Widen Your Circle: with The Circle member Saz

“I want to open up discussion in the community to these issues honestly, and without repercussion, to allow women to express their voices.”

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 a daughter of twice migrants from India. My parents migrated from Gujarat, India to Tanzania, after partition, my father leaving in the late ‘40s and my mother and older sister joined him in the ‘50s. I was born in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania before it decided that it too wanted independence for the British Empire. My father decided to move us, by then we were a family of five, to India for a short period of time while he established himself in England. My mother, two sisters and my brother arrived in 1967, and we settled in Coventry. My father had arrived earlier and had secured a job in a car factory, using his skill as a car upholstery on the production line.

My parents were typical Indian parents of their generation, telling us education is a key to success and encouraged us regardless of our gender to study.

My life has been good, fortuitous opportunities have come my way, I was given a commission straight after university to illustrate a book, a job offer at the BBC in the Creative Arts Department followed where I worked on and off until 2006. I began working as a freelancer for BBC, Sky and other production companies as a motion graphic designer and interactive TV designer. My personal life is great I have a wonderful husband and two gorgeous sons. But, not everything has been smooth sailing and I am glad that I have experienced some lows as well as some highs.

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

I was introduced to Oxfam and The Circle by Santosh Bhanot, the Chair of The Asian Circle. Santosh and I have known each other since our sons were in the same reception class. We have spent many a time over tea and PTA meetings discussing how we could give back to the community. We both had a similar upbringings that included lots of volunteering at the temple helping others. I believe that The Circle’s mission fits well with my goals in life.

In the summer of 2013, a group of high energy women sat around a table at the Oxfam office to discuss ideas on how to bring our vision “to work with vulnerable women in South Asia who haven’t had the opportunities and means to support themselves” to fruition. Since then I’ve been a core committee member, organised fundraising events, and spoken to other Asian Women’s groups about our work. I dipped out from full involvement whilst I went back to university to get my Qualified Teacher Status in 2014.

You’ve been involved with The Asian Circle for a while, can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve achieved with them?

Since its inception, The Asian Circle has grown from strength to strength. We have highly motivated, passionate British Asian women who give their time generously to organise our events, for example, launch at Houses of Parliament, screening and Q&A of True Cost at SOAS, screening and Q&A of Bhaji On the Beach, Chai Day at the LaLit to name a few. We arrange to speak to organisations, universities, women’s societies and we recently hosted a conference with Peepal Enterprise in Leicester on issues of domestic violence and the lack of funding and support here and in India.

Over the last five years, The Asian Circle have worked hard to raise awareness and funds to support a pilot project, created with Oxfam India and local NGOs, amongst the tribal communities of Chhattisgarh, India – to end domestic violence and empower women and girls. We have helped provide support centres for counselling and legal aid, created ‘vigilance networks’ of women to support each other and training programmes for the police. We also have engaged with different organisations, the state government, police and community groups to highlight issues with violence against women. We were thrilled that the local NGO LASS received a prestigious State Award- ‘Nari Shakti Samman’ for outstanding improvement of conditions of women at the margins of society’. This project is now being supported by International funders for state wide deployment of the project.

We are currently sending the sum of £11,500 to Oxfam India on Violence Against Women & Gender Justice Programme in Chhattisgarh – a further build on the VAW project with a focus on Gender Equality.

The new programme will focus on education and change in the community on gender inequity.

● Meeting with a community-based group, using two curriculums “Gendernama” (About Gender) “for men and boys and “Jago and Jagao Badlao ki Aur” (Wake and Awaken for change) for women and girls is being successfully executed in the groups.

● Awareness camps are also being set up in the community, to discuss gender stereotypes in the community and legal services for women.

● Engagement with youth in colleges to discuss various gender related topics like, gender stereotypes, gender and sexuality, patriarchy and gender, power and privilege etc. The BNS (Bano Nayi Soch), champions selected from these youth groups are used to spread the message further afield.

● Running 2 women support centres in Chhattisgarh. These 2 centres are run in space given by the NGO’s partners to provide socio-legal support to survivors of domestic violence.

The Circle is an organisation of women empowering women. How does your upcoming book seek to empower other women?

As I mentioned before, I have had some lows in my life too, and 28 years ago we had the fortune to have a special child join our family. He lived for 8 weeks and we are grateful that he came into our lives.

The first couple of years after his death, I buried my feelings. I have always felt sad in January to March and I have put it down to the worst time of the year for everyone who lives in the Northern hemisphere, short dark days, grey cloud-filled skies. Two years after his birth, we had a healthy baby boy, and three years later another. January become a time of celebration, all our children are born in January. Work, motherhood, life, in general, took me to new levels. I held down a successful, but a stressful job working for BBC News and Current Affairs, my sons were bright and healthy.

