Reblog: Will Gen Z help the fashion industry clean up its act?

I found this article on the Guardian’s Fashion page, and found some of the points raised about the way we’re thinking about our fashion shopping very interesting. It’s encouraging to see the wave of new brands catering to ethical production of our clothes, and demonstrating that the slow fashion movement can match seasonal trends and styles.

Here’s my Evernote clip of the article, where I’ve highlighted important snippets of information.

I’m trialling this method of reblogging and sharing pieces from the internet, and hope it works. I’d love to hear your thoughts – on the piece and the idea that the younger generation, especially younger millennials, might be our greatest allies in pushing for ethical fashion.

https://www.evernote.com/shard/s36/sh/b2cffbd9-6466-4888-9389-d3aacfcd185b/0f1c248f35ce81364c1625d39a64f796

 

‘Touch of Care’

 

I saw this video this morning, and I’m filled with optimism and joy.

I’ve shared posts before about encouraging movements from south Asia, targetting women’s rights, beauty standards and feminism. This is the first time I’ve come across a nation-wide campaign normalising transgender people and their lives.

I knew what to expect when I saw the article accompanying it on NPR, but it was still a wonderful surprise that the video didn’t preach, or generate a rallying call to arms, or worse yet, and as is often seen in south Asia, portray transgender people as caricatures or as objects of ridicule.

It’s a normal story about a girl on her way back to university, thinking about her childhood and her parent. Only at the end do you realise that her mother is transgender, though it’s hinted throughout the video through the partial shots of her mother.

The woman playing her mother is Gauri Sawant, an activist and head of Sakhi Char Chowghi Trust, an NGO based in Bombay which works with transgender people. The story in the video is based on Gauri’s life raising Gayatri, the daughter of a sex worker friend of Gauri’s. Many articles have sprung up in the past few days talking about it, Gauri’s work, and that’s generating even more discussion around the reality of transgender rights and equality in India – which gives me a lot of hope.

I’m buoyed by the fact that the social media response has been overwhelmingly positive, despite the – legitimate – cynical critique of Vicks. The link between the product and the video isn’t clear, this could just be PR stunt, etc. To me though, it’s not really an ad for Vicks in the way this was an ad for Tanishq, for example. So I’m treating it almost as a short movie, independent of the brand. It doesn’t matter to me if the ‘caring for families for generations’ super is accurate or not. This is an equally bold move for Vicks, and similarly to the Tanishq ad, makes a topic that’s either taboo or at best, marginalised, something for everyone to talk about. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

Celebrate International Women’s Day differently

Today is International Women’s Day, marked around the world in many different ways.

It’s also the 100th anniversary of the start of the Russian Revolution – on 8 March 1917, female textile workers protested in Petrograd, forcing the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, and Russian women won the right to vote.

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Cast a look on social media today and you’ll be inundated with photos, videos, memes, statistics, quotes and a host of other visuals commemorating women’s achievements through the ages, the further struggles that lie ahead, the reality of women’s oppression around the world today, or – sometimes – funny jokes. Many of these are informative, heart-breaking, inspiring and/or important to share.

But so many are mere platitudes, which illicit a response for all of five seconds before they’re gone from your mind. Like these ones, from Instagram and the official IWD page:

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This will form the bulk of most people’s contributions today; a simple message (sometimes with grammatical errors) saying ‘Happy Women’s Day’, and a few cheerleader-esque platitudes, and fin.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, simply because that’s the way most of us mark a special day/holiday on social media. I wanted to take the chance today to write about what it means for me, and why some of the ways in which IWD is ‘celebrated’ make me uncomfortable.

First of all, a cursory glance at social media or at the many protests taking place globally today (check out #DayWithoutWomen on Twitter and Instagram for some truly powerful photos and symbols of resistance) will show you that most of those partaking are women. That’s antithetical to a movement as powerful as feminism.

Feminism is about equality, opportunity, choice and freedom.

That’s universal, so I don’t like to see that mostly women are sharing these posts, or wishing each other, or being the most visible participants.

However, that’s an issue of the feminist movement as a whole, not necessarily with today – but it’s one of the many glaring examples of where we need to ensure we’re a more inclusive movement. During the Budapest Women’s March in January for example, about 95% of those attending were women, despite the organisers being men from Greenpeace. What’s wrong with today, and with the movement, that it’s seen to involve or target women, rather than address fundamental issues about opportunity, freedom and justice?

