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‘I see life as a learning process so everything, suffering or not, is about learning. I like to make films about some sort of transformation or internal process that has brought someone to some sense of learning about the world or themselves.’

 

With the 21st April being Creativity and Innovation Day we spoke to Liz Unna about her creative practice and processes and how she uses her creativity to tackle pressing societal issues.

Liz Unna is an award winning commercials and documentary director. She has directed commercials and short films for numerous clients in Europe and the US, some of which include; Marks and Spencer’s, Age UK, NSPCC, Dove, Microsoft and Google.

Take a look at our interview with Liz below…

 

1. Can you tell us a bit about your creative background and how you got into directing?

I never even knew that it was even possible to work in TV or film, I come from a really straight laced academic background, lawyers, professors and doctors etc. At university I started working at my student paper, The Daily Newspaper and loved it and started doing a lot of layout and that opened up a whole world of possibilities I didn’t even realise were there. I don’t know why, I went to a very uncreative school, I just didn’t realise that that was even possible.

Then after university, I went to McGill in Montreal, I moved to Rome and I got a job there in a TV company that was set up by a rich Saudi family and it was broadcasting in the Middle-East, I learned there about working in TV and making promos, filming, and learned a lot. I then moved to London and worked at Discovery Channel, there I had a really great boss who created this brilliant creative team that was sort of like film school.

Discovery channel at the time had a lot of money and air time to film and so he would just say make films about this or that, explore your world with the tagline, so we could basically make films about anything. He was a real pioneer, he collected a group of interesting people that perhaps didn’t have that much experience making things but that he found were interesting creatively. A lot of us have now gone on to make films and are big in the commercials world, so it was a really creative and fun time.

He would say Liz, you’ve never shot steady cam why don’t you go shoot a piece with steady-cam and learn about that, it really was like film school. That completely expanded my world. Then he got poached by channel 4 and we all moved over with him and then I became Creative Director of Film 4 and then I launched More4 as Creative Director and took it from there, I was just really hooked on being a director.

 

2. What is it about the creative filming process that you enjoy the most?

I love every single bit of it, I love that moment when you know your idea is amazing and it all kind of clicks, it’s the most exciting feeling in the world. Where you know that this idea is simple but strong and is a perfect idea. Sometimes you sit on an idea and it never quite comes together but when it does it’s the most exciting feeling in the world.

Then there’s making it, I love actually filming, I love the collaborative process of working, I love working with DoP’s and art department and getting everybody’s input and problem solving.

I also love editing because I see that as a collaborative process too, every stage has its own joys I would say, but I love all of it.

 

 3. What has been the most impactful film you have directed? (in terms of audience response or affecting the cause) And why?

In terms of audience response that’s hard to judge because the things I make go out on so many different platforms. I think actually the thing that’s been the most effective hasn’t even been released yet because it’s caught up in court cases.

It was a profile of a journalist who broke a case about girls being groomed in the North of England for The Times. For me that was the most powerful story that I’ve ever made a film about, it’s about to come out, but I made it 2 years ago.

I interviewed two young women who had been groomed in Rotherham as young girls who told their stories and helped the journalist at The Times, Andrew Norfolk, break the story. Subsequently it helped bring the police to account and councils to account and basically cause the fall of the local council who had really neglected these girls, 1,700 girls had been groomed in this small town.

That was a powerful film to make and I’m really proud of the final film, now the men that groomed them have been under criminal investigation and the court cases are just wrapping up now, so the film will be released soon.

There was another film I made which was for the NSPCC and it was about abuse and it was about 4 four different abuse survivors and how one person was really instrumental in helping them and that’s all you need is one person.

The process of people opening up and telling their stories was incredibly cathartic for them, very therapeutic and it was very moving. We were all in tears, it was incredibly difficult but satisfying. I think I like work that has depth to it and human stories, you know it has a lot of relevance to it. My friends make fun of me because they are like you only lie depressing topics, but I say no I like topics about humans being dealing with profound stuff.

 

4. What is your dream project and subject matter to work with?

It’s basically human stories of profundity, you know whatever that is it can be anything. It’s human beings defining something important in their lives.

 

I’d say I like projects that have some meat to them, something that can be learned. I see life as a learning process, so everything suffering or not is about learning. I like to make films about some sort of transformation of internal process that has brought someone to some sense of learning about the world or themselves.

 

 5. Do you feel like the gender balance within film, particularly directing, is becoming more equal?

No, I really don’t. What I do think is wonderful though is that it’s now a topic of conversation and interest and it’s not going to go away. So, I do feel that we’re hopefully at a turning point, just it might take quite a long time for things to really become even but I guess I look at it in the grand arc of history and it really has not been that long that women have been in the workplace at all. You know if we think back to the 50s and 60s in this country, in the US and the western world, women were barely in the workplace. So, you know if a relatively short space of time we have really come a long way and so I think there’s a lot of hope there and it’s about working together and moving forward and not demonising men or the patriarchy but that we’re all trying to figure this out.