As the year’s passed, I heard about other women who also dealt with issues of postnatal depression, anxiety and guilt. Any woman who has had a sick child knows of the guilt, the what if I did this, what if I did that, is it my fault? My mind went into overdrive, and every year the thoughts kept flooding back, that it was all my fault.

In 2006 after leaving the BBC and starting work as a freelancer, we were given the news that my father was diagnosed with bone cancer. I grieved for my father, but I grieved for our son. I joined a creative writing group and the novel just spilt out of me, I remembered every comment, every incident in vivid colour, the feeling of inadequacy, the search for a miracle to prolong his life. Again, life got in the way, my father who had been given 3 months lived for 3 years, so we savoured every minute with him.

In late 2016, I suffered from my first panic attack, and it left me shattered. I am known for my can-do attitude, had retrained to be a teacher and was enjoying seeing my students make good progress and grow into confident young adults. I couldn’t do it anymore, I couldn’t go into the classroom. I started counselling again, and things had moved on from my first session in the ‘90s.

It is important when you have counselling, that the counsellor understands, this time when I mentioned my extended family, she knew. In the ’90s, when I talked of the nuances of Indian families and how I felt my counsellor told me to stop all ties with the people who made me feel this way. Her words still ring in my ears. You don’t have to see your family if you don’t want to, you can always decline the invitation. She had no idea of the cultural pressure and significance of that remark.

My new sessions dealt deeply with my emotions through the lens of my upbringing. She told me to reread my novel and use it as a way to understand my feelings to move beyond grief.

So that is when my novels, My Heart Sings Your Song and Where Have We Come became a reality. I researched and read books to gauge the market, did I want to write a self-help book, should I write a blog and tell people of my experience. Then I came across a group of writers Cecilia Ahern and Jojo Moyes to name a few, who didn’t always write the typical tale of happy ever after. I read books published by South Asian authors, many with experiences that resonated with me, but none that I could identify with. I have grown up in England, I straddle both cultures, I’m a British Asian, foremost. My Gujarati background is the icing on the cake. My parents didn’t once blame me for my child’s illness. Many others did, my reluctance to follow rituals, customs, every superstitious belief, the alignment of planets, anything to beat me with to justify their anger at seeing our child as he was. I believe it’s in the psyche of the South Asian community to first and foremost blame the women. What annoyed me most as I was researching was that nearly thirty years after my experience, women were still being subjected to the same superstitions and customs in Britain. Some of the families that practised this were the third generation out of India. Women who were my age, telling their daughters, daughters-in-law that their child was disabled because of what they had or hadn’t done.

I sent a couple of chapters and an outline to people and received favourable comments, encouraging me to write it, but no-one was interested in taking me on as a writer. The book became a monster, both in its desire to be fed and its size. I edited scenes out, created chapters and asked people to help structure the story. My journey isn’t typical, I decided I would self-publish, whilst I waited for my early readers to get back to me with comments and alterations. I learnt what I could about publishing, the drafting, the formatting, the editing, and eventual publishing. I chose to have all the processes in my hand, after all, it is my story and I didn’t want comment or edits from people who didn’t know it or understand the cultural relevance of it.

My only aim is to tell the story, that was the goal I had set myself, but I’d also set another which has helped me through the difficult process. If I can help one woman, someone who is in or has been through a similar situation understand that they are not alone, then I have done my job.

So what’s next for me, I have got the writing bug, I have stories that I want to tell, stories about multicultural Britain, about friendships that grow regardless of background and race. I want my stories to be read by a broader readership, not just aimed at South Asian readers. The University Series that I’m planning deals with issues, such as bereavement, depression, disability, cancer, infertility, caste, interfaith relationships, infidelity, divorce, homosexuality, sex before marriage, topics that are still taboo in the community. I want to grow as a writer, learn the craft, tell stories of women from different communities, stories that people like me can identify with.

As for my anxiety and depression, I’ve heard things have changed; more and more support groups are being set-up in communities up and down the country to deal with depression in the South Asian community. It is a taboo subject that hardly has any airing. No-one, who has a thriving career, a big house, healthy and happy families can get depression. It’s good that finally, we are talking about it. I want to open up discussion in the community to these issues honestly, without repercussion, to allow women to express their voices.

Mostly I want people to realise that there are ways to express your emotions. For me it was storytelling, but it can be music, art, anything that allows you to deal with your emotions. If all you want to do is rage at a mountain than rage at it, it is your right to do what helps you cope. Anything is achievable if you put your mind to it.

What does Global Feminism mean to you?

When I started to work in a male dominant newsroom in the ‘80s I was optimistic that finally women were given the same opportunities as men. As the years’ progress, I began to realise that feminism explores the idea of equal rights for women but not necessarily equal rights to all women in all society.