Secondly, these platitudes. What do they say of our struggle to date, of the millions of women around the world who have given their lives, freedoms and rights so we’re allowed the rights we have today (and so I can blog about it right now?)

It feels cheap, somehow, to quote a Beyoncé song or post a tokenistic picture of super-heroines. If we’re going down the diversity route, where is the Maori Wonder Woman? Where’s the tall, fat woman? Where’s the Native American, the south Asian, the hijab-clad Muslim Wonder Woman?

Attempts to get shares on social media, or reblogs of zippy soundbites, are not what we need. We need today to be about more than that, and for an actual commitment from more than just women to the longer term causes.

Feminism:

My dad, one of the first real feminists in my life and a constant source of strength and inspiration (fine, I may be a little biased) shared a series of Tweets which perfectly encapsulates the day and how we ought to think more about our movement.

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Third, I notice that people speak about women’s rights, opportunities and achievements only on this day. The struggle for equality and freedom is ongoing, and we can’t reserve all our activism, passion or anger for just one day. We should champion achievements, highlight the road ahead and speak about these issues constantly if we’re to make any impact.

We’ll post a picture, maybe share an article or two, and for the most part, I see so many people leave their activism there – it’s called clicktivism for a reason, and it’s not enough.

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So to that end, I’ve thought about ways we can make our dedication to the issues underlying today’s celebration more relevant and lasting – the easiest way is to donate to an organisation near you, volunteer time, arrange campaigns and join coalitions in your area. I’ve trawled the internet and my own database of resources, and here are some ideas for ways in which we can be of service to our global sisterhood beyond today.

 

CAF America shares this inspiring set of ways to educate yourself on the issues facing women, and the work done to combat it, here.

UN Women’s focus this year is ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 505-50 by 2030.’ Read more about their campaign here, the events they’re hosting and the wealth of resources to support representation in the work place.

Women in the global workforce

Courtesy UN Women

Womankind UK shares this page of resources, with links to their global partners.

You can filter by geography, and learn more about the work of each of these incredible groups. Here are some examples:

Afghan Women Resource Centre (AWRC)

AWRC strives to help women improve their economic and social well-being and enables them to become active in decision-making processes. They encourage them to stand up for their rights and be active and confident members within their families and communities.

The Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre (Gender Centre)

The Gender Centre is committed to promoting and protecting the human rights of women. It works with both women’s groups and other organisations providing support and training in areas such as implementing women’s rights, project planning and campaigning. The Gender Centre was established in 1995 to make sure women’s rights were included in development programmes in Ghana.

WHR Nepal campaigners

Courtesy Womankind UK

Here are some excellent globally-focussed groups working on women’s empowerment, access rights, championing leadership and representation, or working towards equality and justice:

 

Women for Women International

A nonprofit that works with women who have experienced war, civil strife and other conflicts, providing them with the tools and resources to become financially independent and self-sufficient, WfWI was founded in 1993 and has helped more than 351,000 women through direct aid, rights education, job skills training and small business development. They currently operate in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Sudan. Women for Women International offers a one year program that teaches job skills and business training to women in conflict, in addition to facilitating group therapy sessions for war survivors.

 

Every Mother Counts

An advocacy and mobilization campaign to reduce maternal mortality, which seeks to improve the health and well-being of women and girls worldwide by educating and supporting maternal mortality reduction. Hundreds of thousands of women die each year from pregnancy complications or childbirth difficulties, 90% of these deaths are preventable. No Woman, No Cry is a documentary by Christy Turlington that shares the stories of at-risk pregnant women from around the globe. The film spreads the message of the need for  resources and education to reduce maternal mortality. The nonprofit also collects old mobile phones to be donated to health care providers in rural areas to provide better communication and medical services.

 

The Association of Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)

The Association of Women’s Rights in Development is an international, feminist, membership organization committed to achieving gender equality, sustainable development and women’s human rights. AWID provides comprehensive information and analysis on women’s human rights and global issues.

 

Samahope

Millions of people worldwide lack access to basic surgical care. Local doctors and resources are stretched thin to provide medical care on a large scale. To address this issue, Samahope enables supporters worldwide to fund these doctors through crowdfunding. Donations underwrite treatments for birth injuries, burns, birth defects, blindness and trauma-based injuries. The platform has activated more than 3,000 donors to impact the lives of over 6,000 patients.

