Shining a Light on Female War Reporters

This month The Circle is encouraging their supporters to #WidenYourCircle by sharing inspirational stories of women empowering women.

With this in mind, I decided to write about the incredible Marie Colvin and two inspirational female photographers who risked their lives, pushed through and broke down gender norms in this field of work and amplified the voices of women. These photographers are Lee Miller (1907-1977) and Christine Spengler (*1945). I was inspired to write this article from reading the catalogue Women War Photographers: From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus which was created from the exhibition. The exhibition is being shown at the Fotomuseum Winterhur from 29th February to 17th May 2020.

“When they tried to get a picture, they’d have 10 men pushing them out of the way” – Marilyn Kushner

As Felix Kramer who is the Director General of the Museum Kunstpalast, argues, war and conflict still has masculine connotations despite the fact that women have also shaped our view of worldwide conflicts.[1] A lack of educational opportunities and social acceptance meant that it was only towards the end of the 19th century that women were allowed to study photography.[2] In the Second World War women were still not permitted to photograph on the front and their assignments were mainly photographing hospitals and civilians.[3]

In 1942 Lee Miller stated ‘“Just treat me like one of the boys”[…]when asked under what rules she was willing to work as one of the few women among many men.’[4] This reveals just how hard and brave it was for women to fight for their place in the male-dominated world of photojournalism. In July 1944 Miller was assigned to a field hospital in Normandy and it is her background in the art of Surrealism and the use of her own reports that made her stand out amongst the male photographers, as Felicity Korn also suggests. Korn goes on to argue that her work breaks with the ‘“classic”’ style of war photography[5] and that it is Miller’s background as a model and fashion and fine art photographer that led to her becoming Vogue’s War Correspondent.[6] Through believing in her own artistic choices, Miller showed that it is her skill as a photographer that should determine where she is assigned, not gender. Although it must be addressed that according to Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn, female photographers have said that ‘reporting as a woman from crisis zones can work to their advantage” as it is easier for them to meet with families and women affected by war.[7]

“I wanted to report on just causes. If you ask me…’What do you consider a just cause?’, then I always say, ‘I stand on the side of the oppressed.” – Christine Spengler

1970: an armed regional conflict was taking place in Chad and Spengler, with her younger brother at the time, got out her 28mm camera and started taking pictures. This led to her arrest and jail time for several weeks.[9] According to Ingo Borges, this experience led Spengler to become one of the greatest war photographers. But Spengler had a different focus; instead photographing the everyday lives of women and children who were affected by war.[10] Spengler really captures the fact that these people are trapped inside a country at war with no choice but to protect themselves, their families and carry on daily life. Spengler manages to capture moments of laughter among the children who are unaware and innocent to the reality of war. In other images we see a woman defending her home with a gun, a mother carrying her baby whilst a gun is slung on her left shoulder (a female fighter of the Polisario Front in Western Sahara 1976, p. 139). Another, we see a young boy crying over his dead father in Cambodia, 1974 (p.133). Spengler captures moments which would have unlikely been focused on, but it is these moments which capture the humanity in wars of violence and destruction.

 It is the incredible strength, belief and perseverance of women like Lee Miller and Christine Spengler who made it possible for journalists like Marie Colvin to report on the front lines as one of the most brave and talented war correspondents in history. Colvin worked for the Sunday Times and in February 2012 was killed in Syria “reporting the injustices of conflict, determined to uncover truth from one of the most dangerous places on earth.” Colvin was passionate about women’s rights and would mentor young female journalists who were entering into the same profession. The Marie Colvin Circle was set up in her memory by her friends. This circle supports the Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network, a network that works with local female journalists in conflict zones. This important type of journalism is met with life threatening situations of violence, threats and kidnapping. The Middle East and North Africa regions (MENA) have over 100 local female journalists who are supported by this network. They can receive practical support and mentoring as well as network with local journalists in the area. Psychological support is also something the network offers as these women are working alone and under incredibly difficult and dangerous circumstances. Other types of support are also offered which you can read here.

Women like Lee Miller, Christine Spengler and Marie Colvin are such an important part of showing how no person should limit or question another’s ability because of their gender. If men can report on the front lines, so should women; as many female journalists have proven. They too have made history, and we must continue to remind ourselves of their work and inspire others to continue fighting for gender equality in journalism.

Click here to find out more about The Marie Colvin Journalist Network.

[1] Women War Photographers: From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus, p.9.

[2] See footnote 1, Introduction by Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn, p. 11.

[3] See footnote 2, p. 16.