I’m excited about it because this is not going to go away, and I think it boils down to unconscious bias and visibility. So unconscious bias I mean when people think of directors like if you were to look inside their brains you would see the image that would fire up when you hear the world director, is a man with a baseball cap and a beard going ‘CUT!’ I think that is what most people think of as directors and I don’t think that they know that they think that, but that is the norm. We need to slowly break that down and where that starts I think is how we gender children. And girls we still do that ‘oh you’re so pretty’ to girls and ‘what are you building to boys’ i.e. girls you’re an object and boys you’re a subject. I do think it goes back to that frankly.

I think there’s that, unconscious bias and then I think there’s visibility. The more women that direct, the more we can start to break down the bias of who we consider directors, the more younger women will want to become directors. You know some people say if you can’t see it then you can’t dream it, the more women we see directing the more that will become normal.

 

6. Who has been a key inspirer for you and why?  

I would say I look to women mainly for inspiration I must say, and it sort of changes. Right now, an artist who I find really inspirational is Georgia O’Keefe, I particularly love her work, but I love the way she approached her work and she approached her life.

This is going to sound very gendered, but she lived like a man in the times, she didn’t have children. She took herself and her work so seriously that she put it above everything else and I think women tend to fall into a trap of domesticity and taking care of others and I know these are huge blanket statements. But in my experience women can have a tendency to not put themselves and their work first and not to treat it as absolutely vital. I can see artist friends of mine doing that and I think what I admire about her is that her work was life or death and it was her reason for everything.

I’ve been to her house in New Mexico and everything in it is absolutely beautiful and rigorously beautiful with her incredible eye and I think she lived really beautifully. And she also cooked you know, she had amazing food and friends and a beautiful garden, it’s like her life was a work of art I would say, and I admire that tremendously.

 

7. When inspiration is lacking, when you’re feeling creatively sapped, what do you do to refresh?

I tend to look at photography and paintings more than films actually, I think it’s just looking at other people’s work it’s incredibly uplifting. I also think walking, being outside and clearing your brain. I think your brain needs to rest, so just being outside, going on long walks and being in nature. I know that’s very cliché, but I think it’s the source of everything.

 

8. What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your creative practice? How did that lesson happen?

It’s a lesson that I keep learning and that is that sometimes you do get it wrong and that you can make mistakes and it’s better to own your mistakes and say oh I messed up there and this is what I learned.

I made a wrong call on an actor’s performance on something I shot recently and on set I thought it wasn’t working and then I looked at the rushes and it was working. That was really important, I was rushed, and I didn’t take the time to sit with the performance, that was learning curve for me. I still think the capacity to mess up is okay, I used to be terrified of it and now I think that’s where all the learning happens.

I also always used to worry on set that I didn’t know what I was doing when I was really young and now if I don’t know what I’m doing I’ll just say I need a moment to think this through. I used to be terrified of the moments where I didn’t know, I thought directors had to know all the time and now I know the not knowing is a really interesting part of the process and not to run away from that but just that’s where you kind of figure things out.

I think I thought directors were supposed to constantly be in charge and know everything and have it all thought through and I didn’t realise that you know it’s a process of discovery, of sculpting something and sometimes you don’t really know where you are in that process.

I wish I could have told my younger self that, I thought I had to be super confident all the time and know the answer to everything and now there’s so much pleasure in going I really don’t know right now but that’s fine and ill figure it out but right now I’m just sitting in the not knowing.

 

9. What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

There’s some films that keep coming back to me. A recent film for some reason the film I keep coming back to is Under the Skin by Jonathan Glazer and I don’t know why, I think it’s the most profoundly beautiful and perfect film. And I think visually it haunted me, I think it was perfect and the score was incredibly beautiful. I don’t know why but that film has actually got under my skin.

I mean Terrence Malick, Badlands is always my perfect film as well.

 

10. What project are you working on currently?

I’m working on a feature documentary, I’m trying to put together a feature doc about women’s stories around abortion. A global film about women basically telling their abortion stories in 12 countries around the world so I’m trying to get money for that, I’m trying to be positive, but we’ll see it’s a really big budget and a very entrenched topic, so we’ll see how that pans out.
Liz Unna directed this powerful commercial ‘Pink Bra’ for Mark’s and Spencer who donated 20% of it’s proceeds from pink bra sales to Breast Cancer now.

 

 


Filed under Uncategorized | on Thursday, April 19th, 2018 at 5:04 pm

 

In celebration of World Creativity and Innovation Day, we’d love to share a campaign with you that we created for The Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 initiative. The ambitious project is a commitment to economically empower 5 million women by 2020. What does this have to do with creativity and innovation? Take a look at the video below and you’ll understand just how much creativity plays a part in these women’s lives!

Artisans, workers who make things by hand, are some of the many women supported by Coca Cola’s 5by20 initiative. These women from all across the world recycle disposed Coca-Cola products and packaging – turning waste into art.

What struck us most about these incredible women was that despite the obstacles and hardships they have endured and the lack of resources and opportunities available to them, determination and creativity have allowed them to create better lives for themselves, their families and their communities.

Their ability to see something greater in the items we dispose of, perhaps born from the resourcefulness they have needed in life, not only creates a better future for their families and communities, it creates a brighter, cleaner future for them all.

We mixed live-action and animation to deliver a film that sought to capture the magic of their craft and the new life they give to the items we dispose of. From jewellery to wallets, these women show us what is possible with a little vision and creativity!

