City of Joy Gala on Saturday

Rounding up the See You Next Tuesday festival, an event that has been celebrating International Women’s Day for a good two weeks now (well, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well!) comes the City of Joy Gala at London’s New Players Theatre on Saturday the 20th.

Raising funds for the V Day initiative City of Joy (a safe house in Bukavu, DRC, for women who have experienced sexual violence) the gala will feature celebrity guest speakers and debut performances of new works by Maya Angelou and Eve Ensler, as well as music and dancing from Congolese band Kasai Masai. Sounds like an amazing night, and it’s all for a great cause!

Tickets cost £25 and can be bought here.

Text ‘CONGO’ to 82540 to donate £5 to the City of Joy

By: Sarah Barnes, 19.03.2010 | Comments (0)
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Today, I Am An Emotional Creature

Today sees the release of (Vagina Monologues writer and V-Day founder) Eve Ensler’s new book I Am An Emotional Creature; the secret life of girls around the world. I absolutely love the powerful work that Ensler does, whether it’s her feminist writings and performances or her activism and charity work, so I’m excitedly anticipating this new collection of monologues that ‘aims to inspire girls to take agency over their minds, bodies, hearts and curiosities’.

Whilst I eagerly await my pre-ordered copy to fall through the letterbox, I’ll leave you with this video of Ensler talking at TED about how we all need to embrace our ‘inner girl’. She finishes the lecture by reciting the monologue that gave the book its name…

Read Bust magazine’s review of the book here.

By: Sarah Barnes, 09.02.2010 | Comments (0)
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The Big Question; The Big V

A question has been hanging in the air for some time now. We’ve been trying to ignore it, but now there’s definitely no escaping it. It’s February the first, people! Time to step up and get answering; What are you doing for Valentines Day?

Whatever romantic situation you’re in, and whatever you think of the dreaded Hallmark holiday, this question is probably taunting you from inside and out. So here’s a couple of ideas that may answer the ‘what are you doing’ question whilst also answering your need to do something a little more worthwhile than an overpriced candle-lit dinner…

As we should all know by now, Valentines day is also V-Day – a day of focus for the global ‘V-Day’ non profit movement, founded by Vagina Monologues writer Eve Ensler in 1998, that aims to end violence against women and girls. In an event to raise money for V-Day London, Volupte Lounge is moving into Ministry of Sound for the 14th and throwing a decadent party with all the trimmings; three-course meal, an 8-piece band, swing dance and lindy-hop lessons, taxi dancers, spoken word, live guest speakers, DJs, aerial acts, cabaret and burlesque*.

It looks set to be a lavish affair, and the price reflects that… but all proceeds go to V-Day London to end violence against women at home and around the world. You can also choose to opt out of the more expensive excesses and just get a ticket for the main party – tickets are available here.

If you’re looking for something feminist to fill your day with (and hoping to keep your evening free for some scheduled romance) then Feminist Fightback have the answer! Their ‘Sex, Work, and Sex Work: Building a feminist analysis and a feminist struggle’ discussion will take place between 4 and 7pm at The Foundry, 86 Great Eastern St, East London. After a screening of the ‘Estrellas de la Linea’ documentary, feminists, sex workers and researchers will talk around the following areas;

What does understanding sex work as labour bring to our analysis of prostitution? How might it change the way sex workers and feminists fight exploitation and violence? When is sex work and when is it play?  What new ways of ‘workplace’ organizing need to emerge in order to engage with other forms of ‘affective’ labour or care work?

Suggested reading for this discussion includes Noah D. Zatz , ‘Sex Work/Sex Act: Law, Labor, and Desire in Constructions of
Prostitution’, Signs, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Winter, 1997), pp. 277-308. Email feminist.fightback@gmail.com if you cannot access a copy online.

Whatever you end up doing this V-Day, have a good one!

* Since I’m aware that burlesque isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, just thought I’d gather together some Feminist responses to burlesque, for your reading pleasure:

Fat Women in Burlesque on The F Word.org

Burlesque Laid Bare by Laurie Penny for The Guardian

Feminism vs Burlesque by Lipstick Lori on Rarely Wears Lipstick

Deirdre does Burlesque by Mandy Van Deven on Bitch

Can Burlesque be Feminist? by Chloe Emmot on The FWord.org.uk

By: Sarah Barnes, 01.02.2010 | Comments (0)
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Teenage Girls Guide To Surviving Sex Slavery

Following on from my post last week about the V-Day meeting calling for an end to sexual violence in the Congo, I just wanted to share this video. In it Eve Ensler performs her piece, inspired by the women of the Congo, entitled ‘Teenage Girls Guide To Surviving Sex Slavery’. It will most definitely be triggering.

I absolutely loved the Vagina Monologues, and thought Until The Violence Stops was one of the most affecting films I’ve ever seen, so I am already an admirer of Ensler’s work. What I love about the way she writes is that you can hear all the fragments of other women’s voices in her pieces, all coming together to loudly speak one truth. You can bet this was the case in the above performance.

Other videos about the situation in Democratic Republic of Congo;

Come Clean For Congo: Life Should Be Free

BBC World News Report

UNICEF and V-Day fight sexual violence in DR Congo

Epidemic of Rape in The Congo: Women for Women International

By: Sarah Barnes, 04.12.2009 | Comments (0)
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Call to Stop Sexual Violence in DRC; V-Day meeting at Royal Albert Hall

Stop Raping Democratic Republic of Congo

Last week I had the great privilege of being invited to hear Eve Ensler speak about the work V-Day is doing to tackle the sexual violence taking place in the Democratic Republic of The Congo(DRC). We gathered at the Royal Albert Hall, since it was exactly 100 years ago that key luminaries of the time had held the Great Congo Demonstration there. That 1909 meeting had resulted in the Free Congo Movement, which campaigned vigorously against the exploitation, slavery and murder of the Congolese people.

One hundred years on, violence and exploitation of a different but equivalent devastation grips the people of DRC. Although the war (which began in 1998, and is also known as Africa’s World War) was declared formally over in July 2003, women and girls remain targets for unimaginable violence. Rape is used as a weapon of war to torture and humiliate, leaving survivors with physical wounds, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and the fear of being ostracised by their communities. Between 300,000 and 400,000 women have been raped in the last 12 years (source: V-Day educational film) and it is estimated that 40 women are raped every day in South Kivu, eastern DRC (V-Day and Unicef educational leaflet)


A transcript, and more information about the video, can be found here.

In attendance at the Royal Albert Hall was Lynne Franks (Chair of V-Day UK), MP Eric Joyce, representatives from the Anglican Church and the wonderful Sandi Toksvig, who acted as a compere of sorts, introducing all the speakers. A young woman called Judith, who described herself as a ‘typical North London girl’, took to the stage to tell her story of how she left DRC with her parents at the age of 3. Judith was being filmed for an upcoming BBC programme and, like so many young Britons, had been ignorant of the situation in the Congo. Her recent journey of discovery opened her eyes; “I’d abandoned my mother-land.” Speaking of how DRC is suffering due to the western worlds ever-increasing demand for its minerals, Judith said “I felt complicit…as the minerals in this war are used in the mobile phones, computers and gadgets I use.”

Congolese anti-rape activist Christine Schuler-DeSchryver spoke with us of her experiences. She had just come from Bukavu to speak with us, where she had visited an 82 year old woman recovering from rape in hospital. Speaking out about the atrocities is a very brave action in the Congo, and elsewhere; “Sometimes I am even afraid of my own shadow” she said. After so many years of travelling and talking about the situation, she told us;”I don’t believe in politicians anymore. The only solution is a women’s revolution and the revolution starts here”

Schuler-DeSchryver is the director of the V-Day created City of Joy, “Our revolution centre”, which will be opening around May 2010. The V-Day action pack gives more information on the centre;

The City of Joy will be located in Bukavu, down the road from Panzi hospital, where it will support and train women to become community activists. They will have access to services including education and income generating activities, as well as a ditinct focus on leadership training. They will also receive programming in: group therapy, storytelling, dance, theatre, self defence, comprehensive sexuality education (covering HIV/AIDS, family planning), ecology and horticulture and economic empowrment. The City of Joy will provide women a place to heal emotionally as they rebuild their lives, turn their pain to power, and return back into their communities to lead.

“I will never forget something Jane Fonda said to me in New Orleans;” Schuler-DeSchryver said “‘Can you imagine if you woke up one day and saw on the news that a grandmother in New York had been raped? The whole world would stand up and fight’ But just because they are black and poor, nobody cares”

Introduced as ‘a power-house’ by Sandi Toksvig, Eve Ensler took to the stage. She began; “I am always on the tip of my emotions when I talk about the Congo.” Having been a campaigner for women’s rights for many years, Ensler felt like she had seen all the atrocities it was possible to see, and knew all it was possible to know. However, when she heard the stories of the women of the Congo; “I was forever shattered,” she said “But I don’t want to ever be the same.”

“These are the stories of people just like you and me” Ensler stressed. She then went on to tell us of an eight year old girl name Alisa who she and Schuler-DeSchryver had befriended in DRC. Alisa had endured two weeks of rape at the hands of militia, who had been keeping her captive. When Ensler and Schuler-DeSchryver met her, Alisa had fistula; holes inside herself from wounds caused by the guns and bayonets used on her. Because of there wounds Alisa no longer had control of her urine.

When they met, Ensler had tried to hug Alisa, but she shied away. It was then that Ensler realised Alisa had not been hugged since her ordeal because people were afraid of being urinated on. Determined to show her some affection, Ensler sat her down on her lap and hugged her…and was promptly ‘pee-d’ on. “It was an act of grace, it was a baptism” Ensler said of that moment.

“I don’t think it’s accidental that we’ve been relegated to the basement,” Ensler said sadly of our meeting place that morning, “It’s an indication of the problem that we haven’t filled the hall with thousands. We’re told to sit down here and be peaceful whilst one of the greatest atrocities of the world goes on as we speak”

“The way that the Congo will change is through a womans revolution,” Ensler went on. She spoke of the strong, resilient women of the Congo and said she was sure that “with a little support they can take back agency.”

As we left the space having heard from all the speakers Ensler urged us; “It’s up to all of us to stop being so polite. We need outrage, otherwise we will not penetrate this apathy.”

VDay Congo Meeting Royal Albert Hall

More things to go on and do;

Donate online to V-day; “We welcome any support or donations you are able to give us towards our campaign to prevent rape as a weapon of war in the DRC. Your donation will go towards the City of Joy: a safe house to help women and girls heal from rape, rebuild their lives and re-integrate into their communities.”

Educate yourself using these resources over at Vday.org

Read more over at Women’s E News, where they dedicated a 10 part series to covering this issue.

Add yourself to The V-Wall For Congo

Visit www.stoprapeindrc.org and www.stoprapenow.org

Hold a Congo ‘teach-in’ or other V-day event

Ask your religious leaders, faith communities or congregation to participate in the Congo Sabbath Initiative

Read Congo Now’s Call To Action

(Photograph sourced from Congo Now’s coverage of the event)


By: Sarah Barnes, 26.11.2009 | Comments (1)
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