Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Human Rights Violation

Photo Credit: Tim Freccia, World Vision.

“At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of female genital mutilation or cutting” (UN Women)

This February, news headlines have been focusing a lot on FGM/C due to it being a month in which many individuals, charities and organisations raise awareness of this life-threatening practice.

FGM/C is practiced in at least 30 countries and at least 200 million girls and women have been cut. Over 100 million cases have happened across Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia alone. Despite both the physical and mental health consequences, FGM/C is a practice rooted in tradition. It is a tradition which has been around for hundreds of years which means putting an end to it is a very complex and sensitive issue.

“Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” (World Health Organization)

In February 2018, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women stated for International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM/C that “FGM is an act that cuts away equality”. Women suffer immense pain and a lifetime of complications such as neonatal death. Girls are cut with no opportunity to defend themselves, no voice to say no. This is a human rights violation.

FGM/C is usually carried out on young women between infancy and 15 years of age. Before these girls become adults’, the possibility to have a natural childbirth is taken away from them. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), women are at a significant risk of complications such as a post-partum haemorrhage, a prolonged and obstructed labour and worse of all losing their baby. FGM/C has no health benefits; so why are women and girls being forced to suffer such immense pain?

FGM/C is rooted in tradition and culture. Mlambo-Ngcuka stated this month how this practice is a form of gender-based violence and cannot be isolated from other forms of violence against women and girls. Neil Williams of World Vision UK reported for girlsnotbrides.com about travelling to Ethiopia to meet girls at risk of FGM/C and their families. Through the conversations Williams had with the girls and their families, we begin to understand how FGM/C and child marriage are intrinsically linked. Parents fear abduction and pre-marital sex and so remove their daughters from school and arrange to have them cut and married at an early age. Devastatingly, this is considered a safer alternative.

In a statement for the 2017 International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted how children living in communities where FGM/C is practiced will not finish school and will therefore have limited employment prospects. The cycle continues as girls who have mothers without an education are more likely to be subjected to FGM/C. They see their daughters being cut as adding value to their lives, securing a future marriage and family honour. Then again it is also seen as suppressing their sexuality. Young women and girls are cruelly stripped of the opportunity to make their own choices about their future. In some communities’ girls are not educated beyond lower secondary school, leading them to get married as it is believed their future prospects will be greater. There are also a lack of job opportunities and these jobs are prioritized for boys’. But educating girls can prevent the reoccurrence of child marriage and FGM/C. Education can create a future for girls where they are not limited by decisions made about their bodies without their consent.

FGM/C is tied up in a complex web of other human rights issues which we must simultaneously address.

According to UNICEF, in Djibouti where 78% of women and girls are subjected to FGM/C, a woman named Mariam Kako was cut at five years old. A razorblade was used to perform the type of FGM/C called pharaonic. When her daughter was born Kako told her mother that she would be not cut. Her mother ignored those wishes, showing her deeply held belief in this tradition. Kako’s baby girl died 40 days later at six months old. Kako now works to educate the population through encouraging people to tell their stories and refuting the myth that FGM/C is associated with religion. Many communities believe that child marriage and FGM/C are a ‘marker of their religious identity’. However, in religious scripture, this is not a requirement.

Experiences like Mlambo-Ngcuka’s and Mariam Kako’s stories are deeply personal and these women are incredibly brave to speak up about what they have been through to help expose the brutal effect FGM/C has on women and girls;

Photo Credit: Ashenafi Tibebe, The Elders. 2011.

“Public declarations against FGM in 2016 and 2017 helped save nearly 1,000 girls from cutting”

According to BBC News, by 2020 secondary school pupils in England will be educated on FGM as a dangerous practice. This education is incredibly important. According to UNICEF, between 2019 and 2030, 68 million girls will be cut if active steps are not taken to stop this brutal practice.

Many do not realise that FGM/C happens in the UK. Hibo Wadere told her story to the BBC, published on 4th February 2019. As a women she graphically describes the experience she went through as a six-year-old girl; the memories of blood and the screams still distressingly vivid.

