One Member’s Take on Global Feminism

“I am now proud to call myself a Global Feminist and I would invite others to do the same.”

Previously I hadn’t wanted to call myself a feminist, I felt the word was tainted and outdated, a clichéd stereotype excluding men. However, if you look at the facts it’s obvious that things aren’t right. Women make up two thirds of the world’s illiterate people, 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence, a woman dies in childbirth every two minutes, and so the list continues. I realised how wrong I was and how important it is to fight for change. I also realised how important it was to reverse these preconceived notions of what feminism is and promote a feminism that is inclusive of all.  

After graduation, having always wanted to travel, I went to India. Growing up I sometimes sensed being female put me at a disadvantage and struggled with feelings of frustration and limitation – despite being born in the UK – a country that remains high on global gender equality indexes. Gender inequality is visible throughout the world, but witnessing first-hand the obstacles experienced by women and girls in low-income countries in the Global South, I realised the importance of Global Feminism.  

I found The Circle unintentionally through fundraising for Girls Education in India a few years ago. Since then, I have learnt that feminism equates to respect, equality, and the importance of including people of all genders to achieve this. Joining The Circle has been empowering. I have spent much of my life thinking “I’m just … I’m just a girl, a woman, a mother … where is my voice?” Last March I went to The Circle’s Annual Gathering slightly underprepared and suddenly found myself in a network of inspiring women. From the outside, it is easy to see others as strong, successful and powerful but not see these qualities in yourself; we often hold ourselves back with our own perceived inadequacies. When I stepped inside The Circle, I saw female power and realised my own strength. I left the meeting with the phrase ‘just do it’ ringing in my ears, replacing the ‘I’m just’ and I knew that together we could achieve real change. I am now proud to call myself a Global Feminist and I would invite others to do the same.  

My personal interests focus on girls’ education in India and ethics within the garment industry, particularly The Circle’s Living Wage work. Over twelve years ago I started buying clothes in India to sell in the UK and have been visiting India annually since then. Today I run a business that wholesales our unique clothing range to independent shops across the UK and work closely with tailors to ensure that no one is exploited in the production of our garments and that there is transparency throughout our supply chain. The majority of my clothing is made by the same family I have worked with since I met them in 2005 in rural Rajasthan, Northern India. Together our businesses and families have grown, and a strong friendship has developed. Over the years I have returned to India as a solo woman, with my daughter as a single mother and this year I was blessed to take my own mother.  

Despite sharing food and spending time together in the home it has been hard to form close friendships with the women I meet in India. Within my tailor’s family the women are always introduced as sister, wife or mother and whether it is the language barrier, shyness, or fear of speaking out of turn, it has been hard to go deeper in our relationships. In the family home I meet Laxmi, a sturdy bejewelled older woman, proud mother to her three sons (who manage the family tailoring business), all of whom live with her and her husband in the family home with their wives and children. In the domestic sphere it is clear she is in charge. Her daughters in law are beautiful young women and I sit with them in the home as they chat and giggle in Hindi. They cook the most delicious meals to share with me, presenting me with dish after dish of tasty treats. Between them they have eight children aged 1 – 18 years, all of which grow up in the house together. The women work together to bring up the children and keep the home and when I ask them how they are and what they want in life I am met with a coy smile or neutral expression. Of the eight children the eldest girl is 16 and is due to go to college next year to study engineering. She will be one of the first girls in the family to receive further education, but her father is very clear that as soon as she finishes college she will be married. For the men in the family tradition is very important and although they can see the importance of all the children receiving a good education, they feel strongly their traditional values and family life must be upheld.  

In the market square you will regularly meet strong women; these women have been working on the streets since childhood, selling anklets and henna tattoos to tourists. Always dressed immaculately in traditional Rajasthani costume, these women are always happy to share their stories and regularly invite tourists to their makeshift homes on the edge of the dessert. This is a combination of Indian hospitality and entrepreneurship, these women have generally been married young but often have no financial support from their husbands (stories of domestic abuse and alcoholism are common, as well as the inability to find work due to disability or illness) and the impossibility of finding employment themselves with little or no education and children to bring up leaves them no alternative but to tout on the streets. There is no social security for these women and their voices are not often heard. 

