Global Feminism Film

As the women’s rights movement pushes forward, internationally acclaimed singer, songwriter, performer and Human Rights activist Annie Lennox and the NGO she founded, The Circle, have partnered with Apple Music for a Global International Women’s Day initiative launched today.

Together with Sammy Andrews and her team at Deviate Digital, they have created a short film in support of Global Feminism, an umbrella term inclusive of all approaches to women’s equality.

To help her, Annie has drawn support from some of the biggest names in music, film and beyond, including Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Richard E Grant, Emeli Sande, Hozier, Richa Chadha, Eddie Izzard, Gwendoline Christie, Farhan Akhtar, Beverley Knight and Mary J Blige. Watch and share the short film below:

While we celebrate and acknowledge the advancement in women rights over the past 100 years, we must make sure it’s inclusive for all. The short film aims to highlight the injustices still experienced by millions of women and girls the world over – from misogyny, rape and violence to pay disparity.

Every woman and girl, no matter where they live, no matter the colour their skin, no matter what religious faith, no matter what – MUST have access to the same basic human rights. Global Feminists believe in equality of rights, with empowerment and justice made available for every woman and girl in every corner of the world.

Annie Lennox: “Disempowerment creates an appalling way of life for millions of women and girls around the world. While physical or sexual violence affects one in three women, and two thirds of the world’s 757 million adults who cannot read or write are women … these are only two on a long list of disparity and injustice. We cannot ignore the fact that feminism must have a global reach.”

“At a time when there seems to be so much polarity and division in the world, the term ‘global feminism’ offers an opportunity for people from every walk of life, colour of skin, gender or sexual orientation to understand and identify with the bigger global picture. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder in support of human rights, justice and equality for women and girls everywhere in the world, especially in countries where they are not even near the lowest rung of the ladder.”

Rachel Newman (Apple Music Global Head of Editorial):Annie Lennox is not only one of the most prolific women in music, but one of the most dedicated and passionate women’s rights advocates of our time. Her efforts to better this world are truly inspiring and her impact is undeniable. This International Women’s Day we are thrilled and honored to support this incredible artist and share her message of #globalfeminism with our global audience.”

Sioned Jones (Executive Director, The Circle): “Global Feminism is at the heart of what we do as we strive for a more equal and fairer world for women and girls. On this International Women’s Day having a chance to remind us all of the huge inequalities and injustices that remain for millions of women and girls across the globe is important in ensuring no one is left behind in being able to realise their basic human rights. We thank Annie, Apple Music and all the contributors who have given up their time and support to this film and we all stand together as Global Feminists.”


Share your own #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist on social media and tag @thecirclengo and Annie Lennox!

#GlobalFeminism #WomenEmpoweringWomen


Global Feminist Calendar: March and April 2019

Image Credit: Poet in the City

With International Women’s Day on 8 March, the next few weeks are packed with feminist events! Find out what’s happening near you!

March 2 – The Circle Member’s Annual Gathering (London)

Our Annual Gathering is an opportunity to bring our valued members together to thank and acknowledge you all for your support in our work, as we reflect on our achievements over the past 12 months and share our plans and strategy for 2019.
As we know from previous years, it’s also an event full of inspiration and motivation from the range of speakers and fellow guests. This year we are thrilled and honoured to announce that joining us will be our Founder Annie Lennox in conversation with Eve Ensler where they will share what drives their passion and activism for women’s rights and their hopes for the feminist movement.

March 2 – Practical Feminist Allyship for Men at Home and at Work (Sheffield)

The Feminist Men Project (FMP) is excited to present two new workshops on Practical Feminist Allyship for Men at Home and at Work.

Since #MeToo we have seen high profile men in the spotlight being exposed for the violence they have committed. Others have come out to raise awareness of their roles as feminist allies and reflect on masculinity and specifically on ‘toxic masculinity’.

Patrick Stewart recently spoke on a panel for Refuge to discuss domestic violence; Idris Elba has challenged why men are resistant to the #MeToo movement; Justin Baldoni and Jackson Katz have spoken at TED about masculinity and men’s role in speaking out against violence against women (VAWG).

