Image: Programme from An Evening of Music and Conversation
We are giving you the opportunity to purchase limited edition programmes from Annie Lennox: An Evening of Music and Conversation at the SEC Armadillo. For those of you who want something to remember the evening by, or for those who couldn’t make it, this is a fantastic item to remember her unique show. Only 1,500 programmes were printed and these are the last of the stock.
All proceeds of the evening and of these programmes will go to The Circle. For £12 per programme (£10 face value of programme plus £2 P&P) you will be supporting our work and empowering women and girls across the globe. Programmes will be delivered with 2nd class post and dispatched within one week of purchase. Maximum of two per purchaser.
“Western feminists must wake up and realise that feminism is a global concept. We must change attitudes and behaviours when it comes to sexual abuse, domestic abuse, sexual violence and rape”
We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who joined us on 26 September for Annie Lennox: An Evening of Music and Conversation. We hope you had just as wonderful a time as we did!
You can read more about Annie’s event and how the concert is supporting some of the most disempowered women and girls around the world through the work of The Circle below:
“I am a resourced, wealthy, self-made woman. All I really want to do is enjoy my life and make the best of it. But I also want to make a contribution. I have really felt this passion. I never wanted to preach to people. It is a turn-off.”
Earlier this year, Sharon McClenaghan joined The Circle as the project manager for our Living Wage work. For September, we are focusing on the progress we’ve made with this project and wanted to give our readers this chance to hear from Sharon herself. We sat down and asked her a few questions.
Welcome! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi Anna, thank you for the welcome. I joined the Circle in April 2019 as the part-time project manager of the Living Wage project. I have a background in labour rights having worked at Christian Aid for over 10 years as private Sector advisor and in that capacity as a director on the board of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) for 2.5 years. During that time I helped lead the work on improving conditions for workers in supply chains in South Africa in the fruit sector, working with high street supermarkets such as Sainsburys Waitrose and Co-op. Before that I worked on a DFID project focused on developing supermarket codes of conduct sensitive to the conditions of women workers and before that again I worked on a PhD looking at the conditions of women workers in ‘maquiladoras’ (or sweatshops) in the Dominican Republic. I also work in a team of consultants evaluating UN projects.
What have you been working on since starting at The Circle?
Since April, we have been busy working on the next stage of the Living Wage
project and building on the very strong report which The Circle produced in 2017 with the aim of producing a second report later in the year. The first report clearly establishes the living wage as a fundamental right, making the argument that production can move to other countries where wages are cheaper. In order to counter this, the second report will provide the basis of a new legal directive that will oblige garments/fashion companies to pay a living wage throughout the supply chain in all jurisdictions. New research was commissioned by the Lawyer`s Circle Steering group in April and May and this was developed into a proposal (which will form the basis of the report). In June we held a Roundtable with invited guests, the majority of whom were lawyers from academia and companies, at Matrix Chambers to discuss this and to help us think through the next stages of a legal framework on living wages and and what support we need to develop to enable this to happen.
What can we expect from the Living Wage project over the coming months?
We have a lot planned for the next few months. We are currently writing the second living wage report, due to be completed in September. In October I will attend the PLWF conference (a Dutch based initiative representing the investor sector in Holland) which encourages and monitors investee companies to address the non-payment of living wage in their global supply chains. We have worked with PLWF before to support their work and plan to strengthen this partnership. In November Jessica Simor and Livia Firth, members of the Steering group of the Living wage project will speak at the Trust conference London 2019, a global human rights forum in which they will `soft launch` the report. Towards the end of the year we are planning a Living Wage Symposium which will bring together all those working on the Living wage as well as those working on the wider issue of mandatory human rights due diligence as it relates to companies. The focus of the symposium will be to discuss the legal framework for a living wage as proposed in the report and the different work and initiatives related to this. The symposium will be ‘solutions orientated’ in focus.
What have you found most surprising about the conditions of women working
in the factory industry?
Probably most surprising and depressing s the fact that conditions remain so poor for so many women working in supply chains after so long. Initially, 20 years ago, there was a lot of hope that company codes of conduct would improve conditions but time has shown that this is just not the case. If anything the lack of a legal imperative to change has meant that for many companies, corporate social responsibility, CSR, is a rue and its `business as usual` despite promoting commitments to change.
Are you hopeful about the future of the industry?
