Widen Your Circle: with The Circle member Mabel

We must support and empower each other, otherwise we will constantly be fighting against a system that is designed for us to fail

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!

Mabel is a documentary film maker who also co-founded The Vavengers, a charity that holds music and poetry nights, exhibitions and plays to raise money for the survivors of Female Genital Mutilation and the clinics and organisations that they run. In 2015 they launched the UK’s first ever anti-FGM billboards. They are now working to engage the creative community to raise awareness and funds, improve data collection and ultimately stop women and girls being cut.

Why did you decide to become a member?

I decided to become a member of The Circle because I don’t think we as Western women take enough time to consider the experience of women globally. Often, we inhabit our own bubble and assume that most women enjoy the privileges we have. The Circle is actively trying to tackle this by supporting grassroots projects globally. That is why I want to be a member.  

What does The Circle’s mantra of #WomenEmpoweringWomen mean to you?

The mantra Women Empowering Women is at the core of my belief system with regards to tackling gender-based violence. We must support and empower each other, otherwise we will constantly be fighting against a system that is designed for us to fail. It’s the women who have infiltrated this system that have the chance to empower those who have been stripped of their voices.

What impact has The Circle had on your life?

The Circle has given me a lot of insight into areas of inequality that I rather embarrassingly had not considered, for example, fast fashion.  Attending The Circle events has really opened my eyes to the problems around fast fashion. The events have been a source of both information and inspiration. I have also connected with many exceptional like-minded women at these events.

#WidenYourCircle #WomenEmpoweringWomen #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist


Women Empowering Women: Our Chai Day Speakers

The Circle Healthcare Networking Event.

The Circle are having our very own Chai Day and we’re very excited. As well as being an opportunity to network and raise funds for victims of gender-based violence, it will also be an opportunity to learn more about issues that are close to The Circle’s heart.

The Circle’s Executive Director will be talking about the importance of Chai Day and the vital work being done by the grass-root projects funded by this initiative. Sioned will be joined by two guest speakers on the night.

The first is member of The Circle, International Advocate and author Sharon Benning-Prince.

Sharon Benning-Prince is a former corporate/private equity lawyer who now additionally works on supply chains and modern slavery legal matters by assisting corporates with their supply chains and transparency. Additionally, she sits as a trustee for the Medaille Trust, and is an international advocate for the International Justice Mission, both of which are anti-slavery and trafficking charities. She is passionate about the empowerment of and raising awareness for voiceless women and children and has written her first book on modern slavery with the former CEO of the Medaille Trust, Mike Emberson, which will be released in early December 2018.

She explains her decision to focus on the legal rights of women and girls who have been trafficked claiming that:

‘I have always felt strongly about women’s rights and female empowerment but it was when I first attended a women’s event on trafficking in the DRC and then heard Mike Emberson, the former CEO of the Medaille and my co-author of our modern slavery text book that made me realise the huge numbers of female adults and children that are trafficked. The numbers are astounding. In this day and age, one in which my eleven-year old daughter has no concept of restriction due to her gender, it is an anathema to me that large numbers of women and girls are suffering.’

When we spoke to Sharon about what Chai Day meant to her, she said ‘it is a day where like-minded members can share their mutual desire for change and empowerment of women. It is also provide a basis of bringing in new friends who can help in the common cause of giving a voice to those without.’ We are so excited to hear her speak on the day and learn more about her work fighting for women’s rights.

Credit: Act Alberta. Act Alberta is a human trafficking project supported by The Circle. 

Our second speaker is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) activist, Hoda Ali.

Hoda Ali is a Survivor of Female Genital Mutilation. At age seven she was cut in Somalia and by age eleven, Hoda experienced her first of many acute hospitalisations due to complications from FGM; infected menses had caused pelvic inflammatory disease. Hoda had been unable to menstruate as a result of the small hole left after FGM.

After many surgical procedures in Somalia, Djibouti and Italy, Hoda first started menstruating age 17. However, the resulting medical complications from FGM continue to impact on Hoda’s life: infections, adhesions, subfertility, IVF, and miscarriage. Finally, she received the medical advice that IVF could no longer be pursued due to these complications.

Hoda has worked as a nurse as specialist in sexual health, in HIV clinics and as an FGM trainer for health professionals.

“We need to stop one generation from passing the practice on to the next, we all have duty of care to make sure we protect vulnerable girls/women from the violent practice. FGM is child abuse and should be treated as such rather than avoided because of cultural sensitivities.”

She has dedicated her professional life to raising awareness and campaigning for the prevention of FGM, focused on ensuring girls are treated with dignity and compassion when they encounter health care professionals in the NHS. In addition, she works as a Trustee for the charity 28TooMany whose primary focus is on research and enabling local initiatives to end FGM in the 28 African countries where it is practiced, and across the diaspora.

She co-founded The Vavengers, who campaigned for the UK’s first billboard campaign against FGM, has appeared in a BAFTA nominated FGM documentary, spoken at national conferences, news channels, and parliament; the list could go on. She is a truly inspirational woman who voices the pain, comforts the victims and campaigns to protect the girls. She trusts in life and a future and gives hope to FGM survivors.
We asked her to share her thoughts on Chai Day and any advice to those who have been generous enough to host one.

She points out that:‘in most societies, women have limited space to meet, and public spaces are often used by man. If women and girls are given the opportunity to shine and empower we can change the world. Chai day is very important because it provides safer space for women and girls to feel safe to talk, to speak up and help others; besides, who doesn’t like chai tea … be counted, stand up and speak up…you are the voice for the voiceless. By hosting your own Chai day, you are providing a safe space for discussion, for sharing stories, for empowering every women and girls who took part will be empowering the rest of their community. Together we can all end violence against women and girls; cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable and FGM is unacceptable.’

Credit: One of Hoda Ali’s many activism projects.

There are still a few spaces at this event on Wednesday 28th November, so if you would like to hear these incredible women speak and meet fellow members of The Circle then RSVP as soon as possible!

We look forward to seeing you!

#ChaiDay #WomenEmpoweringWomen #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist


Six ways in which educating girls benefits their wider community

The Circle member and volunteer Shannon Hodge looks at how educating girls can help tackle everything from child marriage to world poverty

Today, more than 263 million children are out of school, with 202 million of those of secondary school age. 130 million of them are girls. And despite all the efforts and progress made in previous years, more girls are still denied an education than boys — with 15 million girls of primary-school age estimated to never set foot in a classroom.

Investing in the education of girls brings high returns in terms of breaking cycles of poverty and aiding economic growth — but it also improves children’s and women’s survival rates and health, delays child marriage and early pregnancies, empowers women both in the home and the workplace, and helps tackle climate change.

In proposed target 4.1 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the UN said: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes”, meaning that each of the 263 million children currently out of education will be entitled to twelve years of quality, fee-free primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education by 2030.

Achieving universal access to those twelve years of education is both a matter of human rights and a huge investment in the overall development and economic growth of the world. Here are just a few of the ways in which unlocking the potential of millions of girls can have a wider impact…

1. Preventing child marriage and early pregnancy

An estimated 15 million girls a year are married before they are eighteen. Many are forced to marry by their families in exchange for a dowry — which is seen as a way of alleviating poverty within the family. Once married, many girls wanting to continue their education are often denied this right, due to traditional roles they are expected to play in the home, such as childbearing and cleaning.

Education is one of the most powerful tools to enable girls to avoid child marriage and fulfil their potential. And the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to be married before the age of eighteen and have children during her teenage years.

It also gives girls the chance to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions including when, and whom, they will marry.

With twelve years of quality education, girls are up to six times less likely to marry as children — compared to those who have little or no education. Estimates show that if all girls had access to secondary education, child marriage would drop by 64%.

2. Preventing female genital mutilation

Over 140 million girls worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) — a form of gender-based violence where parts or all of the external female genitalia are removed or injured for no medical reason.

Education is integral to any strategy to reduce FGM, as it can play a key role in changing individual and societal views.

In fact, data shows that girls and women with no education are significantly more likely to be in favour of the existence of FGM — for example, in Kenya, approximately 38% of women and girls with no education support the continuation of the practice, in comparison to approximately 6% of women and girls with secondary or higher education.

3. Building more stable communities

Education builds resilience, enabling countries to recover from conflict faster once peace is established. In fact, inclusive, quality education can even help prevent conflict in the first place through lessons on problem-solving, social skills and critical thinking.

And whilst primary education is vital to girls, it’s secondary education that can be transformative. In certain countries, doubling the percentage of students finishing secondary school would halve the risk of conflict.

4. Tackling climate change

Following on from the fact that education can create more stable communities, research also suggests that girls’ education reduces a country’s vulnerability to natural disasters. As a matter of fact, education is one of the most cost-effective strategies to mitigate carbon emissions and tackle climate change.

In 47 countries covered by the 2005-2008 World Values Survey, the higher a girl’s level of education, the more likely she was to express concern for the environment. Furthermore, in the later 2010-2012 World Values Survey, when forced to choose between protecting the environment versus boosting the economy, those respondents with secondary education favoured the environment more than those with less than secondary education.

5. Strengthens economies and advances the fight to end poverty

Research in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries found that level of education has a “substantial impact on employment prospects”.

On average, across these countries, 74% of those with the proposed twelve years of education up to upper secondary are employed, as opposed to 56% of those without an upper secondary education.

Generally, secondary school graduates enjoy higher earning potential than early school leavers, contributing to the growth of the national economy through full-time employment and tax.

And if all children in low-income countries completed upper secondary education by 2030, per capita income would increase by 75% by 2050 and advance the fight to eliminate poverty by ten years.

6. Better health, longer lives

Girls’ education has wide-ranging and transformative health benefits, which can be passed on through generations. Every additional year of school a girl completes cuts rates of infant mortality — the death of children under one year — by five to ten per cent. And if all girls received the proposed twelve years of fee-free, quality education, the frequency of early births would drop by 59% and child deaths would decrease by 49%.

Furthermore, women with post-primary education are also better able to protect both themselves and their families against other health risks. For example, they are five times more likely than illiterate women to be educated about the risk of HIV and AIDS and know how to practice safer sex and prevent infection. Educated mothers are also more likely to vaccinate their children.

These are just some of the positive impacts that educating girls can have on both girls and their communities, and here at The Circle we believe that girls are the untapped solution to many of the world’s problems. To help improve the world, we must educate girls.

That’s why we work with Educate Girls to address issues facing young girls in India.

An estimated three million girls are out of school in India and the situation is worse in rural areas of Rajasthan, where girls are three times more likely to be out of school than other children in India. The female literacy rate in Rajasthan is 52%, the lowest in the country, and six in ten girls in Rajasthan marry as children.

The Circle supports Educate Girls in increasing girls’ enrolment and retention rates and improving the quality of education in India with the use of Creating Learning and Teaching kits. You can read more about the project or  donate on our website.

“We can gain peace, grow economies, improve our public health and the air that we breathe. Or we can lose another generation of girls.” — Education activist Malala Yousafzai, speech to Canadian Parliament, 2017.

@shanhodge
Shannon Hodge is a Journalism graduate and a member of The Circle.