We wish to provide a bridge between these ideas and the men who want to engage with them. We provide an environment for earnest discussion of these issues where we can facilitate a practical understanding of how men can be more supportive of women at home and at work.

March 3 – Care International’s March4Women (London)

On 3 March 2019, members and volunteers of The Circle will be taking part in Care International’s #March4Women.
It will be an uplifting afternoon of speeches, entertainment, solidarity and action suitable for the whole family – and it’s indoors so this year you won’t get wet or cold!
We’ll be taking forward the global fight for gender equality by asking you to join us in calling for a worldwide treaty to protect women everywhere from violence and harassment in the workplace. We’ll have contributions from activists from the UK and around the world – and you will have the opportunity to lend your voice to our campaign. Our aim is to ensure that the most vulnerable and marginalised women and girls, including garment workers, domestic workers and those living in extreme poverty, have protection. Please join us to help make 2019 another #March4Women step forward for gender equality!

Tickets to the event are limited, so please make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment. Tickets are £5, but if you feel that you could help contribute towards the cost of running the event, you can also donate £10 when you buy your ticket.

5 March – Towards Zero Tolerance: Putting Gender into a Theory of Violence and Society (London)

The UN Sustainable Development Goals aspire to end violence against women and reduce violence in general. According to Pinker, drawing on Elias, violence is decreasing.

The new scholarship from women and the Global South has challenged this account, documenting the scale of the violence from the powerful. Moving the analysis of violence from the margin to the centre of contemporary social science requires rethinking the concept of violence, treating it as an institution parallel in significance to economy, polity and civil society. Is domestic violence better addressed as ‘coercive control’ or as ‘violent crime’? Is it connected to gendered economic inequalities or to men’s motivation to control? Is it better addressed by increasing the criminalisation of perpetrators of violence or increased specialised welfare support to potential and actual victims?

The answer offered here is to mainstream gender into the concept and measurement of violence and into a theory of society.

7 March – IWD: Drink & Draw with Girl Gang Leeds (Leeds)

As part of our week-long event series to celebrate International Women’s Day, join us for an evening of drawing, drinking hot chocolate and chatting.

Leeds based artist and teacher Rosanna Gammon will be leading us in an event inspired by great women from history.

This class is totally free and open to women, non binary and trans people of all ages. Under 12’s must be accompanied by an adult.

Equipment will be provided but please feel free to bring your own pencils etc if you have some favourites.

8 March – What Now? Annie Lennox at Wow Festival (London)

On Friday 8 March in What Now? looks at the here and now. From politics to financial empowerment, from toxic masculinity to the intersection of sexism, racism and homophobia here are the subjects that matter most collated from WOW Thinkins around the world.
Annie Lennox leads a conversation on Global Feminism, and how local activism can turn into international solidarity; Julia Gillard, the first woman Prime Minister of Australia, talks about resilience and her mission to dispel the myths about female leadership, and we put money high on the agenda with a challenge to talk more about our personal finances – in particular, our pensions. Other speakers include: Gina Miller, the woman who successfully challenged the UK government’s authority to trigger Article 50; Rizzle Kicks musician and actor Jordan Stephens on the effects of toxic masculinity; Scarlett Curtis, curator of Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies); Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), actor and co-creator of daisie, a new online community for creative collaboration; stand-up comedian Rosie Jones; cellist and singer Ayanna Witter-Johnson as well as spoken word from some of the UK’s best established and up and coming poets.

8 March – International Women’s Day: Networking Brunch with The Circle (Oxford)

Join us to celebrate International Women’s Day with a networking brunch at The Alchemist Oxford on Friday 8th March from 10am!

Tickets are a £5 charity donation (excluding fees) to The Circle, an organisation of women working together to achieve equality for women and girls in a fairer world. Founded by Annie Lennox in 2008, The Circle is inspired by the notion that when women come together and organise, they can be a powerful force for change. They are a network of women from all walks of life and all backgrounds who have something in common: the awareness that we still do not live in a world where women and girls have equal rights and equal opportunities.
We are proud to welcome a speaker from The Circle who will be holding a talk on female empowerment, accompanied by Oxfordshire Mind who will be holding a discussion on women’s mental health in business.
This event provides a chance to meet inspirational women, share your thoughts and stories as a woman in business whilst enjoying panoramic views of the City of Spires.

