“I cannot put into words the magic that makes The Circle what it is, but I do know this – when women come together we can make amazing things happen and together we have the power to change the world.”
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! Leanne is the Chair of The Oxford Circle and has taken on the role with a tour de force. The Oxford Circle are planning to host 20 events through 2020 and will be fundraising for the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre in South Africa. We sat down to ask her some questions about why she became a member and her involvement in the organisation.
Tell us a little about yourself:
I’m Australian and moved to the UK 6 years ago with my husband and two sons. I have lived in various places in Oz (including a year on a island on the Great Barrier Reef), America (the year Trump was voted in, the sheer horror!) and the UK. My background is in fashion, digital media and technology, but after moving to the UK I returned to studying and am now in my final year of a BSc (Hons) Psychology. I’m also Chair of The Oxford Circle and founder of Happy Larder Co, which sells a range of ethically and sustainably sourced loose leaf teas. 100% of Happy Larder Co’s profits go to support female survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking with 20% of our Chai sales going towards The Circle.
I’m curious by nature, a self-confessed chatter box, and love a good challenge. I’ve trekked Peru, the Great Wall of China, and Mount Kilimanjaro for charity, and for the last four years my friend Jane and I have been doing 100km ultra challenges. This year we are completing another 100k challenge to raise money for The Oxford Circle. We aim to complete this one in under 25 hours, which is a big change from last years 35 hours. Watch this space…..!
Why did you decide to become a member of The Circle?
Serendipity. In 2018 I purchased a ticket for an a talk on domestic violence via Eventbrite. Paying little attention, I had no clue that it was an event for The Circle or that it was actually for the previous month! The Circle’s wonderful Relationship Manager Peta Barrett called to let me know and we ended up talking for ages about The Circle and the amazing work they do supporting disempowered women. I loved Peta and the whole ethos of The Circle and signed up on the spot.
Since then I have met such an amazing group of women, some of which have become lifelong friends. The Circle members bring such passion and diverse skills to the mix and the variety of events and initiatives that have come out of that has been amazing.
Are there any of The Circle’s projects that are particularly close to your heart and can you tell us a bit more about your involvement?
All of them! The Oxford Circle supports the Nonceba Centre in South Africa, which supports victims of domestic violence and trafficking. ACT Alberta, which is supported by The Calgary Circle, also work with victims of trafficking. I can’t imagine having someone take away my freedom and subject me to the level of trauma these women have experienced. I think the work that all of The Circle’s projects is doing is incredible but it saddens me that they have exist in the first place. With The Circle, I love that we can do something tangible to help women less fortunate than us.
What does Global Feminism mean to you?
Audre Lorde said it perfectly when she said “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
I believe we all have an obligation to speak up against inequality and injustice, and to help amplify the voices of those less fortunate than us. The liberties we experience today are the result of those who have fought before us. We owe it to women all around the world and to future generations who will look back on the things we do today and the battles we fight and thank us for it.
How have you used your professional skills or knowledge as a member of The Circle?
I have to say, The Circle members are so inspiring that sometimes I feel like my skill set is completely lacking in comparison! However, it’s important to remember that we all have important skills to bring to the mix. I think BIG and I love taking on a challenge, which the poor Oxford Circle committee have had to get used to. We’re running 20 events in 2020 and I couldn’t have done it without them. Amy and Hannah are amazing event planners and Sue is such a depth of knowledge and kindness. I’m no good at getting things done on my own and that’s what’s I love about The Circle. You can have an idea and before you know it there’s a group of women wanting to help make it happen. A perfect example of this is late last year we ran an Active Bystander Training Workshop in collaboration with Active Bystander. Su is a member of The Circle and had kindly offered for her and Scott to run a workshop and raise money for The Circle. A few interested members pulled together and we managed to find a corporate sponsor, Adobe, who not only provided the venue but also very kindly put on a selection of food and wine. The event was a huge success. Another example is Jumble Fever happening in Oxford Town Hall on Saturday 18 January. Claire, one of The Circle’s Trustees, started this event last year and it has already grown to a much larger venue with an incredible list of people helping to run it, collect goods for sale, model the clothes, take photographs, and promote the event. We’ve got local DJ’s and bands on the day and some amazing raffle prizes and items for sale donated by Annie Lennox and Colin Firth.
I cannot put into words the magic that makes The Circle what it is, but I do know this – when women come together we can make amazing things happen and together we have the power to change the world.
