News

It is six months since the conflict in Gaza but as winter hits hard, thousands of people are still in desperate need of basic items to survive the cold weather.

Hajer Ahmed Saleh stands outside her bombed house in Gaza
Hajer Ahmed Saleh stands outside what remains of her bombed house in Gaza
Photo: ActionAid

Around 100,000 people are still internally displaced and shockingly the entire population of Gaza – 1.8 million people – are in need. Recently the UN said that 96,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in Gaza last summer, which was more than double the initial estimates.

What we're doing to help

Thanks to our supporters we raised £1.2 million for our Gaza Crisis Appeal last year. ActionAid Palestine has been working hard to help the comunities that have been worst affected and is currently giving out vouchers worth £165 to around 500 families, benefitting 3,000 people altogether, so they can buy the basic essentials, such as:

  • bedding and blankets
  • warm clothing, particularly for children
  • heaters
  • plastic sheets to make damaged homes waterproof

We are prioritising people most in need, such as:

  • women-headed households
  • families who have not received help from other agencies already
  • families with members who have disabilities or are elderly

Hajer's story of losing everything

Hajer Ahmed Saleh is from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, which was one of the worst-hit areas.

10 years ago Hajer sold her gold jewellery to help build a home for her family and they slowly equipped it with amenities like a washing machine and a fridge. Nothing is left. Their house was destroyed by the bombing.

Now she lives in a temporary shelter with her husband and six children, which they made from prefabricated tin rooms. They built it in front of the rubble remains of their old house.

They lost everything but she is still getting calls from stores asking her to pay the remaining instalments for her household items. "Where will we get the money to pay them?” she asks. "My husband is a construction worker and he can barely find work.”

ActionAid vouchers help keep her children warm

Even more urgent is the need to keep her children warm as the harsh winter weather sets in. She has three daughters and three sons, all aged between two and nine. Thanks to our supporters, Hajer's famlily is one of the many families that we have been able to help by providing a cash voucher. This will enable them to buy goods like blankets, mattresses, jackets and shoes for basic protection against the weather in their cold, metal shelter.

If you would like to help us reach more families, it's not too late to give to our appeal.

 

10 things that made us feel proud this year

Renata Watson's picture
Renata Watson Communications Team

It’s that time of year again. Time for every newspaper, magazine and blog to churn out their highlights/quizzes/countdowns of the year in an endless series of lists. And we’re no exception!

We asked 10 ActionAid staff what made them proud this year. The things they said make us feel just that little bit less cynical about lists - they can be used for good! Hurrah. Here’s a list to warm your cockles.

1. Meeting children living in Brazil's favelas

Our fearless roving reporter and emergencies journalist Natalie Curtis said:

“My highlight of this year was meeting eight-year-old twins Samir (l) and Samira (r), who told me what it's like growing up in one of Brazil’s most dangerous slums.

Natalie Curtis with Samir and Samira in Mare

“I spent two days interviewing, photographing and laughing with these two inspiring kids, who despite facing the threat of drug violence every day, are doing well at school and making the most of every opportunity.”

2. Telling Barclays to stop dodging the question

Murray Worthy, our tenacious tax justice campaign manager said:

“Thanks to our determined supporters, Barclays committed to stop promoting tax dodging through tax havens to companies investing in Africa. After more than 50,000 people took action, we put Barclays in the media spotlight in November when our campaign supporter Will (looking smart in this pic) asked a question at their AGM, and the bank finally agreed to act.

Will Davis, ActionAid campaigner at Barclays AGM

"While this isn’t a total victory, it’s pretty amazing that with pressure from ordinary people we influenced one of the world’s biggest banks."

3. Being fearless at London's South Bank for Nirbhaya

The tirelessly efficient Najmah Anshory, who organises our entire UK communications team, said:

“In March I went to see the incredible play Nirbhaya during its eight show run at London’s South Bank. ActionAid was there with a FEARLESS wall installation in the auditorium to encourage people to raise their hand to #breakthesilence on violence against women.

Fearless installation at London's South Bankfor Nirbhaya the play

"We got a huge response from people of all ages and backgrounds who wanted to have their voices heard and to know more about what we do to support women’s rights and empower women. I was especially moved by the personal stories of sexual violence that many women shared on the wall."

You can still see the installation and people's reactions in our behind the scenes video.

4. Totally hanging out with Angelina Jolie

Our magnificent Grant Manager, Kiran Gupta met the award-winning actress turned UN ambassador Angelina in June.

"Meeting Angelina Jolie at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict this summer has to be my 2014 highlight. Here she is arriving at the summit with then foreign secretary William Hague.

Angelina Jolie and William Hague at the PSVI conference in June 2014

"I was pretty tongue-tied when she stopped by our stall, but it was amazing to see the media frenzy she generates wherever she goes.

"Thankfully ActionAid benefited from that for a brief moment, and I hope Angelina read the ActionAid booklet she took away with her."

5. Having our day in The Sun

Awesome Oriana and our Bollocks to Poverty youth campaigners teamed up with drum and bass legend Chase & Status, Music Speaks winner Tony Blaize and Kenyan artists Jembe Tatu to release a life-changing track over the summer.

The song was launched at Reading Festival 2014 and was chosen as ‘Single of the week’ in The Sun newspaper! You can still buy it from iTunes and help ActionAid change lives through music. Here’s the story of Music Speaks.

6. Learning to love porridge

Usually she’s the most enthusiastic and cheerful person in the London office, but when Events Manager Liz Grant faced the Live Below the Line challenge for ActionAid she found herself struggling to maintain her usual jolly demeanour.

“Porridge, sausage spaghetti and budget biscuits were my friends for the five days I lived below the line. Our plucky events team and half the ActionAid London office staff joined me on my misery mission – and we sat weakly at our desks feeling sad and hungry all week. We did manage to get creative with our £1 daily recipes though – as this, erm, instructional video shows.

“And together we raised a cool £100,000 to help women and girls living below the poverty line."  See some amazing gifs about the Live Below the Line story here.

7. Promoting peace, love and education

Our most excellent schools officer Lucy McDonnnell said:

"For me, the events of this year have highlighted just how important it is that all children get to go to school, and it has made me particularly proud to be working towards this goal with ActionAid.

"I read with horror of the Chibok schoolgirl abductions in Nigeria and the recent attack on schoolchildren in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. But there have also been some inspiring moments, with the highlight for me being two education campaigners, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, winning the Nobel Peace Prize. And the girls, like Precious (r) and Simon (l) in this photo, who we work with every day in Nigeria to help them make it to to school against all the odds."

Precious (r) and Simon (l) in Nigeria

8. Closing witch camps in Ghana

“Sometimes progress is best measured in small but life-changing steps," says ActionAid UK CEO Richard Miller.

"Two years ago ActionAid published a shocking report from Ghana on so-called ‘witch camps’ – desolate, isolated places where women accused of witchcraft seek refuge from beating, torture or lynching. 

“So it was a joy to receive news from my colleague Sumaila Rahmen that one of the camps was being closed. Misguided beliefs become ingrained over years and it is hard to turn them around. But for over 50 alleged witches it will be the chance to live out their lives in dignity back in their communities.”

Ayisethu Bujri, 40, below, was in Gambaga witch camp in Northern Ghana for three years, until intervention by ActionAid brought her back to her family. 

Ayisethu Bujri, 40 and her husband Idrissa Bujri in Kolinvai village, Northern Ghana

9. Hearing the hopes and dreams of these young citizens

For Chris Parker of our Schools team the high point was interviewing a group of primary school children about what they thought the future held for them, as part of our #GiveAFuture appeal. 

"It was inspiring to hear how they wanted a fairer world, for all children to have equal rights, and about their career aspirations (it seems the future will have no shortage of comedians, dancers, heart surgeons and maths teachers).  

"Above all, it wasn't iPads they wanted for all children this Christmas, it was water, food, safety, families, education ... and maybe treehouses." 

10. Doing a happy dance

Last, but not least is Laurence Watts, our Visual Content Manager. Many, many photos cross his desk every day from photographers visiting people in the countries where we work and telling their stories through pictures. Laurence is notoriously a tough man to impress, but even he couldn't resist this photo of a jubilant dance in Bhalswa, New Delhi, India.

Dancing during Beti Utsav celebration at Bhalswa, New Delhi

"My highlight was learning about Beti Utsav, which is basically a party to celebrate the birth of girls. This celebration is especially important as boys in India are valued more than girls. Many women face pressure to have an illegal sex determination test and, if they are having a girl, face pressure to abort the foetus.

"The photo I have chosen captures the colour and pageant of the celebration, that rival those that are held when boys are born".

That's it!

That's our list. We could have included so many more highlights, but I think these stories sum up pretty nicely what we do, and why we do it - as ever it's all about our amazing supporters who help us in so many ways, and the resilient communities we work with and learn so much from.

If you agree, and you feel like making a small donation after reading this to help us reach even more people and change more lives, we'd really appreciate it.

Photos: Lianne Milton/Panos/ActionAid, ActionAid, Karen Garvin/ActionAid, ActionAid, Jane Hahn/ActionAid, Poulomi Basu/ActionAid.

Aid workers remember the Boxing Day tsunami 10 years on

Natalie Curtis's picture
Natalie Curtis Senior Editorial and Stories Manager

Ten years ago on 26 December 2004, tens of thousands of people lost their lives in what has been described as ‘the deadliest tsunami in history.’

I spoke with two of our team who were part of the frontline response, both on the ground in Sri Lanka and heading up the tsunami appeal here in London.

A woman sits in front of her ruined home in a fishing village in India
A woman sits in front of her ruined home in a fishing village in India
Photo: Chris Stowers/Panos Pictures/ActionAid

Facts about the tsunami:

The Indian Ocean tsunami:

  • was caused by an earthquake measuring 9.3 on the Richter scale in the Indian Ocean.
  • created a wave 100 meters high which devastated 14 countries.
  • left 230,000 people dead or missing.
  • destroyed the homes of over 2 million people.
  • destroyed or damaged 3000 km of roads, 120 bridges, 11 airports and 14 ports.

 

Anjali Kwatra

Anjali Kwatra was deployed to Sri Lanka two days after the tsunami struck, to assist the aid effort

Tell me about the moment you were deployed?

On Boxing Day when it happened I was with my family. We saw on the news that something had happened in Sri Lanka. Then the phone calls started coming in from work. I spent the whole day on the phone in emergency calls with others in London and our team in Asia. It was decided fairly quickly that I would be deployed and that I would leave the next day. 

Two days later two colleagues and I landed at Colombo airport and met up with our teams on the ground. As soon as we arrivied we could see that this massive aid operation had swung into action. It was organised chaos at the airport. There were boxes and people everywhere.

What were your first impressions?

Actually at that point Colombo seemed quite normal. After we picked up some aid supplies, we left the city and drove for about six hours to the worst hit areas in the East.

On the road, we were following trucks that were full and I asked someone ‘What are they carrying?’ I was told ‘they are full of bodies that they are taking away to bury.’

Then when we arrived in Batticaloa, I saw the devastation. It was really weird because about a kilometre back from the shore it looked quite normal and then you drove a bit further towards the sea and there was nothing but rubble.

To me it looked like there had been a hurricane because everything was flattened. There wasn’t any indication that it was the sea that had done it. It just looked completely crushed.

Who were the first survivors you spoke with?

I came across people picking through their belongings in the wreckage of their homes. Some people were obviously upset, but mostly people looked shell shocked. I would see things on the ground like a child’s toy, dressing gown, shoe or a photograph of someone and think ‘Oh my god, people actually lived here, in these houses, and now they’re all gone’.

A wedding picture discovered among the rubble in Hambantota, after the tsunami, Sri Lanka

^ A man shows a wedding picture he discovered among the rubble in Hambantota.

We were all trying to piece together what had happened, because actually at that time it still wasn’t very clear. No one knew what a tsunami was.

I visited camps where people had gathered. Every school, temple and government building was turned into a temporary camp and people were there with what little they had. People were saying ‘We have nothing. Everyone has died. We need help.’ 

What was the toughest story you heard?

The story I heard repeated most often was from mothers saying they had been holding onto their children and the wave had pulled them out of their arms. They never saw them again. It was heart breaking.

But for every story of loss, there was also one of survival. People told me about holding on to trees for ten hours and about being miraculously reunited with family members who had been scattered in all directions.

There was a nine year old girl I met called Sylvia who had spent 24 hours swimming in the sea and survived. The tide had swept her really far down the coast, but she was eventually reunited with her parents.

A relief camp in the aftermath of the tsunami

^ A relief camp in the aftermath of the tsunami in India

How were you affected by the things you were witnessing?

It was traumatic to hear so many stories of loss. To be there, see what had happened with your own eyes, talk to people who were so traumatised and then to have to leave.

But my job was to get those stories to send back to the UK because, although it was huge news, the media attention was initially very focussed on Thailand where all the tourists were.

The island of Sri Lanka was affected all along the coast from the top to the bottom, but wasn’t getting much media attention. So although the experience was traumatic, I felt like I was being useful.

What was the most surprising thing you saw?

I remember when we were trying to drive to the North of the country, every few minutes there would be an elephant in the road. They were so disturbed that they didn’t know what they were doing. They were getting in the way and nearly causing accidents everywhere.

It was utterly surreal. I remember thinking ‘even the animals are affected by this.’  Apparently every animal was coming out of the jungle, confused. It made you think about the power of nature and that even though this thing had stopped physically about a kilometre inland, the effects were felt all over the island.

What did you see aid agencies doing on the ground?

There was so much work going on. For the first ten days a lot of it was getting basic supplies to people who were in the camps, like food and clothes. People had run from the wave with just what they were wearing. Literally everything else they owned had gone.

There was also a lot of tracing going on. Nobody knew where anybody was

When I went back to Sri Lanka in June 2005, temporary shelters were being built with plans to build permanent houses. There was a lot of emphasis on helping people back to work.

Aid agencies supported fishing communities who hadn’t worked in months because they didn’t have boats, and farmers whose land was completely ruined by the salt water.

Many people, including the fisher folk, were very scared of the sea. So there was a lot of counselling being provided to help people deal with their trauma.

Fishing family in Thailand

^ Yanat and his wife Chil lil, from Koh Lao in Thailand, with a fishing boat given to them after the tsunami to help them start fishing again.

Did you experience any aftershocks?

Yes and everytime there was one, everybody panicked and was shouting ‘there’s going to be another tsunami.’

Everyday there would be a new rumour. A car would drive past and people would shout out the window ‘there’s a tsunami coming’. It was weird, because although I knew from a scientific point of view that it wasn’t going to happen, because everyone there was feeling it so much, I kind of felt it too. 

People were really traumatised. Many people didn’t even want to go back to see what had happened to their houses because they were too scared there would be another wave.

How did this humanitarian disaster compare to others you had been in?

As a journalist I’d covered the earthquake in India and conflicts in Kashmir, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, but this was my first deployment for an aid agency. I’d joined Christian Aid in September 2004, so I was very new to the aid world. It was a baptism of fire because the disaster was so huge and covered so many countries.

How did you feel about coming home?

Coming home was weird. Even though I’d only been gone two weeks it felt like I’d been away three months. I remember coming into Heathrow airport and seeing people there with collection buckets for the DEC Tsunami appeal. I knew people cared and it was on TV, but it felt so surreal. It was amazing to see, but I felt like I wanted to go back and do more.

How do the photos of then and now make you feel?

It’s amazing. When I was there I was completely taken aback by the devastation and I thought ‘will this ever be ok again?

There was a lot of criticism of aid agencies in the first two or three years. We kept saying ‘it’s like building Birmingham from scratch. It will take years’. Now in some places you can’t even see that anything happened and everyone who lost their home has a house.

Jane MoyoJane Moyo headed up the London media team for the Disaster Emergency Committee Indian Ocean Tsunami Appeal

What was your role in the appeal?

I was seconded from ActionAid to the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC)'s London office to lead the tsunami media response. After getting the initial phone call on Boxing Day, I didn’t stop once for a month.

I remember the first day walking into the press office and having the shock of my life because there was only one computer! The DEC operates on a system where capacity, including computers, is brought in when an emergency happens and they didn’t arrive until the next day. I was initially manically manning one phone and desktop!

What was the atmosphere like?

It was the most unbelievable experience, probably of my life. The tsunami hit a chord with everyone. The DEC had people knocking on the door from other charities who weren't part of the appeal but wanted to do something to help.

The atmostphere was incredible, everyone from many different organisations was working so hard together for a common goal. It was adrenalin that was making us work. We were taking phone call after phone call. We had the BBC camped out at the office.

It was quite noticeable that, for the very first time in a major appeal, the media were interested in the full background of this humanitarian disaster. I rapidly became an expert on tectonic plate theory!

What about the aid workers on the ground, what was the DEC’s role in connecting with them?

My job was to help the DEC raise money by ensuring that the stories the public needed to hear, the latest facts and the spokespeople on the ground were all available to the media. At first no one realised how dreadful the situation was, but then reports from our aid workers started coming through. 

The aftermath of the tsunami in India

^ Health workers pick through the rubble in India

On a daily basis we’d hear heart-breaking eye witness accounts, for example, of a train load of people drowning in Sri Lanka, or entire families being washed out to sea, or horrifically, parents having to choose which child to let go and which to save.

How did it feel doing this every day for a month?

It galvanised me. We were so busy, but it was all about doing a job to the best of your ability, so that the agencies would have the money to help people on the ground.

It was about being very thorough, about not letting anything slip, and being on top of everything. At the end of it all, I completely collapsed from exhaustion. I slept for about three or four days.

Did you anticipate how large the humanitarian response was going to be?

In the first two or three days, information was slow coming through. However, once the scale of the disaster was known, the UK public's response was completely phenomenal. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The aftermath of the tsunami

^ A group of young boys inpect the aftermath of the tsunami in India

People realised how dreadful it was that this 100 metre wave had destroyed everything in its path, affecting the very poorest people. The money raised was the largest amount ever donated to an international appeal, doubling every day. People didn’t stop giving.

I remember going to Mount Pleasant, the major post office in London, for the first batch of cheques from the public. There were sack loads of them and a group of celebrity supporters helped us open them. Often we approach celebrities to support an appeal, this time we had agents ringing us, with big names offering to do anything to help.

Is there any part of you that wishes you had gone to any of the affected countries?

No. The skilled aid workers on the ground were doing a brilliant job and I knew that the job I was doing was also vital. We helped raise a huge amount of money for one of the worst disasters the world has ever seen. 

Now, seeing the difference the aid operation has made, it makes me really proud.

The Disasters Emergency Committee Indian Ocean Tsunami Appeal generated an unprecedented £392 million. It remains the biggest humanitarian response in history.

Photos: Michalis Sourlis/NB Pictures/ActionAid; Patrick Brown/Panos Pictures/ActionAid; Chris Stowers/Panos Pictures/ActionAid

Mass evacuations as Philippines await Typhoon Hagupit

Natalie Curtis's picture
Natalie Curtis Senior Editorial and Stories Manager

Tens of thousands of people have evacuated their homes as Typhoon Hagupit, locally know as Typhoon Ruby, approaches the Philippines.

Some of the millions of houses destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan
The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, in the City of Tacloban in 2013
Photo: Gideon Mendel/Corbis/ActionAid

Hagupit is currently moving with speeds of up to 250 kilometres per hour.

It is on course for the Eastern and Northern Samar provinces and the city of Tacloban, where thousands were tragically killed by Typhoon Haiyan a year ago. There is, however, a 25 per cent chance that the path of the storm may recurve.

Hagupit is due to hit land on Saturday, during the night, which will not only make it more terrifying for people, but considerably more challenging to save lives.

Panic and fear


Our aid workers have told us that:

  • people have started panic-buying food and emergency items like torches, batteries, candles, radios and cellophane.
  • people are understandably very afraid and in many areas have evacuated themselves.
  • the President is warning the country to prepare for the worst. He is considering declaring a state of calamity, to ensure a fast humanitarian response.

Preparations and evacuations


In the past 48 hours, ActionAid has been working with people in the regions of Northern Cebu, Iloilo, Leyte, Antique, Eastern and Western Samar to:

  • evacuate families to safer sites, such as churches, schools and a specially built evacuation centre in Iloilo.
  • prepare supplies of food and shelter materials.
  • put in place an emergency response plan in the event that Hagupit does make landfall.

In recent months, ActionAid has helped train 16,000 people to prepare for future emergencies, including evacuation practice, search and rescue, and first aid.

Legacy of Typhoon Haiyan


Communities have only just started to recover from the devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan last year, which affected 14 million people, killed over six thousand people and displaced four million people.

Many people are still living in temporary shelter. Others have only partially rebuilt their homes and livelihoods.

In the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, ActionAid helped over 160,000 of the most vulnerable people, including orphans, single mothers, elderly people with disabilities and people living in the furthest and hard-to-reach areas. A second typhoon could devastate these communities all over again.

A Christmas message from Sister Sledge

Sister Sledge's picture
Sister Sledge Celebrity supporters

Sisters Debbie, Joni and Kim from 70s girl group Sister Sledge, best known for 'We are family', talk about what Christmas means to them. Watch the video below to listen to their Christmas message and find out how you can give a child a future.

What were the best Christmas presents you were given as children?

One Christmas, we got every single thing on our list.  We made a big list and when we got together it was a serious meeting. We got an Easy Bake Oven, a Beauty Vanity, and a hostess buffet.

What do you love about Christmas?

Debbie: One of the most wonderful things about Christmas is seeing a child open up a gift.  They just light up the whole room and it just lights up your whole being.

A message from Sister Sledge:

We’re Sister Sledge.  Give a child a future and sponsor a child this Christmas with ActionAid.

Sponsor a child and you'll support their family too

Sister Sledge are best known for their hit anthem 'We are family', released in 1979. They became a symbol of strong family values, and went on to become international superstars - best known during the disco era, but still much listened to and loved today.

In the developing countries we work in, such as Malawi and Afghanistanfamilies often can't afford to send their children to school, or give them more than one meal a day, let alone a Christmas present that will light up their faces.

Sponsoring a child with ActionAid this Christmas will not only light up their face with the prospect of an extra meal and the chance to go to school, but it will help their brothers and sisters and their wider community too, by giving them access to their basic needs.

Please consider giving a child - and their family -  the chance of a better future this Christmas.

The mini skirt: fashion crime or symbol of sexual freedom?

Natalie Curtis's picture
Natalie Curtis Senior Editorial and Stories Manager

This week, reports of women stripped in the streets of Nairobi started circulating online. Their crime? Wearing a mini skirt.

Worse still, the victims were protesting their right to wear – you guessed it – a mini skirt. Or anything else they want, when and wherever they choose. Stripping women for wearing allegedly ‘indecent’ clothing doesn’t just happen in Kenya. We’ve seen it in Uganda, Malawi and Egypt, to name a few.

So it got me thinking, what’s so offensive about the mini skirt? And why are some people so threatened by it?

Twiggy dancing on Make A Gif

Ancient miniskirts

Skirts it seems have always been a way of making a public statement.

The skirt itself is the second oldest garment known to man – predated only by loin cloths. For hundreds of years, a long skirt was a statement of wealth and prestige because fabric was so expensive.

Reconstruction of one of the Taureador frescos at Knossos showing a female athlete wearing a mini skirt.

Photo: WikiCommons user Lapplaender.

But some scholars believe that miniskirts were common in the earliest civilisations. Archaeologists have unearthed ancient mini-skirted figurines in some of Europe’s oldest villages (5400-4700 B.C) and ancient Egyptian frescos show female acrobatic dancers wearing mini skirts in a show of power and daring.

The ‘feminist’s favourite’

Mary Quant, who brought the mini skirt to London in 1964, said “a mini skirt was a way of rebelling”.  She considered it practical and liberating, allowing women comfort, “with the ability to run for a bus.”

Mary Quant fashion show on Make A Gif

The bottom edge of the skirt had to sit halfway up the thigh and fall no more than four inches below the bum.

In an era of revolution and change, the mini skirt had a ‘marmite’ effect. Some saw it as symbolising empowerment and independence, others vulnerability and a desire to sexually please men.

When I asked my mum and aunties how they felt, their response was unified: “ever so fashionable and ever so popular with the boys”.

Sexual aggression

Perhaps it’s this mixture of sexual and female empowerment that so threatens certain men the world over? The concept of women owning their sexual power challenges a culture where men routinely call the shots.

fT5kLY on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
 

Some governments have been so threatened by the mini skirt that they’ve banned it under the guise of ‘protecting’ women.

The ‘Slut Walk’, a global movement of protest marches, started in response to a Toronto Police officer saying “women should avoid dressing like sluts" as a precaution against unwanted sexual attention.

Their message is clear: Rape should never be explained or excused. Woman should have control over their own bodies without fear of sexual aggression or judgement.

Street harassment

Yesterday I received a video from Kenya, made undercover by women on the streets of Nairobi. In it, they documented their daily struggle against street harassment simply getting the bus to work. None were mini skirted.

So mini skirts or not, what it comes down to is control. Control over women’s bodies, women’s choices and women’s freedom of movement.

This has to end. Women being able to decide what to wear, on their own terms is a first step, whether that’s a short skirt or a black bag. It’s all about choice.

Now… where’s my mini skirt?