[4] See footnote 1, p. 47. Original reference quoted on p. 51 as ‘“How Famous People Cook: Lady Penrose, the Most Unusual Recipes You Have Ever Seen”, in Vogue USA, April 1974, pp. 160-61, 186-87.’

[5] See footnote 1, p. 50.

[6] See footnote 1, pp. 49-50.

[7] See footnote 1, p. 18.

[8] See footnote 1,p. 123. Original reference quoted on p. 125 is ‘Christine Spengler, in an interview in Sigrid Faltin’s documentary film Kriegsfotografinnen: Der Kampf um Bilder, Leben und Tod, SWR/arte, 2016.’

[9] See footnote 1, p.123. Original reference quoted on p. 125 as ‘Christine Spengler, Une femme dans la guerre, Paris 1991, p. 19.’

[10] See footnote 1, p.123.

This article was written by Georgia Bridgett who is an intern for The Circle. Georgia is a recent English graduate and is passionate about women’s rights and the underlying issues in the fast-fashion industry.


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle member Laura

“No matter what your contribution, being a member of The Circle guarantees that you will be supported and spurred on by an incredible group of likeminded women.”

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:

I’m 35, female, a Partner at Stewarts (a litigation law firm) and, my side hustle (if non-millennials are allowed them!), a Director at Richmond Rugby Club where I used to play.

Why did you become a member of The Circle?

I joined The Circle after attending the launch of Fashion Focus: The Fundamental Right to a Living Wage, which was researched and prepared by members of The Lawyers Circle. It was an incredibly inspiring experience listening to a group of very senior female lawyers explain how they have used their skills, profile, connections and, what can only be very limited, free time to make a real difference to the lives of women globally. I decided there and then that I would join. The Circle facilitates the creation of a network of people that will use their skills and connections for a specific goal, the improvement of the lives of women everywhere. I call it the female equivalent of the “Old Boys Network”: the main differentiating factor being that the network is used for universal rather than individual betterment!

Since becoming a member I have contributed to the Tanzanian Maternal Health Rights project being led by members of The Lawyers Circle, have assisted with creating a skills database to better resource The Lawyers Circle projects, have become part of The London Circle committee, have arranged for my firm to host a number of events and in September I am taking part in The Great River Race in a Dragon boat together with 16 other members to raise funds for Nonceba Family Counselling Centre in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. I’ve also broadened the network. In particular, a friend’s company, Le Bus Vert in Biarritz France, is currently supporting the Dragon Boat fundraising efforts by contributing a proportion of its sales of jewellery and other items made from reclaimed materials (often those washed up on local beaches) to the cause. All because I turned up to an event at a barristers chambers on a week night!

There are so many ways of getting involved in raising funds, contributing to projects or just simply spreading the word. No matter what your contribution, being a member of The Circle guarantees that you will be supported and spurred on by an incredible group of likeminded women.

What does Global Feminism mean to you?

In my mind Global Feminism means recognising that whilst there remain many barriers and disadvantages suffered by women in the UK, I, and others, do have a voice. Having achieved that platform we should use it to advocate for those that are in a situation far worse than our own. In doing so and by taking small steps in improving the rights and opportunities available to women globally, we can make huge strides forward for society as a whole.

Are there any of The Circle’s projects that are particularly close to your heart and can you tell us a bit more about these and why they stand out?

The Fashion Focus: The Fundamental Right to a Living Wage Report really opened my eyes to the staggering inequalities and consequences of our current approach to clothing production and consumption. It not only highlighted the issues but identified the ways in which different jurisdictions, including our own, need to cooperate and legislate to ensure global change. This element of The Circle’s work stands out to me not only as an example of how the law can be used and how a group of lawyers can work together but it has affected my own attitudes as a consumer. The more the issue can be highlighted, and it is certainly being picked up by global media, the more people will start to question the impact of their choices. Consequently, the more pressure there will on governments to legislate to effect change and on fashion companies to be open about their approach. This is an area where I really believe it will be possible to see a visible improvement, hopefully in fairly short order!

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

#WidenYourCircle #WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Ally Christian

“I believe that being an active contributor to change, regardless of your gender, is an essential part of achieving equality for women and girls.”

At The Circle, we are of the strong belief that the fight for gender equality has to be inclusive. To reach it, men can and must stand next to us as allies to the Global Feminist movement. Christian is one of our male allies and supports our work in a number of ways. As part of #WidenYourCircle, we wanted to catch up with him to discuss what it means to be an ally of The Circle.