8 March – International Women’s Day March in Edinburgh (Edinburgh)

Hosted by Women’s Strike Assembly, this is an invitation to feminists of all genders to join cis women, trans women and non-binary people of any ethnicity or sexual orientation, who have been marginalised or disadvantaged by the patriarchy to march in Edinburgh on International Women’s Day.

On 8 March they will speak out and resist to say enough!

People from around Edinburgh will gather in joyful militancy and peacefully to draw attention to the situation of inequity of women around the world. Experiences of being marginalised are shaped by interconnecting systems of oppression such as sexism, racism, anti-blackness, classism, dis-ableism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, trans-misogyny, whorephobia, fat-phobia, islamophobia, and antisemitism.

Spread the word and invite your family, friends and community!!! You can also support the movement by signing and sharing their femifesto here.

8 March – Freedom4Girls Open Mic Night (Leeds)

In honour of International Women’s Day, Freedom4Girls are hosting an Open Mic Night at Lambert’s Yard in the centre of Leeds. This is happening on 8 March and they really hope to see you there to have an amazing night of celebrating women and the work Freedom4Girls has achieved so far!

Period Poverty is a very real issue in the UK and on our door steps here in Leeds. Come and see how this is affecting young women, women and girls across the country as well as the work Freedom4Girls have achieved in Kenya and Uganda.

The event will also take the opportunity to thank all of their amazing volunteers who have supported in our work so far, at our workshops, delivering and donating products, sorting our stock at FareShare…. this is a celebration of your hard work too!

There will be singers, comedians, spoken word artists perform.

And, fitting with the work F4G started in Kenya all those years ago, we are incredibly excited to announce our headline act, Kenyan born UK comedian and author, Njambi McGrath.

Until 10 March – Women Who Shaped Manchester (Manchester)

Shedding light on some of the most important women from Manchester who helped transform the future of women’s suffrage, the John Rylands Library’s exhibition perfectly captures the individuals’ passion and strength. Read Emmeline Pankhurst’s inspiring letter that called to those prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of equality, and admire the scroll presented to Enriqueta Rylands, the first freewoman of the City of Manchester.

10 March – Black Power Women of Brixton Walk (London)

Women’s role in the fight for black civil and equal rights in Britain has been severely marginalised. This walk through Brixton, London will show the life, stories, and activities of numerous African/Caribbean women in the area. Documenting the anti-racist fight in housing, education and politics from the 1950’s to the 1980’s, the two hour and 15 minute walk will cover newspaper publisher and campaigner Claudia Jones, the Depo Provera birth control scandal, the Black Panther Women of Brixton and more.

10 March – International Women’s Day Celebration (London)

One of our members is organising an event to raise money for The Circle and celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 in Croydon! The line up will include singers, spoken word performances, dancing and other festivities. This event is free to attend and will also be collecting sanitary products for We-Stap. Come along to hear some incredible performances!

13 March – Global Feminism: Ending Violence Against Women (London)

The Circle invites you to attend a new series of films inspired by the Annie Lennox campaign to promote Global Feminism, encouraging everyone to further understand the inequality around the world for the most disempowered women and girls.
The first film, City of Joy, shows a ray of hope in a country where sexual violence is a weapon of war. Turning Pain Into Power is the theme this amazing project, a sanctuary of healing and transformation for women who have been traumatised by the most horrendous violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Annie Lennox urges everyone to watch this inspirational film demonstrating that we can effect changes to enhance and empower the lives of women across the globe.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with a panel sharing their experience of visiting the Panzi Hospital in DRC, founded by 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and City of Joy Consultant Dr, Denis Mukwege.

4 April – Intersectional Feminism in the time of #MeToo (London)

Guardian journalist Maya Wolfe-Robinson chairs a discussion between activist Marai Larasi and writer and communications strategist Chelsea Fuller. Larasi is Director of Imkaan, a UK-based women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls, and Fuller is Senior Communications Manager at US-based Blackbird, a strategic communications firm which services racial and social justice organisations and is a key innovator behind the #MeToo movement and the Movement for Black Lives in the US.