 

 

 


Filed under Uncategorized | on Thursday, April 19th, 2018 at 5:03 pm

Did you know that water pollution kills around 10,000 people across the globe every day? This equates to 3.6 million people every year.

With over 18 billion pounds of garbage being dumped into our oceans every year, and many of the clean water sources we rely on now under severe pressure, urgent change is needed. To date, major brands have been a part of the problem, but there appears to be change in the air and major brands are now emerging as a part of the solution.

April 22nd marks Earth Day, but for cosmetics company Aveda, a day isn’t enough. The brand have set aside the entire month of April to celebrate Aveda Earth Month and raise funds to protect our planet and the many people who call it home. Aveda, who have been a quiet yet important champion for clean, sustainable water, have raised over $50 million to support organisations directly affecting environmental change, since taking up the cause almost 20 years ago in 1999.

Throughout Earth Month, Aveda donate 100% of the purchase price of their limited-edition Light the Way candles to the Global Green grants Fund for water-related projects in 85 countries. To date, the sale of this signature candle has generated enough funds to help 920,000 people with water-related projects and this is just one of the many ways the Aveda team are delivering real change.

Yet, it is perhaps the more collaborative, creative ways that Aveda are raising awareness and funds for clean water that have impressed us most. Take Aveda’s Catwalk for Water shows that offer unique experiences with fashion ranges designed from upcycled and repurposed materials. Or the Appointments for Clean Water events that see thousands of Aveda Artists donate their time and talents to salons worldwide (that also give 100% of proceeds to the cause). Aveda are collaborating with artists, brands and NGOs in creative ways to make a real difference.

Our team have long championed the necessity of bringing organisations together to create a real impact and Aveda’s successes to date perfectly illustrate what is possible when we collectively confront the most pressing challenges of our time. Their partnership with the Global Greengrants Fund alone has helped fund over 1,500 grants across 84 countries since 2007 and we hope it will soon represent just one of many more collaborations inspired by the need to protect our most important resource.


Filed under Uncategorized | on Thursday, April 19th, 2018 at 5:01 pm

Football is one of the most popular and profitable sports on the planet. With the previous English premier league TV rights deal generating £8 billion for its teams over a 3-year period, attention and investment in the game has never been higher. Nor has the gender pay gap. Despite its incredible financial rewards, football remains a sport trapped in an old, outdated age, where the talented young boys and girls who pursue the sport in all its glory are destined to follow two very different paths: one of immense reward and recognition, another of struggle and survival.

In 2016, SSE (Scottish Energy Company) became the major sponsor of women’s football in Scotland, providing vital investment across women’s football and marking the energy company as an official partner of the Scotland Women’s National Team and title sponsor of the SSE Scottish Women’s Cup. With Thursday 8th being International Women’s Day, we couldn’t think of a more important company to spotlight.

More than an opportunity to maximise exposure as another progressive brand pushing another progressive cause, SSE’s commitment and vision for women’s football runs far deeper, with the real impact being felt across England. With the aim to remove barriers and call out to girls across the nation to join the other 2.9 million young girls playing football across England, SSE are fully investing themselves in shaking up this traditionally male-dominated sport.

Working with 200 clubs across England, they have already provided funds to set up coaching sessions and teams for girls aged 5 to 14. But creating real change in a society that lives and breathed football, yet are rarely exposed to anything outside of the men’s games, means delving deeper into the problem. Men have a fundamental role to play in encouraging girls to pursue the beautiful game, and SSE are already championing this role through their Dads and daughters campaign.

With 83% of boys aged 10-16 playing football, yet only 36% of girls being involved, SSE understood the importance of dads being a major motivating force for their daughters. While only 20% of dads actively encourage their girls to take an interest in football, the campaign aims to shift attitudes and celebrate the important role every father plays in encouraging their daughter to take up football and sports in general.

This year, the men’s premier league will distribute around £2.5 billion alone in prize money amongst the 20 currently competing teams. As it stands, even the bottom placed team will walk away with around £100 million, yet in the female-equivalent Super League, prize money isn’t even offered to the league winners. The top-tier of female players in England earn under £18,000 a year, and more than half considering ending their careers for financial reasons. When the average male player receives £200,000 a month, there is major work yet to be done.

83% of sports now give women and men equal prize money. The gap is narrowing across sports worldwide, yet in football it seemingly continues to grow. If we cannot even support and reward those few women who manage to make it to the most elite levels of the game, how can we expect to inspire the next generation of talented female footballers to come?

By becoming an official partner and sponsor in Scotland, SSE have brought a cash prize to the Scottish Women’s Cup for the first time since its inception in 1971. There are still strides and leaps to be made, but through SSE’s support, women’s football in the UK is one step closer to a future where a footballer’s opportunities are shaped by their talent, not their gender.


Filed under Uncategorized | on Thursday, March 8th, 2018 at 9:51 am

‘I believe every disadvantage is an opportunity to create an advantage…’ so says Francesca Brown who founded the female football development programme Goals4Girls. The barriers she faced whilst being the only female footballer in her school led her to found the organisation, which empowers young women to increase their self-esteem and confidence through sports and education.