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I was born in Africa, spent over a decade in Australia where I gained my tertiary qualifications to be admitted to practice as a lawyer, and moved to London in 2009 to experience life and work in Europe. I am currently director of contracts for a US fintech company, an avid traveller, and a global feminist!

Why did you decide to become an ally of The Circle?

When I first came to learn about The Circle, men were not able to join as members. However, I felt a strong resonance with the mission and values of The Circle and wanted to support its work and grassroots projects.

In recent years, I feel that apathy has become a dangerous state of mind that is enabling rather than solving many societal challenges. I believe that being an active contributor to change, regardless of your gender, is an essential part of achieving equality for women and girls.

I decided to gift a membership to The Circle to a number of women in my life who might not otherwise have been able to join and benefit from the connectedness of The Circle’s members, on the condition that when they felt willing and able, they would do the same for another inspiring woman in their life!

I am proud to now have been able to join as an ally, and to stand alongside other members and allies of The Circle to amplify the voices of women and girls who have been disempowered and marginalised.

Is there anything you have gained from becoming an ally of The Circle?

Over the past two years, I’ve attended a number events hosted by The Circle, from film screenings to networking evenings to book talks. All of these have educated me on the challenges that women and girls across the world face each day, and the need for action by all members of society.

Most importantly though, I’ve been fortunate to meet a range of passionate women and allies, a number of whom have become friends and professional contacts, and who have challenged me to become an agent of change.

Find out more about the different ways you can become an ally of The Circle by clicking here.

#GlobalFeminism #WidenYourCircle


On the Road to Iran

 

Susan Ferner is a member of The Calgary Circle who has channeled her experience of coming close to traffickers and her subsequent heightened awareness of the issue into a beautiful creative writing piece. Since becoming a member, she has formed The Calgary Circle and focused their attention on addressing the huge issue of sex trafficking within her own country. This piece and the efforts of their circle on the other side of the pond are testament to Susan’s determination to use her own experience to empower other women.

On a warm September evening in 2017, I walked along a single lane highway that led to the border of Iran and took photos of the Zangezur Mountains and Voghi River valley. I had embarked on an off-the-beaten-track trip in Armenia just two weeks prior. Armenia is a tiny Christian country in the Caucasus that boasts home to the oldest churches in the world, with mysterious monasteries dating back to 200 AD. After spending days exploring ancient churches and fortresses, I set out with two friends to discover the more isolated Syunik Region. My friends were at the hotel when I ventured down the road for a short walk, armed only with my camera.

Transport trucks and buses lumbered by sporadically as they wound their way up the mountain pass, confined by a wall of rock on one side and a steep slope on the other. The borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed, but goods pass freely between Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Iran. One hot commodity is women. We had long ago left behind the red neon lights and silhouettes of naked women that adorn the strip clubs in the outskirts of the country’s capital, Yerevan.

The heat of the day had broken and my shadow formed a long black silhouette ahead of me. Engulfed in a dusty haze, the mountains rose up around me. Dead grass swayed back and forth in the breeze along the steep slopes. I heard a car whizz by, followed by the sound of the

engine as it ground into second gear. I turned to watch a white Lada pull a U-turn before a hairpin curve, a blind spot in the road. The car drove slowly back towards me. Dark tinted windows lowered and four men stared hard-eyed at me. They appeared to be in their early twenties. The car came to a dead stop thirty feet down the road. The front passenger, with black hair, fair skin and dark eyes, got out of the car and walked slowly towards me. He tugged on his cock, unexposed, and called, “Russa?”

“Nyet Canada.” I yelled. I backed away quickly and faced the man.

“Russa!”

“NO! Canada.”

“Russa!” he insisted.

“CANADA. AMERICA.”

My heart raced. My mind was clear. These men thought that I was Russian. A prostitute. Fair game. Then the driver got out of the car and walked slowly towards me. “Russa! We police. You come here!”

I knew the police in Armenia did not look anything like him. I also knew that sometimes pimps pretend to be the police to frighten women to come closer. “Fuck off! Fuck you!” I screamed.

My heart pounded. I ran across the road, seized a large rock on the side of the highway and hurled it in the direction of the driver. It fell purposely short of my target. I picked up another and winged it closer to his feet. I grabbed a third and sprinted back across the highway.

I faced the two men and felt the heavy weight of the rock in my hand, ready to launch it. Surprised, the driver stopped. Angry, the passenger cursed me. “Bitch!”

“Fuck off! Go away. STAY AWAY,” I yelled.

