South Africa’s Gender-Based Violence State of Emergency

Uyinene Mrwetyana

I’d like to share a bit about my week as The Circle’s Relationship Manager, as dual South African / British citizen and as an empowered woman lucky enough to be born into a reality seemingly more equal than others. I spend most of my professional time and energy connecting inspiring women to each other and finding ways that they can support some of the most vulnerable women and girls globally. The voices we amplify through The Circle tell stories of injustices that are so far removed from my own life experiences that I desperately want them to not be real. But they are.

The women whose stories we share are more than just statistics, they are women like you and me. I could be her; she could be you. As a member of The Circle, I have found many avenues to transform the shock of these stories and my own denial, grief and anger into activism. This is not enough, but is something, and when connected with the energy and action of the other members and seeing women empowered because we are choosing to do something instead of nothing, that feels like claiming back the power to bring about the change we so desperately need. Outside of work I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by kind, supportive people, who have set high expectations for how we should be as human beings. Professionally and personally people in my life give me space to express my passion for equality, to rant, to cry, to rage and this support is essential to my mental health and wellbeing.

The first week in September 2019 has been a dark one. Media in South Africa has and continues to report stories of victims who were brutally murdered, exposing the epidemic of gender-based violence across the land. Blood of South Africa’s women spilled by men who knew them intimately or not at all. This week the echoing silence of those in power was heard loudly over the lamentations of the people. We have watched as that silence was broken with language blaming the victims for the crimes committed against them. The public lashed back as women and men shared the governments official statement with corrections made in red font, like a learned response from a teacher to a pupil whose work missed the point of the exercise entirely, the only thing missing was a red letter F circled in the top corner.

To many, South Africa represents the most progressive country on the continent. Colonisation instilled the western ideologies and systematic structures as a foundation familiar to tourists from the West. So why shine a light on country with more financial stability that its neighbours? Let’s begin with August 2018. South Africa’s Women’s Day is held on the 8 August and is meant to be a month of celebration of the mothers and daughters of the country in remembrance of the women uprising against the Apartheid Pass Laws in 1956. Instead, thousands of my South Africa sisters halted the empty celebratory tokenisms to unite their voices in protest against the gender-based violence, which currently holds more than half the population hostage to fear and threat of violence, assault and femicide. The #TotalShutdown movement saw uprisings across the country with the clear message #MyBodyNotYourCrimeScene. Fast forward to 1 April 2019, South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa declared that gender-based violence in South Africa as a ‘national crisis’. A declaration was signed with a promise to eradicate the femicide that is taking the lives of South Africa’s women on a daily basis. 2016 data from the World Health Organisation reports that the femicide rate in South Africa was 12.1 per 100,000, almost 5 times higher than the global average of 2.6 per 100,000. In his address to the Nation, Ramaphosa stated that ‘’According to the SAPS Crime Statistics report of 2018, femicide increased by 11% over the last two years,” he told the assembled crowd. “Stats SA reports that 138 per 100,000 women were raped last year, the highest rate in the world.”

Our story continues on 3 September, the date on which the body of a young women, Uyinene Mrwetyana, was found dumped in Khayelitsha, South Africa. Uyinene, a daughter, sister a friend was violently assaulted and raped before being bludgeoned to death with scales at a post office in Cape Town. The horror of crime against a woman who was simply trying to collect a parcel from the Clareinch post office has sparked a national outcry from the people of South Africa . Uyinene’s body was found a mere 15-minute drive from The Circle’s partner project, Nonceba Family Counselling Centre, a refuge for women who are victims of sexual violence and assault. Personally, this fact has hit a nerve for me. I share stories about the women empowered by the life changing work this shelter on a daily basis and our members inspire me with their ideas on how to raise funds essential to continuing this work. Even more importantly, I have heard women tell me personally about how Nonceba has literally saved their lives. Their voices are my beacon of hope this week, knowing that they are reclaiming their lives back from the violence a mere 15 minutes down the road from where Uyinene’s body was found.

I have spilled many tears this week. I have had very difficult, but important conversations with the men in my life, I have listened to the rage of women, and I have grieved for the lives of women taken by men and gender-based violence, especially in South Africa. I took some time yesterday afternoon to cry for the lives lost and those left behind, irrevocably changed forever. I had a cup of tea, put my Relationship Manager hat on and joined a conference call. I listened as members in the USA shared their thoughts with me on how they want to do more to help victims of sex trafficking by supporting our partner project ACT Alberta. Another member reached out to tell me about a series of music events she has lined up to support our projects, one of which will be a Chai Day to raise funds to support victims of gender-based violence. My inbox is full of inspiring ideas and hope from people who are unequivocally demanding change. The women I work with have, without even knowing it, pulled me from my own personal despair this week and I am forever grateful for the connections I have as a member of The Circle.

