I think it is fair to say that, like many women my age, when I graduated from university I felt quite lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my Politics degree or where it would take me. All I knew was that I had been drawn to topics related to women’s rights and female empowerment and that this was an interest that I wanted to continue to cultivate.
I was listening to the radio when I heard Annie Lennox speak about a female rights organisation that she had founded focusing on empowering women all over the world. The Circle sounded like an organisation that I wanted to be a part of. After a few emails and a chat with the Chief Executive over Skype, I was lucky enough to start interning for the charity. The months that I was privileged enough to spend with the Circle gave me access to a huge network of wonderful women who continually empower each other, creating a beautiful environment that nurtures and encourages change. It gave me the direction that had been missing and established a desire within me to fight female oppression whenever I can.
It is this desire that has driven me to organise a campaign at my placement at Tower Hamlets Homes to raise awareness of domestic abuse that coincides with the international 16 days of activism. The fervour that the Circle instilled in me is ultimately what has enabled the success of this project at work that will hopefully have a lasting impact on the organisation.
Chai Day was initiated by the Circle a few years ago, aiming to gather friends and families together whilst raising awareness about violence against women and supporting survivors of gender-based violence across the globe. It falls during the 16 Days of Activism and so, it was very fitting to use my connection with the Circle to make my campaign stronger by organising my own Chai Day. We were inundated with bakers producing masses of delicious baked goods; from coconut samosas to rose and cardamon Victoria sponge, there was something for everyone. We had a representative from the VAWG team at Tower Hamlets council to facilitate the discussion and some moving and poignant stories were shared. Overall we managed to raise £260 for the Circle’s supported projects but, although this is amazing, the real achievement was enabling staff to talk about an important issue in a safe space and stress the message that violence against women is everyone’s concern and responsibility. Along with all the other events that we have organised during our 16 days of activism, I hope that staff at THH are now more aware of domestic abuse and, if this helps even just one resident, then the campaign has been a success.
Words by Erin Lawrence, Graduate trainee at Tower Hamlets Homes