Silence. The men looked me up and down. Was that the sound of a motor in the distance? I was not sure, but maybe that is why they got back into their car. As they drove away, an uncontrollable wave of anger slammed into me. Furious, I raised my camera and zoomed in. I took two photos. One of the driver’s profile with a sneer on his face and his third finger raised high in the air. And one of the license plate. Brakes slammed. Doors flung open. The passenger in the front seat jumped out and came straight at me.

My mind was focused on one thing, and that was getting away alive. I distinctly remember thinking that I am not ending my life in Armenia. I rested my hand on the highway guardrail and leapt over it. I hunched down low and – half running, half skiing – slid down the steep slope. I did not look up until I moved into deeper brush and thorny bushes, fiercely seeking a place to hide. I scanned the top of the slope and guard rail. No one. I scoured the brush. The men were nowhere to be seen.

I had one hour to get off the mountain before dark.

Calm down. Breathe. Think! Which way to go? The steep climb back up was not an option, the white Lada might be waiting for me further along the highway. I had no choice but to angle further down towards the town. My steps were firm and deliberate. I did not want to trip and fall into the empty space – the void – that lay between the top of the bushes and the ground below. My pace slowed as I struggled through the brambles and stinging nettles. I thrashed along as red welts and deep gashes appeared on my hands and legs and ankles. At last, I saw signs of civilization. The rails of an abandoned railroad gleamed red in the failing sunlight. I followed the tracks which led me to an isolated cemetery. The graves were marked by the somber portraits of men and women, their faces etched into the granite and star at me. They reminded me of the eyes of those four men in the white Lada. Dispassionate and cold.

This was not the place for me.

I continued through the cemetery and followed a rough dirt road that led to the outskirts of town. I heard shouts of laughter from children who played in the streets. Three young girls and a boy chased a dog and threw small rocks at it. I slowed down and passed by row upon row of heavy grey Soviet-style apartments. Apart from a few Toyota trucks, all I saw were white Ladas, but no sign of the four men. I am not sure if I would have recognized them. The entire episode on the side of the road felt like an eternity, but I believe it all happened in less than four minutes.

Seated on the plaid sofa in our hotel room, my friends turned pale as I recounted my story. My arms and legs were dirty, scratched and bloody. Peter looked grim, and gave me a long hug and said, “Those bastards.” Sonia could not believe that I jumped the guardrail. “I would freeze,” she said.

Years ago, I said, I read a story in the Globe about a woman who was forced into a car, repeatedly raped and then murdered. The RCMP say that if you think someone is going to attack you, swear and scream and throw things. An attacker is looking for someone who freezes. He does not want a fight. He wants an easy target. And anyone who wants to drag you

into a car is going to do terrible things, so it’s best to fight and run. Even if he has a gun. Run! It’s hard to shoot a moving target. I never forgot that article.

Although friends at home questioned why I walked alone on the road to Iran, neither Sonia or Peter wondered why. We had been told that Armenia is safe for tourists, a new frontier for backpackers and travelers. Until that moment on the road, I had experienced only gracious and generous hospitality from the local people. It was not too late in the day nor was it too dark. I may be a seasoned traveler, but perhaps I was naïve in this case? Or perhaps it was just bad luck.

We went to the local station and a serious policeman looked over the photographs and noted the license plate. Twenty hours later, the same policeman informed me that he had visited the “boys” that evening and it was all a cultural mistake. He said that the boys thought that I was Russian. They were young and drunk and stupid. The policeman reminded me that Armenia is a safe country and things like this never happen here. Then he said, “This can happen anywhere in the world, can’t it?”

“Yes,” I said. “It can.”

“Did you really throw rocks at them?”

“Yes, I did.”

“What do you want to do now?” he asked.

“Do now?”

Surprised, I stopped to think. In Canada, I would not press charges because there is no case. The men approached me, I swore and yelled at them, the situation escalated, but they did not touch me. I kept my distance, threw rocks, jumped the guard rail and scrambled down the mountain. In my mind, there was no legal battle and even if according to an Armenian law there was a case, it was my word against theirs.

“Nothing,” I said. “I don’t want to do anything. I’m leaving Armenia in a few days and I won’t be coming back for a court case.”

It was only later that I learned from an Armenian friend that prostitutes walk the roads and highways. The prostitutes are Russians. Girls and women who are baited with the promise of work and opportunities and lured away from Russia. They are transported thousands of miles away from home. Enroute and in the new country, they are repeatedly raped, beaten and threatened by pimps who lock them into rooms and brothels and put them on the streets and highways.

