen!
Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of press concerning the experience of victim-survivors reporting instances of sexual assault in the UK as organisations attempt to shine a light on the monumental and often fruitless task of taking to trial crimes of rape and sexual assault. There is little chance of the perpetrator being brought to justice, and time and time again women have described how traumatic navigating this system can be. Of course, there are many who have found closure through this process and have had positive experiences with the police and legal professionals. Last week Cosmopolitan published the article What really happens when you report a rape detailing the experiences of 15 people across the UK, including the testimony of one woman who stated that “I think reporting this crime and going through the justice system has really aided my recovery and I am so pleased that I did it” after her perpetrator received a nine year sentence. However, for many women this is not the case.
Repeatedly, victim-survivors have described instances of inadequate communication from officials, concerns for their personal safety and perceptions of the system being weighed in favour of the accused all as challenges in their own justice journeys. The majority of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported to the authorities as the legal process can be a lengthy and daunting one. However, systemic failures to reporting victims are at the heart of such low confidence in the current system as one that fairly and adequately represents the interests of women taking the brave step to report.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition, one of the projects funded by The Circle’s Chai Day initiative, is in the process of taking the Crown Prosecution Service to court over the ‘catastrophic’ drop in rape prosecutions (down by 44% since 2014) whilst the increase in the number of rapes reported to the police is up by 173%. The lobbying organisation ‘have heard from many women who have decided to report rape to the police; have endured what can be very gruelling questioning and possibly medical examinations; have had to sacrifice their phone, computer and personal records; endure an agonising wait; to then be told that the case has been dropped’ whilst the Guardian reported last year that a training session at the CPS encouraged prosecutors to take the ‘weak cases out of the system’ to improve its conviction rate.
A culture that discourages victims from speaking up to report their abuse is not one that supports its most vulnerable. Global Feminism is a movement designed to highlight the rampant inequalities across the globe that women and girls still face, drawing attention and encouraging action to the abuses suffered by women globally.
For the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, The Circle wanted to examine the process of reporting for victim-survivors around the world and the enforcement of women’s right to be free from harm through The Circle’s projects providing front-line services to victims of violence. Despite the increased our exposure and awareness of the issue of sexual violence in the aftermath of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, victims of rape and sexual assault are still being victimised and consistently let down by the criminal justice system.
We see victim-survivors being discouraged at every stage of the process, impeding their access to justice. It is clear that negative attitudes and prejudices are influencing the way that woman are treated in the judiciary system resulting in not only a woefully low number of convictions but also a prevalence of shame placed on the victim.
The Circle supports the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre in South Africa, located in Khayelitsha, a township just outside Cape Town. For years, unemployment and crime rates have been high, particularly around violence against women and children with little services and support for the victims. The centre has a shelter for women who have survived domestic violence or have been victims of human trafficking. Most women in the shelter are HIV positive, are struggling to access healthcare and have received limited education and training.
Violence against women is the most common form of human rights violation in India. Shame, stigma and a lack of support from the police and legal system prevent many women from reporting domestic violence and seeking help.
Whilst there is a level of shame ascribed to victims of sexual assault in India, for those who do come forward and choose to make an allegation to the police the process can result in further shaming and dismissive responses.
“The doctor said to my daughter ‘If they had forced themselves on you, there should have been marks on your body – but you don’t have any. You must have done this of your own free will.” – Palak’s mother, Palak (name changed to protect her identity), a Dalit woman, was 18 when she reported being kidnapped and raped in Madhya Pradesh, in June 2013.
Human Rights Watch also found that police were often reluctant to file allegations, particularly for victims from a socially and economically marginalised community. Citing that ‘police sometimes pressure the victim’s family to “settle” or “compromise”’. Often, Dalit or other “low-caste” families are encouraged to drop their case if the perpetrator is of a higher caste.
One of the projects funded by last year’s Chai Day was a number of survivor centres in rural communities of Chhattisgrah and Odisha to challenge the social acceptance of sexual and domestic violence against women. In Chhattisgarh, there has been State-Level Consultation on the State Gender Equality Policy, which had not been revisited for more than a decade. Projects and community building like this are essential to support victim-survivors who feel they are unable to approach or are refused help by the police.
Bina and her son were offered counselling and legal support.
