Interview with Maya Ghazal

“It is important that we always keep in mind that we are advantaged somehow and so it is good to share that advantage with others”

As part of our Women and Girls in Conflict month at The Circle, we caught up with Maya Ghazal, the inspiration refugee rights activist to speak about her the challenges that refugees face in the UK and her take on Women Empowering Women. Maya is the recipient of The Diana Legacy Award and is a student of Aviation Engineering with Pilot Studies at Brunel University.

Maya, tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Maya Ghazal, I am 20 years old and I am a refugee from Syria. I left Syria when I was 15 and got to the UK in 2015. I got to the UK in a plane via family reunion visa with my mum and two younger brothers as my dad was already in the UK. I faced many struggles coming to the UK and got rejected by schools in my community, however, after few dark months I was able to get over those struggles and challenges and finally got accepted to a college and was able to get back on track with my education.

Now, I am an advocate for refugees rights, speak in different events and volunteer to raise awareness and spread a message of kindness.

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

Well, from my own personal experience, I can say that integrating to the new community would be a challenge, learning English, entering the educational system and sometimes finding a job. These normal life activities can sometimes be challenging especially from people from outside the country with no one to help them or to tell them what to do or to guide them along the way.

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

Your smallest act of kindness can change someone’s life, don’t keep it in! Something as small as a smile or a nice supportive word to refugees could make a huge difference. I wouldn’t have been who I am and got to where I am without support, help and encouragements from people around me.

Finally, what does ‘Women Empowering Women’ mean to you?

We can support each other, lift each other and bring each other together. It is important that we always keep in mind that we are advantaged somehow and so it is good to share that advantage with others, it feels good to help and support each other, it truly makes a difference. There are many myths and labels to women and we can change that, together and as one, we can make a change and it is important that we prove to the outside word that we can do it all regardless to whatever labels and society would be giving.

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


Women Empowering Women Through Art and Conversation

“Women are powerful. Women are beautiful and strong. Women are wild, raw and resourceful. We must join together, and we must use our strength and resources to overcome.”

Meet Alice Sinclair and Sophie Gradden, the women empowering other women through an evening of art and conversation on 19th June. Alice, a member of The Circle, and Sophie, a UK-based artist are putting on an incredible event to raise funds for the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre. During the art class, which begins at 6.30pm, you will be able to select a favourite female icon to paint with the aim “go wild on canvas”! As well as having creative fun, you will be connecting with like-minded women and learning more about The Circle’s projects.

This a perfect example of how when women come together and organise, they can be a powerful force for change. We sat down and spoke to them about The Circle, fundraising and feminism …


Photo credit: Fiona Freund

Alice Sinclair works in the healthcare sector and is a member of The Circle.

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I have been based in London for 12 years. I work in the healthcare sector as an NLP therapist and a trainee Psychotherapist. I am also the editor of a local magazine. I have witnessed and experienced gender inequality in many forms throughout my life. I still see it everyday, and with my work as a therapist I see the impacts. Ending violence against women is my passion. It is it very close to my heart (near the cat section). I long for a world one day where the inhabitants are like WTF is inequality? Did that actually exist?

Why did you decide to organise this fundraising event?

This event is the beginning of many. Nothing feels more close to my heart than actively supporting and holding a platform for women to come together and work towards making a difference in the murky environment of gender based inequality. Sophie Gradden is a hoot to hang around with, it will be a memorable evening.

Why do you think the work of Nonceba Family Counselling centre is so important?

As a trainee therapist most of my NHS work has been with women who have experienced violence or abuse in its many guises. It tears you down. It whittles away confidence. The trauma can have a horrifying impact on how you live your life. Abuse can lead to very serious situations such as PTSD, agoraphobia, eating disorders, addictions, self harm and suicide. These can be passed down through generations. Wonderful charities like Nonceba are a vital refuge. They provide hope, and a way forward. For a year they will protect and physically and mentally support victims of domestic abuse. Nonceba gives women a way out. It breaks that generational passing. It de-normalises.

What does Women Empowering Women mean to you?