The world is getting smaller and we hear more and more about the injustices faced by women across the world, how patriarchal societies, poverty, governments perpetuate the inequalities faced by women. Global Feminism for me means the right for every woman to equality at home, in the workplace and in society. It is about giving women opportunities to assert their rights. It is about making change happen by giving our voice to those who do not have one.

For more information about My Heart Sings Your Song & Where Have We Come click here

Or find Saz on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

 


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 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.


Why We Need Better Domestic Violence Legislation

Photo Credit: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Domestic violence is the single biggest killer of women globally. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that of the 187,000 women killed in 2017, over half (58%) were killed by intimate partners or members of their families. Yet domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, extends far beyond the fatal – an estimated 30% of women globally have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. It is clear that domestic violence has long been a global epidemic that requires greater international attention, but as of 2018, over 40 countries still have no laws criminalising intimate partner violence. In 2019, and especially in the wake of the recent 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, it is more critical than ever that we fight for legal protection for victims of domestic violence across 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. 


Celebrity Donations for Jumble Fever

Photo credit: Andre Camara

Annie Lennox and Colin Firth amongst celebrities donating items to second annual Jumble Fever!

For the second year, celebrity donations will be up for grabs at a jumble sale organised by The Oxford CircleJumble Fever will take place on Saturday 18th January from 11am-4pm, this time, in Oxford’s Town Hall, having outgrown its original home at the Tap Social. Commentator, activist and TV presenter Caryn Franklin MBE will be a special guest at the event.

One of the organisers of Jumble Fever, Claire Lewis revealed that: “This year Annie Lennox has generously donated a number of very special items including a stunning black velvet dress, a Club Monaco raincoat and Vivienne Westwood Red Heart earrings and bracelet. Some of these donations will be in the jumble sale and others will be part of the raffle which also includes a bag donated by Colin Firth from the Mary Poppins film as well as tickets for Creation Theatre, vouchers for the Ashmolean and Pizza Pilgrims, local attractions and workshops”.

All funds raised at Jumble Fever will be split between two causes supported by the NGO. Half will go to Nonceba, a shelter located in Khayelitsha, a township just outside Cape Town for survivors of domestic violence or trafficking. The other half will go to the Marie Colvin Journalists’ Network, which trains, mentors and supports young female journalists in the MENA region.

Annie Lennox said: “The two projects that Jumble Fever is supporting are both very close to my heart and illustrate why the work of The Circle is so important. Whether we’re amplifying women’s voices or giving them support and opportunities, everything we do works towards achieving equality for women and girls.”

The doors to Jumble Fever will be open from 11am-4pm and entry is £3, or £1 for anyone arriving before 2pm with a bag of donations. Shoppers can browse clothing for men, women and children, including prom dresses and designer labels, and buy tickets for the celebrity raffle.

Caryn Franklin has said that: “Jumble Fever is an excellent initiative, bringing the Oxford community together, showing that recycling and upscaling clothes can be fun and an effective way to challenge consumerism and prevent the growing landfill issue.”

There will be entertainment throughout the day, including performances from Oxford bands The Mother Folkers and The Kirals, and Magician Jamie Jibberish, aka Magic for Smiles, who performs for refugee children in Turkey and Jordan. MC for the day will be drag artist Her Who with tunes supplied by DJs Jodie Hampson from Dollar Shake and Donwella from Coop Audio. Food and drinks supplied by the “food with a conscience” team Waste2Taste.

Jumble Fever 2019 attracted over five hundred people and raised over £5300.

The Oxford Circle Chair, Leanne Duffield, says “Jumble Fever 2019 was a fantastic event and this year it will be even bigger and better. And the jumble sale is just the beginning for The Oxford Circle this year as we have 19 more events planned for 2020. All events will raise money or awareness for marginalised women around the world.”

Join us at the Oxford Town Hall on January 18th from 11am!

Photos by: Andre Camara, Rachel Hastie and Giles Hastie.

 


Global Feminist Calendar January and February 2020

Photo credit: Femspectives

2020 is going to be a big year for The Circle, here’s some fantastic events to get it started!

18 January – Jumble Fever (Oxford)

After the huge success of The Oxford Circle’s Jumble Fever last January, they are back again! This year, in the Oxford Town Hall, to raise funds for the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre. Collect your preloved items, jumble and bric a brac to donate to a good cause! There will be DJs and entertainment throughout the day, as well as an exciting celebrity raffle.

£5 entry fee OR bring a bag of donations before 2pm and just pay £1 to enter!

18 January – Electrifying Women: a Wikithon (Leeds)

Join Electrifying Women, an AHRC funded project based at the University of Leeds, to edit and add information about historical women engineers to Wikipedia. Training and historical resources (including suggested women engineers) will be provided. This is a free event, open to everyone!