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, is defined by the World Health Organisation as “behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours.” The continued absence of any domestic violence legislation in dozens of countries, including the African nations of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo and Middle Eastern nations such as Iraq and Syria, can be attributed to a variety of social, cultural and religious factors that differ from country to country. The absence of vital legislation places devastating limits on the support offered to victims of domestic violence in these countries – victims do not have the option to report the crime to the police, to receive support or protection from the police, or to seek punishment for the perpetrator. Importantly, legislation also serves to send a symbolic message to a society that violence is not tolerated. The citizens of these countries suffer in the absence of condemnation of domestic violence from their government, and do not get the chance to benefit from the deterrent effect that laws provide.
Unsurprisingly, human rights organisations and international legal bodies have a lot to say on the global domestic violence epidemic and the critical nature of domestic violence legislation. The landmark United Nations treaty signed in 1979, The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), states that violence against women is a violation of the right to not be “subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The right this refers to is Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, commonly regarded as a global benchmark for human rights standards. The CEDAW document explicitly outlaws violence against women, a group who form a significant proportion of the victims of domestic violence, and has been ratified by 189 states globally.
Violence against women and domestic violence more generally have also been the subject of several UN Resolutions over recent decades – another notable step in the right direction being the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which asserts not only that state actors should refrain from committing violent acts against women, but also that states should take active measures to prevent and punish acts of violence against women in both the public and private sphere.
Yet despite the importance of domestic violence legislation as endorsed by organisations such as the UN, the continued prevalence of domestic violence globally – including within many countries that have laws in place addressing the practice – makes it clear that our current laws simply aren’t enough.
A common issue affecting many states is that while some domestic violence laws are in place in that country, the legal scope of those laws are lacking, and/or law enforcement officers and other relevant bodies don’t fulfil their obligations to prevent and punish domestic violence as set out in their country’s legislation. One country for whom these issues are a reality is Tajikistan, the Central Asian nation that introduced laws regarding domestic violence for the first time in 2013. While this milestone led to positive progress in the area of violence prevention, such as awareness-raising campaigns and the hiring of more specially-trained police staff, reports from Tajikistan indicate that this progress is not nearly enough – domestic violence is vastly underreported in the country, but UN figures still estimate that at least 1 in 5 women and girls were victims of domestic abuse as of 2016. A recent report from Human Rights Watch, a leading international human rights charity, identifies the failure of the Tajik police officials to consistently fulfil their obligations to domestic violence victims, for example by refusing to properly investigate claims of domestic violence, as one factor behind this epidemic. The report also highlights the ineffectiveness of the Tajik law itself, pointing out that the 2013 law doesn’t go as far as to actually criminalise domestic violence but merely makes provisions regarding it. Having ratified CEDAW in 1993, Tajikistan is legally obligated to protect women and girls from domestic violence and to punish perpetrators of such violence – but the Tajik government is continually failing to meet these obligations.
Laws around the world in their current state often let victims down, and in any case legalisation alone isn’t sufficient to protect victims of domestic violence if it is not properly enforced or accompanied by progressions in societal views. Despite this, legislation is still a necessary first step to improving the outlook for domestic violence victims globally. Change in societal attitudes towards domestic violence often occurs before changes in law, but it is only legislation that can formally enshrine the support, protection and punishments associated with domestic violence, which in turn provide a deterrent to potential perpetrators. The causal effect can also flow in the opposite direction, with changes in legislation often accelerating developments in societal attitudes by sending a strong message from the state that certain behaviours are morally unacceptable. Whichever comes first, societal change or legal change, it’s clear from the data that laws make a difference – the average rate of domestic violence in countries with domestic violence laws is 10.8%, compared to 16.7% in countries without such laws. To make significant progress in tackling domestic violence as a global community, a key step is working to reform legal systems wherever possible rather than operating in spite of them.
While the progress still needed to ensure appropriate criminalisation of domestic violence around the world can be daunting, we cannot forget the array of positive legal developments that have occurred in recent years. In the last decade, 47 economies have introduced new laws on domestic violence, bringing the total number of countries with some form of domestic violence laws to over 140. Scotland saw the introduction of a transformative new law this summer, criminalising psychological, financial and sexual abuse with a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. In August this year, Italy also welcomed a new law designed to fast-track the investigation of domestic violence reports, which saw a significant increase in the number of reported cases in the first month alone. These new laws, amongst many others, have been to the benefit of survivors and potential victims of domestic violence across the globe. They show us that the goal of providing adequate protection against domestic violence is a constant and ongoing process, and they provide inspiration for other countries looking for ways to refine and improve the robustness of their domestic violence legislation.
