Thursday, 28 October 2010

My Dangerous Loverboy: Stop Sex Trafficking - The Official Music Video

I mentioned the My Dangerous Loverboy project yesterday in my post on the Feminism in London 2010 conference: Women in Public Life.  The My Dangerous Loverboy campaign is a cross-platform film project to raise awareness about sex trafficking and more specifically, the phenomenon of “internal trafficking”.  Many young girls are targeted by older teenage boys or men who then sell them into prostitution and exploit them. 

This song is really catchy and I urge people to share the video to help raise awareness of a crime that is happening in modern, urban and often prosperous cities.

As you can see from the snapshot below, there is lots to see on the My Dangerous Loverboy website and many ways in which to get involved.

My Dangerous Loverboy


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Feminism in London 2010: Women in Public Life

On 23 October 2010, I attended the Feminism in London 2010 conference.  The notes below are from the introductory panel entitled “Women in Public Life”.  Please let me know of any errors or omissions.

Chitra Nagarajan (Organising committee of Feminism in London)

Chitra Nagarajan - Feminism in London 2010Chitra gave a brief welcome form the organising committee of the Feminism in London 2010.  In referring to the current political climate and government cuts, she mentioned the old adage “If you’re not at the table, you’re the meal”.

Ceri Goddard (Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society)

Ceri was going to discuss how women are represented in the public and media.  The Fawcett Society is a leading campaigner for women’s rights and has been doing so since the 1860s when women were fighting for their right to vote.  Ceri discussed the consistent failure of governments to enable feminism and economic policy to meet.  These were dealt with as to separate entities and at no time did economic policies take into account what was best for women.  The new government will hit women the hardest as they are making cuts as opposed to using taxes to derive their income.  Sixty percent of public sector jobs are held by women and these are the jobs that are going to be cut.  One-fifth of women’s income comes from benefits and this is what is going to be cut (as opposed to 10% of men’s income). 

Ceri Goddard - Feminism in London 2010 The Fawcett Society is non-partisan.  When the elections were taking place, the Fawcett Society offered Gender Impact Assessments of the parties’ budget plans.  Only the Labour and Green Parties committed to this.   Now, Fawcett have filed papers with the High Court seeking a Judicial Review of the government’s recent emergency budget.  This legal action came about because Fawcett believe that the government did not pay due regard to women’s issues with the emergency budget.  The law does state that the government should collect data on men and women and how policies impact them yet despite numerous requests, the government has not been able (or willing?) to prove that they have collected this data at all.

Ceri said that it hits all women and it hits the poorest.  Child benefit has been cut yet somehow tax benefits to married couples have been increased.  The recession is simply a cover for a wider, backwards ideological shift.  Feminism is not just about equality in the status quo; it is about changing the status quo and about equality for all.  We need to value human beings over cash and these discussions should become part of our everyday life.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC - Feminism in London 2010 Baroness Kennedy is an expert in human rights law, a member of the House of Lords and author of the book Eve Was Framed: Women and British Justice.

Baroness Kennedy started off by saying that women are doubly disadvantaged and it all comes down to two words: power and money and how “every single bit of exploitation… can be traced back to these two things”.  It is important to understand the struggles of the past in order to understand our present.  Half of the students in law school are women and yet there is one woman in the Supreme Court.  A lot has happened but not a lot has changed.  We realised in the 1970s that you have to shine light into institutions if you want to change anything.  We talk about women in public life but what about the poor women?  Well, the reality is that if we don’t take on those institutions then we can’t make a difference.

Baroness Kennedy mentioned Polly Toynbee who is endlessly ridiculed because she analyses the small print of policies and how they affect people.  We need to stop these attacks on women who are paying attention!  [My note - This is so important because we do tend to turn on women who are ‘making a nuisance of themselves’ when we should be sitting up and listening to them and most of all, supporting them].

We were told that it was just a matter of time.  We’ve been told it now and we were told it in the 1970s.  We’ve been lead to believe that over time, women will grow to become equal with men but it is still not happening to such an extent that some have come to believe in positive discrimination.  Women are still not seeing themselves in these roles; we are waiting to be asked.  We have to keep fighting for women  Legal Aid is being cut and most of the lawyers are women fighting for the rights of the most disadvantaged.  We are all advocates for other women.

Lindsey Hills (25-year-old mother, member of YWCA and mentor to young people)

Lindsey came to talk about the perceptions of young motherhood in public life.  She was a teenage mother and was lucky to have the support hat she did.  She started at the YWCA when her child as 8 months old and they gave her the support to move on from a negative relationship.  She became aware of the stereotypes and how there are no positive perceptions of younger mothers even though it can be a positive experience that encourages women to succeed.  As a young mother, she was gossiped about, ridiculed and judged and told by others that she had let her own mother down.  The perception is that young mothers have no drive to succeed and yet Lindsey continued her studies in tourism whilst looking after her child.  The perception is that young mothers are either irresponsible for getting pregnant or they are deliberately getting pregnant for the benefits but this has no bearing on reality. 

Lindsey described how unhelpful the local council was when she tried to get a place of her own.  They basically fobbed her off for a whole day and she sat at the council offices for hours until the emergency housing team came onto duty that evening.  They first put her into a B&B and then a hostel and finally a flat that was in another neighbourhood, away from her family and friends.  She was told that she had to accept it or lose it.  The rent was £1,600 a month and so Lindsey could not afford to work, otherwise she would lose her housing benefits. 

Thanks to support from her family and the YWCA, she now works part-time for a children’s centre and the Scouts and she does volunteer work for several organisations.  That is not a lazy mum!  Lindsey has worked with the YWCA to set up the Respect Young Mums and More Than One Rung campaigns and seeks better careers advice, skills and training for young women.

Rahila Gupta (Author of Enslaved and Provoked)

Rahila Gupta - Feminism in London 2010 Rahila focused on journalism and writing and how it affects women.  She spoke of visibility and fields of vision and asked how do you qualify for the description of women in public life?  The media turns people into spokespersons for entire communities but on whose behalf do we speak, should we speak?  Despite wanting to believe the opposite, there is still great racism and sexism in the most liberal of spheres (women of colour are only ever called upon to speak about the issues facing women of colour).  Rahila questioned to what extent our narratives are diluted by the rules of engagement.  We have to ask police for permission before we protest about police brutality.  Rahila raised so many questions and said so much and closed by asking if women can ever get really comfortable in public space.

Virginia Heath (Film maker and cross-platform producer)

Virginia’s address was really inspiring as she said that there were far more women in film today than when she had started out.  She described how there had been no film courses in New Zealand and how she had landed up coming through to London to study film.  Jane Campion was the first woman ever to win the prestigious Palme D'Or at Cannes award for her 1993 film The Piano and Kathryn Bigelow won the Best Director Oscar in 2010 for her film The Hurt LockerWomen have made lots of achievements but we’ve still got a hell of a long way to go.  Virginia talked about her new project My Dangerous Loverboy.  This is a cross platform film project to raise awareness of sex trafficking and I will post more about it later this week. 

Virginia told us that she began studying film during the miners’ strikes in 1985 and she filmed a documentary about the event of the strikes on the miners’ wives.  She mentioned that if there are interesting things happening when you’re studying, it really makes an impact.  I can really relate to that as I was at university when Apartheid was dismantled in South Africa.


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Feminism in London Conference 2010

Feminism in London

I attended the Feminism in London conference on Saturday and it was an incredible day of inspiring speeches and motivation.  It was attended by over 1,000 people this year which makes it the biggest Feminist gathering in England for over a decade.  I was fortunate enough to attend four sessions including the opening session on Women in Public Life, workshops on Violence Against Women as a Hate Crime and Reports from the Global Women's Movement and the incredible rousing closing address.

Over the course of the next week, I’ll be uploading the notes and photographs I took as well as some relevant links and a video.  Of course, that is my intention but I am right in the middle of preparing for upcoming exams and have suffered a family bereavement too so bear with me while I try to get all of this up.

I think it is really valuable to post thoughts and lessons learned from conferences like these as the whole reason I looked up a feminist conference in London was that I read my friend Sophy’s accounts of Wiscon (the Feminist Science Fiction conference held in Madison, Wisconsin each year) over the past couple of years.  Please let me know if there are any errors or omissions in my posts as I found that listening and taking notes was not as easy as it had been in university 15 years ago.


Saturday, 16 October 2010

Joel Burns Tell His Story: It Gets Better

It has been a crazy couple of weeks as we’ve uncovered the terrible news of teenagers across America that have taken their own lives because of bullying.   The video above is an incredible and passionate speech by Fort Worth city councilman Joel Burns about the bullying that he encountered as a gay teen and how it does get better.  Wearing a pink shirt in aid of breast cancer awareness, Burns explains that this is the first time he has ever told the story of his bullying and near-suicide to anyone.  Almost a million people have watched this video since it was uploaded on Joel’s YouTube channel just three days ago and many people have posted it across Twitter and Facebook daring others to try watch it without breaking down crying.

I found it incredibly difficult to watch as it unexpectedly touched a very deep nerve within me.  After moving to South Africa from England at the age of 9, I was subject to relentless bullying that lasted until I moved to high school at the age of 12.  There was no ‘reason’ for my bullying other than the fact that I was different and foreign but I began to make serious and concrete plans for suicide by the age of 11.  That first year of high school was still hard but by the end of that year I began to make friends and am still friends with them to this day.  I absolutely agree sympathise with Joel as it is never easy to tell you parents that yes, you contemplated suicide but the fact is that we need to be open.  We need to tell people, no matter how it might hurt them, that the successful, happy, vivacious person standing before them was once on the verge of ending it all.  With this openness, perhaps we can move on and communicate to the children of today that it gets better.

You can see more videos from the It Gets Better Project or visit The Trevor Project for more information about suicide prevention amongst LGBT teens.

Trevor Project banner


Monday, 11 October 2010

Reconsider Columbus Day

I don’t think it is ever ‘easy’ or ‘comfortable’ when people ask us to reconsider our national holidays.  More so, perhaps, when those people are not a citizen of our country.  But consider for a moment whether that national holiday honours all citizens of your country.

One of the major sources of contention when the Apartheid government of South Africa was replaced by the government of the African National Congress was that all of the national holidays were either changed or abolished and new ones were introduced.

The “Day of the Vow” on December 16th was no longer a day of thanksgiving to honour a promise made to God for helping the ‘pious’ Afrikaners defeat the ‘heathen’ Zulus at Blood River in 1838 (for this is how the events on that day were taught to us in school). Most of us ‘got’ why such a holiday might be offensive, most of us welcomed the change of name (and spirit) of the holiday to the “Day of Reconciliation” but there are still people who remember and honour the “Day of the Vow” each year.  They dress up in 19th-century clothing, make pilgrimage to the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria and generally hark back to the glory days of Apartheid. 

Despite that minority, the majority of South Africans today observe a day of reconciliation, overcoming conflicts, forgiveness and nation building.  Or they at least take a day off and don’t rub the Battle of Blood River in the face of the majority of the population.

When the time comes for your government to recognise that perhaps history needs to be reflected more accurately, are you going to embrace the change and work together on reconciliation, forgiveness and nation building?  Or are you going to hold on to this holiday (and others) and all that it represents?  What does Columbus Day mean to you?

Reconsider Columbus Day

© A Passion to Understand

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