Unfortunately, gender inequality in still deeply ingrained in many aspects of culture in India. Sadly, girls are at a disadvantage from before birth with increasing incidents of gender-based abortion. Domestic violence, sexual harassment, female illiteracy and child marriage are all common problems. In rural India, 70% of girls are married before they reach 18. The country is experiencing a wave of awareness surrounding the prevalence of sexual violence occurring, a woman is raped every twenty minutes.   

Women’s rights in India have reached a crisis point and education, unemployment and gender discrimination are forming a barrier to women’s empowerment. As well as campaigning for political reform, there needs to be a focus on education for girls. In rural areas of Rajasthan, girls are three times more likely to be out of school than other children in India and the female rate of literacy in Rajasthan is the lowest in the country and six in ten girls in Rajasthan marry as children.  

The Circle works with Mumbai based NGO Educate Girls, a charity focused on getting girls into school and providing them with the support needed to stay in school. They use a Creative, Learning and Teaching curriculum to aid girls, particularly if they have fallen behind or have missed periods of school due to having been kept home for domestic work. Support from The Circle has enabled Educate Girls to provide CLT learning kits to 301 schools, improving the education of 7,000 children. As well as previously fundraising for this, this year I visited the Fior Di Loto Foundation, a private girl’s school in the village in which I work. The Foundation was founded in 2003 to provide education for some of the poorest girls living in and around Pushkar. The school provides everything a child needs to attend school, such as transport, uniform, school meals, and books. There are government schools in India but children from the poorest communities are often unable attend due to these constraints. For some families, the school provides extra support with food so that girls are not encouraged to drop out to look after the home or to marry. The foundation has also started a new project to support women during and after childbirth, providing a clean and safe environment. Through the foundation, I sponsor a girl to ensure she receives a full education and I am committed to promoting and fundraising for girls’ education in Rajasthan.  

I live in Somerset and it is my aim to introduce The Circle to my local community. Last year I hosted a fundraising event, talked to people about The Circle’s work and promoted the organisation through social media by sharing the #GlobalFeminsm campaign and provoking articles. This year we will be marking International Women’s Day and continuing to spread the word about Global Feminism. 

This article was written by member of The Circle, Emma Chance. To find out more about becoming a member click here. You can also hear the stories of some of our members on our blog.


The Healthcare Circle Hosts The Goddess Space

Photo credit: The Goddess Space

Chair of The Healthcare Circle, Alice Sinclair is teaming up with Anoushka Florence of The Goddess Space for an evening of goddess vibes for a good cause. We spoke to both Alice and Anoushka to find out more about this event to raise funds for The Circle’s projects and what you can expect from the session.

Alice, what advice would you give to someone thinking of fundraising for The Circle’s projects? What inspired you to collaborate for this workshop with Anoushka?

People like to get behind a project, especially if they can really see the benefit of it. So Clarity is important, such as where the funds are going and how they are directly help. The cardinal rule of fundraising is that if you don’t ask, you won’t get anything! When Anouska and I  met to discuss the possibility of collaborating to raise funds for The Healthcare Circle, it was serendipitous; when we both came to the meeting with similar thoughts as to what we wanted to do and how we wanted to work together on fundraising.

Fundraising takes time and you need to consider what time you can afford to invest in trying to raise funds, my preferred way to manage projects is to figure out how much time i would like to dedicate (or can spare) then see where i can fit it in (usually at weekends) then i plan accordingly. Drawing on local resources is also very helpful, turn you head to who you know and don’t be afraid to approach when an opportunity arises.

I think its fairly self explanatory as to why team up with Anoushka, she has been holding these wonderful supportive circles for years, empowering women. 

