Why the abortion debate is now focusing on Northern Ireland

Why the abortion debate is now focusing on Northern Ireland


While debate around abortion in recent years has been centred on America, a parliamentary vote here has now turned the spotlight on the issue in Northern Ireland. 
Marisa Bate speaks to three women campaigning for change

In recent months, there has been international outcry over the draconian abortion bills being passed in some American states, with Alabama, Ohio and Georgia (among others) recently signing bills to severely restrict women’s abortion rights. But what about the abortion crisis in our own backyard? In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal. Even in cases of rape and incest, it is a crime punishable by life imprisonment, which also extends to the doctors who administer the procedure. But banned abortions don’t result in fewer abortions. According to the Department of Health and Social Care, 1,053 women from Northern Ireland travelled to the UK for an abortion in 2018 – which marks 
a 22 per cent increase on the year before. Clearly, free, safe and legal abortions are desperately needed.

However, on 9 July, a historic window of opportunity opened as an overwhelming majority voted in Westminster for an amendment tabled by MP Stella Creasy, which would see abortion become decimalised in Northern Ireland, falling under the 1967 Abortion Act that currently exists in England and Wales. But, this will only come to pass if Stormont – the currently collapsed Irish Assembly caught in a stalemate – does not restore by 21 October 2019.

In other words, there’s still some way to go. If Stormont restores, the issue will fall back to a government that has fiercely opposed abortion. Even if the abortion laws are relaxed, Stormont would have the right to amend them.

Despite the long road ahead, campaigners are celebratory. Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, told Marie Claire, ‘This is a significant defining moment for women’s rights in Northern Ireland. The grave harm and suffering under Northern Ireland’s abortion regime is finally coming to an end. At a time when prosecutions are still a grim reality, this cannot happen quickly enough.’

For now, though, that grim reality is still something women are facing. Here, we explore the complexities of the debate through stories of women personally affected by this issue.

 

‘I had to fly alone to England to have a safe, legal abortion’

Karen*, 37, from Northern Ireland, is a mother of two and a pro-choice campaigner

‘When I found out I was pregnant for the third time, my kids were six and eight months. I was still on maternity leave and had been suffering with postnatal anxiety. I couldn’t sleep, 
I found it hard to leave the house and had panic attacks. Then, just as I was starting to feel better, I got pregnant. I was terrified of getting pulled back into a black hole that I had barely started to climb out of.

‘As a pro-choice campaigner, I always thought I was fighting for this so other women have freedom, but I would never personally have an abortion. And then I was in that position myself. You never know what situation you’re going to find yourself in. Straight away I started making calls.

‘I spoke to the Abortion Support Network first. I didn’t need to ask them for money, but I got really good logistical advice. There’s no one else to give you that – you can’t get information from GPs, they’re too scared to tell you. Next I called the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and booked a clinic in Liverpool. I had to wait a week and, in that time, 
I went to the Family Planning Association, which has sadly now closed. They were a lifeline.

‘My husband couldn’t come with me as he had to look after the kids, and I didn’t feel I could ask a friend because she would have to take the day off work or get childcare and then pay £180 for the flights. But I really regretted going alone. I left super early and I was back by 6.30pm, in time to give the kids a kiss goodnight, which really struck me. If it was in your own city, it would be such a small thing, yet it felt like such a massive journey because of the impact of having to get up and go somewhere totally unfamiliar. I was scared throughout the entire experience.

‘I had to have a surgical abortion because I was flying home that day – pills induce heavy bleeding and pain too severe for travel – but the general anaesthetic freaked me out a bit, so I phoned my husband, then had a bit of a cry. That’s when I wished he or a friend had been there. I was in the theatre waiting room with three other women from the UK, and I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. In that moment, we all shared our stories. I heard all kinds, from domestic violence to drug addiction. There’s such complexity in people’s circumstances.

‘When I came round, the sense of relief was unbelievable. I felt so grateful. It was amazing to me that all these people work in this place that gives you this incredible gift of being able to walk out of there and get on with your life.

‘Between 30 and 35, I was pregnant five times. It was the most intense period of my life. I had two kids, two miscarriages and one abortion. I think people need to understand that is what women’s lives are like when we make that decision to have children. That it brings with it all the stuff – the bad with the good.’

 

‘Our clients range from 12 to 53 years old’

Mara Clark is founder of The Abortion Support Network, which is based in England to help women access safe and legal abortions

‘In 2002, I was living in New York and I read an article about the women travelling to the city to have abortions because it had a 24-week time limit. They had to pay $2,000 [about £1,600] for the procedure and stay overnight, and some were having to sleep in their cars. The article featured the Haven Coalition, a group of volunteers who let people stay in their homes. Even though I lived in a teeny studio, I began inviting women and girls coming to the city for an abortion to stay. And that’s where it all started for me.

‘When I moved to the UK, I looked for something similar to support women in Ireland and Northern Ireland, but people were telling me there was just no need for it now there were credit cards and RyanAir, but I knew that couldn’t be right.

‘So, in 2009, I started The Abortion Support Network with five friends for women in Northern Ireland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. As a charity, we give information on the process, provide travel and accommodation arrangements, pay for abortions and find the cheapest way to make the trip. When someone contacts us, we never ask them how they got pregnant or why they want an abortion, because that is none of our business. After all, rich women don’t need to justify themselves.

‘Last year, our clients ranged from 12 to 53 years old. Our largest group is women in or escaping from abusive relationships. Reproductive coercion is a big problem: abusers won’t use birth control or they sabotage it to keep women pregnant because it’s harder for them to leave.

‘Every bit of research shows that banning abortion doesn’t stop it; it just stops safe abortion for poor women. Because women with money have the ability to travel, and women without money don’t. And that’s just not fair.

‘What makes it an ordeal is you have to get on a plane. The law in Northern Ireland takes what should be a five-minute outpatient procedure and turns it into 
a 16-hour ordeal. And let’s talk about the other obstacles: say they’re in an abusive relationship – what happens if they’ve got children to look after? What if they have insecure work status or have to care for a parent? Abortion highlights the other issues people who are already marginalised face. And that’s the difficult part of our work; we can only solve one problem.

‘Over the years, we’ve been told we’re hysterical, too politically correct, that 
we should lighten up. But when Donald Trump was elected, people started saying: “How can I help?” That’s what is great about Alabama, and the light it has shone on Northern Ireland. People are saying, “How can I help?”’

 

‘
The state hates women’

Emma Gallen is a stall coordinator at Alliance4Choice, a campaign group for abortion rights in Northern Ireland

‘I coordinate an information stall in Belfast city centre on Saturday afternoons encouraging people to sign up to our mailing lists and running different campaigns, writing to politicians. When you’re on the stall, reactions vary. If some of the pro-life groups are out on the street, people tell us how upsetting they find them. They have images of foetuses and signs that say: “Abortion won’t unrape you”. Yet, in some ways, they are our biggest recruiter.

‘A lot of people approach us to talk about how wrong they think it is that women have to travel, but don’t necessarily support abortion. For years, you had to pay for abortions in England. It’s only been since 2017 that there’s been any funding, and that comes from 
the government’s equalities budget. Scotland, where there are free abortions, is an option but it’s not practical: you have to be there for a week, see a GP, then go to a hospital as there’s no private clinics. Also, if you’re in England, the state pays for some childcare. We don’t have that here, which makes things even harder. The state hates women.

‘Alongside the stalls, Alliance4Choice also delivers workshops to change the way people talk about abortion. There’s also political lobbying of Westminster to keep Northern Ireland’s abortion laws on the agenda. For years, we have petitioned them to act; to decriminalise abortion here. The UN has said that Westminster has to act because what women are enduring is torture, not tantamount to torture, but torture. Forcing someone to continue with a pregnancy for 12 weeks when they know the child is going to die or not offering support for rape victims is torture. Awful things are happening. A story came out in the Women’s and Equalities Committee inquiry of a 12-year-old rape victim who had to go to England with a police escort so they could collect the foetus for evidence.

‘If you’re a feminist in England, you can lobby your MP, and they can actually make life better for women in Northern Ireland. But, instead, people protest about Trump or the abortion laws in Alabama and Georgia – and they are not as restrictive as the ones in Northern Ireland. It is frustrating. When people ask me, “Why didn’t your government act?” I often reply, “Why didn’t yours sooner?”’

 

Where to find help

Abortion Support Network
abortionsupport.org.uk 07897 611593

Marie Stopes International
mariestopes.org.uk 
24-hour advice line 
0345 300 8090

British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)
bpas.org 
0345 730 4030

National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service (NUPAS)
nupas.co.uk
 0333 004 6666

To put pressure on your MP to support the new amendment to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland, visit nowforni.uk/email

*Name has been changed

The post Why the abortion debate is now focusing on Northern Ireland appeared first on Marie Claire.

Here’s why the Women’s World Cup 2019 is a watershed moment

Here’s why the Women’s World Cup 2019 is a watershed moment


And why we should all be tuning in.

Getty Images

The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 is in full swing, with tonight seeing England playing USA in Lyon’s Olympic Stadium for a place in the finals.

The stadium is set to be packed and millions of viewers are expected to tune in across the UK alone, with this year’s audience setting a new record for women’s football.

This to me seemed impressive, a step towards equality, but it wasn’t until I visited the Women’s World Cup for myself and learnt about the history of the game that I realised how much of a watershed moment for women’s football it actually is.

Getty Images

While I was in Paris for the quarter finals last weekend, I was recommended a visit to ‘The Women’s Game’, an exhibition on the history of women’s football at the FIFA World Football Museum, presented by FIFA Partner Hyundai.

Women’s football has a long history, with periods of popularity and decline, but what the exhibition really revealed to me was the continuous struggle for acceptance and survival – this game is nothing if not resilient. I was shocked to learn of the extent of the marginalisation, with women’s football actually being banned for 50 years. But while there is clearly still a long way to go, I realised how far we have come and the importance of this World Cup and the public support around it.

Getty Images

Women’s football was established at the same time as men’s football, but it wasn’t until World War One that it really took off – people wanted to watch football and the men were away fighting. So while women were taking to factories, they were also taking to the football pitches, reportedly bringing in crowds of 53,000.

When the World War ended however, football was once more deemed unsuitable for women, and while ‘health concerns’ were cited as the reasons, it seems it was actually more to do with a successful women’s league threatening the men’s. Essentially, people wanted to put women ‘back in their place’ in society.

According to the BBC, Dr Mary Scharlieb of Harley Street described women’s football as the ‘most unsuitable game, too much for a woman’s physical frame’.

In December 1921, the Football Association weighed in on the sport being unsuitable for women, instructing its clubs ‘to refuse the use of their grounds for such matches’.

The ban on women’s football was lifted in 1971, but it had changed the women’s game forever.

Knowing all of this may be depressing but it also makes the fact that this World Cup has brought in over 433 million views on Fifa channels all the more impressive. Women’s football isn’t just about the sport – it’s about rejection, resilience and revival. It has taken a long history of struggle to get to where it is now, and knowing that history only makes the game all the more inspiring.

Mia Hamm and Rachel Gadsden.

‘I think the way society and the world is viewing women’s football players can be seen in the television numbers, can be seen in the tickets sold, can be seen in the passion both pre and post-game in this tournament and obviously four years ago in Canada,’ explained retired US football legend, Mia Hamm, whose painting by blind artist, Rachel Gadsden, is a focal part of the exhibition. ‘It’s just getting better and better over time the more visibility that people can comprehend and see that these women are not only amazing athletes and amazing footballers but amazing role models. Not only for young girls but for society as a whole.’

The exhibition takes you through the whole history of women’s football from the sexism it was met by to the trophy that one of the teams will win on Sunday

Going on to champion the exhibition and Hyundai’s True Passion campaign, she continued: ‘You walk in here and you see the history of women’s football, that this game and the women playing it have been around for a lot longer than our first world cup. It is rooted in history it is rooted in everyone’s communities and to acknowledge that and to celebrate that motivates us to continue to do even more.’

Getty Images

‘The women’s game has grown,’ England Captain Steph Houghton told me last year in a Women Who Win interview. ‘But when I was playing at Arsenal, I don’t think people realised how good we actually were. I think there’s just a perception that we just play football but we’re not very good, and it was a challenge for us to try and prove those type of people wrong.’

‘We’ve really proved how far the women’s game has come,’ she continued. ‘Not just in terms of being on TV but in terms of actual technical ability, fitness levels and the fact that we give up a lot to be the athletes that we are.’

‘It is our duty to inspire young girls to play a sport,’ she concluded. ‘Whether it’s just for enjoyment and keeping fit, or to actually go on and try and make a career out of it. Women should inspire’

We’ll be tuning in tonight, but whether the Lionesses emerge victorious or not, this Women’s World Cup and the rightful buzz it has attracted has been a huge success.

‘We are honoured and proud to present the exciting history of women’s football by bringing the FIFA World Football Museum to Paris during the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 thanks to our esteemed partner Hyundai,’ announced Marco Fazzone, the Managing Director of the FIFA World Football Museum. ‘Our anticipation of the tournament is as great as our enthusiasm for showing fascinating objects and telling great stories, some of which are not yet widely known.’

‘The Women’s Game’ exhibition can be visited at the Jardin Nelson Mandela in Les Halles, Paris, from 15 June until 7 July 2019. Entry to the exhibition is free and it is open every day from 10:00 to 20:00. 

The post Here’s why the Women’s World Cup 2019 is a watershed moment appeared first on Marie Claire.

Why have we all stopped talking about the refugee crisis?

Why have we all stopped talking about the refugee crisis?


On World Refugee Day, Jenny Proudfoot sits down with founder and CEO of The Worldwide Tribe Jaz O’Hara for a reminder that the problem is far from over…

It has been four years since the body of a three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach, prompting an outpouring of international concern for the refugee crisis.

Now in 2019 however, a lot of the attention has died down, with too many of us assuming that the lack of media coverage means that the problem has been solved.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Right now, there are 70 million individuals worldwide who have been displaced by conflict, violence or persecution, according to the UNHCR.

It remains to be the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time and it is our duty to keep talking about it.

One person who knows this all too well is social humanitarian Jaz O’Hara, CEO and founder of The Worldwide Tribe.

The online community-turned-global movement raises awareness of the refugee crisis and runs aid projects across Europe and the Middle East.

‘It began with a Facebook post,’ Jaz told me back in 2016. ‘After reading about the refugee crisis in July 2015, I jumped in my car and drove to Calais to find out what I could do to help. I was shocked by the devastation I found there, so I wrote about it on my Facebook page to share with friends and family. The next morning, it had been shared 65,000 times, reaching millions of people.

‘Within weeks I had quit my job in fashion designing for an underwear brand, and created an online movement that has rallied together hundreds of volunteers from all over the UK, filling warehouses across London with donations of food, clothing and tents. Our initial target was to raise £100 to cover travel expenses, but it became Just Giving’s biggest crowdfunding campaign ever.’

Noticing that the conversation around the refugee crisis had dried up, I caught up with Jaz this week to get some insight.

‘Since 2015/ 2016, I’ve seen a massive decrease in mainstream media coverage of the refugee crisis and general understanding and awareness,’ Jaz told me. ‘People often ask me, “Oh, there are still refugees in Calais? I thought that was over. The jungle was demolished.” But I always wonder if they think about what happened to the people. Yes, the jungle was demolished but the people are still there. They were dispersed but there’s still a real situation in Calais.

‘Less people are successfully making the journey because there are not rescue boats working in the mediterranean anymore,’ she continued. ‘Many people are still dying in the mediterranean today.’

With The Worldwide Tribe podcast launching today to further their message and spread people’s stories, I caught up with Jaz to find out why the conversation around the crisis has withered and what we can all do on an individual level to help.

Why do you think people have stopped talking about the refugee crisis?

There seems to be a bit of a fatigue. People have read about it, they have cared about it, they were talking about it, it was in the media, but now things have moved on as they do naturally. New things have come into the media, Brexit and climate change for example, and all sorts of things that seem closer to home right now are swallowing up people’s attention. What I am trying to do constantly is link these things together. Climate change for example is going to be a massive driver of an increased amount of refugees. The UN predicts that by 2050 there will be a billion refugees due to climate change so it is all part of a bigger story and it is really important to still be talking about it. Things haven’t changed.

The Worldwide Tribe

What is the most common misconception about the refugee crisis?

I think the most common misconception is that refugees are poor. I’ve met doctors, lawyers, economists, engineers etc. Often refugees are the most well off in their society because especially in Calais and in France, to get that far along your journey is pretty expensive – you have to pay people smugglers along the way, you have to have resources available to you to get that far. Refugees are not poor, they are just leaving because they’re being persecuted. They’re fleeing persecution not poverty.

What do you wish people knew about the refugee crisis?

I wish that people knew it was still ongoing. But do you know what I really wish? I wish people had a real understanding of why people were leaving their countries and making these journeys. I think we need to bring it down to basics and understand the definition of the word refugee. There is a huge difference between being an economic migrant and a refugee. My mum is an economic migrant – she moved from Holland to England, but a refugee is leaving their country because they have no choice – they are fleeing war or persecution or death in some way.

How can people help on an individual scale?

There are so many varying levels to this so it really depends on you as an individual and what you have to offer. What are your skills? What are your talents? What do you believe in? What do you enjoy doing? What is your offering? This could look like lots of things. For example, you might be a hairdresser that wants to cut hair on the ground, you might work in social media strategy and can help a group like The Worldwide Tribe with their social media strategy (because we definitely need that). You might be a yoga teacher that wants to give mindfulness or meditation offerings to people that have arrived in your own community. Even if you’re just a listening ear, there is something that each of us can do. We all have access to the same amount of time and the choice of what we do with it. We can all help in an infinite number of ways.

What inspired you to launch a podcast for The Worldwide Tribe?

I’m always looking for new ways to get these stories out there. We’ve done a lot of writing, visual photography and films, but I think podcasts really enable people to tell their story. It’s very difficult to get people to sit and watch a film for an hour – especially if you’re spreading it through social media. People don’t have the attention, but podcasts can really amplify the voices that have been previously going unheard.

What can we expect from The Worldwide Tribe’s Podcast?

You can expect to be inspired, uplifted, encouraged but also informed and educated about the situation. It will be an emotional roller coaster. You’ll travel across the world without leaving the comfort of your train seat or sofa. It will be informative and inspirational in equal measure and you will hopefully get a real insight into each of these stories – why people were leaving, what their journey was like, what happened to them, who they are as an individual and as a result of that, we will hopefully change some opinions and overturn some negative stereotypes that people might have about immigration or judgments they might hold.

The Worldwide Tribe podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts and all the main podcast providers.

The post Why have we all stopped talking about the refugee crisis? appeared first on Marie Claire.

Ola Ince: ‘Achieving what you want just means you get to dream bigger’

Ola Ince: ‘Achieving what you want just means you get to dream bigger’


We speak to British Theatre Director, Ola Ince, about what ignited her passion for theatre and the power of storytelling

Ola Ince

Words by Niamh McCollum

Next in our #WomenWhoWin series is British Theatre Director, Ola Ince.

A graduate of the Rose Bruford Theatre College, Ola burst on to the drama scene in 2016, after winning The Genesis Future Director Award and staging a provocative production of Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman in the Young Vic Theatre.

The young director also made waves in 2018 with her production of Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, at the Gate Theatre.

Ola’s most recent adaptation of Danai Gurira’s The Convert was shaken up by an all-star cast, including Gurira’s Black Panther co-star Letitia Wright as the lead, and she is currently directing Tina The Musical alongside Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd.

Far from shying away from controversy, Ola is credited for facing it head on by ensuring that her long line of work has stimulated further conversation about colonialism, cultural identity and gender roles within society.

We spoke to Ola about the moment she discovered her passion for directing, her diverse on-stage repertoire and why taking bold actions can really pay off…

‘I was interested in story telling from a young age’

I realised my enthusiasm for directing when my classmates and I were asked to devise a play in secondary school. I remember being amazed at what we made and wanting to do it all the time, so I joined a youth theatre group. From there I went to Brit School, before doing a directing course at Rose Bruford College. I met so many weird and wonderful people, which was a nice contrast from my ordinary school.

 ‘I needed to be brave, so I applied for the Genesis Future Director Award’

In 2016, I was working on big stages as a Theatre Associate, but I wasn’t putting my neck on the line. I pitched my idea for Dutchman, a provocative play set in 1960s New York. I wanted my production to be a thriller inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, and I had some really nuts ideas for the set. Low and behold, I won! I grew lots of muscles during that process. Later on with The Convert, I was really bold about picking superstars to work with. Achieving what you want just means you get to dream even bigger.

‘It’s amazing to see the kind of conversations sparked by plays’

Twilight Los Angeles, 1992, [a one-woman play about the LA riots] stands out to me in how it presented the complexity of the prejudices between Korean Americans, African Americans, and white Americans. One of my upcoming shows, Is God Is?, is a spaghetti western about female strength and empowerment. Black women have long been known as the mules of society, and this play reverses that. Rather than being seen as victims, they are both villains and heroines, which is exciting and unusual.

 ‘I’m proud to have turned a form of expression into a job that I love’

You are often told as a young artist, ‘It’s really nice that you want to be a director, but you are going to be poor and unhappy forever. While your loved ones are getting mortgages and having kids, you will just be a pauper of an artist.’ This year I have learnt that you can have both. Something that I’ve worked on for a really long time is now paying my bills and allowing me to travel the world. It feels good that I no longer have to suffer for my art, and that it’s actually helping me.

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical officially opened at the Aldwych Theatre on 17th April 2018. Tickets are available at www.tinathemusical.com.

The post Ola Ince: ‘Achieving what you want just means you get to dream bigger’ appeared first on Marie Claire.



Ola Ince: ‘Achieving what you want just means you get to dream bigger’

Ola Ince: ‘Achieving what you want just means you get to dream bigger’


We speak to Ola Ince, British Theatre Director, about her thoughts on the changing landscape of British theatre and the power of storytelling.

Ola Ince

Words by Niamh McCollum

Next in our #WomenWhoWin series is British Theatre Director, Ola Ince.

A graduate of the Rose Bruford Theatre College, Ola burst on to the drama scene in 2016, after winning The Genesis Future Director Award and staging a provocative production of Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman in the Young Vic Theatre.

In 2018, Ola also made waves with her production of Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, at the Gate Theatre.

The young director’s most recent adaptation of Danai Gurira’s The Convert was shaken up by an all-star cast, including Gurira’s Black Panther co-star Letitia Wright as the lead, and she is currently directing Tina The Musical on Broadway & in Holland alongside Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd.

Far from opting to shy away from controversy, Ola is credited for running toward it with full force by ensuring that her plays stimulate further conversation about integral themes such as colonialism, cultural identity and gender roles within society.

We spoke to Ola about the moment she discovered her passion for directing, her diverse repertoire and why taking bold actions can really pay off…

‘I was interested in story telling from a young age’

I realised my enthusiasm for directing when my classmates and I were asked to devise a play in secondary school. I remember being amazed at what we made and wanting to do it all the time, so I joined a youth theatre group. From there I went to Brit School, before doing a directing course at Rose Bruford College. I met so many weird and wonderful people, which was a nice contrast from my ordinary school.

 ‘I needed to be brave, so I applied for the Genesis Future Director Award’

In 2016, I was working on big stages as a Theatre Associate, but I wasn’t putting my neck on the line. I pitched my idea for Dutchman,a provocative play set in 1960s New York. We wanted to create an African Alfred Hitchcock thriller, and I had some really nuts ideas for the set. Low and behold, I won! I grew lots of muscles during that process. Later on with The Convert, I was really bold about picking superstars to work with. Achieving what you want just means you get to dream even bigger.

‘It’s amazing to see the kind of conversations sparked by plays’

Twilight Los Angeles, 1992, [a one-woman play about the LA riots] stands out to me in how it presented the complexity of the prejudices between Korean Americans, African Americans, and white Americans. One of my upcoming shows, Is God Is?, is a spaghetti western about female strength and empowerment. Black women have long been known as the mules of society. This play reverses that. Rather than being seen as victims, they are both villains and heroines, which is exciting and unusual.

 ‘I’m proud to have turned a form of expression into a job that I love’

You are often told as a young artist, ‘It’s really nice that you want to be a director, but you are going to be poor and unhappy forever. While your loved ones are getting mortgages and having kids, you will just be a pauper of an artist.’ I have learnt that you can have both. Something that I’ve worked on for a really long time is now paying my bills and allowing me to travel the world. It feels good that I no longer have to suffer for my art, that my art is actually helping me.

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical officially opened at the Aldwych Theatre on 17th April 2018. Book tickets at www.tinathemusical.com.

The post Ola Ince: ‘Achieving what you want just means you get to dream bigger’ appeared first on Marie Claire.



The Body Shop initiative that’s changing the lives of waste pickers in Bangalore

The Body Shop initiative that’s changing the lives of waste pickers in Bangalore


Waste pickers are some of the most deprived communities in India, but a new initiative by The Body Shop is offering them a lifeline. Andrea Thompson went to meet women in Bangalore whose lives are being transformed

waste pickers

It is through clouds of dust, on a dirty rubbish dump that I first see Dolly – her immaculate, brightly coloured sari strangely at odds with her surroundings. The 22-year-old stands under a flapping white plastic awning attempting to shade herself from the intense 35˚c heat, a six-month-old baby girl on her hip. Her aunt and sister-in-law crouch on the ground nearby, busily separating filthy plastic waste from paper, and broken glass with their bare hands, while a small child pads nonchalantly between them, barefoot.

We are in the heart of the fastest growing Indian city of Bangalore. It is unbearably hot, and the air is thick with a grey dust that sticks in the throat. But for Dolly, this is home. As a waste picker, her days are spent with 11 members of her husband’s family, who all live here too, separating waste dumped here from across the city for recycling. ‘I’ve been picking waste since I left school five years ago,’ says Dolly, who moved to India’s busy tech hub of Bangalore last year from her family home in Delhi after getting married. ‘It is hard, sometimes dangerous work. We step on broken glass or get bitten by stray dogs. We get lots of back problems from bending down. But my dream is to make some money so I can have a farm of my own in the countryside. I don’t want my daughter to do this work.’

There are 1.5 million waste pickers like Dolly in India who rely on sorting rubbish and selling on anything recyclable or of monetary value for their livelihoods. As one of the lowliest jobs in society, waste picking is almost exclusively a female role, with the majority of pickers malnourished and living below the poverty line. More than 95 per cent are also Dalits, or the untouchables – the lowest caste in the Hindu system, considered unclean and shunned by Indian society. It’s a precarious job with limited access to education and healthcare, plus a corrupt supply chain. It’s also largely unregulated and subject to volatile pricing. Within the past three years alone, pickers have seen the value of plastic suddenly drop by as much as 60 per cent overnight, leaving many on the point of starvation.

Yet these pickers play a critical role, not just in helping to keep the country’s biggest cities clean, but on a global level by preventing plastic waste from entering our oceans and rivers. That’s no small feat when you consider 80 per cent of the waste in oceans comes from India. In Bangalore alone, pickers collect 1,050 tonnes of recyclable plastic every day.

However, Dolly and her family are, despite first impressions, some of the fortunate ones. They are part of a new initiative launching in May that is set to benefit 2,500 other waste pickers across the city of Bangalore.

The Body Shop, renowned for its ethical trading initiatives, has teamed up with tech business Plastics For Change and Hasiru Dala, a local NGO and social enterprise, to buy 250 tonnes of plastic collected by pickers this year, which will rise to 500 tonnes in 2020. Following a thorough cleaning process, the recycled plastic will be used to package haircare ranges – including its popular Ginger Shampoo, one bottle of which is sold every four seconds – in The Body Shop stores around the world.

‘We are in the midst of a global plastic crisis,’ says Kate Levine, the brand’s global director of communications and activism. ‘But plastic can be a force for good. It’s a commodity they have a lot of in these communities. By buying it like we would do shea butter in Africa, we can set fair conditions and prices, and give access to global markets. The aim is to formalise the process of waste picking and empower these women to be entrepreneurs in their own rights.’

 

‘I’m proud to say I’m an entrepreneur instead of being ashamed of what I do’

 

With the support of Plastics For Change, Hasiru Daala and The Body Shop, Dolly’s family is able to rent the land on which they sort the waste, safe in the knowledge that there is a steady market for recycled plastic, and business opportunities for the future. This gives the family an element of control over their lives. Not to mention a sense of pride in what they do.

‘Here is all the plastic we have sorted and reserved for The Body Shop,’ says Sonia, Dolly’s 14-year-old sister-in-law, as she guides me towards a ring-fenced area full of plastic bottles at the edge of the compound. ‘With this programme we can look to the future, make plans, save some money and provide for the next generation,’ adds her aunt Rekha, 38, gesturing to the youngest member of the family – Saulman, a three-month-old baby who sits peacefully in the arms of his mother Sonya, 28.

The scheme is a fitting addition to The Body Shop’s Community Trade programme, launched by founder Anita Roddick in 1987, under the slogan ‘Trade Not Aid’. Today, 
the initiative benefits 17,000 people in marginalised communities across the world. Key to the scheme is the introduction of ID cards for all pickers, says Nalini Shekar, co-founder of the partner NGO Hasiru Dala, a trade union for waste pickers started in 2010 to offer social protection for workers and their families. It currently has 8,000 members.

waste pickers

‘Once pickers are formalised, rights can be given. They can also open bank accounts and access healthcare services. It means the pickers no longer feel like thieves taking trash from the streets,’ says Shekar. ‘Pickers are drawn from the most vulnerable parts of society – many are victims of domestic violence, or parental alcoholism or death. Our aim is to give the next generation a choice to escape the cycle of waste picking.’

One such woman is Amama, 40, who started working aged seven. ‘My parents were illiterate and my father was an alcoholic,’ she says. ‘My mother couldn’t earn enough waste picking alone to feed us, so I started picking with my siblings to help. As the daughter of a waste picker nobody would give me any other job, 
so this is all I’ve ever known.’ However, Amama’s drive and determination 
to better her life and that of her children’s is typical of the waste pickers we meet. She was trained in managerial skills, thanks to help from Plastics For Change and Hasiru Dala, and now runs her own waste-recycling business. Today, two of her children are at university studying plastic engineering with a view to entering Bangalore’s thriving sustainable tech economy.

‘I’ve worked hard – ten hours a days, seven days a week for many years – and raised three children on picking waste, but the best thing is finding my own voice,’ she says. ‘I’m proud to call myself a feminist and an entrepreneur instead of being ashamed of what I do.’

Amama’s pride is palpable. For the first time, women like Amama have control over their destinies and they feel empowered to keep striving for more. 
‘I don’t ever want to stop working. I love my work. Today I employ nine people, including my own husband,’ she smiles. ‘That’s a wonderful feeling.’

The Body Shop launches Community Trade recycled plastic in stores on 9 May

The post The Body Shop initiative that’s changing the lives of waste pickers in Bangalore appeared first on Marie Claire.

Meet the women putting men’s rights first

Meet the women putting men’s rights first


In the wake of #MeToo, the men’s rights movement is pushing back, supported by women who believe feminism has caused a crisis of masculinity. Marisa Bate reports

men's rights

Every now and then, an advert comes along that is so explosive it feels like a hurricane tearing through the cultural discourse. Opinions ricochet across the political spectrum and, in its wake, the damage is dissected by newspaper columnists, radio pundits and strangers fighting it out on Twitter. Gillette’s recent advert was precisely that.

When ‘We Believe: The Best Men Can Be’ dropped in January, it immediately went viral, clocking up 4 million views in less than 48 hours. Playing on its own strapline, the advert questions whether, after endless sexual misconduct allegations against men, this really is the best men can do. As it comes to a close, scenes of men laughing at women being sexually harassed and a line of dads shrugging ‘boys will be boys’ as they watch their sons brawl on the ground, are replaced with men intervening to stop the catcalling, fights and bullying; becoming role models for a new generation because ‘the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow’.

Aside from the high-profile responses of provocateurs such as Piers Morgan, who swore never to buy Gillette products again, I found myself preoccupied by the responses of women online. Both those who identify as feminists and women whose views are very different to my own. ‘Should we perpetuate a narrative that masculinity is problematic?’ many questioned on Twitter threads and LinkedIn. One of those women was ‘men’s rights activist’ (or MRA) Elizabeth Hobson. ‘That advert was emblematic of the everyday misandry that passes for discourse in our societies,’ she tells me. ‘I thought it was sad that there isn’t more gratitude to men.’ And so began my insight into the world of female MRAs or ‘Honey Badgers’ as they are known. For many, the Gillette advert displayed the anti-men narrative they believe is endemic. ‘If you are going to say there is one set that is more disadvantaged and discriminated against in our society, you have to say it is men and boys,’ she tells me. This is one of many times that Hobson’s words forced my jaw to drop. But that’s the point. It’s not hard to see how she’s become a spokesperson for the movement.

A mother to two sons, 30-year-old Hobson is communications director for a men’s rights registered political party founded by Mike Buchanan called Justice for Men and Boys (J4MB). On its website, features include the fairly ridiculous ‘whiny feminist of the month’, which targets high-profile feminist voices such as Laura Bates, to the wildly irresponsible ‘13 reasons women lie about rape’. (The Crown Prosecution Service estimates that false claims make up around three to four per cent of all rape allegations.)

 

‘If there is one set more discriminated against in society, it has to be men and boys’

 

The movement started in America in the 60s as a reaction to women’s liberation and the rise of the second wave by figures such as Warren Farrell, who is considered the intellectual father of the movement. Today, in the US, Paul Elam, heads up A Voice for Men, the country’s unofficial leading group of the ‘manosphere’ online. Navigating these platforms, it’s hard for me to see anything other than blistering misogyny with a heavy leaning to the alt-right community. But for the female MRAs I speak to, that’s not what it’s about. Instead, they say, it is about ‘equality’.

A few years ago, Hobson started a Facebook page called Ladies 4 Philip Davies – Davies is a Conservative MP for Shipley and political face of the men’s movement in the UK – as a ‘response to the fact that mainstream media harks on that he’s a misogynist. He’s only ever wanted men and women to be equal.’ Yet, Davies’ crusade for so-called equality often comes at the potentially fatal price of blocking legislation for 
female victims of violence. He filibustered a domestic violence bill because of its emphasis on women, sought to block a bill that tried to end the use of the phrase ‘honour killing’, and opposed a bill to make sex education compulsory – all in the name of ‘male equality’. To me, Davies’ political career seems less focused on men and more borderline obsessed with eroding the rights of vulnerable women.

Alongside domestic violence and the criminal justice system, another key issue of the men’s rights movement is what Hobson terms ‘MGM’ (male genital mutilation or circumcision). ‘It’s accepted that FGM is wrong and girls should have bodily autonomy, and yet people seem confused about it when it comes to the circumcision of boys. I think it’s incredibly sad and quite disturbing.’

For MRA Lisa Chamberlain, it was watching her partner become an ‘alienated’ parent to his three children from his former marriage that led her to supporting the movement. ‘From the moment you apply at family court, mothers and fathers are treated differently and men are assumed to be the lesser parent,’ she says. ‘Men are automatically on the back foot. To me, that is not equality.’ It’s worth stating that this isn’t strictly the case. Following divorce, mothers are automatically given parental rights, whereas fathers are only afforded the same rights if they were married to the mother when she gave birth to the child, or is listed on the birth certificate.

However, in 2014, the Children and Family Act was amended to state that there is a presumption (unless the contrary is shown) that the involvement of both parents in a child’s life after separation will further the child’s welfare. Chamberlain’s other key subject is domestic violence. ‘Having been a victim of domestic violence myself, it wasn’t until I started running the Facebook group (Dads Deserve Equality/Equal Rights For Dads) that I realised men could be victims as well. The media’s narrative suggests that it is something that happens to women,’ she says. ‘When you look at the ONS findings, one in three victims are men. We don’t want to take anything away from women, but we want more for men, too.’

 

‘A lot of energy in the men’s rights movement is used to attack feminism’

 

For 49-year-old Rachel Smith* it was the Brett Kavanaugh hearings last September that cemented her support for the movement. Kavanaugh was President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. As his hearings began, Dr Christine Blasey Ford alleged he had sexually assaulted her when they were at college. ‘The #MeToo movement wanted to believe [Dr] Blasey Ford just because she was a woman. I’ve got a son who is 16 and it worried me that he could have a girl accuse him of something that hadn’t happened, but just because she’s a woman, she would be believed,’ says Smith. I mention that Kavanaugh was appointed anyway; Dr Blasey Ford wasn’t believed. ‘But why didn’t she come forward 30 years ago? Where was the evidence?’ she asks.

Like many MRAs, Smith regards the Kavanaugh hearings as an attack on men more widely. ‘Suddenly men are this thing, this cancer, to be cut out and got rid of.’ This, she believes, along with the recent revival of feminism, has led to the emasculation of men. ‘Today, men are so scared to say anything that could be construed as putting a woman down that they daren’t even open a door for a woman,’ she says. ‘They’re scared to be masculine, they’re scared to be chivalrous. They’ve lost their definition of what it is to be a man.’

There are moments in my conversations where I feel like I’ve entered a parallel universe, where as a feminist everything I know to be true is the reverse. Chamberlain says people are more likely to listen to her because she is a woman. She says, ‘Men get shut down on the internet. Nobody listens!’

I was also surprised that none of the women mentioned the alarming suicide rates among men, which is the biggest killer of males under 
45 in the UK. Instead, a lot of the focus is on the behaviours of women, the ‘oppressor’. 
Dr Ana Jordan, a senior lecturer at University of Lincoln who studies gender politics and feminist theory with a particular focus on the men’s rights movement says, ‘A lot of their energy is used to attack feminism.’ Dr Jordan also suggests the rise of these groups come after social, economic and gender changes force a ‘crisis of masculinity,’ 
a phenomenon that some believe dates back to the French Revolution. In response, some men double down, insisting we ‘let men be men’. In turn, feminists pose a threat. But why would a woman support them? ‘There’s a “patriarchal bargain”, these women are afforded privileges that normally come with being a man, such as access to power and authority,’ says Dr Jordan. ‘What they say might seem extreme, but they are tapping into real currents that run through society and reinforcing them.’

Talking to MRAs, I can only conclude their mission is twofold: to restore men to 
a position of absolute privilege in a time when social change threatens the ‘natural’ order of things, and to undermine and silence the women who speak out against injustices against them. Chamberlain told me she wanted more for both men and women. Yet, 
for other groups, like J4BM, it seems that the ‘advancement of men’ is only successful if it comes at the cost of women.

The fact is that some men today do feel threatened by women’s advancement. Yet to turn those feelings into a thinly veiled campaign to silence and undermine women’s struggle is a pitiful and dangerous response from those men and a deeply troubling one from women – not least when you consider the irony that to be a working mother who can rise to the top of a political party is, in many ways, only possible because of the feminist movement.

*Name has been changed

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Report: the dangers of backpacking Down Under

Report: the dangers of backpacking Down Under


A gap year in Oz is a rite of passage for many women. But, as Kerry Parnell reports, backpackers forced by Australian law to work on remote farms in order to extend their visas are risking their lives

backpacking

It was fated that Mia Ayliffe-Chung would go backpacking – the vivacious 20-year-old had the travel gene in her DNA. Her mother, Rosie, was a travel-guide writer, who conceived Mia in Goa and took her as a baby when she toured Turkey compiling The Rough Guide. ‘She was like me,’ says Rosie, 55. ‘When I set foot in a foreign place, I’d feel a surge of freedom.’ Inspired by her mum, Mia set off on her own round-the-world backpacking trip in 2016, hoping to find adventure. ‘She posted two photos online from Goa, one of each of us on an Enfield motorbike,’ says Rosie. ‘I didn’t even know my photo existed; she must have stolen it from one of her dad’s albums. I realised then she was following in my footsteps.’

After backpacking through Southeast Asia, Mia arrived in Australia. Falling in love with the country, she decided to extend her working holiday visa for a second year. Afterwards, she planned to return to the UK and use her childcare qualification to set up a nursery with her mother, now a teacher, in their Derbyshire village. But Mia never returned home. On 23 August 2016, she was brutally murdered in a hostel in Home Hill, North Queensland, a small town 13 hours north of Brisbane.

Mia had been working on a cane farm in a remote location she would never have chosen to visit were it not for a much criticised Australian law. In order to qualify for a second year in the country, backpackers on a working visa – of which there are about 211,000 – have to complete 88 days of specified work, and results in thousands of young people travelling to remote areas to find employment. By doing so, some – particularly young women – unknowingly put themselves in danger. The man who stabbed Mia to death was fellow farmhand and backpacker Smail Ayad, 29. The Frenchman was sleeping in Mia’s dormitory and is alleged to have developed an obsession with his beautiful roommate. Fellow British traveller Tom Jackson, 30, came to Mia’s aid when Ayad dragged her from her bunk, but was also stabbed and later died in hospital. Ayad will not face trial and has been detained in a mental-health facility while awaiting deportation to France.

When Rosie travelled to Australia to collect her daughter’s body, she was appalled by the conditions that Mia had lived and worked in. She subsequently embarked on a mission to bring reform to the visa scheme and quickly became a central point for young people sharing their horrific experiences. Rosie knew nothing of the 88-day scheme, but assumed that because it was a government requirement, it would be regulated. She found the opposite. Incidents of sexual assault were common, as well as a number of high-profile kidnapping cases.

In March, Gene Charles Bristow, a 54-year-old farmer was found guilty of kidnap and rape of a 26-year-old Belgian backpacker after luring her to his property in Meningie, South Australia on the promise of farm work. Instead, he shackled and assaulted her in a pig shed. In 2017, Perth winery owner Peter Raymond Costa, 57, was found guilty of raping a 24-year-old Japanese backpacker. The same year, 27-year-old German backpacker Jennifer Kohl was crushed to death by a mower on an avocado farm in Queensland, and Belgian backpacker Olivier Max Caramin, 27, died from suspected heatstroke while picking watermelons.

Rosie has set up the charity Tom & Mia’s Legacy, as well as the farm work review site 88daysandcounting.com, saying she will not stop campaigning until she has effected real change. ‘While the 88 days is still creating situations where young women can be locked up and raped by men posing as Australian agriculturalists, I won’t stop in my endeavours to campaign for change,’ she says. She also wants to ensure backpackers are aware of their workers’ rights, as they are often financially exploited by farmers and hostels, too. ‘I heard about agencies that promised work when there was none,’ says Rosie. ‘Also, that farmers had underpaid workers, hostels charged exorbitant fees and confiscated passports. Tom had tried to leave Home Hill days before his murder, but his passport had been withheld.

‘I heard that farmers had underpaid workers and confiscated passports’

The Fair Work Ombudsman Harvest Trail Inquiry, published in November 2018, found that almost a third of backpackers did not receive some or all of their wages, 14 per cent had to pay fees to secure work and over a third were paid less than the minimum wage (AUD$18.93/about
£10 an hour). Many were paid nothing at all, with the promise that their visa requirements would be signed off instead. Former British high commissioner to Australia, Menna Rawlings supports Rosie. ‘We raised concerns with the Australian government about the conditions that young British backpackers can face when working in remote areas, including drawing attention to the aims of Tom & Mia’s Legacy,’ she says.

There has been some progress with the Australian government setting up a Migrant Worker Taskforce and introducing the Modern Slavery Act. However, the country recently announced a third year working visa if backpackers work even longer on farms. The Harvest Trail Inquiry concluded in November last year, with inspectors investigating 638 businesses around the nation. They found over half had breached workplace laws. ‘We will continue to monitor employers,’ said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker. ‘Growers and labour hire operators can expect to face further action if they do not comply with Australia’s workplace laws.’

Emma Reynolds, senior journalist at News.com.au, who has extensively covered the issue, thinks this is just the start. ‘There’s definitely still nowhere near enough being done to ensure backpackers are safe while working on Australian farms,’ she says. Reynolds has interviewed dozens of travellers, many of them young and female, who shared their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, serious injury, emotional abuse and unsafe working and living conditions. Their testimonies have led her to the conclusion that, if the Australian government insists on running a programme in which backpackers are encouraged to complete this work in exchange for visa extensions, then it’s the government’s responsibility to enforce rigorous standards. Reynolds says monitoring is vital, as many of the farms are in extremely remote locations. ‘A few steps have been made, but this is just the beginning,’ she says. ‘There should be strict rules for accreditation and regular spot checks on approved workplaces. It doesn’t reflect well on Australia, which prides itself as a safe and welcoming travel destination.’

Tracey MacCorquodale, an executive assistant from Canada, witnessed first-hand the casual sexual exploitation to which backpacking travellers are susceptible while working in remote areas. At 27, she was older than the other women she worked alongside at a farm in Mildura, Victoria. When she arrived, she was surprised to see everyone was female and wearing bikinis. ‘I was told the farmer didn’t like to wear underwear and I would probably see him exposing his genitals at some point. Sure enough, I soon saw him on a tractor with his legs up,’ she says. ‘I also found out that wearing skimpy clothing was expected if you were working there.’ Tracey’s advice to anyone considering doing farm work or staying on for an extra 88 days is simple: don’t. ‘Do your year, have fun and go home,’ she says. ‘I’d never advise anyone to put themselves in such a risky scenario.’

Business graduate Chelsey*, 31, agrees. Like Tracey, she found herself in Mildura on a grape farm after replying to an advert requesting female workers. ‘The farmer was very friendly,’ she said. ‘On the second day, we went into town and bought cakes for everyone.’ As she had an accountancy qualification, the farmer offered her bookkeeping work and suggested she stay for a beer after hours, then he’d give her a lift back to the hostel. On the way home, he stopped the truck and grabbed her. Alarmed, Chelsey got out and stumbled into a ditch. ‘The next thing I know, he was on top of me,’ she says. ‘I started punching, kicking and screaming. All of a sudden, he snapped out of it, stood up and casually just got back in the truck. He drove me back to the hostel in silence.’ Chelsey reported the incident to the police, but no charges were brought. Six months later, the farmer sexually assaulted a Swedish backpacker and was placed on a community corrections order.

While most visitors backpacking around Australia return home having had the trip of a lifetime, Tracey and Chelsey advise caution, particularly in remote areas. ‘You have to be really careful, especially as a single female traveller,’ says Chelsey. Rosie told Mia the same thing. ‘There’s a word in Turkish which means travel wide awake,’ she says. ‘But, unfortunately, evil came when Mia was sleeping. I don’t have any anger towards Australia,’ she adds, and she still encourages young people to go backpacking. Something that comforts Rosie is that Mia is still travelling, too. Her ashes, split into multiple vials, are being scattered by her friends all over the world in the places she never got to see.

Off backpacking soon? Here’s how to travel safely

Know your rights: Backpackers can learn their work rights at fairwork.gov.au.
Ask around: Tom & Mia’s Legacy advises using social media for backpacking recommendations. Visit 88daysandcounting.com.
Don’t take risks: Just because you’re on holiday, don’t let your guard down. ‘Australia has earned its reputation as a safe place for foreign nationals to visit,’ says Leo Seaton from Tourism Australia. ‘But, as with any overseas travel, we advise travellers to exercise care and caution.’
Need help: Call 000 for Australian emergency services. For urgent consular assistance, visit gov.uk/world/Australia.
Get insured: Buy comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you go backpacking. The policy also needs to cover all of your medical costs, including an air ambulance.

*Name has been changed. Photographs by Caters News Agency, Getty Images, Naomie Jellicoe/Newspix, Rex/Shutterstock

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‘Female cotton farmers in Pakistan will be the voice of empowerment and gender equality’

‘Female cotton farmers in Pakistan will be the voice of empowerment and gender equality’


Trailblazing sustainable farming practices in Pakistan, an increasing number of female cotton farmers are defying social convention to drive positive change, writes Nicola Moyne

Female cotton farmers

Sustainable farming practices are firmly on the agenda in Pakistan thanks to a growing community of female cotton farmers who are leading the charge for tackling climate change – as well as empowering women to take on equal responsibilities in the fields and family businesses.

In rural Pakistan, where approximately 1.5 million smallholder farmers rely on cotton for their living, this means overcoming entrenched attitudes towards stereotypical gender roles and actively pursuing leadership opportunities. For women like Almas Parveen (pictured), the cultural, practical and financial hurdles faced to farm cotton more sustainably are challenging, but not insurmountable thanks to the support and training she has received from the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).

At just 27, Almas defied convention and decided that she wanted to run her family’s nine-hectare farm in place of her elderly father. It was a bold move, and one that immediately presented problems.

‘She experienced opposition from community members, who did not agree with a young woman working on her own and providing training to male farmers. The farmers too, were wary of Almas and questioned her right to train them,’ explains Afshan Sufyan, senior programme officer, BCI Pakistan. ‘But Almas stood strong. Undeterred, she continued to deliver BCI training and, in time, the farmers’ perceptions changed as her technical knowledge and sound advice resulted in tangible benefits on their farms. Eventually, anger turned into appreciation.’

female cotton farmers

And it’s not just brave farmers like Almas driving positive change in the industry. Working closely with partners, including the Better Cotton Initiative and WWF, Marks & Spencer – already a key investor in BCI’s female cotton training programmes – has announced that it is committed to using 100 per cent sustainably sourced cotton for all its clothing fabrics – not a limited-edition collection or capsule drop – everything, which means less water, pesticides and fertilisers used in cotton production and thousands more female farmers like Almas being supported to adopt better practices.

Carmel McQuaid, M&S Head of Sustainable Business explains: ‘Marks & Spencer has been sourcing more sustainable cotton for over 10 years, as well as supporting and enabling thousands of farmers to be trained in more sustainable methods, which include using less water and fewer chemicals. We care for the people we work with and the planet, as do our customers, which is why 100 per cent the cotton for our clothing fabrics is now sustainably sourced and always will be.’

So while you shop the M&S summer collections guilt-free this season, know that female farmers like Almas are continuing to empower more women in their communities to farm cotton sustainably.

‘Almas will be the voice of Pakistan, the voice of empowerment and gender equality,’ adds Sufyan. Now that sounds like something worth growing.

Visit marksandspencer.com, marksandspencer.com/c/sustainably-sourced-cotton and bettercotton.org for further information.

The post ‘Female cotton farmers in Pakistan will be the voice of empowerment and gender equality’ appeared first on Marie Claire.

On International Day of the Girl it’s time to call out street harassment

On International Day of the Girl it’s time to call out street harassment


#ISayItsNotOk

rape case

Street harassment in the UK is an epidemic, with women and girls as young as eight years old faced with intimidating and unwanted behaviour on a daily basis.

66% of girls in the UK have experienced sexual attention or sexual or physical contact in a public place. 38% of girls experience verbal harassment like catcalling, wolf-whistling and sexual comments at least once a month. And 15% of girls are being touched or grabbed every month.

It’s not a part of growing up and it’s not ok.

To mark International Day of the Girl, our Editor-in-Chief Trish Halpin joined Plan International at the House of Commons for the launch of their new campaign against street harassment of girls and young women in the UK, encouraging us all to drive social change by sharing our own experiences alongside the hashtag #ISayItsNotOk.

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It’s International Day of the Girl so I joined Plan International at the House of Commons for the launch of their new campaign against street harassment of girls and young women in the UK. A shocking 66% aged 14-21 have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in a public place & what’s so awful is that girls like my daughter are growing up to think this is normal and something they just have to put up with. But it’s time to say it’s not OK, to encourage girls to talk about it and report it to a parent or teacher. Tell your friends, daughters nieces to speak up and report it, tell the men you know about the devastating impact this behaviour can have – they might think a wolf whistle, cat call or pat on the butt is harmless but the fear of what it could lead to is frightening. Help drive this social change by sharing your own experiences #isayitsnotok @plan_uk @marieclaireuk

A post shared by Trish Halpin (@marieclairetrish) on Oct 11, 2018 at 4:05am PDT

‘A shocking 66% aged 14-21 have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in a public place & what’s so awful is that girls like my daughter are growing up to think this is normal and something they just have to put up with,’ Trish explained. ‘But it’s time to say it’s not OK, to encourage girls to talk about it and report it to a parent or teacher.’

She continued: ‘Tell your friends, daughters, nieces to speak up and report it, tell the men you know about the devastating impact this behaviour can have – they might think a wolf whistle, cat call or pat on the butt is harmless but the fear of what it could lead to is frightening.’

‘If you normalise and accept street harassment then you’re starting to say it’s ok for the next thing to happen, and it’s an escalating process,’ 28-year-old Lindsay from Edinburgh told Plan International. ‘It’s a basic human right to be able to walk around and just live your life. No one is taking it seriously.’

‘Girls have been told different ways to change ourselves to make other people less likely to harass us,’ 16-year-old Caitlin from Glasgow explained to Plan UK. ‘But boys have never been told what to do to stop them from harassing girls. What if you don’t want to accept that it just happens? Coz it’s been happening to women for like ever pretty much and it’s not right and it shouldn’t be accepted like that.’

Reading over the statistics and accounts provided by Plan, we were saddened here at Marie Claire HQ, especially as it is a sobering reflection of the sad reality that we all normalise on a daily basis.

Here are some of our own accounts of growing up with street harassment, something we don’t want for the generations of girls ahead of us…

‘I am now in my mid twenties, but from my early teens I have always made a conscious effort each morning to dress for my journey home that evening. If I know that I will be walking home past 9pm, I won’t wear a skirt or a dress or anything that could attract unwanted attention or street harassment. While it seems outdated to have to wear trousers to walk home alone, it’s what I have to do to make myself feel safe.’

Jenny Proudfoot, Junior Digital News Editor

‘My pal and I were walking home one night and we noticed that two men had started to follow us. With every corner they tailed us, we talked less then eventually went completely silent when they crossed the road to us and demanded to know where we were going. They then split off so that we were stuck between them, hemming us in as me and my friend said absolutely nothing as we were terrified – they were big guys. After we hit a main road, they disappeared but I always wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t.’

Megan Hills, Digital Lifestyle Writer

‘My sister and I will often call each other if it’s dark and we’re say, walking somewhere on our own or waiting for a taxi – even if it’s only for a minute or two. I wish I could say I don’t feel vulnerable in those situations and just get on with it but sadly I do feel like if I’m bust on the phone and in a rush I’m more likely to be left alone.’

Lucy Abbersteen, Digital Beauty Writer

‘There are three things I always do when I’m walking home after 7pm – I take my headphones out, put a key between my fingers and walk quickly. My sister and I also use the Find Friends app to keep an eye on each other if we know the other will be going home alone.’

Jadie Troy-Pryde,  Social Content Editor

‘I have perfected the facial expression that leads to the smallest amount of harassment. Your eyes have to look straight forward, but totally avoiding eye contact: looking at your feet draws attention and making eye contact is clearly a no-no. I make sure that my expression is blank, but not blank enough to look vulnerable or cause people to suggest that I cheer up a bit. Late at night or in the middle of the day, you know I’m using the 1000-yard anti-harassment stare.’

Victoria Fell, Features Assistant

Join us and Plan International UK and call an end to street harassment by sharing your own account, alongside the hashtag #ISayItsNotOk.

Street harassment is not a part of growing up – and it’s definitely not OK.

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