We are entering a new decade, with the target of achieving the UN Global Goals by 2030 within our sights. This importantly includes Goal 5, aimed at achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. As a global community in pursuit of this Goal, we can only hope that the legal standpoint of governments around the world continues to improve in the coming decade, and adequate justice and protection can be given to domestic violence victims globally.
This article was written by Holly. Holly is 23 years old from Hastings, England. Since graduating with a degree in Politics & Economics in 2018 she has worked and volunteered in Africa and Asia, and is currently living in China. Her interests include human rights, international security and development.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of press concerning the experience of victim-survivors reporting instances of sexual assault in the UK as organisations attempt to shine a light on the monumental and often fruitless task of taking to trial crimes of rape and sexual assault. There is little chance of the perpetrator being brought to justice, and time and time again women have described how traumatic navigating this system can be. Of course, there are many who have found closure through this process and have had positive experiences with the police and legal professionals. Last week Cosmopolitan published the article What really happens when you report a rape detailing the experiences of 15 people across the UK, including the testimony of one woman who stated that “I think reporting this crime and going through the justice system has really aided my recovery and I am so pleased that I did it” after her perpetrator received a nine year sentence. However, for many women this is not the case.
Repeatedly, victim-survivors have described instances of inadequate communication from officials, concerns for their personal safety and perceptions of the system being weighed in favour of the accused all as challenges in their own justice journeys. The majority of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported to the authorities as the legal process can be a lengthy and daunting one. However, systemic failures to reporting victims are at the heart of such low confidence in the current system as one that fairly and adequately represents the interests of women taking the brave step to report.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition, one of the projects funded by The Circle’s Chai Day initiative, is in the process of taking the Crown Prosecution Service to court over the ‘catastrophic’ drop in rape prosecutions (down by 44% since 2014) whilst the increase in the number of rapes reported to the police is up by 173%. The lobbying organisation ‘have heard from many women who have decided to report rape to the police; have endured what can be very gruelling questioning and possibly medical examinations; have had to sacrifice their phone, computer and personal records; endure an agonising wait; to then be told that the case has been dropped’ whilst the Guardian reported last year that a training session at the CPS encouraged prosecutors to take the ‘weak cases out of the system’ to improve its conviction rate.
A culture that discourages victims from speaking up to report their abuse is not one that supports its most vulnerable. Global Feminism is a movement designed to highlight the rampant inequalities across the globe that women and girls still face, drawing attention and encouraging action to the abuses suffered by women globally.
For the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, The Circle wanted to examine the process of reporting for victim-survivors around the world and the enforcement of women’s right to be free from harm through The Circle’s projects providing front-line services to victims of violence. Despite the increased our exposure and awareness of the issue of sexual violence in the aftermath of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, victims of rape and sexual assault are still being victimised and consistently let down by the criminal justice system.
We see victim-survivors being discouraged at every stage of the process, impeding their access to justice. It is clear that negative attitudes and prejudices are influencing the way that woman are treated in the judiciary system resulting in not only a woefully low number of convictions but also a prevalence of shame placed on the victim.
The Circle supports the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre in South Africa, located in Khayelitsha, a township just outside Cape Town. For years, unemployment and crime rates have been high, particularly around violence against women and children with little services and support for the victims. The centre has a shelter for women who have survived domestic violence or have been victims of human trafficking. Most women in the shelter are HIV positive, are struggling to access healthcare and have received limited education and training.
Violence against women is the most common form of human rights violation in India. Shame, stigma and a lack of support from the police and legal system prevent many women from reporting domestic violence and seeking help.
Whilst there is a level of shame ascribed to victims of sexual assault in India, for those who do come forward and choose to make an allegation to the police the process can result in further shaming and dismissive responses.
“The doctor said to my daughter ‘If they had forced themselves on you, there should have been marks on your body – but you don’t have any. You must have done this of your own free will.” – Palak’s mother, Palak (name changed to protect her identity), a Dalit woman, was 18 when she reported being kidnapped and raped in Madhya Pradesh, in June 2013.
Human Rights Watch also found that police were often reluctant to file allegations, particularly for victims from a socially and economically marginalised community. Citing that ‘police sometimes pressure the victim’s family to “settle” or “compromise”’. Often, Dalit or other “low-caste” families are encouraged to drop their case if the perpetrator is of a higher caste.
One of the projects funded by last year’s Chai Day was a number of survivor centres in rural communities of Chhattisgrah and Odisha to challenge the social acceptance of sexual and domestic violence against women. In Chhattisgarh, there has been State-Level Consultation on the State Gender Equality Policy, which had not been revisited for more than a decade. Projects and community building like this are essential to support victim-survivors who feel they are unable to approach or are refused help by the police.