UN Women are working with traditional leaders across Africa to increase commitment to ending child marriage and FGM/C. FGM/C is prevalent across 30 countries: 28 of them are in Africa. Queen Mother Best Kemigisa of the Tooro Kingdom, Uganda supports the work of UN Women. The Queen Mother states how people will listen to the religious and traditional leaders who uphold these practices as adding value to the lives of women and girls. The work UN Women are doing is vitally important. We need to work with these leaders and listen to their perspective in order for them to hopefully choose to listen to the reasons why these practices are unnecessary and harmful. If the minds of these leaders are changed, so too will the minds of their communities.

Annie Lennox’s Global Feminism campaign addresses how as feminists we must be looking at gender inequality on a global scale. It is about recognising that “Feminism needs to be relevant, appreciated and respected especially where the needs are greatest —in countries where women and girls are not even near the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of being able to realise the most fundamental of human rights.” – (Annie Lennox). Feminism is about reaching out to individual women and girls and addressing their individual needs which vary depending on where you live in the world. We must make sure to help encourage and strengthen the platform for women to speak up about their experiences of FGM/C and empower social and cultural change.

The UN have made it one of their sustainable development goals to “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation” (Goal 5.3).

It is incredible that we dedicate February to raising awareness of FGM/C. We need intense periods of time where we gather together to educate people who are not aware of FGM/C or indeed the scale of the problem. But the campaigning cannot occur only in February. In order to continue fighting for women and girls to lead healthy lives, we must carry on discussing the issue and taking action to end it.

“Ending FGM is possible in our generation. It is no longer a dream. It is happening” – Regional UN Women Ambassador for Africa, Jaha Dukureh, at the Opening Session of the European Development Days, Spotlight Initiative section, June 2018

For more information about FGM/C visit the following link

#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.


How I’ll Be a Better Feminist in 2019

Photo Credit: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, 2014.

This month we are opening up our blog to our members. Rosie writes about her feminist New Year’s resolutions for the coming year!

Read more

I think that reading about feminism is the best way to become a better Global Feminist. It allows you to understand the viewpoints of other women from around the world and is also a great way to keep up to date on current discussions surrounding contemporary women’s rights. On my reading list for this year are ‘Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies’ by Scarlett Curtis, ‘Why We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‎, ‘I am Malala’ Malala Yousafzai and ‘Eve Was Shamed’ by Helena Kennedy. I think that is an important gateway into the experiences of women from different cultures and backgrounds to my own. I believe that these different perspectives further encourage me to become a truly Global Feminist. These texts are written by women who write from a number of different viewpoints, either having experienced different modes sexism or misogyny themselves, or their professions such as journalists have led them to discover the stories of women who may not have the platform to share their own experiences.

Ensure that my feminism is intersectional

All sexism and misogyny is deplorable and all women’s experiences matter. I recognize that my experience does not reflect the whole spectrum of oppression faced by women around the world and I want to be an ally for all women. For those experiencing forced marriage or FGM, for the women that have been trafficked for sex or have been failed by the law after suffering rape or sexual assault, those who are unable to access a safe and legal abortion, and others who have to give birth in dangerous conditions. It is for these women that I vow to support. Global Feminism is about all women coming together and sharing cultures and experience, it encourages us to understand inequalities and oppression on a global scale.

Put my money where my mouth is

I love clothes and I love fashion, but I also plan to find out more about the inequalities rife within the garment sector. I know that 80% of garment workers are women and that they often work in unsafe conditions for long hours with little pay and fewer labour laws. This also puts them at risk of sexual harassment from their bosses and in a lot of instances maternity leave is limited to non-existent. This year, I really want to make sure as many of my clothes as possible are made in an ethical way, even if this means buying less. I will commit to learning more about sweatshop free brands to make sure my purchasing decisions don’t enslave the women making my clothes.

Educate friends and family

This year, I want to educate my friends and family about Global Feminism at every chance I get. I find that many men don’t engage in feminism and are not always aware of their privilege. This mindset also applies to women who are purely interested in Western feminism, to those who will happily wear a ‘Girl Power’ shirt without considering the plight of the woman who made it. Taking the opportunity to talk to these men and women in your life is an opportunity to communicate the values Global Feminism and some of the shocking statistics that quantify the level of inequality across the globe. Speaking to friends and family is also a good way of communicating an accurate definition of feminism and what that entails. I know men who admit that they were hesitant to support the feminist cause because they believed that the movement was rooted in a hatred of men. This year I want to spread the word by inviting my friends to watch feminist films, lending them books and recommending podcasts.