When I arrived back in Canada, one thing struck me. Viscerally. I have the freedom to yell and swear and run. I can hurl rocks and I can howl. But the girls and teens and women who are trafficked out of Russia do not have that freedom. They cannot run, and if they flee, where will they go? A Russian woman on the side of the highway has no choice but to climb into that car with four drunk men because a pimp is holding a gun to her head.

A few weeks after I got home, a friend at work told me a story. His wife’s friend, Claire was shopping at Market Mall with her 15-year-old daughter, Emily. They were eating at the food court and Emily went to the washroom. Claire waited and waited. Emily was taking a long

time, so Claire went to check on her. She found the teen slumped semi-unconscious between two women.

“What’s the matter”?

“Oh nothing,” one of the women replied. “Our friend is sick and we are taking her outside.”

“Your friend? Sick?? That’s my daughter!”

The women dropped Emily and ran. Claire later learned from the police that abductions happen in Calgary and across Canada. She also learned that a teenage girl has a street value of $260,000 a year to a pimp and an organized crime ring.

Late in October of that year, I saw a young Indigenous girl on the downtown streets of Calgary on a cold rainy night. She was on the corner of an intersection with an older man. The traffic light glowed neon red on the wet pavement. The man walked between a few cars and panhandled until the light turned green. The girl waited on the sidewalk. Feeling utterly useless, I drove off. Then I pulled over about a block away and stopped. I paused. Then I called 911. After I explained the situation, the woman on the emergency line asked me if I thought the girl was in imminent danger? Was she being prostituted?

“I don’t know,” I said. “All I know is that it is late at night and the girl is so young, only about thirteen. She seems excited to be there, wide eyed and innocent. She’s not tough and beaten up. She’s alone with a man who is in his forties. It’s a rough corner. So yes, I think that she is in imminent danger.”

The 911 operator promised to send a car over. As I drove away, I thought about how the girl should be at home, sleeping, and going to school the next day. She would be in Grade 7. I have no idea if that phone call made any difference. All I know is that the policeman in Armenia was right, sex slavery is happening everywhere in the world, hundreds of thousands of miles away. And right here in Canada. Just a few kilometers down the road from home.

If you are feeling inspired by Susan then click here to find out more about becoming a member!

This short story was written by Susan Ferner. Susan presently works in the areas of stakeholder engagement and social impact assessments for industrial developments in Canada and around the world, which have a human rights component. Susan started her career in the late 1980’s with a focus on women’s equality and poverty alleviation. When Susan joined The Circle in 2017, she felt that she was coming back ‘full circle’ to where she started – devoting time and energy to join like-minded women to address the brutal reality of the human rights violations that women suffer, including gender discrimination, domestic violence, rape, sex trafficking and poverty. In her spare time, Susan is happiest hiking to the top of a mountain, snorkeling in the sea and dancing to classic rock.

 

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #WidenYourCircle


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


Difficult Conversations: Human Trafficking

Photo credit: UN Women/Stuart Mannion

The Circle are in partnership with Eco-Age to champion women’s rights globally and promote Global Feminism, our Difficult Conversations series investigates the facts and figures of some of the most difficult global topics affecting women worldwide and, critically, highlight how you can get involved with driving change.

In today’s focus, The Circle’s Anna Renfrew and filmmaker and member of The Circle Anya Camilleri discuss the facts surrounding human trafficking following the UN’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, and what you can do to help.

“Human trafficking is a vast, insidious and incredibly profitable industry that takes place in almost every country across the world. Contrary to popular belief and depictions of trafficking in contemporary media, according to the UN, no country can claim that trafficking does not happen within its borders as either a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. Trafficking is a lucrative business as it produces steady profits over a long period of time as humans may be sold repeatedly and continue to work and earn money for their owners.

While it is important to remember that trafficking does not only refer to sexual exploitation but also other kinds of forced labour including agricultural work, as with many examples of exploitation, women and girls are disproportionately affected. According to the ILO, women and girls account for 99% of trafficking victims in the commercial sex industry and make up an estimated 71% of total trafficking victims.

The U.S Government conservatively reported that 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year with almost half estimated to be minors. As with any illicit activity, these numbers will only ever be an estimate, yet the demand for younger and younger girls is increasing as younger victims are deemed as being less likely to carry a sexually transmitted disease. Devastatingly, young girls are most susceptible to poor conditions and health risks and are the least able to resist.

This begs the question, how do women and girls become victims of trafficking?”

Read the full article here!

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


Cybersex Trafficking

Photo credit: International Justice Misson

This month at The Circle, we have delved deeper into the issue of human trafficking and have learnt a huge amount from our project partner ACT Alberta about what makes women vulnerable to traffickers and what we can do ourselves to be more aware of trafficking victims in our own area. There are more people trapped in slavery than ever before in human history and in the following article, our volunteer Georgia takes a closer look at one of modern slavery’s most insidious practices, cybersex trafficking.