When I was ten years old, a teacher discovered I could bowl a cricket ball better than the boys in my class. I was invited to play on the boys team as there was no team for girls. As I ran up to bowl the first ball of my first match, both teams jeered. “she’s wearing a skirt” or “get lost you’re a girl”. I crumbled. That was to be my first and last match with that team.

This was my first experience of gender based inequality. My first experience of gender based violence was when I was eight, I am less inclined to discuss this freely. The point I am getting at is, women are powerful. Women are beautiful and strong. Women are wild, raw and resourceful. We must join together, and we must use our strength and resources to overcome every single face and aspect of discrimination, sexism, misogyny and abuse. Women need women.

Sophie Gradden is an artist living and working in the UK and we’re incredibly excited to have her working with The Circle for this event!

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I am a contemporary artist, temporarily living & working in Buckinghamshire. I’ve not always been an artist mind, but always dabbled in the creative industries of furniture & interior design.

In November 2016 I reignited my love for painting and set up a makeshift studio in my home and began creating, whilst working full time. Since then, the art continues. In April 2018 I had a total mental meltdown, suffering with depression and anxiety, I made the decision to take a break, a life sabbatical as I like to label it, and dedicate myself to my art full time, no more 9-5, just painting, painting, painting. Best thing I’ve ever f**king done.

Why did you decide to organise this fundraising event?

Why would we not? Any group of people gathering together to try and do better in this world, no matter how big or small the overall impact it may have…it’s something right! The more we do it, the more we talk about it, the more people will start to realize that these sometimes minute or minor situations to the absolute horrendous (even unimaginable) us wonderful women find ourselves put into is NOT ok!! Things have got to change. This I hope is a small yet mighty step towards that.

Why do you think the work of Nonceba Family Counselling centre is so important?

We must remember even though we are still fighting for gender equality and ending violence against women here in the UK, some countries sadly are still 10 steps behind us, which is frightening. The woman I am and the women I surround myself with, friends, family, colleagues, have all come up against gender equality issues, thankfully never violence, however I speak for a mere spec of the population, in fact the world. Even bigger problem!! What about the women who don’t have a choice and the support, someone to be there for them when the world has unfairly shunned them and continues to kick them, sometimes quite literally, when they are down, Nonceba is that answer. Nonceba is a positive way forward, one of many great projects that the circle supports.

What does Women Empowering Women mean to you?

Simple…My mum, my sister, my nan (sadly no longer with us) my sister in law, my best friend, my friends, my past colleagues…the amazing woman who I didn’t know, who reached out and held my hand on the train, when I was in a state of emotional anxiety, we didn’t even speak, we only exchanged a smile as she handed me a tissue. You saved me in that moment. Thank you.

Book your place for An Evening of Art and Conversation here. We’ll see you there!

#GlobalFeminism #WomenEmpoweringWomen


The Circle Committees Gathering

Photo: The Circle Committees Gathering in London, October 2018

 

We had a wonderful get together last Saturday 29 September 2018, with representatives from The Asian Circle, The Lawyers Circle, The Oxford Circle, The Italian Circle as well as our now forming London, Media and Healthcare and USA Circles! The Calgary Circle joined via the technology of the internet… I am SO proud of the work everyone has done, is doing, and is planning to accomplish in the future… Working on issues such as violence against women, sex trafficking, a living wage for women working in the garment industry, supporting the most vulnerable refugee children and mentoring young female journalists working in conflict zones. We are covering a broad selection of challenges and establishing real traction!
To think that in the same week, Jessica Simor of The Lawyers Circle, along with our Executive Director Sioned Jones, went to The Hague to have dialogue that could actually change the law on what is considered to be a ‘living wage’ for women, is an outstanding Circle accomplishment! And our Asian Circle’s partner in India, Lok Astha, have just received a ‘Spirit of Humanity’  award in recognition of their work in creating a transformative model to eliminate domestic violence and empower women!
Photo: Susan Ferner, from The Calgary Circle, joined the meeting via video conference from Canada.

 

After only three and a half years of forming our NGO, we are beginning to demonstrate our real potential.
Please join me in amplifying the message as to who we are and what we are doing, by contributing to our #OneReasonWhyIamAGlobalFeminist campaign.
With gratitude and appreciation to every single one of our dear Circle members… and much love from Annie.
To become a member of The Circle, sign up here.

Job Opportunity: Communications and Projects Officer

 

Communications and Projects Officer

Job type: Full time position.

Working as the Communications and Projects Officer at The Circle has been an incredibly valuable opportunity. I have learned, attended the widest range of events, met fascinating people from all backgrounds and made a difference in the lives of women and girls around the world. I have seen projects I have contributed towards thrive and make an impact in the world. I am now sadly leaving to further my education, but will still be a part of The Circle as a member. I am confident that I will continue to see The Circle grow, support more women and exceed expectations. Good luck to The Circle Team!

Clare Crosland Monclús, Communications and Projects Officer

The Circle NGO is a charity originating from the notion of women supporting, connecting and inspiring each other to become advocates and change agents, through our passion, skills and ideas. The charity was founded by Annie Lennox in 2008 and has grown stronger each year.

An excellent opportunity has arisen for a new Communications and Projects Officer, as the current Communications and Projects Officer is leaving after a highly successful tenure to further her academic education. The role is vital for the ongoing success of the charity and is ideal for candidates who are self-starters with an interested in a career in the charity sector. You will be working with a small but well established team of people who are passionate about women’s rights and equality.

The ideal candidate is self-motivated, with an eagerness to learn and grow. You will be able to self-manage while responding to the daily needs of the charity. The responsibilities of the role are varied and dependent upon upcoming events and key dates, a strong ability to plan ahead and prioritise is essential. The role offers the right candidate a space to build upon her/his skill sets and to put these to practice.

Reporting directly to the Executive Director, the role allows you to work remotely from home, however, you will have continuous support and attend weekly meetings with the team. You will also be required to be flexible and attend events to offer support where necessary.

The responsibilities associated with the Communications and Projects Officer span across a diverse range of projects and across all aspects of communication for the charity.

Communications:

Responsible for scheduling and delivering communications agreed with the Executive Director and individual circle committees across all channels of The Circle NGO including, but not limited to:

• Communications planning : Devise and maintain a rolling annual plan of communications themes and content and maintain an annual calendar that shows:
– Monthly topics of focus decided by The Circle NGO
– Annual Events (The Circle and other events focused on Women)
– Key dates relevant in Women’s rights
– Key dates related to Projects supported by The Circle NGO and Individual Circles

• Social media management:
– Creating, implementing and updating social media strategies and campaigns to support and communicate the continuous work of The Circle across all social media channels.

• Management of The Circle NGO’s website and blog. This includes:
– Liaising with key stakeholders;
– Curating content and being instrumental in developing this further;
– Ensuring content is up to date at all times;
– Leading and managing a team of volunteers in researching and writing content based on monthly topics and sharing these on social media channels where necessary.

• Management of the newsletters, which includes
– planning and writing content;
– liaising with individual Circle committees about upcoming events, to make sure that all the necessary info is included;
– monthly distribution.

• Supporting the Executive Director in overseeing compliance to brand on all information released to The Circle members and the public via social media feeds, blog posts, newsletters, general updates.

• Monitoring and tracking all results from communications, including the website and reporting this information back to the team.

• Work with external partners and organisations who support the communication of The Circle NGO and further the charity’s capacity.

Projects:

• Management of the Projects portfolio, including but not limited to:
– Working in conjunction with the Executive Director in developing and maintaining relationships with delivering partners and key stakeholders;
– Reading reports to track results and report your findings to the Executive Director on an ongoing basis;
– research and assess new potential partners and projects.

• Working in conjunction with the Executive Director to identify funding options from trusts and foundations and write funding applications.

• Manage the project portfolio process by working with project partners to define the deliverables (including budget, risks and reach), supply these to the Executive Director for approval at board level and then manage the report that tracks the results of meeting these deliverables. You will also be responsible for maintaining all relevant documentation forming part of these processes.

Other general responsibilities include:

• Manage the volunteering recruitment for The Circle.
• Manage the ‘Why Women’ report to ensure facts and statistics about women are up to date and maintained.
• General administration assistance when required.
• Support at events.
• Taking on ad hoc projects when appropriate.