Anoushka can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

I founded The Goddess Space 5 years ago, seeking to create safe and sacred space for women. My work is based on the ancient feminine practice of The Women’s Circle and seeks to revive these spaces around the world. Helping women remember and access the deep power within. 

Can you tell us a little bit more about your upcoming event with Healthcare Circle and Goddess space?

Working with the energy of the Full Moon and harnessing the glow from International Women’s day you will be invited into a dreamy, magical space to reconnect back to yourself, your sisters and the universe. From meditation to intention setting, sharing, and energy cleansing it will be an evening filled with magik.

What inspires you to work with women, and what does global feminism mean to you?

My inspiration in working for women lies in my deep knowing that to empower ourselves and each other will lead us back to the remembering of our true nature.

How would you describe this gathering to someone who hasn’t experienced it before?

It’s like a big hug; a space for you to leave the outside world behind, to just be, exist and reconnect to your true essence. 

Empowering women is clearly something that is at the heart of your work. At The Circle, we aim to empower some of the world’s most marginalised women and girls. In your opinion, how important is it for women to come together and make change happen?

I believe this is the very thing that will, in fact, heal the world. 

To book your place at The Goddess Space fundraiser on 10 March click here!


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle ally Brett

“Besides the incredible women who were my role models throughout my life, I was also inspired by my favourite singer, Annie Lennox, and her passion for equal rights and gender equality.”

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

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire surrounded by two strong and fearless female role models, my mother and my older sister, Karen. Another woman who had a huge impact on my life was my Aunt Elizabeth, who could toss together an amazing dandelion greens salad and lived by her own rules until she was well past 100! As a school teacher for over 50 years, Elizabeth was adamant about the importance of educating girls all over the world. In addition to teaching me about global feminism at an early age, she introduced me to the visual arts which has lead me to my career as a designer today. One of the most meaningful things Elizabeth taught me is that with the right tools, I can make change happen for myself and others. A perspective that has led me to this great organisation.

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

Besides the incredible women who were my role models throughout my life, I was also inspired by my favourite singer, Annie Lennox, and her passion for equal rights and gender equality. It was through Annie’s social media posts that I first learned about The Circle and their fight for marginalised women. After winning tickets to an Annie Lennox concert and being lucky enough to meet her in person, I knew that I wanted to become a part of this cause. Just as she is, I’m passionate about the organisation’s legal assistance and education efforts and want to help this worthy cause in any way I can.

How have you used your professional skills or knowledge as an ally of The Circle?

I’ve been in the world of graphic design for 30 years.  In an effort to increase visibility for the Circle, I use my creative skills to assist with web and book design, posters, and really whatever graphic design work they need. You may have seen my creativity on display with The Circle’s e-vites and Christmas cards. Contributing my work and expertise to a greater cause is very meaningful to me. And I think it would be to my Aunt Elizabeth as well.

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


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle member Diane

This month, as part of Widen Your Circle, we have spoken to a number of our members about their involvement with The Circle and what it means to be a member!

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I am the Chair of The Music Circle, a mother, partner, daughter, sister, woman in music, strong woman, student and local council officer!

I am a mother of two teenagers, which has its challenges, but I am so mega proud of them. Initially a working single mum with two kids under the age of two and suffering with severe post natal depression, it was tough. So when the opportunity came up to do what I had always dreamed of, which was work in the music industry, I jumped at it. Within two years I had started my own business RM2 Music, a management company, and live music agency. I’ve been doing this ever since!

A few years ago, I will admit that the industry had left me a bit jaded and so made the decision to take a step back. I have scaled back on the operations and my own responsibilities and now work for my council helping to support local businesses, which I love. Taking that step back helped me fall back in love with music so I can be very selective on what I take on; RM2 Music lives!

To relax I love strength training and have competed in a few strong woman competitions. It is so empowering and reminds you what awesomeness there is within the female form. As well as being physically fit, I am now exercising the brain and have just started studying for my Masters degree which is very scary – I’m still trying to understand the title of my first assignment!