These glimmers of hope reminded me that in moments of tragedy doing something positive is always better than doing nothing.

So I took action.

I made a donation to Nonceba in the hope that I can help safe another life.

I shared stories of victims with people, in person and online, to help raise awareness and break the taboos.

I signed this petition calling for South Africa’s  parliament to declare gender-based violence as a state of emergency. According to the Change.org petition, the number of women murdered by men in South Africa is approximately 3000 per year, while approximately 50,000 women will experience sexual assault or physical violence per year. By comparison, Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency in February 2019 when the more than 8500 cases of rape were reported in 2018.

I registered to host a Chai Day for The Circle to raise essential funds needed to empower victims of gender-based violence to reclaim their lives and to be part of the movement to raise awareness and end the violence.

I wrote this blog post to share the pain and stories of our global sisters.

Finally, I am asking you to join me in doing something small too, so that our small actions can collectively be part of something powerful and life changing for a woman or girl facing injustices that no human being should have to face.

The Nonceba Family Counselling Centre: Siyanda and her son

#WomenEmpoweringWomen#GlobalFeminism


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Rosie

 

“To me, global feminism means supporting and advocating for all women on a global scale”

This month, as part of Widen Your Circle, we have spoken to a number of our members about their involvement with The Circle and what it means to be a member!

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

In 2016 I started my Masters in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at the University of Sussex. I have always been a feminist, so during this degree I was drawn to research topics that explored the criminal law in relation to women’s rights and women’s experiences in the justice system. In particular I focused on the laws governing the use of sweatshops in the fashion industry, sex trafficking, rape laws in Saudi Arabia and the way the British law treats female victims of domestic and sexual violence.

During this time, I often visited The Circle’s website to keep up-to-date on their work on women’s rights. I have been a member for nearly a year now, and I have loved hearing updates about their projects and going to The Circle events. Two weeks ago I watched the Webinar about human trafficking by members of ACT Alberta which was really interesting. I’m really looking forward to meeting more members, and getting more involved in the Lawyer’s Circle.

Tell us about your work:

I work for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women as the Entrepreneurship Programmes Officer. The Foundation provides support to women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries, helping them to set up and grow their businesses, advocate for their rights and access finance. I love that our work helps these women to realise their potential, empowering themselves and their communities in the process. One of my favourite programmes that I work on is an app for women with small and medium sized business, which teaches them entrepreneurship skills in bite-sized chunks. The app is great, because it means that the women don’t have to take time out of their busy lives to go to classes and because it is free and accessible.

Why did you become a member of The Circle?

I became a member of The Circle because I wanted to support the amazing projects that they develop to support and empower women and girls all over the world. The Circle is a really special community where women from different walks of lives can come together to discuss women’s rights and their mutual passion for global feminism, and I wanted to be a part of that. I follow The Circle on social media, and I kept seeing their posts about their upcoming events and members’ meetings, and I decided to join to that I could become more involved in those as well.

What does Global Feminism mean to you?

To me, global feminism means supporting and advocating for all women on a global scale. It’s not about wearing your ‘feminist’ t-shirt from Primark, but about taking the time to wonder who made that t-shirt, whether she was paid enough for her labour and whether her workplace was safe.

It means that it doesn’t matter if they come from a different country, a different socioeconomic background, or a different religion. It doesn’t matter who they have sex with, or if they are sex workers, victims of sexual violence, or how they identify as a women.

It is important to listen to your sisters all around the world – we can never achieve true equality between the sexes until women globally are paid the same as men, are free from sexual and physical violence, and are allowed to spend their childhoods at school rather than becoming a wife.

I am proud to be a global feminist.

#WidenYourCircle #WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


Global Feminist Calendar July and August 2019

Photocredit: Manchester Histories

Our Volunteer Pauline Stumpf has put together your Summer guide to feminist events happening across the UK!

4 July – Code and Stuff (Manchester)

This fab group in Manchester want to make tech more diverse and welcome more women and non-binary people to Tech by bringing those who are learning how to code or are interested in learning how to code together and helping you grow your coding skill.

Come along and learn how to code (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) during our weekly coding session with the help of an experienced mentor and various online resources and platforms. If you’re working on any other languages or frameworks not mentioned here and need help, please send them an email and they will happily try and find you a mentor to help you.

7 July – Women’s World Cup final screening with Fawcett Society (London)

The Fawcett Society campaigns for equal pay, equal opportunities, and equal rights. They teamed up with Camden Town Brewery to show the Women’s World Cup final.

