“It is important that we always keep in mind that we are advantaged somehow and so it is good to share that advantage with others”
As part of our Women and Girls in Conflict month at The Circle, we caught up with Maya Ghazal, the inspiration refugee rights activist to speak about her the challenges that refugees face in the UK and her take on Women Empowering Women. Maya is the recipient of The Diana Legacy Award and is a student of Aviation Engineering with Pilot Studies at Brunel University.
Maya, tell us a little bit about yourself:
My name is Maya Ghazal, I am 20 years old and I am a refugee from Syria. I left Syria when I was 15 and got to the UK in 2015. I got to the UK in a plane via family reunion visa with my mum and two younger brothers as my dad was already in the UK. I faced many struggles coming to the UK and got rejected by schools in my community, however, after few dark months I was able to get over those struggles and challenges and finally got accepted to a college and was able to get back on track with my education.
Now, I am an advocate for refugees rights, speak in different events and volunteer to raise awareness and spread a message of kindness.
Can you tell us a little bit about the challenges that refugees face whilst living in the UK?
Well, from my own personal experience, I can say that integrating to the new community would be a challenge, learning English, entering the educational system and sometimes finding a job. These normal life activities can sometimes be challenging especially from people from outside the country with no one to help them or to tell them what to do or to guide them along the way.
If you could share one thing with our supporters, what would it be?
Your smallest act of kindness can change someone’s life, don’t keep it in! Something as small as a smile or a nice supportive word to refugees could make a huge difference. I wouldn’t have been who I am and got to where I am without support, help and encouragements from people around me.
Finally, what does ‘Women Empowering Women’ mean to you?
We can support each other, lift each other and bring each other together. It is important that we always keep in mind that we are advantaged somehow and so it is good to share that advantage with others, it feels good to help and support each other, it truly makes a difference. There are many myths and labels to women and we can change that, together and as one, we can make a change and it is important that we prove to the outside word that we can do it all regardless to whatever labels and society would be giving.
“Women are powerful. Women are beautiful and strong. Women are wild, raw and resourceful. We must join together, and we must use our strength and resources to overcome.”
Meet Alice Sinclair and Sophie Gradden, the women empowering other women through an evening of art and conversation on 19th June. Alice, a member of The Circle, and Sophie, a UK-based artist are putting on an incredible event to raise funds for the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre. During the art class, which begins at 6.30pm, you will be able to select a favourite female icon to paint with the aim “go wild on canvas”! As well as having creative fun, you will be connecting with like-minded women and learning more about The Circle’s projects.
This a perfect example of how when women come together and organise, they can be a powerful force for change. We sat down and spoke to them about The Circle, fundraising and feminism …
Alice Sinclair works in the healthcare sector and is a member of The Circle.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I have been based in London for 12 years. I work in the healthcare sector as an NLP therapist and a trainee Psychotherapist. I am also the editor of a local magazine. I have witnessed and experienced gender inequality in many forms throughout my life. I still see it everyday, and with my work as a therapist I see the impacts. Ending violence against women is my passion. It is it very close to my heart (near the cat section). I long for a world one day where the inhabitants are like WTF is inequality? Did that actually exist?
Why did you decide to organise this fundraising event?
This event is the beginning of many. Nothing feels more close to my heart than actively supporting and holding a platform for women to come together and work towards making a difference in the murky environment of gender based inequality. Sophie Gradden is a hoot to hang around with, it will be a memorable evening.
Why do you think the work of Nonceba Family Counselling centre is so important?
As a trainee therapist most of my NHS work has been with women who have experienced violence or abuse in its many guises. It tears you down. It whittles away confidence. The trauma can have a horrifying impact on how you live your life. Abuse can lead to very serious situations such as PTSD, agoraphobia, eating disorders, addictions, self harm and suicide. These can be passed down through generations. Wonderful charities like Nonceba are a vital refuge. They provide hope, and a way forward. For a year they will protect and physically and mentally support victims of domestic abuse. Nonceba gives women a way out. It breaks that generational passing. It de-normalises.
What does Women Empowering Women mean to you?
When I was ten years old, a teacher discovered I could bowl a cricket ball better than the boys in my class. I was invited to play on the boys team as there was no team for girls. As I ran up to bowl the first ball of my first match, both teams jeered. “she’s wearing a skirt” or “get lost you’re a girl”. I crumbled. That was to be my first and last match with that team.
This was my first experience of gender based inequality. My first experience of gender based violence was when I was eight, I am less inclined to discuss this freely. The point I am getting at is, women are powerful. Women are beautiful and strong. Women are wild, raw and resourceful. We must join together, and we must use our strength and resources to overcome every single face and aspect of discrimination, sexism, misogyny and abuse. Women need women.
Sophie Gradden is an artist living and working in the UK and we’re incredibly excited to have her working with The Circle for this event!
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am a contemporary artist, temporarily living & working in Buckinghamshire. I’ve not always been an artist mind, but always dabbled in the creative industries of furniture & interior design.
In November 2016 I reignited my love for painting and set up a makeshift studio in my home and began creating, whilst working full time. Since then, the art continues. In April 2018 I had a total mental meltdown, suffering with depression and anxiety, I made the decision to take a break, a life sabbatical as I like to label it, and dedicate myself to my art full time, no more 9-5, just painting, painting, painting. Best thing I’ve ever f**king done.
Why did you decide to organise this fundraising event?
Why would we not? Any group of people gathering together to try and do better in this world, no matter how big or small the overall impact it may have…it’s something right! The more we do it, the more we talk about it, the more people will start to realize that these sometimes minute or minor situations to the absolute horrendous (even unimaginable) us wonderful women find ourselves put into is NOT ok!! Things have got to change. This I hope is a small yet mighty step towards that.
Why do you think the work of Nonceba Family Counselling centre is so important?
We must remember even though we are still fighting for gender equality and ending violence against women here in the UK, some countries sadly are still 10 steps behind us, which is frightening. The woman I am and the women I surround myself with, friends, family, colleagues, have all come up against gender equality issues, thankfully never violence, however I speak for a mere spec of the population, in fact the world. Even bigger problem!! What about the women who don’t have a choice and the support, someone to be there for them when the world has unfairly shunned them and continues to kick them, sometimes quite literally, when they are down, Nonceba is that answer. Nonceba is a positive way forward, one of many great projects that the circle supports.
What does Women Empowering Women mean to you?
Simple…My mum, my sister, my nan (sadly no longer with us) my sister in law, my best friend, my friends, my past colleagues…the amazing woman who I didn’t know, who reached out and held my hand on the train, when I was in a state of emotional anxiety, we didn’t even speak, we only exchanged a smile as she handed me a tissue. You saved me in that moment. Thank you.
“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!
“I was in a department store, and I saw a T-shirt that had Wonder Woman on it,” Annie Lennox says of the moment that inspired her latest campaign. It was the summer of 2018, and the music icon was trying to figure out how to take the mission of the Circle, the international women’s-rights non-governmental organization she founded in 2008, to the next level.“I looked at the T-shirts and I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, what if Wonder Woman could connect everyday women and men to the facts about the gender inequality experienced by millions of girls and women every day around the globe?’ So I bought the T-shirt, took it home, and put it on. Then I wrote a list of facts and statistics on sheets of drawing paper and had a series of pictures taken for Instagram of myself holding up the messaging.”The result: #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist, a social-media hashtag campaign promoting Lennox’s message.
“Female genital mutilation (FGM) includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” (World Health Organization)
In February 2018, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women stated for International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM/C that “FGM is an act that cuts away equality”. Women suffer immense pain and a lifetime of complications such as neonatal death. Girls are cut with no opportunity to defend themselves, no voice to say no. This is a human rights violation.
FGM/C is usually carried out on young women between infancy and 15 years of age. Before these girls become adults’, the possibility to have a natural childbirth is taken away from them. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), women are at a significant risk of complications such as a post-partum haemorrhage, a prolonged and obstructed labour and worse of all losing their baby. FGM/C has no health benefits; so why are women and girls being forced to suffer such immense pain?
FGM/C is rooted in tradition and culture. Mlambo-Ngcuka stated this month how this practice is a form of gender-based violence and cannot be isolated from other forms of violence against women and girls. Neil Williams of World Vision UK reported for girlsnotbrides.com about travelling to Ethiopia to meet girls at risk of FGM/C and their families. Through the conversations Williams had with the girls and their families, we begin to understand how FGM/C and child marriage are intrinsically linked. Parents fear abduction and pre-marital sex and so remove their daughters from school and arrange to have them cut and married at an early age. Devastatingly, this is considered a safer alternative.
In a statement for the 2017 International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted how children living in communities where FGM/C is practiced will not finish school and will therefore have limited employment prospects. The cycle continues as girls who have mothers without an education are more likely to be subjected to FGM/C. They see their daughters being cut as adding value to their lives, securing a future marriage and family honour. Then again it is also seen as suppressing their sexuality. Young women and girls are cruelly stripped of the opportunity to make their own choices about their future. In some communities’ girls are not educated beyond lower secondary school, leading them to get married as it is believed their future prospects will be greater. There are also a lack of job opportunities and these jobs are prioritized for boys’. But educating girls can prevent the reoccurrence of child marriage and FGM/C. Education can create a future for girls where they are not limited by decisions made about their bodies without their consent.
FGM/C is tied up in a complex web of other human rights issues which we must simultaneously address.
According to UNICEF, in Djibouti where 78% of women and girls are subjected to FGM/C, a woman named Mariam Kako was cut at five years old. A razorblade was used to perform the type of FGM/C called pharaonic. When her daughter was born Kako told her mother that she would be not cut. Her mother ignored those wishes, showing her deeply held belief in this tradition. Kako’s baby girl died 40 days later at six months old. Kako now works to educate the population through encouraging people to tell their stories and refuting the myth that FGM/C is associated with religion. Many communities believe that child marriage and FGM/C are a ‘marker of their religious identity’. However, in religious scripture, this is not a requirement.
Experiences like Mlambo-Ngcuka’s and Mariam Kako’s stories are deeply personal and these women are incredibly brave to speak up about what they have been through to help expose the brutal effect FGM/C has on women and girls;
According to BBC News, by 2020 secondary school pupils in England will be educated on FGM as a dangerous practice. This education is incredibly important. According to UNICEF, between 2019 and 2030, 68 million girls will be cut if active steps are not taken to stop this brutal practice.
Many do not realise that FGM/C happens in the UK. Hibo Wadere told her story to the BBC, published on 4th February 2019. As a women she graphically describes the experience she went through as a six-year-old girl; the memories of blood and the screams still distressingly vivid.
UN Women are working with traditional leaders across Africa to increase commitment to ending child marriage and FGM/C. FGM/C is prevalent across 30 countries: 28 of them are in Africa. Queen Mother Best Kemigisa of the Tooro Kingdom, Uganda supports the work of UN Women. The Queen Mother states how people will listen to the religious and traditional leaders who uphold these practices as adding value to the lives of women and girls. The work UN Women are doing is vitally important. We need to work with these leaders and listen to their perspective in order for them to hopefully choose to listen to the reasons why these practices are unnecessary and harmful. If the minds of these leaders are changed, so too will the minds of their communities.
Annie Lennox’s Global Feminism campaign addresses how as feminists we must be looking at gender inequality on a global scale. It is about recognising that “Feminism needs to be relevant, appreciated and respected especially where the needs are greatest —in countries where women and girls are not even near the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of being able to realise the most fundamental of human rights.” – (Annie Lennox). Feminism is about reaching out to individual women and girls and addressing their individual needs which vary depending on where you live in the world. We must make sure to help encourage and strengthen the platform for women to speak up about their experiences of FGM/C and empower social and cultural change.
The UN have made it one of their sustainable development goals to “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation” (Goal 5.3).
It is incredible that we dedicate February to raising awareness of FGM/C. We need intense periods of time where we gather together to educate people who are not aware of FGM/C or indeed the scale of the problem. But the campaigning cannot occur only in February. In order to continue fighting for women and girls to lead healthy lives, we must carry on discussing the issue and taking action to end it.
This article was written by Georgia Bridgett who is an intern for The Circle. Georgia is a recent English graduate and is passionate about women’s rights and the underlying issues in the fast-fashion industry.
One of the priorities for us at The Circle is to ensure that the millions of women working in the garment industry receive a living wage.
We began this work by publishing, in May 2017, a report that sets out the argument that a living wage is a fundamental right. We’ve also created a strategy to guide our work in this area that has the following three key objectives –
1) Continue a gear shift in the debate on the living wage that will engage key stakeholders with tangible alternatives to the status quo.
2) Formulate and test a new legal directive that will oblige garments/fashion companies to pay a living wage in the countries they source from.
3) Create a race to the top in which companies compete to demonstrate best practice in complying with the law
We’re now looking for a Project Manager to work with our Living Wage steering group that includes Livia Firth. Jessica Simor QC, Antonella Centra and our Executive Director Sioned Jones to implement and co-ordinate this strategy
The post holder will co-ordinate and build our relationships with a broader group of allies and partners and liaise with them to ensure we remain cohesive and empathetic to each others work in regards to a living wage.
The post is initially a consultancy contract for 1 to 2 days a week over a 3-6 month period (the days and timelines are flexible to suit the individual and to meet our budget). There is a desire to seek longer term funding and the post-holder will also assist, with Sioned, in seeking out and securing this funding. Should we be successful we would wish the project manager role to continue beyond this pilot phase.
We’re ideally looking for some with experience of working in this area or at the very least enormous passion and knowledge about ending the issues facing women working in the fast fashion industry. Experience of policy making and long term advocacy would be useful in the role alongside managing a similar type of project. The person must be self motivated as it will be a home based role with some travel to London working within a small team. Organised with good communications skills the post holder must be confident working with a range of individuals including those at a very senior and influential level. From our work to date we know this post holder will need to be tenacious and have the commitment and ability to keep things on course and take new opportunities when they may arise with short notice.
To find out more email email@example.com or to apply send your CV and covering letter to the same email address giving an indication of your availability and daily rate. Applications will be considered as they are submitted and we will appoint as soon as a suitable candidate is found.
If you want to hold your own Chai Day, or want to get involved in a friend’s or colleague’s, but need more inspiration for how to incorporate chai in your signature bakes then give some of these recipes a go!
We’d love to hear your own recipes so get in touch on our Facebook or Instagram to share your best bakes!
Masala Chai is easy to make using simple, relatively common ingredients.
• 1 English breakfast teabag
• 6 green cardamom pods
• 6 cloves
• ½ tsp ground ginger
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 12 peppercorns
• 500 ml freshly boiled water
• 100ml milk
• 2-3 tsp sugar
1. Snip open the teabag and place the contents in a saucepan.
2. Add the spices and the boiling water, and simmer for three to five minutes over a medium-high heat.
3. Strain through a fine tea strainer into a jug, then return to the pan.
4. Add the milk and sugar, stir over the heat for 30 seconds. Serve immediately.
This tastes great, but you can also buy great Chai teabags in most large supermarkets.
1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas mark 4. Grease and line a 23x12cm (9x5in) loaf tin
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, cream together sugar, cream cheese and eggs until light and fluffy. Mix mashed bananas and chai tea into cream cheese mixture. Add flour mixture and mix until smooth
4. Pour mixture into prepared tin, and bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes.
5. Cool on wire rack, removing from tin after 10 minutes
For the cupcakes
• 250g soft unsalted butter
• 250g caster sugar
• 4 eggs, room temperature
• 250 g self-raising flour
For the frosting
• 250g soft unsalted butter
• 500g icing sugar
For the chai flavouring
• 100 ml milk
• 2 assam or ceylon tea bags
• 5 cardamom pods, crushed
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• 1 tsp ground nutmeg
• 1 tsp ground ginger
Instead of making the chai flavouring, cut corners by using two chai flavoured teabags which are available from most large supermarkets.
1. For the chai flavouring: in a saucepan, gently heat 100ml milk. Add the teabags with the cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, letting the spices infuse.
2. After 20 minutes, remove the teabags and strain the milk, leaving it to cool to room temperature.
3. For the cupcakes: preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. In a mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Once this is fluffy, add 4 eggs one by one.
4. Add half of the spicy milk to the mixture and blend well. Add the flour and once this has all mixed up, spoon into cupcake cases and bake for 18 minutes. Once they are firm but springy to the touch, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
5. For the frosting: in a bowl, combine the butter with the icing sugar and once this has mixed well and become fluffy, add the remaining half of the spicy milk.
6. Blend for 3 minutes and then either spoon onto the cooled sponges or pipe with a nozzle and piping bag. Finish with a sprinkle of cinnamon powder.
Coconut Chai Traybake
This simple traybake is spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom, this moist coconut sponge is the perfect accompaniment to a cuppa!
• 100ml vegetable oil, plus a little for greasing
• 300ml coconut milk – if the cream has separated in the can, give it a good mix before measuring
• 4 large eggs
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
• 280g light brown soft sugar
• 250g self-raising flour
• 75g desiccated coconut
• 1 tsp ground ginger
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• ¼ nutmeg, finely grated
• ¼ tsp ground cloves
• 10 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed using a pestle and mortar
• 4 tbsp ginger syrup
For the icing:
• 3-4 tbsp coconut milk
• 140g icing sugar
• 2 balls stem ginger, finely chopped
• chopped pistachios and coconut flakes (optional)
1. Grease a 20 x 30cm baking tin with a little oil, and line the base and sides with baking parchment. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Measure the coconut milk and oil into a jug. Crack in the eggs, add the vanilla and whisk with a fork to combine.
2. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour, coconut, spices and a pinch of salt. Squeeze any lumps of sugar through your fingers, shaking the bowl a few times so they come to the surface. Pour in the wet ingredients and use a large whisk to mix to a smooth batter. Pour into the tin, scraping every drop of the mixture out of the bowl with a spatula.
3. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If there is any wet mixture clinging to it, bake for a further 5 mins, then check again. Leave to cool for 15 mins in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack and drizzle over the ginger syrup.
4. To make the icing, mix the coconut milk with the icing sugar until smooth. Drizzle the icing over the cake in squiggles, then scatter with the chopped ginger, pistachios and coconut flakes, if using. Eat warm or cold. Will keep for 3 days in an airtight container.
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line two 22cm springform cake pans.
2. Place the tea bags in a jug with 1/2 cup (125ml) boiling water and set aside to cool. Beat the butter and sugar with electric beaters for 5-6 minutes until thick and pale, then add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift in the flour and spices, and mix well to combine.
3. Remove and discard the tea bags and slowly add the cooled tea to the batter, beating constantly. Divide batter evenly between the pans, spreading to even the surface, then bake for 45-50 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. For the icing, beat the cream cheese, butter, brown sugar and icing sugar using electric beaters for 6-8 minutes until smooth and voluminous. Add ginger and cinnamon, and beat to combine.
5. For the pomegranate syrup, place a pomegranate half, skin-side up, in a sieve over a bowl, and use a wooden spoon to bash the skin so the seeds fall into the sieve and the juice into the bowl. Repeat with the remaining pomegranate half. Reserve the seeds and place the juice in a saucepan with the sugar and 1/2 cup (125ml) water, then stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for 3-4 minutes until reduced by half and a syrupy consistency. Add the reserved seeds to the syrup and set aside to cool.
6. Place one cake on a serving plate and spread with half the icing. Top with the other cake and spread the remaining icing over the top. Drizzle over syrup and dust with cinnamon just before serving.
Annie Lennox addresses the crowd at the Academy Women’s Initiative LA event in West Hollywood on October 30.
‘It was and still is, profoundly distressing to know that the world at large didn’t seem to be aware, or particularly care about the scale of the appalling tragedy that was taking place in terms of girls and women’s health … Women are, after all, half the world’
To help raise funds for victims of domestic violence, rape and sex trafficking. To join in and support them so they too can begin to heal and return to their world stronger.
What did organising a Chai Day make you learn about gender-based violence?
That there are different forms of gender-based violence and all of them need our attention. Because it is a major public health and human rights issues. I learned that young girls around the same age as my sister are been taking away from their mother’s arms and subjected to prostitution, been raped and abused physically and emotionally, and it needs to stop. I learned that if I can gather fierce and determined women in a room to support my cause, then we are one step closer to ending this for someone.
What are your top tips to organise a Chai Day?
Don’t do it alone. It is a ‘team’ event. So gather your friends, their friends, members of your family and their friends and host a Chai Day, because it will be so worth it when you include people in your world to support a great cause.
On the International Day of the Girl, I’d like to commemorate a very special young woman called Ashley Kaimowitz.
A beautiful black and white photograph hangs in Nonceba’s entrance hall, made by local craftswomen in honour of an exceptional teenage girl called Ashley Kaimowitz.
In order to fully understand how the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre came into being, it’s important to know Ashley’s story.
In high school, Ashley was an active member of Rotary Interact —Rotary International’s service club for 12-18 year olds.
At the age of 16, she became secretary of her school’s chapter of the club, and she planned a trip to visit Nonceba with her executive committee in the township of Khayelitsha, where 1 in 3 children suffer serious sexual abuse by the age of 18.
Nonceba was originally founded in 2002 by a local resident called Nocawe Mankayi, who had become deeply distressed by how commonplace child rape was in the township, and how little support was available for victims. Nocawe offered children shelter in her own small brick house, feeding them with her meagre income. She dreamed of creating a larger, professionally-equipped, 24/7 safe haven for victims of sexual abuse. Nonceba received no assistance from the government and was being maintained solely by volunteers.
On her visit with Interact, Ashley met a little 4-year old girl who had been raped by her father the night before. Holding the child in her arms, Ashley was overcome with emotion. She felt destined to help manifest Nocawe’s vision —an idea to which she was about to wholeheartedly dedicate herself.
A high achiever, Ashley had long been passionate about filmmaking, something she planned to pursue as a career in the future. While she had never made a film, she conjectured that a documentary about rape in South Africa’s townships would be the perfect fundraising tool for Nonceba’s new centre.
Despite her inexperience, she resolved to script, direct, and produce her own film, underscoring the subject. She told her parents, “If I can’t bring the World to Khayelitsha, then I’m going to take Khayelitsha to the World!”.
In between school and her extracurricular activities, Ashley reached out to family members in the U.S. to help her fund the film, as she knew the dollar would go a long way in her native country. Her grandparents put her in touch with the Board of Directors at Rutgers University, where a couple named Jerry and Lorraine Aresty admired Ashley’s tenacity and idea so much that they offered to sponsor her project with a cheque for $1,000.
When a small film company in Cape Town learned of Ashley’s plan, they lent her all of the necessary film equipment, trained her in its application, and linked her to an editing company and film studio (both of which agreed to help with the documentary for free).
Ashley and a few friends spent their entire winter break filming in Khayelitsha alongside Nocawe.
In September of 2002, after months of steadfast effort on the documentary, “Uthando Labatwana — For the Love of Our Children” celebrated its premiere screening at Ashley’s high school. Her work received a standing ovation, but Ashley had no intentions of stopping there.
Schools in the area began showing Ashley’s documentary, and more individuals and organizations stepped forward with donations for Nonceba.
In 2004, after completing high school, Ashley moved to Japan for a year as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student Ambassador. Despite being far from home, her devotion to Nonceba never wavered. She continued campaigning for the cause by orchestrating film screenings in Japanese venues.
Soon, a professional film studio there offered to subtitle the film so that it would reach a broader audience. It was shown on national television and at film festivals across the country, and the Japanese population was startled into action by the content of Ashley’s work.
It wasn’t long before an entire organization was founded in Kyoto to create awareness about child rape, and raise additional funds for Nonceba.
When Ashley returned home, she set her sights on attending university in Australia, where she had arranged to study filmmaking.
While in the final stages of planning her move, she was tragically killed when a drunk driver hit her car.
Six months after Ashley’s death, Carte Blanche (a South African program similar to 60 Minutes) broadcast her story, and support poured in from people all over the country who were inspired by Ashley’s courage, empathy, and actions —virtues that were even more remarkable given her young age.
As a result of that segment, millions of South African rand were raised for Nonceba’s new centre, and a construction team was assembled.
In 2008, three years after Ashley’s death, Nocawe was able to open the doors of the new Nonceba. This location, unlike its predecessor, is equipped with medical facilities, a counselling clinic, a safe house for children and abused women’s shelter able to accommodate 45 women and children, a community hall, training facilities, multiple offices for doctors, lawyers, social workers and psychologists, an ample playground, and much more. The centre is open all day every day, with live-in staff and an entire team trained in crisis response.
While Ashley isn’t here to witness the fruits of her labour, the centre is dedicated to her memory and the relentless support of Nocawe’s mission.
Thanks to an extraordinary teenager who lost her life far too soon, there is a safe haven of hope in Kahyelitsha.
I’m so proud that The Circle is helping to support Ashley and Nocawe’s dream.
To find out more about the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre and donate, click here.