“We were left with no choice but to follow her instructions.” – Joy, a victim of cybersex trafficking for 7 years (10-17)

 

More than 40 million people are victim to different forms of slavery such as forced labour, child labour, domestic servitude and forced marriage. This month The Circle have been working to raise awareness of human trafficking among modern slavery, particularly for sex. According to the UK charity Anti-Slavery International, “human trafficking involves recruitment, harbouring or transporting people into a situation of exploitation through the use of violence, deception or coercion and forced to work against their will.” What’s more, there is another form of human trafficking which is increasing at a frightening rate.

“Cybersex trafficking is an emerging threat as internet access increases everywhere. Now, paedophiles anywhere in the world can direct live sexual abuse of boys and girls hidden in private homes.” (IJM)

 

Social Affairs Correspondent for The Independent, May Bulman, reported in November 2017 about a “new form of human trafficking that sees children forced to carry out sex acts while being live-streamed for paedophiles to watch online [which] is growing at an ‘alarming rate’, a charity has warned”. A victim as young as a two-month-old baby was reported.

The stories that victims have told of this injustice are extremely hard to read. International Justice Mission (IJM) is the largest anti-slavery organisation in the world. They work to rescue and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking among modern slavery. In February 2017 they posted a YouTube video called “What is Cybersex Trafficking?” where they explained how “Pedophiles and predators use the internet to abuse children in homes and cybercafes.” According to Alex Ilusoriio who is an Investigator with IJM Philippines, for as little as 100 dollars Western customers can watch children under 5 years old being abused by adults. This horrific and unspeakable form of abuse is destroying the lives of vulnerable children. IJM helps victims to share their stories in order to raise awareness. Just less than a year ago on 13th August 2018, IJM revealed the year-long investigation which resulted in the rescue of two young women, a teenage boy and a 12-year-old girl. One can only imagine the psychological damage as a result of this devastating crime. At the time of this report the children were receiving help from social workers.

On 20th February 2019 three operations took place to rescue 16 children over four days. Officers discovered that a man called Herman Arnett Ross, an American living in Pampanga, was “seeking to sexually exploit a teenage girl”. Days before Ross was arrested, IJM rescued 15 other children across the Philippines. The children are now receiving trauma therapy, revealing the heart-breaking psychological pain that victims of human trafficking are forced to endure.

IJM have stated cybersex trafficking to be an ‘emerging threat’. Indeed, according to this charity, a ‘simple internet connection’, ‘a webcam’ or ‘a mobile phone’ is all that is required for this form of sexual exploitation to take place and as internet access increases, so will this form of human trafficking.

Annie Kelly is a human rights journalist for the Guardian and Observer, also editor of the Guardian’s Modern-day slavery in focus series. Kelly reported for the Guardian in October 2018 on the case where “two women had been paid £33,000 by [Alain] Charlwood-Collings for procuring children as young as four and filming their rape and abuse. Some of the 46 children involved were the women’s own children or sisters. Others were the children of neighbours, or from the wider local community.” This took place for 10 years.

The fact that the abusers can hide for such a long period of time, shows how complex these operations are to report, find and arrest them. There are signs we can look out for in order to identify if a person is being exploited. According to Stop The Traffik, significant signs of sexual exploitation can include:

  • Having English vocabulary of only sexualised words
  • Emotional trauma as a result of their work
  • Restricted or no access to earnings
  • At a location the letterbox or doors of the property may appear to have been sealed from the inside

What can we do?

 

To understand more about how to spot the signs of sexual exploitation please visit this detailed page by Stop The Traffik.

Every month IJM reports one or more new cases of cybersex trafficking. This is just one charity alone. You can read the recent case reported last week on 25th July 2019 which highlights how this is a “a global crime that demands global collaboration.

By being aware we can all help to prevent these inhumane crimes. Joy, who I quoted at the beginning of this article, is now using her experience to help others. Joy argues that she believes slavery can be stopped: “I want it to stop. I believe it can stop, but I cannot do it alone.”

We can all be a part of this global collaboration and knowing just one of the signs above could potentially save a someone from unimaginable abuse.

“A Feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” – Gloria Steinem

 

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism

This article was written by Georgia Bridgett who is an intern for The Circle. Georgia is a recent English graduate and is passionate about women’s rights and the underlying issues in the fast-fashion industry.