Don’t worry if the idea of creating a whole new page sounds daunting. Some of the most valuable work is done by people adding new information and improving data. On the day, the group will also be demonstrating how working with Wikidata can make women’s history more searchable and accessible.

20-21 January – International Conference on Feminist History of Philosophy and Feminist Philosophers (London)

This conference aims to bring together leading academic scientists, researchers and research scholars to exchange and share their experiences and research results on all aspects of Feminist History of Philosophy and Feminist Philosophers.

23 January – Archives Tour: Women’s History (London)

Fancy meeting the suffragette who was so excited by the cause she bought the WSPU tea set twice, the remarkable woman who put up Ghandi in the East End, Britain’s first ever female firefighter, and the Berwickshire Granarchists?

Join Special Collections and Archives Manager Stefan Dickers to hear about these activists and many more in a tour of the fascinating women’s and feminist history collections.

25 January – January Intention Setting with The Oxford Circle (Oxford)

To celebrate the new possibilities in the upcoming year, The Oxford Circle are holding a 3 hour workshop to help you step into 2020 with clarity and focus in all aspects of your life. There will be space to reflect on the past year and decide what you would like to take with you into this new decade.

They will discuss the power of intention setting as a tool for inspired action throughout the year and hope that you will leave with a vision board to refer to as you step into 2020 consciously and with purpose.

There will be tea from The Happy Larder, coffee from Missing Bean and cake from Barefoot Bakery provided.

4 February – Trailblazers: Letters to My Younger Self (London)

Maya Angelou, at the age of 85, had this advice for her 15-year old self:

‘Find some beautiful art and admire it, and realise that that was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less’.

Advice like that has both universal resonance and specific relevance to women of colour. Most people have fallen in love, discovered the power of art and wondered whether they have the capacity to achieve great things. But women of colour have to contend with unique experiences. Many feel the sting of erasure when they are young – not seeing themselves in literature, on TV or occupying positions of power.

In the second instalment of gal-dem’s Trailblazers series, Intelligence Squared has partnered with gal-dem to bring together a collection of outstanding women – and their letters – to stage. They range from playwright Bonnie Greer to footballer Eni Aluko and comedian Shappi Khorsandi. The event will be chaired by BBC Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo.

5 February – The Cruel Cut Screening (London)

The Dahlia Project presents BAFTA nominated documentary The Cruel Cut, which will be followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers and other prominent voices in women’s rights and FGM. All proceeds will go towards The Dahlia Project, which works to achieve an end to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) by creating safe spaces to support individuals and societies affected by FGM, protect children from harm and empower communities to lead change.

10 February – When the Going Gets Tough: women and the future of global peace and security (London)

This talk hosted by LSE’s Centre for Women, Peace and Security will be introducing their new Director, Sanan Naraghi-Anderlini. This is the centre’s 5th anniversary and will be an opportunity to celebrate their mission of providing an academic space for scholars, practitioners, activists and policy makers to develop strategies to promote justice, human rights and participation of women in conflict affected areas.

15 February – Suitable Women: Films of Female Friendship (Glasgow)

Pity Party Film Club will return to CCA Glasgow for their third all-day event showcasing four on-screen depictions of female friendship. Throughout the day, they will be screening Career Girls, Clockwatchers, Tangerine and Thelma Louise. Tickets for each screening cost £6 and or you can purchase an all-day ticket for all four films for just £15. For more information on each film, click the link!

20 February – Femspectives 2020 – Glasgow Feminist Film Festival (Glasgow)

Femspectives is a film series and festival in Glasgow. It provides a platform for feminist storytelling and safe spaces for conversations about feminisms, social issues, and politics. They are yet to release the line- up for the 2020 festival, but make sure to save the date! We’ll add the full details as soon as they’re released.

20 February – Everything I Ever Wanted to Tell My Daughter About Men (London)

As part of The Globe’s Voices in the Dark series, next year they will host a staged reading of Everything I Ever Wanted to Tell My Daughter About Men, a new black comedy by actor and writer Lorien Haynes and directed by Tara Fitzgerald, which traces a woman’s relationship history backwards, exploring the impact of sexual assault, addiction and teen pregnancy on her adult relationships.

Presented in association with Rise and The Circle, all profits from this reading will go towards supporting survivors of sexual violence, and will also mark the planned introduction of the Worldwide Sexual Violence Survivor Rights United Nations Resolution at the United Nations in January 2020, which addresses the global issue of sexual violence and pens into existence the civil rights of millions of survivors.


Global Feminism Advent Calendar 2019

 

We’re back with a list of 24 things that you can do every day from now until Christmas. From feminist panel discussions and fundraisers for marginalised women and girls to arts and crafts sessions and inspirational films to watch. Many of these events will sell out, so be sure to get your tickets early!