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

Because women are awesome! There is nothing like a strong sisterhood when we come together in solidarity there is a magic and a strength that manifests which lifts and inspires you. To be able to help and provide a voice for those less fortunate than yourself is an honour. I’ve always been a strong advocate for women, whether that be in business or in music, so joining The Circle seemed a natural move.

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?

When I became the Chair of The Music Circle we were already supporting Irise, an project partner addressing the taboo and shame of periods, not just in Uganda but in the UK too.  It has been great what Tallulah and Ava have been doing, holding music evening raising the profile of the issues and funds for the charity. As a survivor of abuse the statistic that 1 out of 3 women are victims of the crime touched me deeply. Not a lot of women have the opportunity or strength to get their apology or justice so to be able to give them the support and break the silence is very important to me.

I recorded a video in late 2019 to share my story of abuse as a girl, the apology I sought out and received, and my journey with The Circle:

What does Global Feminism mean to you?

Highlighting the inequalities against women and opening the conversation to all, including men, as it’s important they are part of the solutions.

How have you used your professional skills or knowledge as a member of The Circle?

Project management and industry contacts have been pulled upon to bring events together and help reinvigorate The Music Circle which is our priority for the next year.

To find out more about The Music Circle and what their members have been doing to empower women and girls, click here.


On the Road to Iran

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Russa!”

“NO! Canada.”

“Russa!” he insisted.

“CANADA. AMERICA.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was not the place for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” I said. “It can.”

“Did you really throw rocks at them?”

“Yes, I did.”

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

“Do now?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s the matter”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #WidenYourCircle


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Rosie

 

“To me, global feminism means supporting and advocating for all women on a global scale”

This month, as part of Widen Your Circle, we have spoken to a number of our members about their involvement with The Circle and what it means to be a member!

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

In 2016 I started my Masters in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at the University of Sussex. I have always been a feminist, so during this degree I was drawn to research topics that explored the criminal law in relation to women’s rights and women’s experiences in the justice system. In particular I focused on the laws governing the use of sweatshops in the fashion industry, sex trafficking, rape laws in Saudi Arabia and the way the British law treats female victims of domestic and sexual violence.

During this time, I often visited The Circle’s website to keep up-to-date on their work on women’s rights. I have been a member for nearly a year now, and I have loved hearing updates about their projects and going to The Circle events. Two weeks ago I watched the Webinar about human trafficking by members of ACT Alberta which was really interesting. I’m really looking forward to meeting more members, and getting more involved in the Lawyer’s Circle.

Tell us about your work:

I work for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women as the Entrepreneurship Programmes Officer. The Foundation provides support to women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries, helping them to set up and grow their businesses, advocate for their rights and access finance. I love that our work helps these women to realise their potential, empowering themselves and their communities in the process. One of my favourite programmes that I work on is an app for women with small and medium sized business, which teaches them entrepreneurship skills in bite-sized chunks. The app is great, because it means that the women don’t have to take time out of their busy lives to go to classes and because it is free and accessible.

Why did you become a member of The Circle?

I became a member of The Circle because I wanted to support the amazing projects that they develop to support and empower women and girls all over the world. The Circle is a really special community where women from different walks of lives can come together to discuss women’s rights and their mutual passion for global feminism, and I wanted to be a part of that. I follow The Circle on social media, and I kept seeing their posts about their upcoming events and members’ meetings, and I decided to join to that I could become more involved in those as well.

What does Global Feminism mean to you?

To me, global feminism means supporting and advocating for all women on a global scale. It’s not about wearing your ‘feminist’ t-shirt from Primark, but about taking the time to wonder who made that t-shirt, whether she was paid enough for her labour and whether her workplace was safe.

It means that it doesn’t matter if they come from a different country, a different socioeconomic background, or a different religion. It doesn’t matter who they have sex with, or if they are sex workers, victims of sexual violence, or how they identify as a women.

It is important to listen to your sisters all around the world – we can never achieve true equality between the sexes until women globally are paid the same as men, are free from sexual and physical violence, and are allowed to spend their childhoods at school rather than becoming a wife.