 

Dressember

In 2013, Dressember’s fifth year, the organization aligned with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and modern-day slavery. That year, 1,233 registered participants around the world rallied to collectively raise over $165,000. Participation doubled the next year, and the campaign raised more than $465,000. Starting in 2015, the campaign will increase its partnerships with other anti-trafficking organizations.

 

Girls Who Code

Seventy-four percent of middle schools girls express interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), but only 0.4 percent of high school girls choose computer science as their major. Girls Who Code aims to empower girls with the computer science education and skill sets needed to pursue 21st century opportunities. The deputy public advocate of New York City, Reshma Saujani, the organization’s founder and CEO, started Girls Who Code to close the gender gap in technology. In 2014, its programs served 375 girls in multiple cities. Some 90 percent continued to pursue computer science or a closely related field as their major or minor, and 77 percent changed paths because of their time with Girls Who Code. By moving toward gender parity in computing fields, more girls will be equipped with the tools they need to innovate and incite social change.

 

Ultraviolet Edge Initiative

The Ultraviolet Edge is a global initiative of Urban Decay Cosmetics to empower women. By helping to fund organizations that fight for the rights of women everywhere, Urban Decay encourages all women to embrace their individuality in everything they do.

 

Women’s Partnership Market

Women’s Partnership Market supports grassroots organizations like Women’s Global to empower female entrepreneurs through access to business training and microfinance to address the root causes of poverty.

 

 

Bustle’s list of groups also includes some international organisations, such as:

We respect, protect and promote the dignity of our clients and their communities.

Courtesy Camfed

Camfed

International nonprofit Camfed has been pioneering girls’ education programs in sub-Saharan Africa since 1993. According to its website, the organization’s programs have directly supported more than a million students through primary and secondary school. To donate, head over to the Camfed website.

Engeder Health

Family planning is a pressing issue for women, and that’s the focus of global nonprofit EngenderHealth, along with STI prevention and maternal health. Check out the organization for yourself and donate here.

Pro Mujer:

Founded in Bolivia in 1990, Pro Mujer is a women’s development organization distributing small loans to women in Latin America. Since its creation, Pro Mujer has loaned out more than $2.8 billion, $340 million of which was distributed last year. Donate here.

Pathfinder: 

According to its website, global nonprofit Pathfinder “envisions a world where everyone has access to contraception, where there are zero new HIV infections, where no woman dies from preventable pregnancy-related complications, and where everyone leads a healthy sexual and reproductive life.” The organization is dedicated to worldwide sexual health using a groundbreaking community-based model. Donate here.

Recipe: Sour and Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup

The Hairy Bikers made this soup as part of their ‘Best of British’ series some years ago, and I’ve been making it religiously ever since then. The original recipe is a bit labour-intensive, so I’ve adjusted it through the years to suit my palate and patience levels. It’s now lazy-person compatible, which suits me perfectly.

It involves building up a fragrant stock and then adding chicken meatballs, drawing inspiration from Matzo balls – so it’s a bit of a fusion-y soup, which I’ve turned Thai along the way. Ah well. The stock is sour and spicy, with a second huge spicy hit coming from the chicken balls.

I hate being ill. I know right, shocker. I turn into a complete drama queen, convinced I’m going to die and that all hope is lost. This soup, I have discovered, can just about help me keep my head on my shoulders and get some perspective. Besides which, focussing for hours on perfecting the flavours gives me something else to think about than my inevitable mortality and the fragility of my body.

I told you I get dramatic.

Just in time for Christmas, I’ve been struck down with a stupid cold, so I distracted myself with some nice music and spending an afternoon making this. I’ve been promising the recipe to friends for years, so finally here it is!

For the chicken meatballs

500g chicken breast

5″ piece of ginger, skin on if it’s fresh enough

5-6 cloves garlic

3 spicy chillies (I use bird’s eye)

Large handful of coriander (you could also use 2 tsp of Indian coriander chutney if you have it!)

2tbsp lemon juice

1 large onion

For the fragrant stock

3L chicken stock

3 lemongrass leaves, slightly bruised and sliced

4 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced

1/3 cup fish sauce

1 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup soy sauce

4-5 bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped

3″ square ginger

Large handful coriander, chopped

Small handful Thai basil, chopped

Small handful mint, chopped

Vegetables to go in the stock

This is up to you – whatever you have to hand can work really well. Carrots, mushrooms, peppers, bean sprouts, beans, anything. Add them once the stock is finished, to cook before adding the chicken, and to your taste.

Mix all the ingredients for the stock (except the fresh herbs) in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then a rolling simmer.

While the stock is simmering and the flavours are intensifying, make the chicken balls.

In a chopper, mix all the ingredients except the chicken until you get a fine paste. Remove and add to a mixing bowl, and season to taste. Then add the chicken to the chopper and mince it finely. This will also ensure that you get all the goodness out of the chopper, since the chicken gets into all the nooks and crannies as it’s mincing – easier to wash up!

Add the chicken to the bowl, and thoroughly mix it all together so you have a large blob of delicious-smelling chicken. You may need to add more lemon juice to get the consistency you want. Leave the chicken to marinate as you check on the stock.

(You could always form the chicken into balls and freeze them for the next time you’re about to die of a cold. Jus’ sayin’.)

Add ingredients and seasonings to the stock as you desire, to make sure the flavours are well balanced. If you’re making this when you’re at death’s door, as I am now, don’t hold back on the ginger, garlic or chilli! All of these act as anti-oxidants and help expel the germs. Plus they taste divine.

This is the most hassle-laden stage of cooking, and the one I pay most attention to since a perfect broth is a Godsend when you’re ill.

The ingredients and quantities above are rough guidelines that I use as a base, but some days I’ll add more chillies, other days I’ll throw in some sugar – feel free to experiment. Some Shaoxing rice vinegar or mirin gives it an interesting depth, as does green tea.

When you’re happy with how the stock tastes, strain out the aromatics and add your vegetables to cook. The chicken should take about 5-7 minutes to cook, so depending on the vegetables you use, and how crunchy you want them, you can add the chicken at the same time.

Divide the chicken mixture evenly – I tend to get around 30 balls – and roll them between your palms. You may need to wet your hands to make them easier to handle and shape. As they’re ready, just drop them into the soup. When they’ve all been added, add the chopped herbs and prepare your final garnishes. Sometimes I like to garnish with julienned ginger and even more chilli!

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I like to bulk this out by adding egg noodles at this stage, but you could of course keep tis as just a simple soup. If you’re adding noodles, cook them towards the end, and in the same pot

Test if the chicken is cooked all the way though, and when it’s ready, ladle the whole thing out into your favourite bowl and enjoy!

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Recipe: Chicken Stock

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I always used to find making your own stock a huge hassle, and it still takes me a while to get psyched enough to spend hours tasting and adding ingredients. But when you’ve got bones from a leftover meal hanging around, it just seems wasteful to throw them away. Then I discovered the joys of a Dutch oven. Hallelujah! So here’s my recipe for a basic, European-style chicken stock.

Ingredients – makes 2L stock

Bones from one whole chicken, or any amount of bones you have to hand. I normally use about 750kg of bones and leftovers for this. You could even use leftover chicken meat for this, though I’d say that’s better kept for an amazing cold sandwich!

Leftover chicken skin, or wings/neck clipped by your butcher. Mine trims it down for me, so I keep these bits and any extra skin he trims off.

Vegetable peels (save these up over a week or two, mostly from onions, garlic, carrots and other soup-y vegetables)

2 large onions, sliced

1/2 head garlic, roughly chopped

6 sticks celery, roughly chopped

3 large carrots, roughly chopped

Fresh herbs of your choice – I normally use bay, thyme, oregano and a little parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a large saucepan (or Dutch oven), start by caramelising the chicken skin over a low heat. Extract all the fat, and this lends a wonderful flavour to the entire stock. Throw in all the scraps of skin and once they’re crisped, you can either leave it in or snack on them!

Add the chicken bones to the fat, to caramelise them as well. You could alternatively roast the bones in your oven with the vegetables, but this way you keep all the flavour in one pan. The bones should sizzle nicely, and when you smell the flavour getting deeper, add the vegetable peels and the vegetables as well, and sauté for a minute or so.

Add enough cold water to completely cover your bones and vegetables – in my pan, it’s about 3L. Add an extra litre of water than the amount of stock you want at the end, so there’s enough room for it to cook down and absorb all the flavours. The important part is to keep your bones completely submerged, so adjust amounts accordingly.

Bring to a boil, and turn it down to a simmer. At this point, you’ll start seeing some scum appearing at the top – just use a slatted spoon to get rid of it. This should ensure that your stock is clear and free of impurities, since the congealed proteins rise to the top along with unnecessary fat.

Keep it at a simmer, and keep pouring the scum out. Add the herbs once you’ve got rid of most of the scum, and keep the stock at a simmer.

Check it regularly for seasoning – about every 15 minutes, but add the salt only when it’s about 90% done. For some reason, adding salt too early can make stock too bitter, so I’ve found this is the best way for me to do it. Add herbs, vegetables and other seasonings as you’d like at this point.

Tip: I flavour stocks for different cuisines at this point, adding soy sauce and Shaoxing rice vinegar for a Chinese stock; lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and palm sugar for a Thai stock; chillies, oregano and pepper for a Mexican broth, etc. Experiment with your favourite cuisines and flavours to customise your own stock!

Once it’s almost ready, add the salt and taste it one final time. When you’re happy with it, pass it through a fine sieve and then leave it to cool completely. It should be clear and shiny, and taste like a dream. You can either use it immediately, or freeze it for later (be sure to label it with the date and the type of stock). Enjoy!

 

 

 

Hungarian Artisan Christmas Market

My office recently held a Christmas fair, inviting the NGOs and craftspeople we support to sell handmade crafts and food. It was an incredible chance for us to meet groups from across Hungary working on many different issues, and to learn more about what drives them. I had the chance to speak to some of the sellers about their work, and thought I’d share their stories and some photos with you. If you’re looking for traditional crafts from Hungary, made by hand and with care for their communities, look no further!

 

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These candle holders are made out of recycled paper, by workers at Búzavirág Alapítvány (Cornflower Foundation). Búzavirág works with visually-challenged communities in rural Hungary, to enable them to live independently, since they receive little support from the local authorities.

They’ve been working towards self-sufficiency for the visually impaired since 1997, with the goal of providing financial independence and the self-confidence that earning your own money provides, through promoting traditional craftsmanship and teaching self-sustainability to its artisans.

They make pottery, baskets and carpets, and provide the necessary marketing and business skills to their artisans, enabling them to sell these goods at different craft markets. Find out more about the group’s mission, and the beautiful items they sell here.

 

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Image courtesy Búzavirág Alapítvány

 

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Image courtesy Búzavirág Alapítvány

 

Igazgyöngy Alapítvány (Real Pearl Foundation) has been working towards community development in eastern Hungary since 1999, and provides members of one of the most disadvantaged regions of the country with art education, vocational courses and builds community cohesion through family care. The organisation is split into an art school and a foundation, which works directly with the entire community while the art school is for children from the 12 nearest municipalities.

Children of all ages, from municipalities in Hajdú-Bihar county learn graphic design, handicrafts, enamelwork, painting and dance. All proceeds from sales of art school goods go back into the foundation’s work to provide community development to families, many of whom are also Roma and face multiple layers of discrimination and exclusion, particularly in this region of Hungary.

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Image courtesy Igazgyöngy Alapítvány

Image courtesy Igazgyöngy Alapítvány

Zsuzsa Formanek, an artist and founder of Budai Rajziskola, designs and creates unique decorative and practical works of art using recycled glass. Check out more of her work here.

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Courtesy Zsuzsa Formanek

Courtesy Zsuzsa Formanek

What do you think? Everything available in the market was beautiful, made with love and gave back to their communities. This is part of the reason I love Christmas – the push for meaningful, ethical presents for loved ones is strongest towards the end of the year, and it’s always great fun to wander around a market!

Recycled Plastic Pot for Winter Greens

Two weeks ago, I bought some over-priced fresh herbs, from the token over-priced shop for foreigners in my neighbourhood. They’re sold in small plastic containers like this, and I always feel it’s such a waste to just put them in the recycling heap. I reuse the cling film they’re wrapped in, especially since they’re swaddled in layers of it. Buying herbs this way always makes me feel like my guacamole has come at a huge cost, though and I feel very guilty for the privilege.

But then it hit me – why not use them as planters, and move up my winter garden plants by a few months? I have rocket, pak choy and spinach leaves ready to plant, but wasn’t planning to start until the end of the month.

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Since the containers don’t have holes in them, the plants in them don’t need incessant watering, and thankfully rocket and spinach are quite resilient anyway.

I used a mixture of normal potting soil and used coffee grounds to line these containers about halfway, then sprinkled a good handful of seeds in, and covered them. I keep them damp, and on my window ledge where this little ‘recycled garden’ gets partial sunlight throughout the day. Since the containers are transparent I’ve been able to ensure the plants don’t get waterlogged. Two weeks later, the spinach has sprouted beautifully and I have to say, looks quite cute!

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I hope it grows steadily in the coming weeks and I can justify this use of plastic! What do you think?