1 December – Peta’s Chai Day in Wimbledon (London)

Join The Circle’s Relationship Manager Peta at her Chai Day in Wimbledon! Go along for some fantastic tea and cakes and to learn a little bit more about gender-based violence. This is a global issue and women’s organisations providing support to survivors are woefully underfunded.

Join Peta and friends on 1 Dec from 2-4pm at Coolangatta, 281 Kingston Road, Wimbledon Chase, SW20 8DB.

2 December – Active Bystander Training (London)

The Circle would like to invite you to attend the award-winning Active Bystander training programme which aims to empower us to challenge poor behaviours which have become normalised in our workplaces and in our communities and bring about change through the reinforcement of messages defining the boundaries of unacceptable behaviour. We have asked Scott Solder, an advanced communications skills expert to facilitate the session. We hope that you will find the training valuable!

3 December – Middle Eastern Women’s (Street)Art in Context (London)

Renowned curator Rose Issa and academic Lucia Sorbera end their third part series by reflecting on the aesthetic, conceptual and socio-political concerns of artists in the Arab world over the past four decades and the new shape of women’s street art, the challenges they face and the legacy of feminist revolutionary art.

4 December – Buy your ticket toTEDxLondonWomen 2019 (London)

TED are turning their attention to uncovering how women and non-binary and genderqueer people the world over are ‘Showing Up’, breaking out and pushing boundaries.

Whatever their focus and talent – business, technology, art, science, politics – these pioneers are joining forces in an explosion of discovery and ingenuity to drive real, meaningful change. Speakers include ANAÏS, Angela Francis, Dr Julia Shaw, Jamie Windust, Mary Portas, Nathaniel Cole, Nikita Gill and Onjali Rauf. Book your ticket now for this is sure to sell out!

6 December –  Stonewall 50 Years On: Gay Liberation and Lesbian Feminism in Europe (Manchester)

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, which began in the early hours of Saturday, 28 June 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street defended themselves against police oppression.

This one-day conference rethinks the movements that the riots supposedly spawned in a European context. Gay liberation was never a one-way flow from across the Atlantic but the Gay Liberation Front was an important catalyst for similar groups in Europe.

This conference is co-organised with Dr Craig Griffiths, Dr Rebecca Jennings and Dr Dan Callwood.

7 December – Art + Feminism Edit-A-Thon Social (Nottingham)

Art + Feminism is a campaign improving coverage of gender, feminism, and the arts on Wikipedia. It is a do-it-yourself and do-it-with-others campaign teaching people of all gender identities and expressions to edit Wikipedia. Less than 10% editors on Wikipedia are women! The group wants to ensure that women tell their stories and that gaps in the coverage of knowledge about gender, feminism, and the arts on one of the most visited websites in the world.

8 December – Christmas Period Pack and Volunteer Session (Wolverhampton)

Looking to get involved and discover how you can help reduce period poverty in Wolverhampton? Join Homeless Period to help pack donations and deliver them to vulnerable women and girls and those experiencing period poverty across the city.

9 December – Sex Positive Christmas Market (London)

Looking for a unique Christmas gift? Head to this sex positive, feminist and queer friendly space where you can buy alternative gifts, meet lovely people. There will be great music, mulled wine and a raffle so this is not to be missed.

10 December –  Smashing Stereotypes! Inspiring Young People in Gender Equality (Wishaw)

This event is aimed at young people and individuals or groups who work with young people in a range of capacities from the voluntary and statutory sectors. The interactive displays and workshops will highlight current research about gender stereotyping and provide an opportunity to engage with the material, interact with peers and representatives from different sectors.

This workshop is being held by STAMP (Stamp out Media Patriarchy) a project which aims to tackles gender stereotypes in the media and encourage more positive use of the media amongst young people.

This event is completely free – just register to reserve your place!

11 December – Buy your ticket to Night for Solidarity for Refugees in Calais (London)

The refugee crisis is a feminist issue and Hackney Stand Up to Racism and Facism are holding their annual fundraiser for Care4Calais. The evening will feature music, comedy, a raffle and speakers all in aid of the work Care4Calais do. Winter has started and for those living in the appalling conditions in Calais there are no ways to get warm. Please support their cause and attend this fantastic fundraiser on 14 December.

12 December – Bitch Lit: Corregidora by Gayl Jones (London)

Bitch Lit is Gower Street Waterstone’s monthly book club devoted to new feminist writing and cult classics by women. Join them for wine and a lively discussion led by literary critic Lucy Scholes.