Bina and her son were offered counselling and legal support.
ACT Alberta is an anti-trafficking organization in Canada working collaboratively law enforcement, government agencies and non-governmental organisations to identify and respond to human trafficking in Alberta. One of their primary operations is providing victim support services for victims of sexual trafficking, in which they delivery trauma recovery, improve access to the justice system and obstacles within that system for victims. It is important to note here that the service receives funding from the Canadian government for those victims who are willing to go through the judiciary system, however, as we have seen in previous countries, women often feel that this isn’t an option, particularly those from marginalized communities and those whose immigration status may be at risk. Victims who do not have permanent right to live in Canada are often wary of approaching the police for concern that they will be deported, believing that their current situation is preferable to returning to their country of birth.
In cases across the world, even those women and girls who come forward are being dismissed and let down.
Tina Fontaine’s great-aunt, Thelma Favel showing a photo of the girl. Photo credit: Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times.
Across the globe, attitudes towards victims of rape and a prevailing tolerance for rape and serious sexual assault is resulting in a lack of justice for victim-survivors. Women are reluctant to come forward and when they do, their experiences can be traumatic. Front-line services delivered by our Chai Day projects are so important because the judiciary system is failing women who make the brave decision to come forward and report rape and serious sexual assault.
It falls on projects like Rape Crisis, ACT Alberta and the Nonceba Centre to fill the gaps in services that the judiciary system is failing to provide, to support victim-survivors through their navigation of the criminal justice system and ensure that their rights are being observed. These organisations are woefully underfunded and often receive incredibly limited or no funding from the government.
“I guess, the, kind of, base point for all of that was [local] Rape Crisis believed me. They never questioned me. They never challenged it. They’ve never said, well I don’t know, when the police seem to think different. They’ve always believed me and they have gone from that perspective, and so I knew I could trust them. And that trust has, you know, built and remained … they worked at putting, sort of, coping mechanisms in place for when I couldn’t manage” – Rebecca
Chai Day is about gathering together with friends, family or colleagues to raise funds to support survivors of gender-based violence. November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the sixteen days that follow is your chance to host a Chai Day.
This article was written by Anna Renfrew. Anna is The Circle’s Projects and Communications Officer and has been heading up preparations for our Chai Day campaign. She has written a number of articles for The Circle, taking a particular interest in the global issue of violence against women.
Filmed in Cape Town’s notorious Lavender Hill, Waves explores the perspective of three young girls as they grow up together in South Africa. We spoke to Jessie Ayles about this incredible project and the issue of gender-based violence.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?
I’m a documentary filmmaker based in London – I’ve always been motivated by imbalances or injustices in the world, and try to pursue projects that reflect on these types of issues to create an impact or some form of change or conversation.
Why did you decide to focus on the issue of gender-based violence for your project?
Women, in all walks of life, often draw the short straw, whether you’re looking at gaps in wages, structures of society, education or more urgent matters like gender based violence. Women in these communities, as we know, suffer huge amounts of gender based violence and attacks, there is still a very strong patriarchy in these communities that place young girls at the bottom of the ‘food chain’ – I was interested in exploring the feelings of young girls there, to translate their point of view, and their own experiences so that people would really be able to empathise and understand the extent that this affects a life.
One of The Circle’s EVAWG projects is located in South Africa, but violence against women is a global issue, why did you decide to focus on this country and community in particular?
My parents are South African and I have dual citizenship, but I actually grew up in London, so i’ve always had a connection to South Africa and interest to understand the country and its complexities.
I think what also really motivated me to work with this community is that most South African’s ordinarily would never really enter these communities due to fear of crime, and in turn never really understand what life is like for the most vulnerable there. It’s a country largely still divided by wealth, and I wanted to create something that would offer an insight from marginalised voices we ordinarily wouldn’t be able to get access to, especially as young girls, and break down these barriers.
What was the experience of filming on such a difficult subject? Particularly with such young women.
I was lucky to be able to really take my time making this film, I spent a lot time just getting to know the girls at surf lessons, and listening, so by the time we started filming we just felt like friends hanging out. I think this really helped them feel comfortable with me, and also meant the filming days were never too intense. It was difficult and shocking for me to hear how these girls felt, but to be honest, for them, I think this type of violence had become quite normal that they were almost used to talking about it.
There was another aspect to filming, and that was that I was able to offer the girls a voice – I think that they felt special by being a part of the film, that their story and feelings were important.