9 July – The Circle Connects (Online)

The Circle Connects is an online networking with the Relationship Manager and members of The Circle who are interested in being active through their membership. Whether you’re new to The Circle or can’t make some of our events due to your location, then you may consider joining us to meet fellow members and allies.

Join The Circle’s Relationship Manager online for an informal discussion as she gives updates from The Circle’s core team and our individual Circle committees that are tailored to the members attending. Peta hosts online conversations every few months to connect members virtually, to share inspiring stories of members taking action for The Circle and to answer any questions you may have.

11 July – Empowerers and Entrepreneurs: Networking with Badass Women (London)

Lone Design Club is hosting a networking event for female empowerers and entrepreneurs to unite, network and hear the amazing stories from some women who have achieved great things. Welcoming all entrepreneurs, founders, women in business, lovers of independent emerging labels, or those who are simply curious.

Owing to the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament and the sports theme of the store, they have selected a number of sports related speakers who will talk about their experiences in the sporting industry, what issues they faced, how they persevered and reached the height of their careers as well as women in fashion and business creators.

11 July – Feminist Swearing Night (Brighton)

This is an opportunity to sound off about the patriarchy, politics, inequality and injustice through stand-up comedy, rhyme, song, swearing, ranting or any other means of expression. The evening will be led by comedians and poets and all ticket sales will be contributed towards fundraising for The Survivors Network.

July 12 – Shado Issue 02: Global Womxnhood x The Vavengers (London)

The aim of this issue is not only to broaden definitions of what it means to identify as a woman, but also to raise the profile of the work of different global women’s movements which are working to highlight injustices and human rights violations which pertain specifically to womxn and girls. Shado are so excited to share this issue with you, which features stories and features from womxn from 36 countries around the world.

Shado will be teaming up with anti-FGM organisation The Vavengers to bring you a night of music, art, spoken word, food, drink…and, most importantly, celebration and inclusion.

13 July – Feminist Art Collage Workshop by Seana Wilson (London)

This collage workshop uses feminist art, activism and current issues to inspire a new way of seeing the images that we are exposed to daily through media. Past participants described feeling relaxed and meditative during the workshop, enjoyed the exchange of ideas with a group of like-minded people and went away with a new conscious view on how women are portrayed in everyday media. This workshop is part of ‘Embrace Your Space’, a four-day festival of body positivity at CAVE, Pimlico.

15 July Black Country Women’s Aid & The WDVF Stalking and Coercive Control training (Wolverhampton)

The Coercive Control and Stalking training course aims to raise awareness around the impact of these crimes on the people who experience them.The course will explore the links between coercive control and stalking, and the differences between stalking and harassment. During the session we will explore case studies and the use of specialist risk assessments in providing effective support to victims of stalking. The course will also provide information on local specialist support services in the Wolverhampton area and how to access them.

The organisers recommend that you also attend, or have previously attended the Wolverhampton Domestic Violence Forum’s Coercive Control & Domestic Violence session.

16 July – Human Trafficking Webinar (Online)

You are invited to attend the latest event in our webinar series, Human Trafficking, with members of The Calgary Circle and ACT Alberta’s Manager of Training and Education.

Human trafficking occurs throughout Canada and within Alberta. ACT Alberta – the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking Alberta – has arisen in response to this violation of basic human rights. ACT Alberta works collaboratively with law enforcement, government agencies, and non-governmental organisations to identify and respond to human trafficking in our province.

This will be a great opportunity to find out more about our project with ACT and how The Calgary Circle have been supporting this organisation.

17 July – Know Your Worth: Getting Paid and Negotiating (London)

A kick-ass panel of women discussing “Know your worth: getting paid and negotiating”, followed by a Q&A and then drinks at Huckletree in Shoreditch. This discussion will be a positive discussion about women and money and tips on how to understand your value and how to ask for what you think is fair and get what you want.

23 July – Remembering Resistance (Manchester)

Remembering Resistance is bringing to life the history of women’s protest in the North of England.  The project is celebrating and cataloguing women’s efforts to bring about political change over the last 100 years by creating an archive of women’s activism to inspire future generations.

To ensure the voices of women who have been involved in protest are preserved, we are gathering accounts of protest actors, past and present. If you’ve been involved in campaigning and want to share your experiences, we would love to see you at our pop up event. Here you will be able to record your stories, map the routes your protest took and help develop a timeline of women’s protest movements. The aim of the project is to inspire the next generation by celebrating women’s role in activism. We can’t do this without your stories, so do please get involved!