Empower other women

Every day I want to try and take little actions that help other women. This means that I won’t wait until the next big protest or social media hashtag to assert my feminism, but I will support women at every chance I get. I resolve to make space for my female colleagues to speak in work meetings, to back up their ideas and to make sure they get the credit. I will help women who are being harassed in a bar or on the street and call out sexist comments. I already call out everyday sexism in my social circle, but 2019 will be the year that I take this further – to work, to the street and online.

Network with like-minded women

In 2019, I want to connect more with other global feminists. I have a bit of a fear of networking situations, so I also want to take every opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. I also believe that I could learn a lot from the perspectives of others, which in turn will make me a better feminist. Types of networking I would love to take part in includes charity events, social media, feminist book clubs and debates. I would also like to volunteer with charities that support women globally so I can learn more about how I can help other women.

Be kinder to all my sisters

The world is harsh enough on women already so we should all be making the effort to empower each other. We need to support one another to make real change. We don’t need to be complicit in unrealistic beauty standards by judging each other on what we wear or how much we weigh. Nor should we be shaming other women for their sexuality, career or lifestyle choices. Stick up for your sisters in 2019!

This article was written by Rosie Greenfield, member of The Circle.

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #WidenYourCircle #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle member Jo

Member of The Circle, Jo Nevin. 

“I have always been aware that we need to think about intersectionality when we discuss the issues that women face, but The Circle has really challenged me to have that conversation with other people and, perhaps most importantly, challenged me to have that conversation with myself”

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!

Jodie Nevin is a member of The Lawyer’s Circle, that are currently working on a strategy to allow those within The Circle to be able to undertake more pro bono work. Jodie describes herself as ‘incredibly privileged’ to be a lawyer as she is able to provide free legal advice and representation which is often the only means of obtaining access to justice for those who are unable to pay and are not eligible for public funding. She states that The Lawyers Circle believes that access to legal advice should not be the privilege of the most advantaged in society, and that ‘we are excited to utilise our collective knowledge to provide even more free legal advice to disempowered women and girls across the globe.’

Why did you decide to become a member of The Circle?

I’ve always enjoyed being an active member of groups that aim to promote – and protect – the rights of women, but I felt as though I wanted to join a group that had a more global outlook. I loved the idea that you have this incredible force of women in The Circle, but to make it work you have pockets of passionate women in the smaller Circles who are given the opportunity to work with like-minded individuals to create something effective and meaningful.

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

It’s interesting because sometimes you look back at moments in your life and you are able to identify experiences that have shaped who you are as a person. I have absolutely no doubt that the reason I feel so passionate about #WomenEmpoweringWomen is because I was lucky enough to have an absolute powerhouse of a friend at an early age – a friend who supported me, acted as my biggest cheerleader and empowered me to be the person I am today. Without knowing it, we had created our own circle of sisterhood, and that circle protected us from whatever the world was throwing at us. She empowers me, and I empower her – and because of that, we are able to empower others.

For me, #WomenEmpoweringWomen means striving to ensure that every woman experiences that incredible power of sisterhood.

What impact has The Circle had on your life?

It has encouraged me to think about feminism globally. I have always been aware that we need to think about intersectionality when we discuss the issues that women face, but The Circle has really challenged me to have that conversation with other people and, perhaps most importantly, challenged me to have that conversation with myself.

To check out The Lawyers Circle’s current projects on the Living Wage and Maternal Health rights click here!

#WidenYourCircle #WomenEmpoweringWomen #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist


Annie Lennox for Refinery29

Annie Lennox On Why We Should All Be Identifying As Global Feminists

“An activist is about being an impatient person, with a lot of patience,” Annie Lennox tells me over the phone. She sounds pleased at the end of the sentence, letting out a two syllable laugh – “ah ha” – because it’s such a good sentence. Of course it is, it’s Annie Lennox, widely regarded as one of the best songwriters of all time, winner of six Brit awards for Best Female Artist, four Grammys and an Oscar for Best Song.”