Francesca tells us about why she believes there has been a significant shift regarding the taboos around women in business and sport and why the advice her Grandmother gave her inspires her to never give up.

 

 

Who is your inspiration and why?
A whole generation of women have inspired me from Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey to my Grandmother. Why? Because these are all women who have defied the odds, all of which are inspirational strong women, with something different to offer the world and with a story to tell. Women who use their voices to create change and contribute towards society no matter what – whether that’s socially, economically, culturally, and politically, are inspiring! I’ve been following inspiring women leaders, entrepreneurs, business movers-and-shakers, writers and others on the cutting edge of thought leadership, and I’m still awed and amazed at how much there is out in the world to be inspired by. I do not wish to idealise one person as there are thousands of women in the world who inspire me daily and I like to cherry pick these attributes to not only assist my personal growth. To be inspired by another is to be reminded that what stirs us so deeply about someone else is, in fact, possible within ourselves.

What does success in life look like to you?
There will always be a moving shift to what defines success, but one thing I have learnt is by setting the bar high you are able to achieve so much more, success is much deeper than money and power ‘success is growth’, liking yourself and being fully aligned with your purpose.

Are there still taboos around subjects related to women that you feel need to be broken or need greater awareness?
I feel there has been a significant shift regarding the taboos around women in business and women in sport, which I hold closely to my heart. Media awareness is having a high impact in society and creating greater awareness around gender equality. Women are setting the bars high, and campaigns around women in sports and women in society are encouraging a whole generation of female athletes, advocates and business women. Although these subjects are being broken down, I feel there is more to be done around gender equality. Despite the achievements of women, they still earn less, occupy fewer leadership roles and generally have less influence. The Media has a major part to play in limiting these beliefs, by providing platforms and outlets for successful women to be celebrated. I think it’s easier for someone when they see someone that’s in a position, and they can imagine themselves in that position. The more you see that, the more you believe in yourself. Young women need female role models to inspire success. I think now with all the conversations, people are taking a breath and thinking outside the usual box.

What do you feel will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
This generation is the state of digital. With media influence on the rise, young women are captivated around creating a lifestyle which is not reality. I believe social media has led to a moral crisis with our younger generation; and how that must be turned around in the classroom, through parenting, and in our community. Social media is the new drug, eradicating face to face communication, and socialization. Although my beliefs may sound biased, I do believe also that social media can be used positively to empower the next generation, but whilst there is a lack of role models a majority of young women (not all) will feel empowered through generating attention to themselves. Young women are not enjoying the age they are, rather they thrive off likes, changing their appearance, which can lead to a lack of gratitude, low self esteem and a complex. Most, including myself, would believe that recent media influences are harmful to the development of young women. Women are getting the wrong idea about how they should look and act. They are told this is the way they should look and act and therefore follow the “role models”, or lack thereof, into traps. These traps include mental and ultimately sometimes physical consequences.

Have there been occasions in your life where you felt that being a woman held you back, and occasions where it has propelled you?
I have never felt held back being a woman, rather the opposite. I have never allowed someone’s opinion of me become my reality. I have always used my disadvantages and beliefs to make a difference, being the only female footballer in my school and the barriers I faced whilst participating in sport, has only led me to find my purpose by founding the organization Goals4Girls. ‘Besides I always like to go against the norm’. I believe every disadvantage is an opportunity to create an advantage, not only in your own life but in society.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and why?
My Grandmother always said to me ‘stay grounded as you will never forget your why?’ This is the best piece of advice I’ve had, by not forgetting my why I remember to be grateful for what I have and to keep working hard for what I want. It has inspired me to never give up! As there is a reason to why I started.

If you had to start over, knowing what you know now, what if anything, would you do differently?
I would not change a thing, as my experiences have helped me grow.

What would you say is one of the biggest advances in your industry or sector over the past five years? On the reverse, is there any aspect of your sector you feel is still not progressive enough when it comes to women?
Investment in women’s sport has become a priority. Over the last few years we have applauded certain campaigns like This Girl Can, who have helped to advance the role of women in sport and society. Due to this publicity sports is on the rise which has helped shift attitudes and changed behaviours, recognizing female achievements thus creating role models for our future generation. Incredible progress has been made, however I feel there now needs to be more investment and focus at grassroots level as there is limited opportunities for young women to access female teams in their local areas, restricting their chances and optimisms of progressing and staying actively involved in the game.

How do you feel about International Women’s Day?
This day is marked to celebrate and acknowledge women who have contributed to society, focusing on the inspiring, courageous work women around the world are doing to shape equitable societies. I feel it is important as it breaks the silence once again, to remind the world of how far women have come. It is important to resurface the stories of women who have used their voices and have achieved amazing results despite the odds. It is an opportunity to give thanks for the generations of amazing women who have come before us and the generations of phenomenal women still to come!

Looking at the future, what do you feel the young women of today can be most excited about?
There has been huge changes for women across all sectors and industries. And it is exciting to see that there are women today creating pathways for the younger generation to access positions in sports, politics, communities and business which was uncommon of a few years back. I enjoy that I can turn on the Television and turn to Sky sports and see women like Rachel Brown Finnes and Kirsty Gallacher presenting or female linesman/ referees like Maggie Farrelly. They are opening doors for the younger generation along with a handful of women across the board, and this is exciting.