So, despite the subject matter of the film being so sensitive, the girls were at the end of the day still just young girls, they loved getting extra time surfing, playing, laughing, going on trips with me that they normally wouldn’t be able to get access to – and I really loved that experience too.
The film is incredibly beautiful and moving, what did you find most challenging about the process?
I think the biggest challenge with this film, and filming in the community was safety and access. The area that the girls live in is Lavender Hill, it’s notorious in Cape Town for gang violence and crime, it’s really not a safe area to drive in, you roll the dice every time you enter. This being said, I couldn’t get any funding to make this film so wasn’t able to hire security or special transportation. So that was very limiting, we would have to work out which days and times would be less of a risk to go into the community and set our self time limits filming on the streets etc I think we got everything we needed for the film, but I would have loved to embed myself a little more into their daily home life if the limitations weren’t there.
The Circle is an organisation of women empowering women. Is that motivation something that you feel plays a role in your work?
Yes definitely. I think I spent quite a long time not really honing in on what I care most about – I was making a documentary about a Burmese guerilla fighter about 5 years ago, someone who had rebelled against the Burmese military and gone into exile in Chiang Mai, he had given up everything for what he believed in. He kept on asking me why I was interested in making a film about him, he couldn’t quite understand – I told him it was because he was fascinating, but he was still confused, he kept on telling me ‘Jessie, you’ve got to find your people’. At the time it didn’t register, I just thought ‘What people…I don’t have the same sort of authoritarian government to overthrow like you did, ’. But then it clicked, by highlighting women’s stories and voices – whose injustices I can personally relate to – I feel more like I have found ‘my people’ to fight for.
What would you encourage those watching the film to do in order to support women and girls across the globe who are survivors of gender-based violence?
The scale of this issue is so large that it can feel a little daunting sometimes at where to start or what can be done to help. But in my experience working with NGOs on the ground, I see how much of a difference these organisations can make to someone’s life. The surfing that offers these girls an outlet in the film was organised by an NGO called Waves for Change – a small thing like a surfing lesson once a week can make all the difference to someones life – it can give them that breath of air they need or support to keep going.
So my advice would be to do some research on NGOs, like The Circle’s EVAWG projects, and donate whatever you can to help keep them going. You could also volunteer at NGOs if you live near one that’s making a difference to women’s lives, or even keep spreading the message and raising awareness to keep the conversation going.
What is the situation in South Africa like now?
Unfortunately since the filming of Waves the situation in South Africa has become even more volatile for women. A spate of recent sexual assaults, murders and kidnappings of young girls and women caused outrage and saw country-wide protests – demanding the government to effectively tackle the issue. While some policies have been amended, like the retraction of bail for rape suspects, there is still a huge space for work needed to help support victims, prevent violence and create gender equality and awareness. This is why I believe NGOs are so important right now for those South Africans who have to live through this on a daily basis.
You can watch Jessie’s award-winning short film here:
One of our Chai Day projects is located in Khayelitsha, a township just outside Cape Town. Khayelitsha is the largest township in the Western Cape province and has a high level of overcrowding and poverty. For years, unemployment and crime rates have been high, particularly around violence against women and children with little services and support for the victims. The Nonceba Family Counselling Centre offers survivors offers a place to stay, individual and family counselling, legal support, access to healthcare, educational programmes and victim empowerment groups. Find out more about hosting a Chai Day to support women and girls across the globe here.
Jessie is a South African and British filmmaker. Her work shines a light on female-centred stories and marginalised voices, bringing a cinematic and fresh perspective to socially conscious stories. She studied Film & Literature at Warwick University, then went onto a Masters in Screen Documentary at Goldsmiths University where she won a One World Media Bursary.
Jessie’s interest in impact and stories that highlight morals or human rights, with her distinctive style, led her to work with the social impact arm of many brands and NGOs, creating poignant film campaigns for clients such as Nike, Google, M&C Saatchi & Always.
The Circle is an organisation of women empowering women and through our Chai Day campaign, Shana wants to support survivors of gender-based violence. Shana and family are survivors of honour-based domestic violence and we asked her to share our moving story ahead of her Chai Day event …
“I am hosting a Chai Day event because I know first-hand how much it hurts when you feel trapped in the abuse. I know how lost you feel, how you begin to justify the perpetrators actions and how trapped you are because you have nowhere to go and your children only know their home; even though that home is hell.
Once you look for help, you must struggle through a system that isn’t fit for purpose, relying on complete strangers and constantly repeating yourself to different organisations, being sign posted from here to there. All you know is pain and trauma and the only thing that kept me going was faith. For me, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
I am hosting the event because my family and I were nearly killed by the perpetrator. I was so lost and confused due to the fear of cultural and societal pressures that I put myself and my family at danger. We would have been killed if I didn’t leave when we did and we were left with nothing.
I want to raise awareness because domestic violence and those who encounter it, end up normalising it and this attitude can be passed down for generations. I grew up witnessing domestic abuse and this was normal in my community, finally I entered a relationship that was also abusive. I never want my daughter be in a relationship like that and I want to teach my sons to understand that the only thing they need to control is themselves, not others. I would like all the other women suffering in silence to break the silence. I want our story to be the story of hope. It’s everyone’s duty because it effects all of society. It’s time to break the cycle.
I can’t do it alone and I want to empower others to take collective and collaborative action.”
Shana and her family have recently won an award at the Pride of St Helens Awards for their bravery and determination not to give up after fleeing domestic violence. They will continue to do what they can to support other survivors within their community. Shana is very clear that “we are not victims, but survivors and our story is something to be proud of, we believe our circumstances do not define us. We are now a campaigning family trying to bring positive changes.”
Shana’s Chai Day is happening on Monday 25th November from 12.30-2.30pm at Park Farm ACYP Community Centre, 54 Kentmere Avenue, Carr Mill, St Helens, WA11 7PG. Join her and her family to support survivors of violence across the globe.
This month at The Circle, we have delved deeper into the issue of human trafficking and have learnt a huge amount from our project partner ACT Alberta about what makes women vulnerable to traffickers and what we can do ourselves to be more aware of trafficking victims in our own area. There are more people trapped in slavery than ever before in human history and in the following article, our volunteer Georgia takes a closer look at one of modern slavery’s most insidious practices, cybersex trafficking.
“Cybersex trafficking is an emerging threat as internet access increases everywhere. Now, paedophiles anywhere in the world can direct live sexual abuse of boys and girls hidden in private homes.” (IJM)
Social Affairs Correspondent for The Independent, May Bulman, reported in November 2017 about a “new form of human trafficking that sees children forced to carry out sex acts while being live-streamed for paedophiles to watch online [which] is growing at an ‘alarming rate’, a charity has warned”. A victim as young as a two-month-old baby was reported.
The stories that victims have told of this injustice are extremely hard to read. International Justice Mission (IJM) is the largest anti-slavery organisation in the world. They work to rescue and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking among modern slavery. In February 2017 they posted a YouTube video called “What is Cybersex Trafficking?” where they explained how “Pedophiles and predators use the internet to abuse children in homes and cybercafes.” According to Alex Ilusoriio who is an Investigator with IJM Philippines, for as little as 100 dollars Western customers can watch children under 5 years old being abused by adults. This horrific and unspeakable form of abuse is destroying the lives of vulnerable children. IJM helps victims to share their stories in order to raise awareness. Just less than a year ago on 13th August 2018, IJM revealed the year-long investigation which resulted in the rescue of two young women, a teenage boy and a 12-year-old girl. One can only imagine the psychological damage as a result of this devastating crime. At the time of this report the children were receiving help from social workers.
On 20th February 2019 three operations took place to rescue 16 children over four days. Officers discovered that a man called Herman Arnett Ross, an American living in Pampanga, was “seeking to sexually exploit a teenage girl”. Days before Ross was arrested, IJM rescued 15 other children across the Philippines. The children are now receiving trauma therapy, revealing the heart-breaking psychological pain that victims of human trafficking are forced to endure.
Annie Kelly is a human rights journalist for the Guardian and Observer, also editor of the Guardian’s Modern-day slavery in focus series. Kelly reported for the Guardian in October 2018 on the case where “two women had been paid £33,000 by [Alain] Charlwood-Collings for procuring children as young as four and filming their rape and abuse. Some of the 46 children involved were the women’s own children or sisters. Others were the children of neighbours, or from the wider local community.” This took place for 10 years.
The fact that the abusers can hide for such a long period of time, shows how complex these operations are to report, find and arrest them. There are signs we can look out for in order to identify if a person is being exploited. According to Stop The Traffik, significant signs of sexual exploitation can include:
Having English vocabulary of only sexualised words
Emotional trauma as a result of their work
Restricted or no access to earnings
At a location the letterbox or doors of the property may appear to have been sealed from the inside
What can we do?
To understand more about how to spot the signs of sexual exploitation please visit this detailed page by Stop The Traffik.
Every month IJM reports one or more new cases of cybersex trafficking. This is just one charity alone. You can read the recent case reported last week on 25th July 2019 which highlights how this is a “a global crime that demands global collaboration“.