I am proud to be a global feminist.

#WidenYourCircle #WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Sophia

“I remember in primary school being taken into a separate room along with the rest of the girls to talk about periods whilst the boys did something else. No wonder it is seen as a taboo subject and no wonder men are not at ease talking about it!”

Sophia is a member of The Circle and a GP based in London. She’s been involved in organising our upcoming Menstruation Matters event!

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I am a GP based near London Bridge who also works in Medical Aesthetics and Sports Medicine.

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

The ethos of The Circle fits in with the kind of difference I want to make as a Global Feminist. Initially it was a charity I only donated to but then I was invited to join a group of members with a shared interest in healthcare to set up a new circle. Over the coming weeks, I will be getting involved with the launch of The Healthcare Circle as one of the co- chairs which I am super excited about!

How are you involved with the upcoming Menstruation Matters event and what has that been like?

I am working with a very inspirational group of women in planning the Menstruation Matters event. We are all volunteers on this project and all in full time jobs, so it has been challenging! However it has been great to meet the other members and work together for a common goal and for something we all truly believe in.

Why do you think the work of Irise International is so important?

So many of my young female patients in London don’t know enough about their menstrual cycle, or are worried about their periods and fertility. It is sad that even in the UK, it is not commonly talked about and women are not fully enlightened about something that is normal human physiology.. I remember in primary school being taken into a separate room along with the rest of the girls to talk about periods whilst the boys did something else. No wonder it is seen as a taboo subject and no wonder men are not at ease talking about it! Periods, fertility , childbirth etc are the essence of life- literally! There should be no myths, no stigma and no embarrassment surrounding it. This is why I strongly support and admire the work Irise International do. It is sad to think that women in Uganda are not living normal lives because of misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding their periods. Education is key and the most valuable asset anyone can have.

If you would like to attend our Menstruation Matters event this month then book your ticket here. Events like this just wouldn’t happen without our wonderful members. They are truly the lifeblood of The Circle!

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism #WidenYourCircle #MenstruationMatters


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle Member Brianna

“It’s hard to forget the first time you got your period… it’s scary and uncomfortable enough, even when you have the privilege of knowing what it is and that you’ll be okay.”

Brianna is an Australian trained social worker currently “lucky enough to be working in the community sector around FGM”. She went into social work as she has always been passionate about human rights, social justice and empowerment. Brianna has become specifically drawn to feminist practice approaches and issues surrounding global gender inequalities and gender-based violence.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I moved to the UK 10 months ago, I’m a New Zealand citizen, and I have a social work background, currently working in the charity/community sector around FGM.

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

It seemed such an easy fit with my interests and passions, particularly the notion of Global Feminism and focusing on supporting the amazing work of existing grassroots organisations like Irise.

How are you involved with the upcoming Menstruation Matters event and what has that been like?

I have been lucky to spend time with Sophia and Jasbir planning what we would like the event to look like, who would be involed, where it would be held. It’s definitely been a new experience for me as I’ve never done event planning or fundraising – but I’m certainly learning a lot!

Why do you think the work of Irise International is so important?

It’s hard to forget the first time you got your period… it’s scary and uncomfortable enough, even when you have the privilege of knowing what it is and that you’ll be okay. I can’t imagine that ‘first time’ without access to such knowledge… and the reality is many girls both in the UK and Uganda don’t. Irise is enabling girls to have understanding, choice and control over their bodies and that is an absolute necessity. They are addressing an issue that has a powerful knock-on effect for girls’ education and future – and that’s what we’re all about!

If you would like to attend our Menstruation Matters event this month then book your ticket here. Events like this just wouldn’t happen without our wonderful members. They are truly the lifeblood of The Circle!

#WomenEmpoweringWomen #GlobalFeminism #WidenYourCircle #MenstruationMatters


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle member Laura

“We are often led to believe that there is only space and resources for a few of us and that whatever other women get will be taken from us”

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!