This will be the final Bitch Lit of the year and the group will be discussing the lost classic Corregidora by Gayl Jones

13 December – Hand in your Chai Day money!

Once you’ve hosted your Chai Day to support survivors of gender-based violence, remember to hand in the money that you’ve fundraised! This will go directly to our Chai Day projects and can be donated via the link on the Chai Day webpage. You can also find us on Virgin Money Giving.

14 December – Flo Perry ‘How to have Feminist Sex’ (Oxford)

This book talk discusses women’s own patriarchal conditioning in relation to their bodies and sexuality, arguing that this can be the hardest enemy to defeat as feminism moves forward. When it comes to our sex lives, few of us are free of niggling fears and body image insecurities. Flo Perry explores body-positive sex and dispels myths with the goal of getting more people to talk openly about what they do and don’t want from every romantic encounter.

Flo will be taking questions and signing copies of her book after the talk!

15 December – Watch City of Joy on Netflix

How does one find joy amid unspeakable tragedy? Madeleine Gavin’s documentary City of Joy, about a community built around women who have survived horrific violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), gives us a glimpse at both an incredible injustice still occurring today, and how Congolese women are combating it with their own grassroots movement.

“Everything is about love at City of Joy,” Schuler Deschryver told the Guardian. She described how many of the women who first arrive at City of Joy associate being touched only with violence. “So when you hug her and tell her she’s beautiful, that you love her, that you will fight for her, suddenly she’s like: ‘Oh my God, I exist. I’m a human being.’ You see the joy that [the women] have and know what they’ve passed through. I think that’s one of the reasons I wake up every morning.”

Find it on Netflix now!

16 December – Buy a gift that supports marginalised women and girls

Adorn yourself or a loved one with an elegant and unique piece of jewellery from the SeeMe X The Circle collection. See Me and The Circle have launched a beautiful and ethically-made jewellery collection to celebrate ten years of Women Empowering Women. SeeMe employs women, often single mothers, who have suffered violence and were ostracised from their communities in Tunisia. Through training SeeMe employees learn the craft of jewellery making following ancient Tunisian techniques. Therefore, while fostering their country’s traditions, they also secure a workplace for themselves and a future for their families.

The Circle have a number of sustainably sourced gifts for every member of the family, in addition to jewellery we’re selling programmes from Annie Lennox’s An Evening of Music and Conversation.

17 December – Donate to a cause you care about

Christmas is the perfect opportunity to give to a cause that you care about. Whether thats your time, or your money, give a little this festive season.

18 December – Share your #GlobalFeminism stat

Take part in Annie Lennox’s #GlobalFeminism campaign by selecting a statistic that exemplifies the inequalities women face across the world, write it down and photograph yourself with it. Then, share the photo on your social media, hashtag #GlobalFeminism and tag both @thecirclengo and @AnnieLennox.

19 December – Read our Living Wage Report

Fast fashion generates vast revenues, using a business model that turns around enormous quantities of cheap clothing produced with very short lead times by globally-sourced cheap labour. Multinational fast fashion companies are able to quickly move their production to countries with lower wages. The risk of losing this investment acts as a disincentive for countries to improve their labour laws and provide fair wages.

The Circle has recently published its second report on this issue which makes a proposal for a new legislative framework to stop the “race to the bottom” and ensure a living wage. Read the full report now!

20 December – Donate sanitary products to a local food bank or body shop

Period products are not cheap and for anyone menstruating they are an absolute necessity. Sadly, there are many people living in the UK who are unable to afford them. People often forget about this essential item when donating to food banks so if you are thinking about donating food and other supplies then consider including some tampons or sanitary pads! The Body Shop have started a fantastic initiative in partnership with Bloody Good Period which can currently be found in several cities across the UK. Find your closest participating store here or food bank here.

21 December – Gift a Membership

Last minute Christmas gift? Gift a membership!!

We have added the option to Gift a Membership on our website! Whether the recipient is your mother, your daughter, an aunt, a colleague, a partner or friend; The Circle membership is the perfect gift for a woman who wants to become more actively involved in the global women’s movement, bring attention to important issues and amplifying the voices of vulnerable women. The perfect Christmas gift of empowerment this year!

22 December – Watch For Sama

For Sama is both an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war. A love letter from a young mother to her daughter, the film tells the story of Waad al-Kateab’s life through five years of uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her.

Her camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as Waad wrestles with an impossible choice – whether or not to flee the city to protect her daughter’s life.

23 December – Save a pre-loved item for Jumble Fever in January!

After the huge success of The Oxford Circle’s Jumble Fever last January, they are back again but this year, in the Oxford Town Hall, to raise funds for the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre. Collect your preloved items, jumble and bric a brac and set it aside to make room for Christmas gifts! If you bring a bag of donations with you, entry to the Jumble Sale is just £1.