Ideal candidates for the Communications and Projects Officer role will have the following essential skills:

o A good command of the English language, both spoken and written
o An understanding of and a frequent user of social media and blogging through personal usage
o An aptitude to learn and self-develop
o Proven experience of an ability to self-manage
o Good reporting skills
o Experience managing people

Desirable skills for the role include:

 Experience working or volunteering for a charity
 Experience working or volunteering with a charity, organisation or group interested in women’s rights
 Basic knowledge of SEO and WordPress
 Personally identify as a feminist with a genuine interest in gender equality and women’s rights

Systems experience:

o Microsoft suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) – Intermediate
o Office 365 email with SharePoint or other email and share document solutions– Basic
o GoToMeeting or other conference calling software – Basic
o Twitter / Instagram / Facebook Business Manager and other social media forums– a good understanding through use of personal accounts and a basic to intermediate for business usage
o WordPress or other blog hosting sites – Basic to intermediate
o Photo editing software – Basic

The current role is on a full time freelance based position paying £10.20 per hour, in line with the London living wage, per hour based on a 36-hour week, and offered on a 12 month contract. Benefits include flexible working hours and all reasonable and agreed expenses. As this is a work from home opportunity candidates must have facilities to accommodate this. Ideally the person will be based in London or the surrounding counties, as much of the work of The Circle is based in London. Please note the employment status of this role is currently under review and may be changed to an employee status. This will be known before the offering of the role to the selected candidate.

The Circle NGO promotes diversity and equal opportunities and we welcome applications from all relevant candidates.

To apply for this position please email your CV with a covering letter showing how you demonstrate the necessary skills and experience and can fulfil the responsibilities of the post, with the reference CPO2018 to hello@thecircle.ngo.

Please note that you must be eligible to work in the UK as we unfortunately cannot accept applications from anyone who is not legally able to work in the UK.

Applications close at 5 pm on Friday 24th August. Interviews will be held the following week (in person or by Skype). If you have any questions regarding this role, please email hello@thecircle.ngo.


SeeMe x The Circle collection

 

See Me and The Circle have launched a beautiful and ethically-made jewellery collection to celebrate ten years of Women Empowering Women.

SeeMe is a fair-trade verified brand that produces sleek heart-shaped jewellery and accessories and provides ethical sourcing for other fashion brands.

SeeMe employs women, often single mothers, who have suffered violence and were ostracized from their communities in Tunisia. Through training SeeMe employees learn the craft of jewellery making following ancient Tunisian techniques. Therefore, while fostering their country’s traditions, they also secure a workplace for themselves and a future for their families.

In our joint collection, SeeMe’s heart is inserted into a circle to represent the unity and the empowerment among women that both SeeMe and The Circle support. All funds raised through the collection will go towards supporting marginalised women and girls.

Click here to shop the collection online.


Menstruation Matters: understanding the solutions with social enterprise Sanitree

Photo: Bharat Singh and Martha Reilly, co-directors of Sanitree

This May we are celebrating Menstruation Matters and focussing on how we can make women and girls feel confident about menstruation. Sanitree, a social enterprise founded and run by a team of nine students of Edinburgh University, is an organization already doing incredible work with these aims in mind. Sanitree produce sustainable, reusable sanitary products for women living in India. This year, The Music Circle is planning to support Irise International, a similar project in Uganda, as well as donate sanitary products to foodbanks in the UK and raise awareness about Menstruation Matters. I caught up with Bharat Singh and Martha Reilly, the co-directors of Sanitree, to discuss the role that projects such as these play in the wider issue of period poverty and our attitudes towards our bodies.

A social enterprise is a business model that reinvests its profit margin back into the project and directly benefits local communities. Sanitree, a project that is working under the umbrella of Enactus, is still in its nascent stages as it was established in September of last year but already provides employment for twenty-seven women in the Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh, India. Shocked by the stigma surrounding menstruation in his home town Bhind, Bharat spoke about some of the devastating effects of period poverty in this community. He claims that “young girls in India can miss out on as much as 25% of their education, or even drop out” as a result of the difficulties association with menstruation. The pair tell me that affordability is a key factor in this. Some women simply cannot afford sanitary products and use unclean and unsafe substitutes such as sawdust. Furthermore, even with a conventional plastic sanitary pad, women face difficulties in disposing of them as they are not allowed in the household waste.