Laura is a set and costume designer with a background in fashion. The inequalities present in the fashion industry are incredibly important to her and she is currently trying to engage more people in the complex matters that surround it.

Why did you decide to become a member?

I had heard about the work of The Lawyers Circle on the Living Wage Report and I was interested in the organization, but what really made up my mind was finding myself at an event in this room full of women who had come together because they wanted to help change things. I left full of inspiration, motivation and energy.

What does The Circle mantra “women empowering women” means to you?

For me, it’s a reminder that we should always try to be other women’s first supporters. We are often led to believe that there is only space and resources for a few of us and that whatever other women get will be taken from us. However, I am convinced that helping others succeed also facilitates our own achievements.

What impact has The Circle had on your life?

It has allowed me to meet women with innovative and exciting ideas that I may have never have done. It has given me a chance to connect with women who work in different industries from mine, have different connections and with whom I have been able to start projects that are important to me. At The Circle I have found a great community that has helped me to become a more active citizen.

Can you tell us what project is important to you and your circle and why?

The Fashion Circle is reshaping at the moment, which I guess is a great opportunity to start exciting new projects. The issue of a Living Wage in the Fashion industry is still very important to me. This is why I organised a Chai Day in December with another member, Lydia, in which we talked about the idea of the Living wage and the difference it could make in the life of female garment workers. We encouraged our guests to be curious, to ask questions about the issues of the fashion industry, and to act to change them.

#WidenYourCircle #WomenEmpoweringWomen #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist


Widen Your Circle: with The Circle member Katie

Photo credit: Fluid4Sight. Katie with singer Gill Manly at their Chai Day event in November

Women have an amazing capacity to forge immensely nourishing, deep, powerful bonds with each other – and when we harness that it becomes a force for change.

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!

Katie Rose is a new member of The Circle who has already been involved in our Chai Day fundraising initiative. Katie is a musician who is a ‘daily witness the profound wellbeing benefits of singing in my work. Working with choirs has taught me that we can join our diverse voices together to create a beauty, peace and strength that can change the world’. She leads choirs in community settings including hospitals, hospices, carers centres and co-directs Sing for Water, an annual mass choral fundraiser for WaterAid at Totally Thames.

Why did you decide to become a member of The Circle?
I joined after hearing Annie’s inspiring speech at the Women’s Day March 2018

What does The Circle’s mantra of #WomenEmpoweringWomen mean to you?
Ultimately it means busting through the patriarchal conditioning that oppresses and divides women.  Women have an amazing capacity to forge immensely nourishing, deep, powerful bonds with each other – and when we harness that it becomes a force for change.  I am continually uplifted, inspired and moved by my exchanges, discussions, friendships and collaborations with women.  Cherishing these individual bonds and widening them out to include and collaborate with other women is what we do naturally, when we have space to flourish – so the image of the ever-widening circle is so resonant and for me represents how we can build a non-hierarchical, mutually supportive movement.  We can each bring whatever platform, voice, influence, gifts, talents or resources we have available to support the cause of women worldwide – even just a tiny drop of rain can create a ripple in the ocean.  I want to help smash the glass ceilings of my generation to create freedom for the girls and women of the future.

What impact has The Circle had on your life?
It is that sense of not being alone, of being connected to a wider movement. I was brought up by a feminist and will remain a feminist until women no longer face oppression.  It is so good to be amongst strong, talented, inspiring women who have their own understanding of what being a feminist means and to stand in solidarity, honouring our unique perspectives and the diversity of the needs and issues facing women around the world.

Can you tell us about what project is important to you and your circle, and why?
I’m quite new to The Circle so am still finding out about all the projects and circles. As a singer, I am committed to creating arts events that contribute to raising funds and awareness with leading female artists in my community –  we hosted a Chai Day in November and hope to run a Women’s Day event in March.

Find out more about Katie’s work here!

#WidenYourCircle #WomenEmpoweringWomen #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist