Archive for the 'Activism' Category

Bloggers For Haiti

NS January 18th, 2010

shelterbox

Have you been wanting to give something to Haiti but have perhaps hesitated, not knowing which organisation to donate to and what they’ll do with the money? Do you like the idea of helping to purchase a specific item that you know will be put to good use?

Some fantastic bloggers have gotten together and started a Just Giving page to help raise funds for ShelterBox, an organisation that is incredibly vital in the aftermath of disasters such as the earthquake that has destroyed much of Haiti. As pictured above, each box contains a ten-person tent designed to withstand heavy rainfall, extreme temperatures and high winds and comes with partitions so private spaces can be created inside. It also includes other vital survival equipment like thermal blankets, water purification and cooking supplies, a wood-burning or multi-fuel stove, a tool kit enabling latrines to be dug, firewood to be chopped and basic repairs to damaged dwellings to be made.

The box itself is lightweight and waterproof and can be used to store food and water or even double as a cot for a small baby. A supply of colouring and drawing materials for a child, who will likely have lost all of his or her possessions along with family members, is also included. It may seem irrelevant, but it’s often the small kindnesses and distractions that can help a child cope and bring a smile to his or her face.

Please, I beg you: give whatever you can to this fantastic organisation. They need our help to get as many of these boxes to the families in Haiti who have suddenly found themselves bereaved, injured, ill, homeless, thirsty and hungry. Each box costs nearly £500 so the more funds we can raise to ensure as many boxes as possible are sent, the better. As I type this, over £2,000 has been raised so far by the Bloggers For Haiti campaign, in the short space of a couple of days. That’s four boxes, ready to be shipped out! That’s shelter and supplies for 40 people.

Let’s help another 40, and then another. Just give.

Donations can also be made to Save The Children and UNICEF, amongst many others.

Women’s Aid charity single

NS November 25th, 2009

TakeMyHandHome

I’ve never done any PR on this site before, mainly because I’ve never received a request that I could really get behind. I don’t want to help people sell more of whatever stuff they’re peddling unless it’s something I genuinely find extra-special or if it’s for a cause I believe in. I don’t even bother replying to ones wanting me to promote this or that DVD or pair of shoes or children’s clothing line. So it was with great pleasure when I read an email asking me to help promote a charity single for Women’s Aid, to celebrate 35 years of the fantastic work they do, and released today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which I wrote about yesterday.

Please, take a moment to read more about how you can help Women’s Aid raise some much-needed funds by simply downloading their new charity single on iTunes, for only 79p. I’ve never asked anything monetary of my readers before (and it’s not something I plan on doing very often), but I would be so pleased if I could help such a vital organisation, particularly in light of what happened to me last weekend and the much worse things that  happen to women all over the UK and all over the world, every day.

Thank you.

Women’s Aid release charity single Take My Hand

On Wednesday 25th November 2009, national charity Women’s Aid is celebrating 35 years of working to end violence against women and children by releasing their first charity single, ‘Take My Hand’.

The song has been written especially for the charity to help them raise vital funds to support abused women and children.

The single, which is being released to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, is sung by 13 year old classical singer Olivia Aaron, with Natasha Benjamin, a real-life survivor of domestic violence.

The song is based on the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8, ‘Sonata Pathétique’ and its lyrics are an expression of the emotions experienced by children and young people affected by domestic abuse.

Women’s Aid Chief Executive, Nicola Harwin CBE, said:

“Take My Hand has been written especially for Women’s Aid and reflects the words of families that have survived abuse. The song reflects hope for a future free from violence and we hope it will reach out to those affected by domestic violence as well as the wider public. We want to raise awareness of the support available and raise vital funds so that we can continue to provide these services.”

Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women at some point in their lifetime and recent statistics[1] from the Women’s Aid Annual Survey show that last year an estimated 18,000 women and 20,000 children lived in refuge accommodation in Women’s Aid’s national network of services.

The launch of Take My Hand on the 25th November marks the beginning of Women’s Aid’s activities to mark the ’16 days of Action’, where the charity will ask the public to help them take action against violence against women and children. For more information on the ‘16 Days of Action’, go to www.womensaid.org.uk from the 15th November.

To buy Take My Hand for 79p, please go to www.womensaid.org.uk/takemyhand

Natasha’s story:

‘I was only with my boyfriend for three weeks when he started to become verbally aggressive. The first time he got aggressive I thought I must have said something that upset him and he went mad. He started throwing things at the walls, even a wine glass that had red wine in it. As I left the room he continued to throw things after me and a glass plate just missed my face.

The first time I did try to get help I was told to leave him, but it was not that easy. When it happened again I told no one, firstly from sheer embarrassment, and later from fear.

One night I woke up with his foot on my face and my boyfriend saying he was going to stamp on me. I had to sleep in contact lenses as it was a common occurrence for him to wake me up with demands or threats. I was so afraid of not being able to see when the assaults took place as I might not be able to get away.

I experienced a severe form of domestic violence that also included a range of abuse, from controlling where I was and what I did, to pulling my hair, to eventually strangulation. My daughter witnessed the abuse and we were both very frightened of what would happen. I was only with him for six months where he nearly killed me.

I stayed in a Women’s Aid refuge which provided us with safety and which gave us the support we needed to rebuild our

lives. I am singing on ‘Take My Hand’ to not only raise vital funds for Women’s Aid but also to provide a message of hope to women and children currently living with violence in the home – thanks to support services provided by Women’s Aid there is hope for a safe future free from fear.’

Call to action: this shit has got to stop

NS November 24th, 2009

The response to my last post has been overwhelming. The F-Word picked it up and posted about it on their site, which then made the rounds through the feminist blogosphere and brought hundreds of visitors to my blog overnight. The supportive comments and messages I received — here, by email and on Twitter — made me realise that what happened at the march hadn’t just angered me, but many people. When something like this happens to one of us, we all feel it because we know it could’ve been any one of us. To be attacked while on a peaceful demonstration just makes it all the clearer how deeply ingrained violence is in our society, and how much of a threat those who question the Order Of Things are to those who think they hold the deeds to us.

Wednesday November 25th is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, as designated by the United Nations since 1999. It is also White Ribbon Day, a complementary campaign run by and for men that encourages them to be part of the solution. In honour of this day, Million Women Rise had planned a candlelight vigil. When they read about what happened to me at Reclaim The Night, they asked for my permission to turn the vigil into a wider protest and to use my story to help highlight just how unsafe we still are. Together with other women’s organisations, like Object, the Women and Girls’ Network and Roshni, they are asking for as many people  (all self-identified women and male allies) who are able to come to this event to attend or help spread the word. I will be speaking of my experience at the event and there will likely be a media presence there as well.

Please, if you are as pissed off about violence against women as we are and want to demand that it stop, come join us in Trafalgar Square at 7pm tomorrow (Wednesday 25th November). Bring a candle, bring a friend and bring your voice. If you’re not able to attend, please spread the word to as many as you can, particularly if you are in or near London. A good turnout will help us raise some much-needed awareness.

My own personal request to those of you who can’t attend (and even if you can!) is to focus on speaking to the men in your lives about domestic violence, sexual violence and other forms of abuse and harrassment towards women. If you have a male partner*, ask him not to sit in silence when he hears a joke demeaning or belittling women. Talk to your male friends about how consent means getting an active ‘Yes’, not just the absence of ‘No.’  Ask them to complain about sexist ads (including ones that degrade men) and boycott misogynistic publications like the Daily Mail. If you have a son, talk to him from an early age about respecting girls and the conflicting messages he will receive from his peers and the media. Ask all of them to get active in becoming part of the solution because we can’t eradicate this problem on our own. Passive agreement is not getting us anywhere. Keeping quiet is not an option anymore; it is silent complicity.

It’s time for this shit to stop.

*edited for more inclusive language; h/t to Ruth for pointing out my mistake — I have poor editing skills when hastily typing before the school run!

Unsafe but undeterred

NS November 22nd, 2009

Last night, I marched through the streets of central London with 2,000 other women and dozens of police escorts, holding a sign that said “End violence against women.”

Last night, I used my voice to chant and shout about sexual violence, unsafe streets and women’s rights.

Last night, when I should have felt at my most powerful, most inspired and safest, I was sexually assaulted.

I had to stop typing there for a minute and make sure I’d written that right and that it wasn’t just a strange dream. But yes, I was sexually assaulted at a march protesting sexual assault. How’s that for irony?

As we came through Leicester Square, a man pushed his way abruptly past the barrier and with one swift movement of his outstretched arm, managed to push me backwards and roughly grab my breasts at the same time. I swung at him with my right hand but he’s already stormed past so I only made contact with the back of his shoulder before he disappeared out the other side and down a side street. My friend Jen and I looked at each other in disbelief and shock. I hadn’t seen him coming until he was centimetres away and before I noticed the arm coming at me, what I undeniably saw was a face riddled with disgust and anger.

He, along with the man who had spit towards us earlier, and the one who had stood on the side shouting “Boo! Boo!” with his thumbs and his mouth turned downwards, and the significant number of men I saw mocking us — laughing, rolling their eyes and grabbing their crotches — were obviously disturbed by our presence. Perhaps we were reminders of violence they had perpetrated themselves, or a catalyst for the potential violence bubbling within them, just beneath the surface, like a nearly-boiled kettle. Maybe they felt threatened by our numbers and our voices and our demands. Maybe they were scared.

But whatever the reasons for their animosity, they will never know what it’s like to be scared of being humiliated and violated, in public, by people who feel they have a right to our bodies, our smiles, our time and our compliance. They will never know what it’s like to trade stories, with friends of the harrassment, abuse, assault and violence nearly each and every one of us has experienced, some of us in many different ways. They will never understand that we call these ‘war stories’ because every day is a battle and we are tired of feeling like soldiers, fighting off an enemy that has the better, more powerful weapons. They will never experience life and humanity the way we experience life and humanity because their view is unobstructed. They stand on the shoulders and backs of so many people, so many women, to survey their kingdom and claim rights to us, its spoils, with indifference and greed.

They will never know how powerless and unsafe I felt, despite my outward calm, even there amongst thousands and with police all around me, simply because of my gender and for daring to speak out. They will never understand why my heart leapt into my mouth when I approached the bus stop later that night on my way home only to see five loud, drunken men and why I stood 20 feet away with one hand clutching my keys (pointy sides out) and the other holding my phone in my pocket.

But what I know is that I will never stop chanting, or shouting or marching. I will never stop hitting back when I am hit, or stop demanding when I am commanded. Because too many women are not able to. Too many women never get up again when they are knocked down. Too many are beaten and raped and intimidated into silence. For them, and for myself, I will march.

And if I am ever assaulted in the street, yet again, I won’t hesitate to chase that motherfucker down and have him arrested.

Transforming our views of transgender

NS November 20th, 2009

transgender remembrance

Do you ever read an article about a transgendered person (most likely about his or her death) and think nothing of the reporter’s use of quotation marks around “he” or “she?”

Have you ever stared openly at a woman on the bus wearing a skirt but sporting somewhat masculine hands, eager to determine ‘what’ she is?

Have you ever called a person whose gender you can’t readily identify according to the biological and social cues you’ve been conditioned to look for a “tranny” or “shim?”

Do you consider yourself a kind, compassionate, open-minded and progressive person?

If the answer to any or all of these is ‘Yes’, please stop. Stop and consider what your words and actions and prejudices mean and how they compromise not only your own ability to be truly accepting of who people are, but the very safety of those who identify as transgendered. As Ruth stated so eloquently, simply not hurling abuse at them yourself is not enough. We need to address transphobia when we see it happening before our very eyes or hear transphobic ‘jokes’ with our own ears, by our very own friends and family. Because 162 trans people being murdered in the last year is no joke. 162 people trying to go about their lives as who they are, murdered for skewing someone’s rigid view of Male and Female and daring to cross those lines, is not the mark of a progressive, open-minded society. It’s 162 too many and we can all do our part to remember those who have lost their lives to senseless hatred and endemic violence. Read this and this and this for more personal insights and information on what you can do to remember and honour them.

As for what I’m doing to remember and to fight…I’m marching through the streets of London tomorrow evening, demanding an end to violence against women and claiming our right to be safe in our city’s (and every city’s) streets. Even though I know the Reclaim The Night march is a contentious issue amongst feminist and trans groups and that many trans people have called for a boycott of the protest, I hope they will understand my reasons for going. I am going not because I don’t care about the need for more explicit inclusion (and not just vague tolerance) of trans women at events like these, but because it is my chance to make my voice heard and speak for ALL women who have experienced violence at the hands of misogynist and transphobic and homophobic people.

It may not mean much to anyone else, but it is very important to me that I publicly express my personal anger and discontent with the current state of affairs and I will not hesitate to ask my fellow marchers to pressure the London Feminists Network (with a petition perhaps?) to openly and actively include self-identified women on the literature and PR for next year’s march, and to halt any and all associations with feminists who deny transgendered existence or seek to minimise and ridicule it.

This is how I will remember and this is what I will do. I know it’s not enough and it’s probably not even adequate but it’s a start. I urge you to find your own way to start transforming your views and the views of those around you. It’s the least we can do for the 162 who aren’t able to.

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