I am cautiously hopeful (as is my nature!) about the future of the industry. I see the growing phenomena of `fast fashion` and its dependence upon cheap labour as alarming especially examples where clothes are produced here in the UK for a few pounds. However, at the same time I see a growing trend in the UK and other European countries to call companies to account for their human rights and to push for a legal solution to ensure that they take responsibility for workers`s rights. In that context I think the Circle`s legal work on the living wage is critical- while there are those working on mandatory `human rights due diligence` as it relates to companies and their supply chains, only the Circle is working on that as it relates to Living wage.
What can we do, as consumers, to support women across the globe working in the garment industry?
As consumers the most important thing is be thoughtful and questioning as to the conditions in which clothes are made. Ask questions of brands as to the conditions under which garments are produced. What is their policy on labour standards and in particular on the Living Wage? Do they have full disclosure of their supply chains and are they transparent about this? How do they investigate allegations of abuse? Ask these questions of all brands. I think its very hard to know currently which brands are `good` and which are `bad` especially since there is still no way to ensure that clothing has been produced in an ethical way with living wages paid to workers. By asking questions and demanding answers of brands we can help push them further along that road and when there is a campaign for binding legislation.
Finally, what does ‘Women Empowering Women’ mean to you?
I love the idea of women empowering women and it was that which first attracted me to The Circle. I have always been very proud to call myself a feminist and one with a lovely husband and two lovely boys so there isn’t anything remotely anti-male about the idea to me, despite it being threatening to some men. However, yes, the focus is on women making changes happen for themselves and for other women in a non hierarchical way and in a way where there is no competition or threat just the desire to improve the conditions of all women, which benefits everyone, men and women.
To support our Living Wage work click here. Sharon McClenaghan will be hosting The Circle Connects: Living Wage on 24 September for our members to find out more about the project – register here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
“Women are powerful. Women are beautiful and strong. Women are wild, raw and resourceful. We must join together, and we must use our strength and resources to overcome.”
Meet Alice Sinclair and Sophie Gradden, the women empowering other women through an evening of art and conversation on 19th June. Alice, a member of The Circle, and Sophie, a UK-based artist are putting on an incredible event to raise funds for the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre. During the art class, which begins at 6.30pm, you will be able to select a favourite female icon to paint with the aim “go wild on canvas”! As well as having creative fun, you will be connecting with like-minded women and learning more about The Circle’s projects.
This a perfect example of how when women come together and organise, they can be a powerful force for change. We sat down and spoke to them about The Circle, fundraising and feminism …
Alice Sinclair works in the healthcare sector and is a member of The Circle.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I have been based in London for 12 years. I work in the healthcare sector as an NLP therapist and a trainee Psychotherapist. I am also the editor of a local magazine. I have witnessed and experienced gender inequality in many forms throughout my life. I still see it everyday, and with my work as a therapist I see the impacts. Ending violence against women is my passion. It is it very close to my heart (near the cat section). I long for a world one day where the inhabitants are like WTF is inequality? Did that actually exist?
Why did you decide to organise this fundraising event?
This event is the beginning of many. Nothing feels more close to my heart than actively supporting and holding a platform for women to come together and work towards making a difference in the murky environment of gender based inequality. Sophie Gradden is a hoot to hang around with, it will be a memorable evening.
Why do you think the work of Nonceba Family Counselling centre is so important?
As a trainee therapist most of my NHS work has been with women who have experienced violence or abuse in its many guises. It tears you down. It whittles away confidence. The trauma can have a horrifying impact on how you live your life. Abuse can lead to very serious situations such as PTSD, agoraphobia, eating disorders, addictions, self harm and suicide. These can be passed down through generations. Wonderful charities like Nonceba are a vital refuge. They provide hope, and a way forward. For a year they will protect and physically and mentally support victims of domestic abuse. Nonceba gives women a way out. It breaks that generational passing. It de-normalises.
What does Women Empowering Women mean to you?
When I was ten years old, a teacher discovered I could bowl a cricket ball better than the boys in my class. I was invited to play on the boys team as there was no team for girls. As I ran up to bowl the first ball of my first match, both teams jeered. “she’s wearing a skirt” or “get lost you’re a girl”. I crumbled. That was to be my first and last match with that team.
This was my first experience of gender based inequality. My first experience of gender based violence was when I was eight, I am less inclined to discuss this freely. The point I am getting at is, women are powerful. Women are beautiful and strong. Women are wild, raw and resourceful. We must join together, and we must use our strength and resources to overcome every single face and aspect of discrimination, sexism, misogyny and abuse. Women need women.
Sophie Gradden is an artist living and working in the UK and we’re incredibly excited to have her working with The Circle for this event!
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am a contemporary artist, temporarily living & working in Buckinghamshire. I’ve not always been an artist mind, but always dabbled in the creative industries of furniture & interior design.