We can all be a part of this global collaboration and knowing just one of the signs above could potentially save a someone from unimaginable abuse.
“A Feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” – Gloria Steinem
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.
“It is important to keep in mind that trafficking can happen to anyone, anywhere.”
The Home Office stated in November 2016 that: “The trafficked women from Nigeria end up being healthy and are held in high regard upon their return from Europe.”
Their statement is problematic for a number of reasons, but potentially the most startling is that we can see how hostile the UK is to victims claiming asylum and unworried about their deportation because they return ‘in high regard’. We should be more supportive, accepting, and open to asylum seekers, as they all have reasons they came here for a better future.
Often, human trafficking is linked to migrant movements and the governmental policies that try to regulate them. As migration increases, especially as it has done to Europe over the last few years – quickly and without general regulation policies– the instances of trafficking increase as migrants become increasingly desperate to cross borders. As David A. Feingold said in 2009,“Trafficking is often migration gone terribly wrong”. When people are not given the opportunity to legally enter the country of destination, desperate people might turn to other possibilities in order to escape unimaginable situations of hardship in their home country. Studies have shown that as borders become stricter, smuggling increases, as people use third parties to get out of the country, and to get into others. The strict laws imposed to reduce migration into the country actually render these people vulnerable exploitation as they are reluctant to go to the police for fear of being deported.
If we want to look at a specific country regarding human trafficking in Europe, Nigeria is a very interesting case. Devastatingly, the UN said that 80% of all Nigerian women who arrived in Italy by boat in 2016 will be trafficked into prostitution. When women arrive in Italy they go through migration receptions, which are used as holding pens for women who are collected and then trafficked across Europe. However, this relationship between Nigeria and Italy has been operating for decades. In 2014, about 1,500 Nigerian women arrived, in 2015 around 5,633, and only in the first six months of 2016 about 3,600. With the increasing numbers of victims, the trafficking network itself in growing as well.
Many women are brought in specially for sexual exploitation purposes, but there are also hundreds who are coming for a better life. The journey itself is very complicated, firstly, because women are often victims of physical abuse, trafficking, and sexual exploitation on the road. Moreover, as it is very expensive, women and up owing money around £40,000 which they are expected to pay back. They are told if they won’t pay, terrible thing will happen to their families, therefore they are forced into prostitution across Europe. However, money is not the only way gangs recruit women, they also use false promises of legitimate employment, and traditional ceremonies to have psychological control over them.
There is a large diaspora of 200,000 legal residents of Nigerians in Europe. Obviously, this number excludes all the women who are being illegally trafficked on the continent. While many legal residents live in the UK, Germany, and Spain, the ultimate trafficking destination is Italy. There are around 10,000 Nigerian sex workers in the country now. While the first Nigerian women working in Italy as sex workers around the 1970s chose to do so, after strengthening the borders and making it difficult to arrive this have changed. As women arrived by having huge debts, and they needed to get rid of that quickly, trafficking for prostitution seemed like a prospect. Young women were usually promised a good job, and then ended up being trafficked for sexual exploitation. Nowadays, Nigerian sex work usually work on the street, and receive low-wage for their work.
Arguably, one way to start reducing trafficking would be to have more open borders of countries, so people could move more freely. Immigration should be viewed positively with more support services for those needed. Additionally, it would also be important that besides preventing trafficking, we should also aim to help those who had suffered trafficking beforehand. There should be more support services for the victims and a promise that they won’t be deported in exchange for going to the police.
It is important to keep in mind that trafficking can happen to anyone, anywhere. While I was focusing on Europe, because female victims here are particularly vulnerable to strict border control and regulations, human trafficking is a global phenomenon, in which the majority of the women can become victims.
This article was written by The Circle Volunteer Csenge Gábeli. Csenge is a university student, a volunteer, and a feminist. She is originally from Hungary, but has started my university in London, which she loves. She is interested in communities, women’s empowerment, LGBTQ+ rights, and children’s rights.
“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 …
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.
Photo credit: Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies
In the run up to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, The Circle member Katie Rose has written this blog post about gender-based violence and some of the things we can all do to end it. Katie, as many others are, is organising a Chai Day to help us end violence against women and girls. Chai Day is about raising awareness and funds for victims of gender-based violence, about bringing together people to discuss an issue that affects women worldwide and inviting conversation to make real change. The Circle have been encourages members and non-members alike to get involved in this campaign and Katie’s thoughtful analysis of issue is a perfect example of women empowering women.
Widening the Circle of Safety and Support for Women by The Circle member, Katie Rose.