25 July – Blooming Apples Art Exhibition (London)

Blooming Apples is a group of women standing for other women to rise together and bloom together as powerful and self-expressed individuals who once upon a time were victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Their very first event is an art exhibition featuring artists and creatives such as painters, illustrators, photographers, performing art and screening. “The Blooming Apples” exhibition is inspired by Rupi Kaur’s Poems from her books ‘Milk and Honey’ and ‘Sun and the Flowers’. The event/exhibition aims to be very sensory, interactive and impactful while inspires the viewer to rise and bloom again and again.

31 July – The Feminist Book Society: How to Change the World (London)

Join co-founders Katy Loftus and Eleanor Dryden as they speak to three phenomenal women who through their work and writing prove that it’s possible to change the world, and give us the tools to do it.

The speakers include: Zahra Hankir, a Lebanese-British journalist who writes about the intersection of politics, culture, and society in the Middle East, Gina Martin, an activist and writer. Gina led the successful national campaign to make upskirting illegal, which saw the Voyeurism Act being passed in early 2019 and coming into effect in April and Bethany Rutter, a writer, editor, fashion blogger, and a fierce UK voice in the debate around body positivity.

Multiple dates in July/August – The Feminist Jack the Ripper Walking Tour (London)

You may have heard the story of Jack the Ripper, but how much do you know about his victims? This tour investigates the grim and unfair situations women had to face in the 19th Century. This is a chance to hear about the real women behind the glorified vision of ‘Jack’, visiting the streets they would’ve known and seeing the physical reminders in an area that has changed almost beyond recognition. The walk will concentrate on women’s lives rather than their murders and aims to inspire you with the stories of brave and brilliant East End women, past and present.

12 June – 8 September 2019 – Kiss my Genders at Southbank Centre (London)

Kiss My Genders is a group exhibition celebrating more than 30 international artists whose work explores and engages with gender identity. It brings together over 100 artworks by artists from around the world who employ a wide range of approaches to articulate and engage with gender fluidity, as well as with non-binary, trans and intersex identities.

Working across photography, painting, sculpture, installation and video, many of the artists in Kiss My Genders move beyond a conventional understanding of the body, and in doing so open up new possibilities for gender, beauty and representations of the human form.

9 August – The Media Circle Networking (London)

The Media Circle is one of the newest circles being formed within The Circle. We are still organising ourselves and defining our goals and commitments. Those of us involved in the executive committee would like to invite you to an informal event of networking and discussion on the evening of August 7, 2019 in Central London. Our group is made up of media practitioners in London and we have enjoyed working with one another to define what The Media Circle can accomplish. It is an exciting moment for us as we move ahead on our ideas for supporting women’s empowerment. Perhaps the Media Circle is a good fit for you, too? We hope so!

24 August – The Guilty Feminist X Secret Policeman’s Tour (Edinburgh)

Join comedian Deborah Frances-White for her comedy podcast, recorded in front of a live audience. Each episode, Deborah and her special guests discuss their noble goals as 21st century feminists and the paradoxes and insecurities which undermine them. The podcast has become a comedy phenomenon with over 60 million downloads since it launched in 2016. Guilty Feminist live presented by Deborah Frances-White and Amnesty International

12-24 August – Shrew (Edinburgh)

Mrs Pankhurst’s Players present Shrew, their original take on one of Shakespeare’s most controversial plays. The Taming of the Shrew was described by George Bernard Shaw as “…altogether disgusting to modern sentiments”. This radical adaptation releases Shakespeare’s text from its comedic origins, reworking the original play to tell Kate’s story – a journey from strength and independence to a forced arranged marriage, foregrounding female experience in a man’s world.

 

Pauline is from France and is currently a second year Political Economy student at King’s College London with a deep interest in Women’s Rights and Feminist Issues.

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


Menstruation Matters

 

Menstruation matters, especially to the millions of girls being held back by their periods. Some studies show that in some parts of Uganda, 74% of girls believe that period pain is a sign of illness, 50% of girls avoid school because of their period and 43% believe that it is harmful to run or dance during their period.

The Music Circle is raising funds to support Irise International. With a donation from The Music Circle, Irise will be able to educate 2,000 girls about their menstrual and reproductive health and to make a wide range of sanitary products available in their communities, so that every girl has a choice. Help us reach our goal and donate by clicking here.


 
 

Here is what you can do to help…

Raise awareness

On 28 May, Menstrual Hygiene Day, make some noise on social media. Read up on why menstruation matters, be informed, tweet and post.