In November 2016 I reignited my love for painting and set up a makeshift studio in my home and began creating, whilst working full time. Since then, the art continues. In April 2018 I had a total mental meltdown, suffering with depression and anxiety, I made the decision to take a break, a life sabbatical as I like to label it, and dedicate myself to my art full time, no more 9-5, just painting, painting, painting. Best thing I’ve ever f**king done.
Why did you decide to organise this fundraising event?
Why would we not? Any group of people gathering together to try and do better in this world, no matter how big or small the overall impact it may have…it’s something right! The more we do it, the more we talk about it, the more people will start to realize that these sometimes minute or minor situations to the absolute horrendous (even unimaginable) us wonderful women find ourselves put into is NOT ok!! Things have got to change. This I hope is a small yet mighty step towards that.
Why do you think the work of Nonceba Family Counselling centre is so important?
We must remember even though we are still fighting for gender equality and ending violence against women here in the UK, some countries sadly are still 10 steps behind us, which is frightening. The woman I am and the women I surround myself with, friends, family, colleagues, have all come up against gender equality issues, thankfully never violence, however I speak for a mere spec of the population, in fact the world. Even bigger problem!! What about the women who don’t have a choice and the support, someone to be there for them when the world has unfairly shunned them and continues to kick them, sometimes quite literally, when they are down, Nonceba is that answer. Nonceba is a positive way forward, one of many great projects that the circle supports.
What does Women Empowering Women mean to you?
Simple…My mum, my sister, my nan (sadly no longer with us) my sister in law, my best friend, my friends, my past colleagues…the amazing woman who I didn’t know, who reached out and held my hand on the train, when I was in a state of emotional anxiety, we didn’t even speak, we only exchanged a smile as she handed me a tissue. You saved me in that moment. Thank you.
Working as the Communications and Projects Officer at The Circle has been an incredibly valuable opportunity. I have learned, attended the widest range of events, met fascinating people from all backgrounds and made a difference in the lives of women and girls around the world. I have seen projects I have contributed towards thrive and make an impact in the world. I am now sadly leaving to further my education, but will still be a part of The Circle as a member. I am confident that I will continue to see The Circle grow, support more women and exceed expectations. Good luck to The Circle Team!
Clare Crosland Monclús, Communications and Projects Officer
The Circle NGO is a charity originating from the notion of women supporting, connecting and inspiring each other to become advocates and change agents, through our passion, skills and ideas. The charity was founded by Annie Lennox in 2008 and has grown stronger each year.
An excellent opportunity has arisen for a new Communications and Projects Officer, as the current Communications and Projects Officer is leaving after a highly successful tenure to further her academic education. The role is vital for the ongoing success of the charity and is ideal for candidates who are self-starters with an interested in a career in the charity sector. You will be working with a small but well established team of people who are passionate about women’s rights and equality.
The ideal candidate is self-motivated, with an eagerness to learn and grow. You will be able to self-manage while responding to the daily needs of the charity. The responsibilities of the role are varied and dependent upon upcoming events and key dates, a strong ability to plan ahead and prioritise is essential. The role offers the right candidate a space to build upon her/his skill sets and to put these to practice.
Reporting directly to the Executive Director, the role allows you to work remotely from home, however, you will have continuous support and attend weekly meetings with the team. You will also be required to be flexible and attend events to offer support where necessary.
The responsibilities associated with the Communications and Projects Officer span across a diverse range of projects and across all aspects of communication for the charity.
Responsible for scheduling and delivering communications agreed with the Executive Director and individual circle committees across all channels of The Circle NGO including, but not limited to:
• Communications planning : Devise and maintain a rolling annual plan of communications themes and content and maintain an annual calendar that shows:
– Monthly topics of focus decided by The Circle NGO
– Annual Events (The Circle and other events focused on Women)
– Key dates relevant in Women’s rights
– Key dates related to Projects supported by The Circle NGO and Individual Circles
• Social media management:
– Creating, implementing and updating social media strategies and campaigns to support and communicate the continuous work of The Circle across all social media channels.
• Management of The Circle NGO’s website and blog. This includes:
– Liaising with key stakeholders;
– Curating content and being instrumental in developing this further;
– Ensuring content is up to date at all times;
– Leading and managing a team of volunteers in researching and writing content based on monthly topics and sharing these on social media channels where necessary.
• Management of the newsletters, which includes
– planning and writing content;
– liaising with individual Circle committees about upcoming events, to make sure that all the necessary info is included;
– monthly distribution.
• Supporting the Executive Director in overseeing compliance to brand on all information released to The Circle members and the public via social media feeds, blog posts, newsletters, general updates.
• Monitoring and tracking all results from communications, including the website and reporting this information back to the team.
• Work with external partners and organisations who support the communication of The Circle NGO and further the charity’s capacity.
• Management of the Projects portfolio, including but not limited to:
– Working in conjunction with the Executive Director in developing and maintaining relationships with delivering partners and key stakeholders;
– Reading reports to track results and report your findings to the Executive Director on an ongoing basis;
– research and assess new potential partners and projects.
• Working in conjunction with the Executive Director to identify funding options from trusts and foundations and write funding applications.
• Manage the project portfolio process by working with project partners to define the deliverables (including budget, risks and reach), supply these to the Executive Director for approval at board level and then manage the report that tracks the results of meeting these deliverables. You will also be responsible for maintaining all relevant documentation forming part of these processes.
Other general responsibilities include:
• Manage the volunteering recruitment for The Circle.
• Manage the ‘Why Women’ report to ensure facts and statistics about women are up to date and maintained.
• General administration assistance when required.
• Support at events.
• Taking on ad hoc projects when appropriate.
Ideal candidates for the Communications and Projects Officer role will have the following essential skills:
o A good command of the English language, both spoken and written
o An understanding of and a frequent user of social media and blogging through personal usage
o An aptitude to learn and self-develop
o Proven experience of an ability to self-manage
o Good reporting skills
o Experience managing people
Desirable skills for the role include:
Experience working or volunteering for a charity
Experience working or volunteering with a charity, organisation or group interested in women’s rights
Basic knowledge of SEO and WordPress
Personally identify as a feminist with a genuine interest in gender equality and women’s rights
o Microsoft suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) – Intermediate
o Office 365 email with SharePoint or other email and share document solutions– Basic
o GoToMeeting or other conference calling software – Basic
o Twitter / Instagram / Facebook Business Manager and other social media forums– a good understanding through use of personal accounts and a basic to intermediate for business usage
o WordPress or other blog hosting sites – Basic to intermediate
o Photo editing software – Basic
The current role is on a full time freelance based position paying £10.20 per hour, in line with the London living wage, per hour based on a 36-hour week, and offered on a 12 month contract. Benefits include flexible working hours and all reasonable and agreed expenses. As this is a work from home opportunity candidates must have facilities to accommodate this. Ideally the person will be based in London or the surrounding counties, as much of the work of The Circle is based in London. Please note the employment status of this role is currently under review and may be changed to an employee status. This will be known before the offering of the role to the selected candidate.
The Circle NGO promotes diversity and equal opportunities and we welcome applications from all relevant candidates.
To apply for this position please email your CV with a covering letter showing how you demonstrate the necessary skills and experience and can fulfil the responsibilities of the post, with the reference CPO2018 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that you must be eligible to work in the UK as we unfortunately cannot accept applications from anyone who is not legally able to work in the UK.
Applications close at 5 pm on Friday 24th August. Interviews will be held the following week (in person or by Skype). If you have any questions regarding this role, please email email@example.com.
Photo: Bharat Singh and Martha Reilly, co-directors of Sanitree
This May we are celebrating Menstruation Matters and focussing on how we can make women and girls feel confident about menstruation. Sanitree, a social enterprise founded and run by a team of nine students of Edinburgh University, is an organization already doing incredible work with these aims in mind. Sanitree produce sustainable, reusable sanitary products for women living in India. This year, The Music Circle is planning to support Irise International, a similar project in Uganda, as well as donate sanitary products to foodbanks in the UK and raise awareness about Menstruation Matters. I caught up with Bharat Singh and Martha Reilly, the co-directors of Sanitree, to discuss the role that projects such as these play in the wider issue of period poverty and our attitudes towards our bodies.
A social enterprise is a business model that reinvests its profit margin back into the project and directly benefits local communities. Sanitree, a project that is working under the umbrella of Enactus, is still in its nascent stages as it was established in September of last year but already provides employment for twenty-seven women in the Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, India. Shocked by the stigma surrounding menstruation in his home town Bhind, Bharat spoke about some of the devastating effects of period poverty in this community. He claims that “young girls in India can miss out on as much as 25% of their education, or even drop out” as a result of the difficulties association with menstruation. The pair tell me that affordability is a key factor in this. Some women simply cannot afford sanitary products and use unclean and unsafe substitutes such as sawdust. Furthermore, even with a conventional plastic sanitary pad, women face difficulties in disposing of them as they are not allowed in the household waste.