Filed under Uncategorized | on Thursday, March 8th, 2018 at 9:50 am

The Funny Women Awards has been a launch pad for many talented comedians, writers and short filmmakers, putting applicants in front of the right people to accelerate their comedy career. Lynne Parker is the founder of the awards and  Funny Women, a company which aims to help women find their voice through performing, writing and using humour in business and everyday life.

Lynne tells us about why her greatest ‘woman crush’ is reserved for Dame Joan Bakewell and discusses how young women have a voice and a power that can take them anywhere they want.

 

 

Who is your inspiration and why?
There are many but my greatest ‘woman crush’ is reserved for Dame Joan Bakewell who is still an amazing, vibrant journalist and broadcaster in her eighties.  I am also inspired by the late great Joyce Grenfell who was a pioneer of British comedy and did a lot behind the scenes at the BBC way before ‘women’s lib’ in the 1960s.

What does success in life look like to you?
Recognition that everything that Funny Women has campaigned for has made a difference. A proper financial investment by the leading broadcasters and a voice at their tables would also be a measure of success. Oh, and I would like to be on Desert Island Discs!

Are there still taboos around subjects related to women that you feel need to be broken or need greater awareness?
The public are still a little squeamish about bodily functions.  Humour is a way of bringing attention to issues but domestic violence, rape and FGM are never going to be laughing matters. I had to write an article about whether it is appropriate to joke about rape a few years ago for Huffington Post and it’s still being cited today (Read article here).  I love the fact that today’s female comics leave no stone unturned from mooncups to coming out as bisexual – and that’s just the current crop of Funny Women Awards finalists!  Can’t wait to see what’s next.

What do you feel will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
As we become more equal there will be less opportunity to play the femininity card – not that this is a bad thing if we are to be measured on a level playing field.  The real challenge is being played out now with #TimesUp and #MeToo campaigns as the pendulum is swinging very much against men in power. Our role will be to even things out and show that we can all work together and play to our strengths emotionally and physically.

Have there been occasions in your life where you felt that being a woman held you back, and occasions where it has propelled you?
Yes but because of other women.  We are very competitive and I really hate female ‘game playing’.  Business is not a courtship, it’s about getting the job done so I don’t have time for the power politics that are sometimes played out within female communities. This has cost me in the past but I have integrity and would rather be true to myself than go along with something that doesn’t sit well with me.  What I have learned to trust is my female intuition – if something doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it.  As an ‘older’ woman I really don’t like the way we are cloaked in invisibility – I have always looked to my elders for advice and guidance, and still do.

If you had to start over, knowing what you know now, what if anything, would you do differently?
Everything I’ve done leads to this place. I trained and worked as a journalist, opened a lingerie shop, became a public relations and marketing consultant, did a bit of broadcasting, married, had two kids… all of which developed skills that I now employ in running Funny Women. Even the occasional bra fitting… (joke!) We all make decisions that we regret so it’s not worth beating yourself up.  Everything happens for a reason, even the mistakes. I have learned so much more from the things that have gone wrong in my life.  I only wish I had made the time to write some of this experience into my best-selling novel! There’s still time.

What would you say is one of the biggest advances in your industry or sector over the past five years? On the reverse, is there any aspect of your sector you feel is still not progressive enough when it comes to women?
I have done five years in my industry three times over!  Funny Women is going into its 16th year.  The last five years has really seen the landscape change for today’s female performers because there are so many fantastic role models.  Katherine Ryan won our Funny Women Awards in 2008, nearly 10 years ago, and she is for me the ultimate face of this revolution.  She is an empowered, glamorous, single mother who speaks for her generation often saying out loud on stage what is left unsaid by women in the real world.  It saddens me that I still hear people say that they don’t like female comics, often by other women.  Not sure the sisterhood is as alive and kicking as it should be. As women we have to trust other women even when they are being ‘potty mouthed’.

How do you feel about International Women’s Day?
About 25 years ago, way before Funny Women was born, I was asked to give the ‘address for the ladies’ at a Masonic dinner presided over by my late father.  It happened to take place on 8th March and this was how I discovered that International Women’s Day existed.  I mentioned this fact in my speech to a stony-faced audience of middle aged misogynists who were more familiar with coy thanks and praise of their male attributes.  Although he never said it out loud, my father was proud of me for my forthright approach to life and calling things out.  Although he was most pleased that I married and had a family. My father died 20 years ago this year, way before I created Funny Women, but he gave me my love of comedy and the ability to speak out for what I believe in.

Looking at the future, what do you feel the young women of today can be most excited about?
Today’s young women have a voice and a power that can take them anywhere they want.  The ‘calling it out’ climate with Weinstein and other public figures is the tipping point and will pave the way for a world where women cannot be exploited or discriminated against.  We just have to make sure that this freedom is given to women the world over.

I have a 25 year old daughter who lives in a non-binary western society where her opportunities are the same as her brother’s. My generation and those before me have worked for this over the last 100 years so the opportunities for women are limitless.  They have always been but now the door is truly open.