You can use some of the following Menstrual Hygiene Day signs. Personalise them, print them out, take a selfie with your sign and post it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us and use the hashtags #MenstruationMatters and #NoMoreLimits.


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

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

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

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

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

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


Young Global Feminists at #March4Women

Photo credit: Judit Prieto.

On Sunday the 4th March, by the houses of Parliament, the air was cold, but the atmosphere was warm, filled with minds and hearts of people from all over — all protesting against the same thing. We were fighting against the abuse and discrimination and political imbalance against women. Above waves of people, flew colourful, hand-drawn and humorous posters in all shapes and sizes. A multitude of different people — men, women, teens, children, introverts — came out to raise awareness about the issue that affects many, daily. It was rainy, but we persisted with our heads high and hearts in our voices and hands. The march ended after drumming and chanting in Trafalgar Square: the place where the whole movement really started. Speeches were said and songs were sung and, most importantly, we gained attention. We gained attention politically and through the media to show everyone how we still need change. Yet again, it was a small step, but that small step felt good. It felt inspiring.

Written by Amelia and Emily, 14 years old. Amelia and Emily attended the #March4Women 2018 with their mum and other members of The Circle. They are the next generation of The Circle members and global feminists.

To find out more about our membership and how to sign up to become a member, click here.


Annie Lennox: an Evening of Music and Conversation

 

 

Annie Lennox: An evening of music and conversation, Sadler’s Wells, London, review: Her voice was the epitome of pure soul

Pop star turned soul diva turned international campaigner. In recent times we have seen Annie Lennox mostly in that last role, and so think of her as a highly serious, passionate and intense person.

The revelation of this evening was to discover that she is genuinely funny, warm, engaging and effortlessly charismatic.

The occasion was a fund-raiser for Lennox’s charity, The Circle, which aims to empower disempowered women across the globe. Interviewed by the broadcaster Jo Whiley, she went through her life and career, aided by screen projections of her right from a baby, through school, with parents and grandparents, outside the Aberdeen tenement building, with no bathroom, where she grew up, through to the years of fame and success…

Go to full article

 

Annie’s put a spell on me again… Blending women’s rights with pop nostalgia Annie Lennox gives a rare performance at London’s Sadler’s Wells

A gig by Annie Lennox now comes along less often than a change of government.

Her last full concert in Britain took place in the age of Gordon Brown. Back in the John Major era, in 1995, I wrote a profile of her and tagged along for an entire world tour, which amounted to two shows in New York and one in a Polish forest.

So this is an event: ‘an evening of music and conversation’ in aid of The Circle, the NGO Lennox founded to boost women’s rights around the world…

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The Circle Founder Annie Lennox on Notes on Being a Woman, i-D

at college, pop icon annie lennox was told to become a teacher

The former Eurythmics star, who has sold more than 80 million records worldwide, tells i-D about dropping out of college, the wisdom of ageing, and her women-focused charity The Circle in her Notes on Being a Woman.

It’s not easy to get an interview with Annie Lennox. A globally recognised pop legend, famous for massive hits like 1983’s Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) with former band the Eurythmics — as well as her iconic, androgynous bright red buzzcut — Annie doesn’t often perform these days, and turns down most interview requests. Having moved away from making music, she is now an activist and campaigner for the rights of women and girls around the world, through her NGO The Circle

i-D caught up with Annie and she told us about leaving Aberdeen at 17 to apply for music college in London in 1971, and the bad career advice she was given before dropping out in her third year. From learning to drive in her 30s, to the heart-bursting love of motherhood, the wrinkle-loving wisdom of age, and the struggle of women around the world who cannot access education and healthcare, these are Annie’s Notes on Being a Woman…

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Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Efe

“Her story has encouraged people like me to know that you’re not alone in this situation, and that’s what The Circle is all about”

Efe is a Biomedical Scientist and a member of The Circle. In her Widen Your Circle vlog, Efe explains why she is a member and tells us about one fellow member that has inspired her to continue working towards gender equality.

#WidenYourCircle

The Circle members are women from all walks of life who come together to support some of the most marginalised women and girls across the globe.

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


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Lianne

“They say that there is power in numbers and I think this is particularly true for us as women”

The second vlog in the Widen Your Circle campaign is by Lianne, a member of The Circle that is based in Taiwan.

Lianne is Co-Founder of the ethical fashion company Enchanted Rebels and a member of The Circle since 2017. Despite living on another continent, she is a very engaged member, and is supporting our Living Wage project remotely.

In the Widen Your Circle campaign, our members are taking over our blog, to tell us why they want to be part of The Circle and what they are doing to support women around the world.

Become a member to support women and girls around the world and Widen Your Circle.