24 December – Listen to the Cry Power Podcast with Annie Lennox

Catch Annie on the first episode of Hozier’s new podcast series Cry Power in partnership with our friends at Global Citizen. You can listen here!

The Cry Power podcast is hosted by Hozier in partnership with Global Citizen, talking to inspirational artists and activists about how to change the world. In its inaugural episode, Hozier talks with Annie Lennox about why feminism must be inclusive of men; how her personal story of activism is rooted in her family; and how music can make change happen. But it’s not all talk — you can join the Global Citizen movement and take action below to end gender inequality all over the world. Subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Acast now.

Have a wonderful festive period from everyone here at The Circle! 


Reporting Rape: How the Justice System is Failing Victims of Violence

Photo credit: Reuters

Violence against women and girls remains one of the most prominent and pressing issues of inequality globally, with at least one in three women around the world becoming a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. In the UK, one in five women have experienced some type of sexual assault, according to official analysis of violent crime figures by the Crime Survey for England and Wales. Despite the fact that the UK comes in at 14th on the Gender Inequality Index (1st being most equal), 173 women were killed at the hands of their partners over the last year and more than 85,000 were raped.

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.

Scotland

Rape Crisis Scotland estimates that one in ten women in Scotland has experienced rape and one in five women in Scotland has had someone try to make them have sex against their will. Furthermore, according to Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014 collected evidence to suggest people believe that in certain situations women are at least partly to blame if they are raped. Only 58% said a woman who wore revealing clothing on a night out was ‘not at all to blame’ for being raped and 60% said the same of a woman who was very drunk. The survey found that around a quarter of people agreed that ‘women often lie about being raped’. These findings are shocking and indicate a level of blame put on victims of violence that permeates the processes within the criminal justice system.

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Glasgow produced a report on justice journeys and found that while positive experiences were identified, victim-survivors continue to face challenges at each stage of the criminal process. The testimonies described a disparity between survivor expectations and experiences: perceptions of the system being weighted in favour of the accused, that the prosecutor did not adequately represent their interests and a sense of being marginal to the process. None of the victims were given back their personal possessions taken as evidence, an invasive practice in the first place, nor did they know what happened to their items. In addition, some felt that crucial evidence had been overlooked, taken incorrectly, or in some cases not taken at all.

I was made to feel that I was hysterical […] when you’ve been in a domestic abuse situation and these types of men, they tell you you’re hysterical or you’ve got mental health issues or you’re nuts or you’re crazy or you’re a fruitcake. That’s the language they use. So […] when the authorities use it, what does it do? It puts up a brick wall.  – Beth

One could argue that these challenges are not particular to rape cases and that the judiciary system could be confusing and long-winded for those not versed in legal jargon or suffering from anxiety as a result of the crime in question. However, it remains the case that in Scotland and the rest of the UK, courts have consistently low conviction rates for gender-based violence crimes and a system that discourages victim-survivors to come forward. In the instances of the research undergone by University of Glasgow, many have been faced with a lack of respect, information and support within the justice system and under-funded services such as Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis assume must step in and assume responsibility for this support. Overwhelmingly, the services of a counsellor were considered invaluable throughout the judiciary process. The counsellors from services such as Rape Crisis provide emotional support but also detail the process of going to court with victim-survivor in an attempt to prepare them for what can be an intimidating prospect.

With support from The Circle and Chai Day, Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis has been able to extend their drop-in service for survivors and launch The Rosey Project, providing support for young women who are survivors of rape, sexual assault or sexual bullying in response to an increasing demand for services for women aged 13 to 25.

Siyanda and her son, who stayed at the Nonceba Centre after leaving an abusive relationship.

South Africa

The most recent data from the World Health Organisation shows that South Africa’s femicide rate was almost five times higher than the global average in 2016. Despite national outcry from protestors around the country and the #TotalShutdown movement, violence remains high and in recent weeks the media in South Africa has and continues to report stories of victims who have been murdered and attacked. According to the One in Nine Campaign, although 66,000 rapes are reported to the police in South Africa annually, the total number of rapes is much higher and is estimated to be between 600,000-1,650,000; of these, a fraction lead to convictions.

Jackie Nategaal wrote that one of the reasons that the criminal system is ‘failing survivors’ is a pervasive rape culture that still exists. Arguing that victims are often treated dismissively because there is an expectation of, even an inevitability of violence towards women. Amnesty International supports this argument as the Executive Director in South Africa, Shenilla Mohamed, released a statement stating that ‘it is nothing short of a national emergency that femicide and rape rates are increasing countrywide’ and that the first steps for making change would be:

ensuring that police officers are properly trained to sensitively and objectively investigate incidents of gender-based violence … ensure that gender-based violence is taken seriously at every level of the justice system, including by challenging discriminatory stereotypes about victims and survivors.”