 

The Funny Awards Final for 2018 is coming up! It’s on Duchess Theatre, 3-5 Catherine Street, London WC2B 5LA – take a look at the finalists here: http://funnywomen.com/event/awards-charity-final/


Filed under Uncategorized | on Thursday, March 8th, 2018 at 9:49 am

Anne-Marie is the founder of The Stemettes an award winning social enterprise that work across the UK & Ireland to support & encourage young women to choose science, technology, engineering and maths (collectively known as STEM) as careers.

Anne Marie tells us why Dame Stephanie Shirley is her role model and why she’s hoping for a real digital revolution in our educational system and in the adult learning space.

Who is your inspiration and why?
Dame Stephanie Shirley is my role model. She ran a successful company of female programmers in the 60s and they worked so hard on great projects despite the circumstances.

 
Are there still taboos around subjects related to women that you feel need to be broken or need greater awareness?
I’d love for us to fully shift a social norm: the one that says that girls don’t do technical things. So we’d see more women in STEM – in soaps, in the papers, as toys and as part of national discourse.

How do you feel about International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day on the 8 March is a peak of activity for Stemettes. A global celebration of women and those that empower them.

For us it’s an exciting day because it allows us to have STEM and technical women be a part of that wider narrative because it is something that hasn’t always been part of that discussion of women’s rights and women’s progression specifically in technology.

Looking at the future, what do you feel the young women of today can be most excited about?
I’m hoping for a real digital revolution in our educational system and in the adult learning space. Exams done digitally, more people accessing online platforms for learning. There is also so much about empowering people to learn themselves in ways that suit them, at times that suit them. Stemettes is certainly helping girls explore their options for learning – especially when they don’t have the right kind of support already.


Filed under Uncategorized | on Thursday, March 8th, 2018 at 9:49 am

 

Helen Walbey is the founder of Recycle Scooters and the only woman in Wales to own a motorcycle salvage company. She is also the National Policy Chair for Health & Diversity at Federation for Small Business’s and the Chair of Welsh Government Panel for Women’s Enterprise.

Helen tells us about the difficulties of being a female in the male dominated industry she works within and how networking has opened her eyes to the power of a supportive network of other women.

 

Who is your inspiration and why?
My grandmother, she was very poor, struggled looking after elederly and ill family members whilst working and raising a family. She was determined, positive and never one to be pushed around. She inspired me to follow my dreams and stand up for myself.

What does success in life look like to you?
A clear to do list at the end of the day and good enough time management that when I am not “in” work then work does not follow me into my downtime.

Are there still taboos around subjects related to women that you feel need to be broken or need greater awareness?
Yes, the menopause, child loss and supporting all women to make equality intersectional. So everyone gets a fair share of the pie.

What do you feel will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Navigating social media and the rise of automation in the workplace. Along with all the issues that have still not been resolved in the last 100 years!

Have there been occasions in your life where you felt that being a woman held you back, and occasions where it has propelled you?
Just being female in my industry is a challenge, it is still so very male dominated and many of the men in the industry have very traditional views that can be quite difficult to deal with. In regard to networking being a woman has helped I do not compete I collaborate and I have found so many other women who operate in the same manner. Networking has really opened my eyes to the power of a supportive network of other women.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and why?
Don’t give up and never be too proud to ask for help.

If you had to start over, knowing what you know now, what if anything, would you do differently?
Get a great team around me as early as possible. That does not mean paid staff but just a team of supporters.

What would you say is one of the biggest advances in your industry or sector over the past five years? On the reverse, is there any aspect of your sector you feel is still not progressive enough when it comes to women?
My industry has a huge amount still to do and that includes in the area if race, LGBT+ rights and supporting those with disabilities. There is a vast amount of work still to do but I suppose I can celebrate the demise of the nude calendars that I used to see everywhere.

How do feel about International Woman’s Day?
It is still needed, it is still important, and it is still vital that until girls and women across the globe get the same chances as boys and men that we all keep pushing. Men are a vital part of this too and can be incredible and powerful allies.

Looking at the future, what do you feel the young women of today can be most excited about?
The power that have to make a difference. Social media changes things so much faster than traditional methods used to. Just one person can start a global movement and that can shape the world. Never underestimate the power of one.


Filed under Uncategorized | on Thursday, March 8th, 2018 at 9:48 am

Postpartum Haemorrhage (bleeding after giving birth) is the leading cause of maternal mortality, claiming the lives of over 100,000 women every year. Although predominately a problem facing the Third World, PPH remains a threat in many forms for new mothers everywhere.

With International Women’s Day being celebrated around the globe this week, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to highlight the life and work of an incredible (yet largely unknown) woman who created a drug that has the potential to save the lives of new mothers worldwide.

The WOMAN Trial was a global investigation into maternal health, and the first large scale trial to test the effectiveness of a drug called Tranexamic (TXA), which had been created to prevent the deaths of women suffering PPH after giving birth. While our client, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine wanted us to draw attention to the trial and drug through our campaign, it was equally important to their team that we share the unknown story of its creator, Ukato Okamoto.

As we searched through interviews, archive footage and the scant trail of readily-available information online, we were fascinated to discover not only the story of a scientist driven by a desire to save lives, but of a Japanese woman and mother, who overcame all obstacles to serve a greater purpose.

At a time where Japan’s resources and morale were stretched thin following World War II and the immeasurable destruction caused by two nuclear bomb attacks, Utako’s motivations to pursue research perhaps best summarize her humility, determination and selflessness: ‘We wanted to discover new drugs to show our gratitude to humanity’. The reasons for her focus on blood research only further illustrated her character: If there was not enough, we could simply use our own’.

This was but one of many examples of a female scientist who overcame all obstacles in her path to help create a safer future for new mother’s everywhere.

When Utako’s research laboratory was destroyed during the war, she built a new one inside her own home. When she could not find a childcare support network for female researchers like herself, who struggled to balance their work/life duties, she founded and ran her own, while continuing her work. In the (still) male-dominated world of scientific research, Utako’s story is one that we hope will inspire many more women to follow in her footsteps and overcome the greatest medical threats and challenges facing us today.

Utako was not motivated by the desire for fame, recognition or wealth, but by a love of people and humanity. At the age of 98, she passed away just before the trial’s successful results became known. With the WOMAN Trial confirming TXA as an effective response to preventing bleeding after birth, Utako’s noble contribution may continue to go unnoticed by many, but for the millions of women giving birth each year, it could be life-saving.

Take a look at Utako Okamoto Story HERE


Filed under Uncategorized | on Thursday, March 8th, 2018 at 9:42 am

‘I want that little girl who was sitting in that room in her house thinking she’s alone in this world when it comes to FGM, I want her to know that she’s not alone, I want her to know that women like me are out there fighting for her.’

Hoda Ali is that woman fighting for an end to FGM. A prominent campaigner and survivor of FGM, Hoda debunks some of the myths that surround the issue and describes how education is the key to ending FGM for good.

 

 

You are a survivor of Type 3 FGM, what lasting impact did it have on you?

At age 7 I was cut in Somalia. By age 11 I experienced my first of many acute hospitalisations due to complications from FGM.

Medical complications from FGM continued to impact on my life: infections, adhesions, subfertility, IVF, miscarriage and finally the medical advice that risks to internal organs was too great, age 31 I was told IVF could no longer be pursued and I will never be able to have my own child. Age 37 I was told I’m going through premature menopause.

 

Have you ever spoken to your mother about FGM and the reasons behind taking you & your sister to be cut? How does she feel about it now?

My mum was a survivor, my grandmother was a survivor, and all the women before me in my family were survivors.  I have never doubted my mum’s love for me, she wanted the best for her daughter, society expected her to cut us, and the pressure from the community was too overwhelming so mothers have no choice but to cut their daughters.

Education is the key to end FGM, my mother witnessed my medical problems and from that moment she was against FGM which is why we are the last to be cut in our family.

 

Over the last three years, we’ve seen a big awareness drive in the UK & globally around eradicating FGM.  Just this last month, Liberia has imposed a one-year ban on FGM – being so close to the cause, do you feel the last few years have brought big change?

Yes, and one of the reasons are because survivors have started to speak out and we set up our own campaign here in the UK and around the world. We talk and show people it has nothing to do with our religion or culture, we speak about our experiences, we realised no one can speak for us and what we are going through other than us.

FGM is child abuse and we need to end it. Every time I had a medical appointment I always found myself educating the health professional who was looking after me, I used to feel sad when I think about some of the women and girls who might not speak English, living with lifelong physical problems and psychological trauma how are they going to explain? We have had the FGM act since 1985 but no one used it, so we started to demand a change.

The work on ending FGM also involves educating the communities. We can eradicate FGM if we all work together.

 

What are some of the myths people still believe about FGM?

First, we have to understand FGM is to control a woman’s sexuality and keep her virginity till marriage, period! But these are some of the myths; cultural identity, hygiene, mistaken belief that it is a religious obligation. As a result of social pressures girls may want to undergo FGM despite the lack of reference to it in religious scriptures.

 

What do you think the biggest challenge is to ending FGM?

We have to call FGM what it actually is, child abuse, to END FGM we have to have an honest conversation. We need to educate women about their human rights, about their bodies, woman have the right to say NO!

We need to call FGM what it is – the worst form of violence against girls and women – rather than let it hide under a cultural poster. It is child abuse, and we need it named as such because language is the most powerful and influential way to fight against.

 

Can you tell us a bit about the work you’re doing in schools to educate about FGM?

I believe early education is very important therefore educating pupils starting from primary schools is vital. FGM is normally carried out on young girls from infancy to 15 years of age.

Perivale Primary School in Ealing is one of the first schools in the country to set up an Outreach Programme. In partnership with the Ealing Healthy Schools Team and funding from The John Lyon Charity we will be working with 15 primary schools in the borough; training and equipping them to educate their school community about FGM and then go on to support other neighbouring schools to do the same.  Our aim is to ensure; that the whole community of Ealing understands FGM, accepts it as abuse, know the legal implications and where to go for help and support.

We will do this through listening to the local community and parents to help understand the issues and barriers that exist locally to tackle FGM, raising awareness amongst staff and pupils about FGM and its effects, constructing a suite of lessons plans and resources to use in school to help pupils learn how to stay safe.

 

Do you think older generations are seeing FGM for what it is, or is it still very much considered the right thing to do? 

It is mixed, a lot of the older generation are really seeing FGM for what it is because FGM was not something which was talked about before. It was always a secret i.e. we never shared the medical problems, we never shared the psychological problems, we never shared all the pain that we go through as survivors.

No one talked about it, so basically no one knew the effect that FGM had on people, they still thought it was something that was good.

My family in London wouldn’t do it, me and my sister are the last ones to be cut. My niece will never ever know what FGM is but if we didn’t speak out they would still be victims themselves.

Education is the key I really believe that religiously for me, things are changing but there are still older people who are living in rural areas who we can’t get through to.

 

What is needed to help bring an end to FGM?

How are we going to end FGM in our generation? Get men to work with us because at the end of the day, FGM is to control a woman’s sexuality so if the men come on board with us, if men said I don’t want my woman to be cut, trust me, all these older generations who are for FGM will stop because they are doing it to please the future men, future husbands for any of us, any of these girls. So basically, the man is the answer to ending FGM because it happens for them. So, if they say I don’t want my woman to be cut, it will stop.

We have to speak up for those 200 million women and girls worldwide who are survivors of FGM. There are some of them who have no voice, so this is where I and the other campaigners become the voice for them.

I want that little girl who was sitting in that room in her house thinking she’s alone in this world when it comes to FGM. I want her to know that she’s not alone, I want her to know that women like me are out there fighting for her.

 

Hoda Ali, Mabel Evans and Leyla Hussein set up The Vavenger’s a group campaigning to End FGM and they raise money for FGM initiatives. We asked Mabel Evans of The Vavenger’s a couple of questions on the work they do to raise awareness of FGM and the progress that is being made to end it.

 

Can you tell us a bit about the work The Vavenger’s is doing to fill the funding cut gaps to FGM support services?

The Vavengers put on live music and poetry events, in a very laid-back environment in the future we hope to put on exhibitions and plays too. The idea is to make FGM mainstream and discussed whilst people can also come and listen to really amazing artists. All the money raised at the events goes directly to the charity we are fundraising for, not a cent goes anywhere else but to the cause.

I think it’s important to get young people today discussing FGM and woman’s rights, I think in the west a lot of people disassociate to what is happening to our sisters across the globe. FGM isn’t something that is irrelevant to us, it is a human rights issue that needs to be brought into our understanding of the reality for many women and girls. The Vavenger’s main goal is to raise money for the clinics and organisations that are helping these survivors; the clinics that are not getting enough funding to offer help to those who desperately need it.

 

Do you feel from your experience of campaigning to end FGM that we are well on our way to achieving the target that the UN Sustainable Development Agenda set to put an end to FGM by 2030?

To put an end to FGM by 2030?  FGM isn’t something that you can just eradicate like a virus, unfortunately its engrained into a lot of peoples understanding regarding the roles of women. It’s a generational thing, The Vavengers often use the tagline ‘Last generation’ this is because if you are stopping one mother cutting her daughter you are saving thousands of girls that may have been cut in that family line.

To say it will end by 2030 is a lovely thought but most importantly we need to be the generation now that says enough is enough meaning that in 40 years when the girls who are children now become mothers they do not cut their daughters genitalia. Then I believe FGM will finally be a horror story of the past. To answer your question, yes, I do believe we are on the way to eradicating the practice, but by 2030?

A lot more commitment and awareness need to be bought in by the government in order to make that a reality, but I do think it’s best to stay hopeful. Ultimately as with most campaigns for the rights of women and girls I don’t think FGM is being prioritised enough in mainstream politics and media.

 

For more information or support on FGM:

Manor Garden Centre – Support for survivors 

The Vavengers’ Facebook Page

 

 


Filed under Uncategorized | on Friday, February 9th, 2018 at 3:49 pm

TWEETS


Amazing to see the statue in Parliament Square of the incredible suffragist Millicent Fawcett - who fought tirelessly for women’s right to vote in the 19th and early 20th centuries! #millicentfawcett #suffrage #100years goo.gl/XEgppe Image: Getty

test Twitter Media - Amazing to see the statue in Parliament Square of the incredible suffragist Millicent Fawcett - who fought tirelessly for women’s right to vote in the 19th and early 20th centuries! #millicentfawcett #suffrage #100years

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This week is World Creativity and Innovation week! A week for free thinking, to consider new ideas, decisions, actions and outcomes! Get your imagination and creativity flowing this week! #wciw2018 #worldcreativityweek

test Twitter Media - This week is World Creativity and Innovation week! A week for free thinking, to consider new ideas, decisions, actions and outcomes!

Get your imagination and creativity flowing this week!
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The East End Film Festival kicks off tomorrow! Opening gala is tomorrow at Rio Cinema, Dalston - they are screening Boom For Real:The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat. We'll definitely be checking out some of their screenings over the festival! goo.gl/xCSnYJ

test Twitter Media - The East End Film Festival kicks off tomorrow! 

Opening gala is tomorrow at Rio Cinema, Dalston - they are screening Boom For Real:The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat. We'll definitely be checking out some of their screenings over the festival!
https://t.co/Q2hWOfNZTm https://t.co/00c0ibtClK