“Sanitree’s conception is just as much about challenging the stigma as finding a solution”

The Sanitree team, upon visiting Bhind, found that there was a wider cultural issue of a lack of awareness and encountered popular beliefs such as the myth that if you are to touch a boy whilst you are on your period that this can result in pregnancy. However, this stigma isn’t just the case in India. In the UK, there is also a huge stigma surrounding menstruation that can be difficult for young women. This stigma, I would argue, contributes towards the exclusion and dismissal of menstruation related issues in politics. Period poverty is a huge issue in the UK. It is estimated that the average woman spends £18,000 throughout her lifetime simply on having a period and in Scotland 1 in 5 women admit that they struggle to buy sanitary products —statistics that are woefully underrepresented in the media. The ongoing campaign to end the “Tampon Tax” and the classification of sanitary products as luxury items is indicative of the dismissal and lack of understanding shown by political bodies of the economic challenges currently posed by menstruation. In both India and UK there is a lack of knowledge about the issue and projects such as both Sanitree and Irise raise awareness simply by existing. Both Bharat and Martha are resolute on the fact that Sanitree’s conception is just as much about challenging the stigma as it is finding a solution.

An ecofeminist organization

In addition to the tangible benefits in terms of cost, the reusable sanitary pads do not incur the same environmental issues of similar plastic products. Bharat tells me that one sanitary pad can have the same amount of plastic as up to three plastic bags. As environmental sustainability is at the heart of Sanitree’s philosophy, the project considers itself an ecofeminist organization. The term ecofeminism originated in the 1970s and is grounded in the contention that the connection between the oppression of women and the rest of nature must be recognized to understand adequately both oppressions. Sanitree defines itself as ecofeminist as its aims are rooted in the shared concepts of environmentalism and feminism.

Both Bharat and Martha talk about the sense of agency that derives from taking control of your plastic consumption, likening it to “remembering your bag for life” and even quoting Simone De Beauvoir and her theory of transcendence versus immanence. Transcendence being the act of making decisions outside your personal sphere and immanence, traditionally associated with the feminine, as not engaging with projects outside of that sphere. Sanitree identify the decision to cut down one’s use of plastic as a transcendent act and, in what has been coined the “Blue Planet Effect”, argue that there has been a significant shift in our cultural consciousness regarding plastic and that this developing environmental consciousness can be viewed from a feminist perspective as a reclaiming of agency.

It is this sense of agency that I feel lies at the heart of why initiatives such as Sanitree and Irise are so powerful. Not only does Sanitree provide employment opportunities for women within their own community and have the end goal for the business to be completely taken over by these women, but they also engage people of all backgrounds and builds a community in speaking up against period stigma. The experience of menstruation is a transnational one and cannot be solved if there is no discussion surrounding it. Both Martha and Bharat wanted to establish from the start that not all women have periods and not all people who have periods are women and so Sanitree, and the ongoing debate surrounding menstruation, is a step towards coming to terms with our bodies in a way that is positive without being gendered.

One of The Circle’s key drives is “Women Empowering Women” and in the case of Sanitree it is clear that a sense of solidarity is becoming more and more visible as campaigns such as this grow. Both Martha and Bharat express the immense amount of support they have had from both the community in Bhind to the Scottish government’s commitment to this issue. They both believe that Scotland is a leader on progressive legislation and with the help of a number of MSPs, the group are campaigning for the provision of free sanitary products for those children who are offered free school meals, in addition to running pad making workshops and campaigning in the streets of Edinburgh.

The conversation surrounding menstrual wellbeing needs to be more open and frank to empower women and girls everywhere. Get a bloody education and find out more about The Circle’s Menstruation Matters Campaign and donate to our project with Irise International.

 

 

 

 

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


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Dushy

Photo: Dushy and her family in Sri Lanka.

“Through The Circle I am being connected to like-minded women globally”

“Mix a tinge of your own style in whatever you do and stay unique” has been the mantra of Dusyanthi Rabinath, aka Dushy, born and bred in Sri Lanka. Possessing an academic qualification in Business Information Technology never was satisfying. Her real passion was Fashion Studies. Although she couldn’t finish her studies, her interest in fashion never faded and she has continued to update herself with the current happenings in the fashion world. She became interested in The Circle after learning about our work on the living wage in the fast fashion industry.

She says that the past five years have been well spent expanding her family with a loving husband and two adorable kids, who are her strength now. She believes it is the right time to come out from her comfort zone and look at the world from a different angle or maybe even envision a brand new world.

Widen Your Circle

The Circle members are women from all walks of life who come together to support some of the most marginalised women and girls across the globe.

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


The Circle Founder Annie Lennox on Notes on Being a Woman, i-D

at college, pop icon annie lennox was told to become a teacher

The former Eurythmics star, who has sold more than 80 million records worldwide, tells i-D about dropping out of college, the wisdom of ageing, and her women-focused charity The Circle in her Notes on Being a Woman.

It’s not easy to get an interview with Annie Lennox. A globally recognised pop legend, famous for massive hits like 1983’s Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) with former band the Eurythmics — as well as her iconic, androgynous bright red buzzcut — Annie doesn’t often perform these days, and turns down most interview requests. Having moved away from making music, she is now an activist and campaigner for the rights of women and girls around the world, through her NGO The Circle

i-D caught up with Annie and she told us about leaving Aberdeen at 17 to apply for music college in London in 1971, and the bad career advice she was given before dropping out in her third year. From learning to drive in her 30s, to the heart-bursting love of motherhood, the wrinkle-loving wisdom of age, and the struggle of women around the world who cannot access education and healthcare, these are Annie’s Notes on Being a Woman…

Go to full article


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Efe

“Her story has encouraged people like me to know that you’re not alone in this situation, and that’s what The Circle is all about”

Efe is a Biomedical Scientist and a member of The Circle. In her Widen Your Circle vlog, Efe explains why she is a member and tells us about one fellow member that has inspired her to continue working towards gender equality.

#WidenYourCircle

The Circle members are women from all walks of life who come together to support some of the most marginalised women and girls across the globe.

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


On being a member of The Circle — a message from our Relationship Manager

Peta Barrett, The Circle Relationship Manager, at our South Africa’s Women’s Day celebration.

South Africa’s Women’s Day was celebrated in London, on 8 August, even with the grey sky that relentlessly drenched the city! Together we watched our new short film, featuring the life of Siyanda. I am pleased to say that Siyanda’s voice was heard over the sound of the rain beating down in the UK. Siyanda’s strength, courage and determination inspired all the guests who had gathered to launch The Circle’s new project supporting the Nonceba women’s shelter, in Khayelitsha.

Watch Siyanda’s story here:

I shared with our guests how it can be challenging to define exactly how our Circles work and how members power our projects and events. The challenge exists because when women come together their achievements are often unpredictable and tend to far exceed expectations. Each member has their own journey with us and you’ll know from the wide range of projects and events of The Circle over the past nine years, there is no set formula to how we do what we do best!

I wanted to share my musings and a bit of my own journey with you in the hope that they will offer more understanding of how members of The Circle work, inspire some ideas and encourage you to connect with us further.

The Circle South Africa’s Women’s Day celebration — how our members made it happen

On 13 July I met Laura, a Senior Associate at Stewart’s Law LLP, at a members-only event hosted by The Lawyer’s Circle in support of the Living Wage report. During our conversation, I mentioned to Laura that I was hoping to increase the number of events and networking opportunities for us to connect with our members. Laura handed me her business card and said that they would offer me a venue whenever I needed one. With momentum building for the Nonceba project and SA Women’s Day on the horizon we decided to leap at the chance to connect with Laura, our members and our newest project on a day that felt most apt! I am so glad we did because the event was a huge success across so many levels and all thanks to the women in the room.