Similarly, in a reflection paper from the International Commission of Jurists, it was stressed that although there has been a domestic violence legislation in the country since 1998, there is a lack of implementation of the act in the process of reporting a crime. The paper states that ‘the burden of pursuing a claim falls onto victims who are given documents from the court with the onus to progress these themselves despite their uncertainty in how to do so’.

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.

India

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.

In 2012, the rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi, prompted protests across the country that were demanding huge reform in the criminal justice system to and protect future women across the country. Despite promises by the government to take concrete action, it seems that sexual violence is as common as ever. India’s National Crime Records Bureau reveals that 38,947 cases of rape were registered in 2016 9 increasing by 12.4 from the previous year. World Politics Review has observed that at this rate, ‘a woman is raped in India about every 15 fifteen minutes’ and goes on to state that an estimated 99 percent of rape cases in India go unreported. As in Scotland and South Africa, women do not feel confident and safe in reporting their assault.

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.

A number of sources have described demeaning medico-legal care for survivors of sexual violence, including the ‘two finger test’, in which ‘a doctor notes the presence or absence of the hymen and the size and so-called laxity of the vagina of the rape survivor, to access whether girls and women are “virgins” or “habituated to sexual intercourse”’. Although this practice is now punishable under section 166B of the Indian Penal Code, a Human Rights Watch investigation found that treatment and examination such as this was still occurring in recent cases of serious sexual assault. This practice can be traumatic, particularly for those who have recently suffered rape and sexual assault and seeks to dismiss claims based on supposed sexual history, placing blame on the victim themselves.

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.

Canada

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.

Indigenous women and girls are widely identified as being at particular risk of experiencing various forms of gender-based violence in Canada, including human trafficking. By comparison, an Independent article from last year states that ‘94 per cent of Native American women living in Seattle say they have been raped or coerced into sex at least once in their lifetime’ and The New York Times indicates that ‘indigenous women and girls make up about 4 percent of the total female population of Canada but 16 per cent of all female homicides’. According to ACT, this is due ‘in part to the effects of historical and ongoing colonialism, and the legacies of the residential school system, dispossession of identity and culture, violence, racism, and marginalization.’

Not only are the support services few and far between for these women but the judiciary system is also failing them. In the case of Tina Fontaine, a 15-year-old girl from the Sagkeeng First Nation in Canada, ‘she was seen by provincial child welfare workers, police officers and healthcare professionals yet within 24 hours she was found dead’. The Times quote her great-aunt Thelma Favel who claimed that “Canada and the system failed Tina at every step”.

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.

All you have to do is invite a few friends, brew a pot of chai and raise funds to make a difference for women around the globe. Head to The Circle’s website for more information and to download your online resources!

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.


Waves: Interview with Jessie Ayles

Photo credit: Waves

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.


Cry Power Podcast

Listen below to catch Annie on the first episode of Hozier’s new podcast series Cry Power in partnership with our friends at Global Citizen. You can listen here!

The Cry Power podcast is hosted by Hozier in partnership with Global Citizen, talking to inspirational artists and activists about how to change the world. In its inaugural episode, Hozier talks with Annie Lennox about why feminism must be inclusive of men; how her personal story of activism is rooted in her family; and how music can make change happen. But it’s not all talk — you can join the Global Citizen movement and take action below to end gender inequality all over the world. Subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Acast now.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be part of ‘#CryPower’ – the brand new ‘Hozier – Global Citizen’ podcast in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Goal Number 5 (Gender Equality) represents the urgent need for transformation and empowerment in every aspect of the lives of millions of women and girls everywhere around the world. From education to protection against gender based abuse and violence. There is a desperate need for #GlobalFeminism everywhere!”

– Annie Lennox

In Global Citizen’s piece on the podcast, James Hitchings-Hales writes “The last time Annie Lennox met Hozier, they were rehearsing a duet together in a Los Angeles hotel room — without yet realising that their shared vision for the world around them stretched further than music.

Years later, the two are in a recording studio across central London, relaxing into a dark leather sofa. They’re talking about how art has often defined activism throughout history — in conversation for the first episode of the Cry Power podcast in partnership with Global Citizen.

“Music defines change,” Lennox says, later pointing to Childish Gambino’s This Is America as a music video that truly woke people up, a moment Hozier agrees is an “arresting piece of work.” He suggests that music can tell the truest stories about human experience: “It’s a real vehicle for the zeitgeist.”

Lennox and Hozier, now close friends, talk for over an hour. The topic: global feminism, pertaining to the fifth of the UN’s Global Goals — achieving gender equality to empower all women and girls. They touch on everything from education and HIV/AIDS, to #MeToo and gender violence. ”

Read the rest of the article here!

#GlobalFeminism