“Sanitree’s conception is just as much about challenging the stigma as finding a solution”
The Sanitree team, upon visiting Bhind, found that there was a wider cultural issue of a lack of awareness and encountered popular beliefs such as the myth that if you are to touch a boy whilst you are on your period that this can result in pregnancy. However, this stigma isn’t just the case in India. In the UK, there is also a huge stigma surrounding menstruation that can be difficult for young women. This stigma, I would argue, contributes towards the exclusion and dismissal of menstruation related issues in politics. Period poverty is a huge issue in the UK. It is estimated that the average woman spends £18,000 throughout her lifetime simply on having a period and in Scotland 1 in 5 women admit that they struggle to buy sanitary products —statistics that are woefully underrepresented in the media. The ongoing campaign to end the “Tampon Tax” and the classification of sanitary products as luxury items is indicative of the dismissal and lack of understanding shown by political bodies of the economic challenges currently posed by menstruation. In both India and UK there is a lack of knowledge about the issue and projects such as both Sanitree and Irise raise awareness simply by existing. Both Bharat and Martha are resolute on the fact that Sanitree’s conception is just as much about challenging the stigma as it is finding a solution.
An ecofeminist organization
In addition to the tangible benefits in terms of cost, the reusable sanitary pads do not incur the same environmental issues of similar plastic products. Bharat tells me that one sanitary pad can have the same amount of plastic as up to three plastic bags. As environmental sustainability is at the heart of Sanitree’s philosophy, the project considers itself an ecofeminist organization. The term ecofeminism originated in the 1970s and is grounded in the contention that the connection between the oppression of women and the rest of nature must be recognized to understand adequately both oppressions. Sanitree defines itself as ecofeminist as its aims are rooted in the shared concepts of environmentalism and feminism.
Both Bharat and Martha talk about the sense of agency that derives from taking control of your plastic consumption, likening it to “remembering your bag for life” and even quoting Simone De Beauvoir and her theory of transcendence versus immanence. Transcendence being the act of making decisions outside your personal sphere and immanence, traditionally associated with the feminine, as not engaging with projects outside of that sphere. Sanitree identify the decision to cut down one’s use of plastic as a transcendent act and, in what has been coined the “Blue Planet Effect”, argue that there has been a significant shift in our cultural consciousness regarding plastic and that this developing environmental consciousness can be viewed from a feminist perspective as a reclaiming of agency.
It is this sense of agency that I feel lies at the heart of why initiatives such as Sanitree and Irise are so powerful. Not only does Sanitree provide employment opportunities for women within their own community and have the end goal for the business to be completely taken over by these women, but they also engage people of all backgrounds and builds a community in speaking up against period stigma. The experience of menstruation is a transnational one and cannot be solved if there is no discussion surrounding it. Both Martha and Bharat wanted to establish from the start that not all women have periods and not all people who have periods are women and so Sanitree, and the ongoing debate surrounding menstruation, is a step towards coming to terms with our bodies in a way that is positive without being gendered.
One of The Circle’s key drives is “Women Empowering Women” and in the case of Sanitree it is clear that a sense of solidarity is becoming more and more visible as campaigns such as this grow. Both Martha and Bharat express the immense amount of support they have had from both the community in Bhind to the Scottish government’s commitment to this issue. They both believe that Scotland is a leader on progressive legislation and with the help of a number of MSPs, the group are campaigning for the provision of free sanitary products for those children who are offered free school meals, in addition to running pad making workshops and campaigning in the streets of Edinburgh.
The conversation surrounding menstrual wellbeing needs to be more open and frank to empower women and girls everywhere. Get a bloody education and find out more about The Circle’s Menstruation Matters Campaign and donate to our project with Irise International.
Written by @AnnaRenfrew. Anna is a student at The University of Edinburgh and a volunteer at The Circle.
“Through The Circle I am being connected to like-minded women globally”
“Mix a tinge of your own style in whatever you do and stay unique” has been the mantra of Dusyanthi Rabinath, aka Dushy, born and bred in Sri Lanka. Possessing an academic qualification in Business Information Technology never was satisfying. Her real passion was Fashion Studies. Although she couldn’t finish her studies, her interest in fashion never faded and she has continued to update herself with the current happenings in the fashion world. She became interested in The Circle after learning about our work on the living wage in the fast fashion industry.
She says that the past five years have been well spent expanding her family with a loving husband and two adorable kids, who are her strength now. She believes it is the right time to come out from her comfort zone and look at the world from a different angle or maybe even envision a brand new world.
Widen Your Circle
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.
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…