Running in parallel to my meeting with Laura, The Circle Executive Director Sioned Jones met Dr Linda Greenwall. Linda is a South African dentist living in the UK and the driving force behind the Live Smart project. Live Smart was set up in Khayelitsha in 2013 to combat the issue that 80% of the half a million children in Khayelitsha are living with tooth decay. Linda agreed to speak at the event and shared her journey and experiences setting up a charitable venture in Khayelitsha. Linda is now also a member of The Circle, and we are exploring the possibilities for creating a new Circle together.

Joining Linda as a speaker was our very own Dr Becky Cox. Becky is the chair of The Oxford Circle and has her own incredible journey within The Circle. Amongst her many life achievements Becky is raising awareness for The Circle and our end violence against women campaigns by running thirteen half marathons throughout 2018.

As a members-based charity, The Circle recognises that in order to bring about lasting change to women’s lives we all need to work together. At The Circle, we do that by connecting our members to each other and to women around the world who cannot realise their human rights in the same way that you and I can, here, in the UK. Together we use our skills, knowledge and influence to raise awareness, raise funds, but, most importantly, find ways of doing what we do best to make a difference that can last.

Each of our members has their own unique journey with The Circle and I want to highlight that, because in the past month I have been asked countless times ‘what can I do?’ or ‘how can I be more involved’. The answer to that question lies within you. We all have something different to offer and opportunities for us to be involve ebb and flow around our day-to-day lives and that’s ok.

My journey as a member

I heard Annie speak at the WOW festival in 2015 thanks to my friend Faye, who is also a member. Faye and I were shocked by the HIV/AIDS statistics in South Africa quoted by Annie. Facts that are simply unacceptable and that I would like to share with you here:

• HIV is the biggest killer of women in reproductive age.
• Women between 15 and 24 years old are twice as likely to become infected with HIV than men in the same age group.
• Globally, in 2015 there were an estimated 17.8 million women (aged 15 and older), living with HIV, constituting 51% of all adults living with HIV.
• “5% of pregnancy-related deaths worldwide and 25% in sub-Saharan Africa are attributable to HIV.”

Those statistics are devastating on their own. What was more alarming to me personally is that so little has changed from my time as a student living in South Africa twelve years ago. I signed up as a member of The Circle a few weeks later, which involves registering on our website and pledging a monthly or annual donation. For what felt like the longest time I simply paid £5, read the monthly newsletter and shared a couple of tweets. It’s only now that I realise how vitally important that donation and those tweets shared are to sustain the work done by The Circle.

In September last year, I made a business decision in my previous role as Director to work with The Circle as our charity partners for an annual awards ceremony in November. The Circle’s team raised funds that night to support Nonceba and we have already sent them enough to run the shelter for two months — making a real difference to women in the country that I grew up in.

Our members, the driving force behind everything we do

The example of using my position to connect with the women of The Circle obviously appears more impressive than telling you I tweet daily; however, examples like this are less consistent because they demand time, determination and planning. The consistency we need comes from our members, our followers, our ‘retweeters’. We are able to do what we do because of the members joining us at events and carrying the messages about women’s rights into conversations with their own circles of family, friends and colleagues. Those messages and conversations grow into further connections and become the opportunities for annual events, fundraisers, a new project, a new Circle.

In a world of instant access, we often forget that real change takes time. The Circle members are taking their valuable spare time to share the stories of women without a voice while scrolling through social media, and take action when opportunities present themselves to make more significant leaps. Spreading the word, using one’s influence… these are all needed. Sometimes, because our life demands our time and attention, simply being connected is enough.

To all our members I ask you to please keep doing what you are doing because even if at times it feels like nothing it is something — the connection is there. I also want to invite you to share your thoughts with me and with the other women in your life. Talk about and support the projects that inspire you. When something enrages you let’s turn that into a positive action together.

If you have yet to become a member I invite you to join us because making change starts with you and we are here to facilitate the positive and much need change in the life of women and girls.

I have a voice where Siyanda does not. For me, knowing that was the first step. Asking my friends and networks to help me to support Siyanda was step two. By simply asking I am pleased to say my network has helped to ensure one of the twenty-one women at Nonceba Women’s Shelter is able to be there for another month. What can your network do?

 

 

 

 

@PetaBB
Peta Barrett is a member of The Circle since 2016 and our Relationship Manager since 2017.