Intersectional feminism acknowledges that oppression intersects with systems of society such as race, gender and class.

Founded in 2006 by African-American civil rights activist Tarana Burke in response to the sexual violence she saw in her community, the #MeToo movement centres upon the power of empathy between survivors of sexual assault. The movement was popularised on social media in 2017 when allegations against Harvey Weinstein led to his arrest. Established in 2014, the Movement for Black Lives is a coalition of groups across the US which represent the interests of Black communities. It was created as a response to the sustained and increasingly visible violence against Black communities, with the purpose of forming a united front and securing a political platform.

Working at the intersection of racial justice and advocacy against sexual violence, Marai Larasi and Chelsea Fuller discuss the roots of the Movement for Black Lives and #MeToo, examining what has changed since their popularisation, the challenging conversations yet to be had between them, and the potential ground for future collaboration.

13 April – Suitable Women: Films of Female Friendship (Glasgow)

Pity Party Film Club presents an all-day event showcasing four on-screen depictions of female friendship throughout the decades. Grab your best friend and make a day of it!

Until 14 April – 209 Women Exhibition (London)

There are 209 women in the House of Commons, and although it’s still a way off gender parity, this does mark the highest female representation there has ever been in UK politics.
To mark 100 years since some women gained the right to vote, and to champion the visibility of women, particularly in male-dominated environments, photographer Hilary Wood has created the 209 Women project.
The exhibition – 204 portraits of the female MPs, all shot by female photographers – can be seen at Portcullis House in London until 14 February. After that, it will open in Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery from 1 March to 14 April.

15 April – Audre Lorde: Sister Outsider (London)

Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill”

An empowering evening of live poetry performances and discussion inviting you to get to know the mighty voice of Audre Lorde: black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.

A prolific American writer, intersectional feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist, Lorde dedicated her life and creative energies to challenging and addressing discriminations of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. She firmly advocated self-love as an act of resistance, and empowered generations of marginalised individuals to defy the prejudiced societies in which they lived by openly loving themselves and believing in their dreams

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


Feminist Calendar: March and April 2018

Photo: Care International’s #March4Women rally, 2017.

Looking for inspiration from incredible women around the country? The Circle volunteer Anna Renfrew has got it covered with this collection of feminist events near you!

1 March – Both Sides Now (Leeds)

Both Sides Now is a large-scale initiative taking place across the North of England to support emerging female artists and up-and-coming industry professionals to transform the future of the music industry.

Its aim is to create a network that delivers sustainable activity and affects permanent change around the perception, opportunities and profiling of women in music, from the classroom, to the boardroom, to the stage.

This first ‘Open Space’ event is for anyone with an interest in this conversation to come together and discuss what could make a real difference – whether that’s about role models, motherhood, education, social mobility, policy change or something else entirely.

1 March – Consent in the classroom: mapping SRE provisions after #MeToo (Cambridge)

The presentation of GENPOL’s new policy paper, one of the first studies assessing the quality and influence of sexual education across all EU member states. The policy paper examines the links between SRE and gender-based violence, suggesting that comprehensive and inclusive teaching can help challenge and prevent abusive behaviours. It outlines GenPol’s innovative approach to consent-centred SRE, and carefully unpacks the relationship between educational efforts and gender-based violence prevention. It also celebrates the vital work of sex education and gender equality advocates across Europe, whilst identifying existing gaps that need to be addressed.

2 March – The Feminist Disco II (Edinburgh)

Join the joyous rebellion and embrace the fun of feminism with your fellow feministas. The Feminist Disco is back in Edinburgh with more great tunes and excellent company!

2 March – My Life as a Scottish MP (Edinburgh)

The European Parliament Liason Office in Edinburgh will host a panel discussion event for International Women’s Day to discuss women’s issues at national European level and the specific challenges faced by women in politics. This will be an all-female panel with speakers including Catherine Stihler and Elspeth Attwooll!