ACT Alberta is an anti-trafficking organization in Canada working collaboratively law enforcement, government agencies and non-governmental organisations to identify and respond to human trafficking in Alberta. One of their primary operations is providing victim support services for victims of sexual trafficking, in which they delivery trauma recovery, improve access to the justice system and obstacles within that system for victims. It is important to note here that the service receives funding from the Canadian government for those victims who are willing to go through the judiciary system, however, as we have seen in previous countries, women often feel that this isn’t an option, particularly those from marginalized communities and those whose immigration status may be at risk. Victims who do not have permanent right to live in Canada are often wary of approaching the police for concern that they will be deported, believing that their current situation is preferable to returning to their country of birth.
In cases across the world, even those women and girls who come forward are being dismissed and let down.
Tina Fontaine’s great-aunt, Thelma Favel showing a photo of the girl. Photo credit: Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times.
Across the globe, attitudes towards victims of rape and a prevailing tolerance for rape and serious sexual assault is resulting in a lack of justice for victim-survivors. Women are reluctant to come forward and when they do, their experiences can be traumatic. Front-line services delivered by our Chai Day projects are so important because the judiciary system is failing women who make the brave decision to come forward and report rape and serious sexual assault.
It falls on projects like Rape Crisis, ACT Alberta and the Nonceba Centre to fill the gaps in services that the judiciary system is failing to provide, to support victim-survivors through their navigation of the criminal justice system and ensure that their rights are being observed. These organisations are woefully underfunded and often receive incredibly limited or no funding from the government.
“I guess, the, kind of, base point for all of that was [local] Rape Crisis believed me. They never questioned me. They never challenged it. They’ve never said, well I don’t know, when the police seem to think different. They’ve always believed me and they have gone from that perspective, and so I knew I could trust them. And that trust has, you know, built and remained … they worked at putting, sort of, coping mechanisms in place for when I couldn’t manage” – Rebecca
Chai Day is about gathering together with friends, family or colleagues to raise funds to support survivors of gender-based violence. November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the sixteen days that follow is your chance to host a Chai Day.
This article was written by Anna Renfrew. Anna is The Circle’s Projects and Communications Officer and has been heading up preparations for our Chai Day campaign. She has written a number of articles for The Circle, taking a particular interest in the global issue of violence against women.
The Circle is an organisation of women empowering women and through our Chai Day campaign, Shana wants to support survivors of gender-based violence. Shana and family are survivors of honour-based domestic violence and we asked her to share our moving story ahead of her Chai Day event …
“I am hosting a Chai Day event because I know first-hand how much it hurts when you feel trapped in the abuse. I know how lost you feel, how you begin to justify the perpetrators actions and how trapped you are because you have nowhere to go and your children only know their home; even though that home is hell.
Once you look for help, you must struggle through a system that isn’t fit for purpose, relying on complete strangers and constantly repeating yourself to different organisations, being sign posted from here to there. All you know is pain and trauma and the only thing that kept me going was faith. For me, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
I am hosting the event because my family and I were nearly killed by the perpetrator. I was so lost and confused due to the fear of cultural and societal pressures that I put myself and my family at danger. We would have been killed if I didn’t leave when we did and we were left with nothing.
I want to raise awareness because domestic violence and those who encounter it, end up normalising it and this attitude can be passed down for generations. I grew up witnessing domestic abuse and this was normal in my community, finally I entered a relationship that was also abusive. I never want my daughter be in a relationship like that and I want to teach my sons to understand that the only thing they need to control is themselves, not others. I would like all the other women suffering in silence to break the silence. I want our story to be the story of hope. It’s everyone’s duty because it effects all of society. It’s time to break the cycle.
I can’t do it alone and I want to empower others to take collective and collaborative action.”
Shana and her family have recently won an award at the Pride of St Helens Awards for their bravery and determination not to give up after fleeing domestic violence. They will continue to do what they can to support other survivors within their community. Shana is very clear that “we are not victims, but survivors and our story is something to be proud of, we believe our circumstances do not define us. We are now a campaigning family trying to bring positive changes.”
Shana’s Chai Day is happening on Monday 25th November from 12.30-2.30pm at Park Farm ACYP Community Centre, 54 Kentmere Avenue, Carr Mill, St Helens, WA11 7PG. Join her and her family to support survivors of violence across the globe.