Like many of us, I have witnessed the recent media treatment of female sexual assault with despair. There are too often too many cases where a woman who has experienced trauma is not given recourse to justice. In many parts of the world, it is still the victim, not the perpetrator, who is discredited, excluded, shamed and faces further violence from society.
What can we do to change these shocking narratives and how can we support women to recover and communities to grow beyond patriarchal systems of gender-based violence and oppression? One action I have taken is to join Annie Lennox’s charity The Circle, which supports projects that do just that. I am also passionate about co-directing Sing for Water fundraisers for WaterAid projects which transform the lives of the women and girls around the world who spend 200 million hours daily walking for water.
As I feel it’s important to keep sharing messages of hope and solidarity, in this blog I want to identify some of the positive stages of recovery, so we can all help widen the circle of support for women.
1. Acknowledging Oppression
The first step is acknowledging the situation women face today. Just one of the many statistics included by Annie Lennox in her #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist campaign is that 1 in 3 women and girls are impacted by physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. These statistics are likely to be skewed, as many women are too frightened or in too much danger to speak out.
There are horrific acts of violence happening against women right now – which is why it’s important that those of us able to read this safely on laptops or phones take action in whatever small way we can. Women who have experienced victimisation are not just victims and statistics – they are strong, vibrant, creative human beings with the right to live peacefully and safely on the planet. When we stand up against oppression as individuals, we stand up for all women.
2. Owning, Voicing and Witnessing
When a woman who has experienced gender-based trauma is able to own and tell her story, it is crucial that she is given safe, supportive witness. We need to be on the look out for signs that a woman is struggling, even before she feels able to disclose. We can encourage women to safely speak out and access confidential, professional support.
As a singer, I feel we need to empower and educate girls to feel they have a voice. A girl who knows the power of her voice can say “no”, can shout for help and can stand up to oppression. Disclosing is only one step in the road to recovery – the #MeToo movement has seen an outpouring of stories which now needs to be met with a commitment to support recovery and social justice.
3. Creating a Circle of Safety and Support
When a woman has experienced trauma, it is essential that she can access safe shelter and support for herself and her dependents. A circle of support can be formed – including her trusted friends and the health, employment, childcare or legal services she needs to access. In a caring, encouraging, empowering environment, she can recover and rebuild her life.
The inner process of recovery for women needs to be matched by an outer process of social justice. In a village featured in a film by The Asian Circle, after yet another woman was beaten by her drunken husband, women gathered together and smashed all the liquor pots. In the Samburu region of Kenya, where women are viewed as property, Rebecca Lolosoli spoke out against the rape of an estimated 1400 women in the 1980s and 90s by British soldiers. She was beaten by local men and received no support from her husband. She left her village and formed the Umoji village with 15 rape survivors, which now houses 50 women and 200 children seeking refuge from FGM, child marriage, rape and domestic violence. The women manage their own finances and land and their rape cases are finally being investigated legally.
These stories testify to the immense resilience of women in the face of brutal oppression and the power that becomes available when we join together to say #TimesUp.
With support, solidarity and recourse to justice, a woman can liberate and reclaim herself from the shadow of violent oppression. She can rise up and recreate her life for herself and her loved ones.
As she does, the whole community can be transformed. Men can become allies in this process, such as the members of Uganda’s police force who after 24 women were brutally murdered, went on a walk carrying water pots on their heads and babies on their back to see what it was like ‘to walk in women’s shoes’ and to inspire other men to ‘see the benefits of equality’.
Just as everyone suffers in a world which brutalises women and girls, everyone gains when women are liberated from oppression and violence. We are all part of the change and we can all help widen the circle of safety and support for women.
Katie Rose – October 2018
Katie will be hosting a Chai Day in South London on 25th November
For more info please email email@example.com
To help raise funds for victims of domestic violence, rape and sex trafficking. To join in and support them so they too can begin to heal and return to their world stronger.
What did organising a Chai Day make you learn about gender-based violence?
That there are different forms of gender-based violence and all of them need our attention. Because it is a major public health and human rights issues. I learned that young girls around the same age as my sister are been taking away from their mother’s arms and subjected to prostitution, been raped and abused physically and emotionally, and it needs to stop. I learned that if I can gather fierce and determined women in a room to support my cause, then we are one step closer to ending this for someone.
What are your top tips to organise a Chai Day?
Don’t do it alone. It is a ‘team’ event. So gather your friends, their friends, members of your family and their friends and host a Chai Day, because it will be so worth it when you include people in your world to support a great cause.