3 March – Stereotypes of Black Women’s Identities (Bristol)

“A panel discussion led by three women from diverse backgrounds leading the discussion on the stereotyped black woman. For centuries, black women have been shoehorned into a handful of stereotypes — the mammy, the sexual siren, the welfare queen, the matriarch, and the angry Black woman. Arguably, Michelle Obama represents a pushback against each of these, even at the implicit level.”

African Voices Forum leads round table discussions on the identity of black women as part of the General Assembly’s proclamation of this decade as the Decade for People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development.

4 March – March4Women, The Circle (London)

The Circle members will be marching through the streets of London to show solidarity for women everywhere. It’s going to be a fun and empowering way to get to know each other more and support women’s rights. Not a member yet? Join us!

4 March – Imkaan x gal-dem: fundraiser to support women facing violence (London)

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day, for one Sunday filmmaker Jade Jackman, Politics Editor for gal-dem Leah Cowan and the rest of gal-dem will fill the House of Vans with film screenings, several talks, a raffle and a marketplace. All proceeds will be donated to Imkaan, the only UK-based, second-tier women’s organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black minoritised women and girls.

Through celebrating the words and works of women and non-binary folk of colour, we will support women in the UK who will be most affected by the government’s proposed changes to domestic violence funding which will leave some refuges and services without funding. By uplifting and celebrating women, we want to support others.

With workshops and panel discussions focusing on BME women’s experience of sexualized and racialized harassment and ending deportations. There will also be a talk by Paula Akpan, gal-dem’s social media editor, in conversation with activist and model Munroe Bergdorf.

7 March – March of Women, a film from Glasgow Women’s Library and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Dundee)

First performed in 2015, March of Women celebrated the lives and achievements of Scottish women past and present. In this documentary film, you will hear from the women involved as they talk about the heroines they chose to represent. After the film you’ll get the chance to join the discussion and create your own suffragette-style rosette with a message for women today.

This event is for women only.

8 March – International Women’s Day Celebration (Edinburgh)

The Empower Project and WomenBeing have teamed up to host a celebration of women this Thursday for International Women’s Day. The event will feature an exhibition of art and photography, spoken word performances, and live music from women living in and around Edinburgh. Taking place at The Dog House in Newington, they will be taking donations of hygiene products for Homeless Period. Lets have a party!

8 March – Girl TALKS – International Women’s Day Special (Leeds)

Girl Talk is a free, monthly, informal meet up for creative women and non-binary people hosted by Girl Gang Leeds. Their monthly meet-up falls on International Women’s Day so this one is going to be extra special!

With talks from Kristyna Baczynski, Modes of Expression, Equaliser, Four Chambers and Freedom4girls.

8, 9, 10 March – Nasty Women Exhibition: Empowerment (London)

To celebrate International Women’s Day Creative Debuts has joined forces with Nasty Women New York, Amsterdam, Lisbon, North East, and London to celebrate the work of international feminist artists.

Expect to see a range of contemporary artwork including photography, sculpture, craft, fine art, and film whilst raising money for End Violence Against Women. RSVP is essential!

9, 10, 11, 17 March – POWERFUL WOMEN: A Hidden History, at the National Gallery (London)

It’s back!

“Did you know that of the 2,300 paintings on display at the National Gallery, only eleven are by women? Did you know that only around five per cent of the works in major permanent collections worldwide is by women artists? Did you know that on average less than five per cent of the artists in permanent collection’s modern art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female? Can you name the female heroes and seductresses of the old testament? Do you know their stories? Have you ever heard of a Maenad? Medusa? Madame Pompidour? Saint Catherine?”

London Drawing Group is addressing this imbalance: “POWERFUL WOMEN: a Hidden History invites you to step inside London’s Iconic National Gallery with a celebration of powerful female figures throughout history; from Grecian Goddesses to the wonderfully vicious Old Testament heroines, stories of Saints and Martyrs, Witches, Monsters and the too-long-forgotten female artists of the National Gallery”.

Let resident LDG tutor Luisa-Maria MacCormack guide you through the gallery and spend the afternoon practicing drawing exercises that are designed to help you understand and engage with these paintings and stories in new and creative ways.

9, 10, 11 March – WOW Festival(London)

WOW – Women of the World festival celebrates women and girls, and looks at the obstacles that stop them from achieving their potential.

Around the world, individuals and communities are insisting on the simple proposition that women and girls must have equal rights and asking the question: why is gender equality taking so long?

Southbank Centre’s WOW – Women of the World festival is a global network of festivals which provides a platform for celebrating what has been achieved, and exploring all the ways we can change the world for the better. The Circle will have a stall at the WOW Market Place, so come and meet the team!

12-13 April – Queer Modernism(s) II: Intersectional Identities (Oxford)

After the resounding success of the first Queer Modernism(s) conference in 2017, Queer Modernism(s) II: Intersectional Identities, will be held on 12 and 13 April 2018 at the University of Oxford. Queer Modernism(s) II is an interdisciplinary, international conference exploring the place of queer identity in modernist art, literature and culture, with an emphasis on intersecting identities. Panelists will question, discuss and interrogate the social, sexual, romantic, artistic, affective, legal and textual relationship between queer identity and modernity.

The Keynotes will be Dr. Sandeep Parmar (University of Liverpool) and Dr. Jana Funke (University of Exeter). Dr. Parmar is a BBC New Generation thinker and has published widely on women’s literature in the 20th century, especially lesser known and non-canonical women. Dr. Funke is a Senior Lecturer in Medical Humanities in the English Department at the University of Exeter and a Wellcome Trust Investigator. Her research cuts across modernist studies, the history of sexuality and the history of science. She has published on modernist women’s writing, the history of sexual science and queer literature and history.

Click here to see the provisional programme.

26 April – Empower Her Voice: Mothers in the Arts (London)

Empower Her Voice – London is an organisation which aims to promote education and create discussion amongst women around the world; it was set up by Zainab Majid and Amira Fateh in 2017 and since then has run successful talks and events that aim to increase positive networking between self-identifying women for a charitable cause.

For the first ever Empower Her Voice event in London, a group of fascinating women will discuss what it means to be a working mother in the arts today, whilst raising money for girls to attend school in Lahore, Pakistan.

With a fantastic lineup of speakers on the panel: Yana Peel (CEO of the Serpentine Galleries), Fiammetta Rocco (Arts & Books Editor at The Economist), Elif Şafak / Elif Shafak (author), Margy Kinmonth (film and television director), Joanna Kirk (represented by BlainSouthern), Martine Rose (fashion designer) and Alice Murphy (historian), this is not to be missed!

 

 

 

 

Written by @AnnaRenfrew. Anna is a student at The University of Edinburgh and a volunteer at The Circle.


International Women’s Day, part i: #March4Women

Photo credit: Care International.

When I was younger I loved to swim. I was never a fast swimmer, my swimming teacher told me that I had stamina rather than speed. I remember there being an aggression, an impatience and an exclusion in swimming heats if you weren’t one of the main competitors. I remember feeling disappointed and frustrated every time I didn’t swim fast enough, despite hours of training. I was born with stamina over speed in a world where power and strength is perceived to be fast paced, aggressive, impatient and exclusive. Stamina seemed less ‘strong’ by comparison.

In reflecting on the Care International #March4Women event held in London on Sunday 5 March 2017, I am reminded of the strength of stamina when seeing Helen Pankhurst, who continues to hold the flame of her great-grandmother, who in turn had carried it for all the women before her. Protester banners and signs reading ‘Why do I we still need to protest this shit’ and ‘Same shit different century’ voice the frustration that is being felt even more by people living in the world today. For me this frustration and the events of Sunday marked a moment of solidarity, which Billy Brag aptly described as what happens when ‘we mix empathy with action’.

I am also reminded by my good friend Cara, an MBA student at the University of Oxford, that real change in society doesn’t happen in bursts, but in the moments connecting those bursts and through a persistence in shifting societal perceptions and norms. On Sunday 5 March, in London, there was a much-needed burst joining the message of activists including Bianca Jagger and Muzoon Almellehan with the status of celebrities from the UK and abroad. Emeli Sandé performed a new release for the first time to mark the occasion, while Annie Lennox spoke as an activist (re-enforcing the strange idea that a woman can be a feminist and a musician and an activist simultaneously!). There was a genuinely communal feel as the sound technology awkwardly failed VV Brown, Preeya Kalidas, Natasha Bedingfield, Kate Bush and Mel C, but they persisted in raising their voices to the rhythm of Aretha Franklin’s iconic Respect, in a unison call for gender equality. The singers then joined Bianca Jagger, Helen Pankhurst and Annie Lennox as they led thousands of people across Tower Bridge. I believe that in reflecting on these short, fast, prominent ‘bursts’ and carrying the messages heard at these events into every day discussions, we will continue to connect them to be the change that is needed.

During her interview with Gemma Cairney I was struck by Muzoon’s simple request for empathy. Muzoon, an eighteen-year-old activist who came to the UK in 2015 as a Syrian refugee and had begun advocating for refugees and their right to education at the age of fourteen, is wise beyond her years. During her interview, Muzoon answered the question I and many of my western friends ask ‘what can I do?’ with a simple ‘change your perception of who refugees are’. When we see refugees as people, we put the personal into the political and we can relate to them as our fellow-humans. In extending empathy to refugees we can begin to understand that their refugee status is a label masking the consequence of war that has forcibly taken them away from their homes, their livelihoods, their material securities and we can begin to imagine how that might feel and acknowledge that it could happen to anyone.

The energy on the day was positive and welcoming, so much so that when a man yelled ‘march for men’ someone yelled back ‘sure! How about you march for women now?’ I thus disappointed when I read some of the online responses to the event. Disappointed because of the lack of surprised I felt, but more because of the sheer ignorance of the posts. The common thread through most of the comments and tweets cage women into restricted identities where we can exist only as one or the other, but never more than one identity simultaneously. The tweet ‘When have women in Tooting ever been marginalised’ suggests that by living in London women cannot possibly be mistreated on the grounds of gender. If you, despite your gender, find yourself asking this question, I encourage you to discuss this with your female friends. I can assure you, you will be surprised to learn that simply being ‘an empowered woman living in London’ does not exclude you from gender-based harassment. From inappropriate commentary about her physical appearance, to a lower pay cheque in comparison to her male peers, to sexist views embedded in the unconscious bias of white men who remain at the top of the UK government and most commercial sectors, gender equality has yet to be achieved in this very ‘first world’ city.

Women who gather to march are sometimes criticised for being ’empowered and cosseted’ and told to ‘shut up’ or told to ‘march for girls in the Middle East being married off at ten…’, ignoring that many women marching across the bridge were in fact well-aware of the privilege we enjoy and the importance for us to use our empowerment to amplify the voices of those disempowered by gender-based inequality. The attacks on the intentions and physical appearance of the women taking part in the march are old and boring and shamefully uninformed and it makes the call for empathy all the more relevant.

I will therefore raise my educated, privileged, middle class, western English voice to echo the words of Annie Lennox, regardless of what you might say about my intentions, my class or my physical appearance, to amplify the voices of the women with less or without, in saying:

  • Globally one in three women will be beaten or coerced into sex or otherwise abused in their life time.
  • Every thirty seconds thirteen girls under the age of eighteen are entered into child marriage. This is a gross human rights violation that keeps girls out of school, endangering their health and sentencing them to a lifetime of poverty.
  • Around the world seventeen million girls will never have the opportunity to enrol in primary education.
  • Globally women are still paid less than men, earning on average only 60-75% of men’s wages.
  • Out of an estimated 3.8 million young people aged 15-24 living with HIV, 60% are female.
  • HIV is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age in the continent of Africa.

To the women who will never read this blog post, I promise to use my stamina and my strength to keep marching and using my voice to amplify the voice you may not even know you have. To the people, regardless of your gender, who have taken time to read this, I implore you to keep marching and raising your voices until gender inequality is something future generations, globally, will struggle to comprehend while sitting in their history lessons. ‘Inequality because of reproductive organs?’ they’ll laugh, ‘weird’.

peta
@PetaBB
Peta Barrett has experience in the arts and in Data, Research, Events and Operations and is a member of The Circle.