“When I can channel my distress into action, I feel better, I feel so inspired”, she tells me in relation to her humanitarian work, which is vast, earning her the Woman of Peace Award at the 2009 Nobel Peace Laureates summit and an OBE in 2011, a year after she became a goodwill ambassador for UNAIDS. Annie cites a 2003 trip to South Africa – where she spent time with Nelson Mandela, performed in the launch concert for his HIV/AIDS foundation and visited families and orphanages devastated by AIDS – as the point of no return. That was the moment she leapt up. “It was a life changing experience,” she writes on The Circle’s website. “My encounters woke me up to a multitude of stark realities regarding the contrasting way of life between Western nations and the so called developing world.” The stark contrast between life for women in these countries and life in the privileged West still plagues her – “every day,” she says. “I do become despairing from time to time because I think, ‘This is too big, there’s nothing I can do’. But there is something I can do. And I’m doing it. I’m dedicating my time, my passion and my platform to whatever I can do to make a contribution to the global women’s movement. That’s what I can do as an individual.”

Read the full article here

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #OneReasonImAGlobalFeminist


One Reason Why I’m A Global Feminist

 

Annie Lennox, Founder of The Circle, on why she is a global feminist. Join the #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist movement on social media and tag Annie Lennox and @TheCircleNGO.

Like millions of women and men, I feel hugely inspired by the development of the #MeToo, Time’s Up and Women’s March movements.

I am proud to call myself a feminist and stand in solidarity with everyone who understands the vital need for change in attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls.

The feminist movement is a broad church with different interpretations, opinions and ideas. I identify myself as a ‘Global Feminist’ to describe where I’m coming from.

I believe in equality of rights, with empowerment and justice made available for every woman and girl in every corner of the world.

#OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist is a call to action bringing collective meaning and value to the term ‘Global Feminism’.

Prof Pamela Gillies, Vice-Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University

Feminism needs to be relevant, appreciated and respected where the needs are greatest —in countries where women and girls are not even near the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of human rights. I’m impatient to see the ‘glass ceiling’ being smashed in my lifetime, so I’m inviting you to join me and The Circle, to create a massive advocacy wave to establish the term ‘Global Feminism’ and raise a better understanding about the bigger picture of global inequality.

This call to action will only take 5 minutes of your time.

Have your picture taken holding a sheet of paper with one selected handwritten reason why you identify yourself as a Global Feminist.

Post your picture on social media, using #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist and tag Annie Lennox and @TheCircleNgo so we can see your support. Feel free to help grow the campaign by tagging other organisations you support who work for the rights of women and girls and ask your friends, family and colleagues to join in too.

You will then become part of a collective wave for positive change for women’s rights around the world!

Sarah Brown, President of Theirworld.

Here are some reasons to choose from, in case you don’t already know them:

1.There are 757 million adults who cannot read or write —2 out of 3 of these are women.
2.In Africa, 28 million girls are not in education and will never step inside a classroom.
3.Over 750 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday.
4.Every minute of the day, one young girl (aged 15-24) contracts HIV.
5.Women and girls account for 71% of human trafficking victims.
6.Every day approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
7.Women make up only 22.8% of the worlds parliamentarian seats.
8. Across the world 39,000 girls under the age of 18 become child brides every day.
9. In developing countries,20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth every day.
10. 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.
11. 41 million girls living in developing countries around the world are denied a primary education.
12. 1 in 3 women and girls are impacted by physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Love,

Annie Lennox


Annie Lennox’s interview for The Independent: on Eurythmics, Nelson Mandela and global feminism

 

Annie Lennox discusses her career, global feminism, activism and founding The Circle in today’s interview with The Independent.

Annie Lennox is to perform hits including “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and her own personal favourite, “Here Comes The Rain Again”, at a one-night only event at Sadler’s Wells in March. 

Titled Annie Lennox – An Evening of Music & Conversation, the former Eurythmics singer will also share “thoughts, memories and reflections” on her life and career, set against a backdrop of visuals of her in various musical phases, as well as some childhood photographs, in aid of her the charity she founded, The Circle.

“It’s very interesting reflecting at this point in my life,” says Lennox, now 62. “When I was younger I was looking ahead and never knew where I was heading.” 

Go to full article.