 


Strict Borders Make Vulnerable Women

Photo credit: structuresxx/Shutterstock.com

“It is important to keep in mind that trafficking can happen to anyone, anywhere.”

The Home Office stated in November 2016 that: “The trafficked women from Nigeria end up being healthy and are held in high regard upon their return from Europe.”

Their statement is problematic for a number of reasons, but potentially the most startling is that we can see how hostile the UK is to victims claiming asylum and unworried about their deportation because they return ‘in high regard’. We should be more supportive, accepting, and open to asylum seekers, as they all have reasons they came here for a better future.

Human trafficking is not a recent trend, it has been happening for decades. However, in today’s globalised world there are an estimated 20.9 million victims of trafficking, with the majority being women. While women can be trafficked from anywhere to any country, in Europe most of the victims are from countries in Eastern and Central Europe such as Hungary and Poland, while victims taken outside of Europe concentrate from Nigeria, China, Morocco.

Often, human trafficking is linked to migrant movements and the governmental policies that try to regulate them. As migration increases, especially as it has done to Europe over the last few years – quickly and without general regulation policies– the instances of trafficking increase as migrants become increasingly desperate to cross borders. As David A. Feingold said in 2009,“Trafficking is often migration gone terribly wrong”. When people are not given the opportunity to legally enter the country of destination, desperate people might turn to other possibilities in order to escape unimaginable situations of hardship in their home country. Studies have shown that as borders become stricter, smuggling increases, as people use third parties to get out of the country, and to get into others. The strict laws imposed to reduce migration into the country actually render these people vulnerable exploitation as they are reluctant to go to the police for fear of being deported.

If we want to look at a specific country regarding human trafficking in Europe, Nigeria is a very interesting case. Devastatingly, the UN said that 80% of all Nigerian women who arrived in Italy by boat in 2016 will be trafficked into prostitution. When women arrive in Italy they go through migration receptions, which are used as holding pens for women who are collected and then trafficked across Europe. However, this relationship between Nigeria and Italy has been operating for decades. In 2014, about 1,500 Nigerian women arrived, in 2015 around 5,633, and only in the first six months of 2016 about 3,600. With the increasing numbers of victims, the trafficking network itself in growing as well.

Many women are brought in specially for sexual exploitation purposes, but there are also hundreds who are coming for a better life. The journey itself is very complicated, firstly, because women are often victims of physical abuse, trafficking, and sexual exploitation on the road. Moreover, as it is very expensive, women and up owing money around £40,000 which they are expected to pay back. They are told if they won’t pay, terrible thing will happen to their families, therefore they are forced into prostitution across Europe. However, money is not the only way gangs recruit women, they also use false promises of legitimate employment, and traditional ceremonies to have psychological control over them.

There is a large diaspora of 200,000 legal residents of Nigerians in Europe. Obviously, this number excludes all the women who are being illegally trafficked on the continent. While many legal residents live in the UK, Germany, and Spain, the ultimate trafficking destination is Italy. There are around 10,000 Nigerian sex workers in the country now. While the first Nigerian women working in Italy as sex workers around the 1970s chose to do so, after strengthening the borders and making it difficult to arrive this have changed. As women arrived by having huge debts, and they needed to get rid of that quickly, trafficking for prostitution seemed like a prospect. Young women were usually promised a good job, and then ended up being trafficked for sexual exploitation. Nowadays, Nigerian sex work usually work on the street, and receive low-wage for their work.

Arguably, one way to start reducing trafficking would be to have more open borders of countries, so people could move more freely. Immigration should be viewed positively with more support services for those needed. Additionally, it would also be important that besides preventing trafficking, we should also aim to help those who had suffered trafficking beforehand. There should be more support services for the victims and a promise that they won’t be deported in exchange for going to the police.

It is important to keep in mind that trafficking can happen to anyone, anywhere. While I was focusing on Europe, because female victims here are particularly vulnerable to strict border control and regulations, human trafficking is a global phenomenon, in which the majority of the women can become victims.

This article was written by The Circle Volunteer Csenge Gábeli. Csenge is a university student, a volunteer, and a feminist. She is originally from Hungary, but has started my university in London, which she loves. She is interested in communities, women’s empowerment, LGBTQ+ rights, and children’s rights. 

#GlobalFeminism #WomenEmpoweringWomen


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


Interview with Hoda Ali

“Whatever you do, please don’t turn away and pretend we don’t exist. And don’t, for one second, think it couldn’t have been you.”

