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.


This was going to go into my Weekend News-Surfing, but honestly, it deserves mentioning all on its own.

On Sunday 15th March, a man described as:

“white and of average build and height… wearing a black leather jacket with the sleeves pushed up and denim jeans with a Union Jack pattern on the back pocket… brown workman-style boots with laces… balding with dark shaven hair, his face was unshaven and he had noticeably yellow teeth”

inappropriately touched three girls, one aged nine, in Stefan Leys Pocket Park, Daventry, Northamptonshire. Police are asking for witnesses who may have been in the park between 2:3o PM and 3:30 PM to recall whether they saw a man of this description.

They’ve had information from one woman already saying that her daughter was approached by a man who offered her cash.

Now, I know that the Fems are based a bit North of this, but I think it’s worth shouting out about – because you never know who might see it.

Another Northamptonshire girl, aged 10, was sexually assaulted while witha friend on Friday 20th March in Brook Street, Raunds, near Wellingborough. The police say that they don’t believe the two incidents are connected, although the only description that they have been able to provide of the second man is that he was white.

I’m not a police officer, I’d hope that they’ve got information that I haven’t been able to glean from the BBC articles. But the incidents certainly look similar – the girls in both cases were pre-teens, they were with a friend or friends, and they’ve all been either inappropriately touched or sexually assaulted in public places by a white man.

In any case, whether it’s one man or more than one man really isn’t the issue. The point is that this man or men have been able to do this. I was blogging recently about the effect that 10 years’ worth of low-level street harassment has had on me. That can be nothing compared to the effect that this man/men will have had on these young girls.

I know it’s in the news because it panders to the stereotypes – a stranger in the bushes. That doesn’t matter. Stereotypes we can deal with later. Men walking up to young girls in broad daylight and sexually assaulting them – that needs to be dealt with now.

Please, if you know anything, talk to the police. If you don’t know anything, spread the word.

Sometimes, I just have no words. Especially when other people have found better ones. This is one of those times.

Read this.

Here’s an excerpt:

“You see, Commander, when you think of a terrorist, you think from a straight white American military male perspective. You get an image in your mind of a guy with brown skin, hijacking a plane or a cargo ship, maybe with a dirty bomb or ricin. You see someone who can be stopped with the right amount of law enforcement and military intelligence, and an operation to stop an attack. Women, particularly minority and lesbian women, have a slightly different perspective….”

Just so we’re clear, troll-like comments will not be given the benefit of the doubt in this thread. Read the comments policy, and don’t say you weren’t warned.

News from the meeting:

  • We would like the stop violence against women action in the city centre to be an annual thing and will hopefully link up with Sheffield Domestic Abuse Forum next year.
  • The Christmas Social will be Dec 12th at Affinity on Campo Lane, please let us know if you can make it!
  • We are keeping a eye out for the finalised date of the Million Women Rise, which will be some time around the 8th March, so that we can arrange to go.
  • On 3rd Feb we will be having a discussion about women only space and the meetings.
  • We are looking for a new charity for the coming year, if you have any ideas, please let us know.

We had a lengthy discussion about trans issues and feminism, which didn’t really get minuted, but was very interesting.

Here are the few pictures I took while we were in the city centre today.

Our Lovely Placards

Our Lovely Placards


We were in town for about 2 hours handing out around 400 information cards from Sheffield Domestic Abuse Forum (see here), which contain useful phone numbers and info for anyone suffering from domestic abuse and are small enough to be tucked away out of sight if needed.

We also had about 100 posters with a long list of telephone numbers from domestic abuse charities around S. Yorks and Derbyshire which we asked people to display somewhere that they can be seen by women.

After 2 hours on the street we were kinda (or VERY) cold, so here we are warming up!


Feeling beginning to return to our fingers!

Feeling beginning to return to our fingers!

We chose today to do this, because it is Reclaim The Night in London this evening and while we couldn’t make it down there, we wanted to do something around that theme. Apart from the cold (and one crazy man) it was a very successful day and we did hear a number of stories of courage from women that have experienced domestic abuse and hopefully we will have helped many more to get help.

A special mention goes to the lovely lady that spoke to us as we were just setting up, who gave us £1 for a cup of tea “for when we got cold”!