I’ve got a guest post up on the f-word about the rise of the phrase “facebook rape” and what can be done.


Women in Honduras protest against the military coup

Women in Honduras protest against the military coup

“What kind of democracy are they talking about?    Democracy should involve the participation of the people.”

“We will not be silent! They will not silence us!”

 CAWN (the UK based Central American Women’s Network) highlights the fact that, as usual, media coverage of the continuing  crisis in Honduras omits both consideration of the impact of Micheletti’s military coup on women and the role of women in protesting against it. In fact, women have been in the forefront of the protest.

“As the threat of a coup loomed, women’s organisations sprang into action, organising marches, mobilising rural and urban women, writing and distributing bulletins, and sending information and eyewitness images around the world by email, blogs and social networking media. Since the mainstream news channels in Honduras are strictly controlled, these reports from women continue to provide crucial information by their immediacy and by giving a voice to ordinary people,” says Katherine Ronderas in a press recent release.

For more information on women in Honduras go to the CAWN website at http://www.cawn.org/html/Honduras.html

A popular show on the Edinburgh Fringe programme has been the African musical Mercy Madonna of Malawi which tells the story of The Material Girl’s adoption of Mercy and David, featuring a tall black man in drag with a blond wig and a shopping trolley. Madonna’s behaviour can be seen as a microcosm, reflecting the macrocosm of the West’s general rule-bending arrogance and acquisitiveness in its dealings with Africa. This suspect paternalism  does nothing to address real problems or bring about radical change.

One of the songs in the show explains that the large number of orphans in Malawi is due to “the abuse of young women” – a problem endemic across Africa. Eve Ensler, creator of the Vagina Monologues and the V-Day charity, has used her visit to central Africa  this summer (in contrast to sister American Madonna) to promote awareness in the West about this huge problem of violence against women. 

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ensler recorded testimony from a number of women’s rights activists, among them Jeanine Gabrielle Ngungu  who talks about the “planned vulnerability of women” in Congolese society, a vulnerability which has been exacerbated by the 10-year long conflict. Jeanine also refers to “the ambivalent solidarity of the international community” as regards providing any viable solution to these problems.  For example, rape attack has escalated under a US-backed military operation employing 1000s of poorly trained Congolese soldiers.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to a representative of displaced civilians at a UNHCR camp near Goma in eastern Congo.    

With Hillary Clinton also touring the region, Eve Ensler says “for maybe the first time in history a U.S. Secretary of State has made the systematic raping of women the reason to visit a country.” Clinton has also promised  $17 million as a starter to address violence against women in the Congo, to which Ensler responds: 

I would suggest increasing that with $100 million, the equivalent of one months spending for MONUC, the UN Peacekeeping force in the DRC which has failed so miserably to protect women and girls. Give the $100 million dollars directly to grassroots women on the ground… With this kind of support, I bet they would figure out how to end the war in a few months.


In Kenya the V-Day charity has funded safe houses for girls in danger of abuse, protecting them from female genital mutilation or from being forced into early marriage. It also provides the women working in the project with the opportunity to develop management and leadership skills, raising women’s profile nationally. This begins to tackle some of the root causes of gender-based violence. It’s a far cry from Madonna putting money into Malawian orphanages.

Have a look here for details of our super exciting upcoming conference



This is an update for anybody that I may have browbeaten into contacting Nick Clegg about Dianne Abbott’s Early Day Motion. Specifically, this is anybody who is part of the Sheffield Hallam constituency, which includes anybody who lives in University of Sheffield Endcliffe Village student accomodation.

For once, I actually did what I told everybody else to do, and I’ve since had a reply from his office. The important part says:

“Unfortunately, due to parliamentary convention, party leaders do not sign non-legislative EDMs and therefore Nick will not be able to sign EDM 625. However, this EDM has been supported by a  number of Nick’s Liberal Democrat colleagues.

Speaking on this issue, Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, expressed his frustration that the government has prevented this issue being debated in parliament as part of an amendment to the human fertilisation and embryology bill, saying ‘the government has indicated that it is not appropriate to debate these issues at this time. If that is the case, when is an appropriate time to debate abortion issues?’ Please rest assured that Norman Lamb and the Liberal Democrats will continue to press for a full and open debate surrounding this issue.”

I think it’s still worth writing to Nick Clegg about this, though. Yes, he’s a party leader and apparently can’t sign this, which is sad. But he’s still a local MP, and as such has a duty to represent his constituents. So even if he can’t put pen to paper, he might at least recognise that this is an important issue, and act accordingly.


Yes! I’ve decided to award myself the badge. Because what, after all, is the point of claiming to be the ruler of all you survey, if you can’t even have a badge to prove it?

Anyway, this post will be sticky until 22nd March. Any new posts will remain underneath it until I decide to un-sticky it.

We’re looking for toys to give to the Northern Refugee Centre, because they are lovely. More importantly, although they are lovely and run womens’ conversation clubs that we thoroughly approve of, they don’t have any toys to entertain children with. And, as you can imagine, there will be some women who’d like to come along, but don’t feel they can converse with a small child pulling at their ear because they’re bored.

So, we’re helping out. We’re looking for clean, safe, sensible toys. If you have any spare, they might as well be donated to the Refugee Centre as to Oxfam, or wherever else you might send them to. We’re happy to collect, within reason, and you can get hold of us either by using the email addresses provided on the contact page, or by calling Jude directly on 01142 660434.

In the “toys we’d like” list:

  • books for all ages – cardboard books for young children would be nice, as would any bilingual books of any kind.
  • building blocks, stackable buckets, big “shape” puzzles, big dumper/ tipper trucks and other “construction” type toys
  • “tea party” style sets (or even single items), as long as they’re not so small they can be choked on – so plastic cups, plates, fake tins of food etc are fine, utensils are probably best avoided

In the “toys we can’t take” list:

  • any kind of war-related items. Please don’t give guns, swords, tanks, action men etc.
  • cuddly toys. They’re lovely, but are not the most washable of items.
  • battery-operated or noisy toys.
  • toys with lots of small parts. We have to assume that there will be toddlers around, so please don’t give anything that might be eaten!
  • pens, crayons, pencils etc. Guaranteed, somebody will draw on the walls.

Obviously, these are just suggestions. Feel free to give anything you think might be appropriate. If we, with the Northern Refugee Centre, decide that, on balance, we can’t take what’s been given, it will be donated to the nearest charity shop. One way or another, we’ll find good homes for the toys. Happy donating, everybody!

Jude talked to us about Women In Black which is a international network of women campaigning for peace.
Women In Black Sheffield has just restarted, and will meet on the 1st Saturday of every month at the War Memorial by the city hall between 1-2pm and obviously wearing black. A detailed history of Women In Black can be found at the linked site and it is a fascinating story to see how what started as a very small action in Israel in 1988 spread across the world.
The next Sheffield WIB will be 4th April and then the first Saturday of every month, the themes will always be related to stopping violence of all forms against women.

Just a quick reminder that we are collecting toys for the Northern Refugee Centre this month! We need the toys by 22nd march and then we’ll send them off. Anything clean, safe and appropraite more then welcome, board games and puzzles are especially good as well as anything that crosses a broad age range. Either bring the toys to a meeting or email in about collection.