We interviewed human rights activist Hoda Ali about what it means to be a refugee working in the UK.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Hoda Ali and I am a nurse and human rights activist. My focus is defending the rights of girls through campaigning to end female genital mutilation (FGM) in the United Kingdom. FGM is one of the most extreme forms of violence against girls and women. It involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia and has devastating lifelong consequences for survivors. FGM is usually carried out on girls before they reach puberty. It is child abuse.

I currently lead a 3-year project working as a Community Outreach Project Manager for Safeguarding in Perivale Primary School, one of the first schools to set up an outreach programme on FGM. Education is critical in preventing FGM and through our outreach programme we educate in the school and run workshops for parents and the wider community. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive, and we are working together to ensure the safety of all the girls in our schools.

My passion for human rights comes from my own experience as a survivor of FGM and being a child refugee. In 1988 my family had to flee from its home when the first civil war broke out in Somaliland and 1991 after the second civil war started in Mogadishu, we had to leave Somalia. Eventually, I came to the UK and I have now lived here for 21 years.

After qualifying as a nurse, I worked in the sexual health clinic at Ealing hospital and after taking part in the Channel 4 documentary The Cruel Cut in 2012 I started campaigning against FGM. In 2013 I co-founded the Vavengers, an FGM awareness-raising group and we ran the first anti-FGM billboard campaign in the UK.

In March 2018 I was nominated as an Amnesty International Human Rights Defender and I was honoured to be included on the Suffragette Spirit Map.

This month we are focusing on women in conflict; from displaced peoples to the women working in conflict zones as journalists and medics. How can we be more aware of their experiences?

It can be easy to rush through life, focusing on our personal priorities and not taking time to think about life from another person’s perspective. In a country like the UK it can be hard to imagine suddenly losing everything, but it is the reality for millions of people whose lives are torn apart by war, famine or other disasters. Women and children are especially vulnerable in all conflicts and suffer terribly. Try and think about if that was you, imagine leaving everything you know behind, your country, your home, your friends, your school and everything familiar. These things are gone forever, and you no longer feel safe. What would you do? Who would you turn to for help?

We should all try to be more aware of what is happening in the world and pay attention to the stories of those living in or escaping from war zones. Follow the work of journalists who go to the refugee camps and allow the voices of the injured and homeless to be heard. When you hear the heart-breaking personal stories and not just the political posturing of warring leaders you start to understand what war really means.

If you are lucky to live in safety and prosperity, treasure it and use your advantaged position to support those who need your empathy and help.

Can you tell us a little bit about the challenges that refugees face whilst living in the UK?

Leaving everything behind in one life and beginning another in a new country with different laws, different education and health systems, different languages and different cultural expectations is frightening and requires a period of adjustment.

For people who seek refugee status the process is one of the most difficult things they go through due to the circumstances under which they leave their home country. It is administratively complicated and can feel dehumanising and many refugees are deeply traumatised, so this difficult process is even more challenging.

One of the worst things is feeling isolated. Refugees may be separated from family and friends and everything around them is unfamiliar. Communication may be difficult or even impossible due to language barriers and this makes integrating into a new community very hard. Food, clothes and all the daily things we take for granted seem strange and can get overwhelming when you are suddenly in a new country.

There is also a lot of ignorance and racism towards refugees. It is exhausting and soul destroying to have to constantly justify yourself. Settled refugees contribute greatly to their new homes but this is rarely acknowledged.

Being a refugee is especially hard for children. You lose everything including your sense of safety and may be separated from your parents which has a huge psychological impact. Many refugee children also have interrupted education and need support to catch up. However, given security and support most go on to shine!

If you could share one thing with our supporters, what would it be?

Some days, just hearing the news makes it hard to breathe. Like everyone else, I want to shut my ears whenever the word refugee is mentioned. Switch stations on the radio; turn off the TV and pretend it isn’t happening. But unlike most people, I can’t. You see, I know what war is. The words ‘bombs’ and ‘massacre’ are not something I’ve only ever heard in the news. I am a refugee and I always will be.

While EU Governments debate whether to give shelter and to how many, my hope lies in people. Everyone can help. There are things we can change in the long-term, and we have the resources to respond immediately to help those in crisis now. Write to your MEP/MP and tell them the UK has a responsibility to offer sanctuary. If we stay silent it is assumed that we don’t want to help refugees so do not let them think that you don’t care. Write to the papers and the BBC whenever you hear the word ‘migrant’ being used to describe those fleeing war. Tell them the word is ‘refugee.’ Tell them words matter when people’s lives are at stake.

Whatever you do, please don’t turn away and pretend we don’t exist. And don’t, for one second, think it couldn’t have been you.

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism