A Q&A with Skye and Moacir from Cielo Collective

Introducing Moacir and Skye, the Cielo Collective and the wonderful refuge of Mision Mexico in Tapachula! What do they all have in common? They bring love, life and hope to so many men, women and especially children from Mexico and its surrounding countries. But why is the connection so important? And why are Moacir and Skye such a big part of our family and life here in Tapachula today? For those who can’t wait to hear more, for those who love ethical and sustainable fashion, and for those who just want to give back to the world; we’ve put together a small Q&A about our wonderful Moacir and Skye’s story and their inspiring Cielo Collective! Enjoy!

Hola Moacir and Skye! Firstly, tell us what’s new! How are you? Where are you both? 

Hola!! We are both very well, thank you. We are currently living in Australia, in a beautiful beach side town on the Sunshine Coast called Mudjimba. Skye grew up not far from here and it is close to where I lived when I first came to Australia for a high school exchange all those years ago. It is a wonderful community!

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So, what is Cielo Collective? Where did it all start and why?

Cielo Collective started just 2 years ago, in 2016. When Skye first visited Misión Mexico in 2011, I took her to some local markets in Tapachula. We wandered through the markets for hours talking to the artisans and small business owners there. Skye fell in love with the textiles, hearing about the artistic processes and learning about the traditions behind each piece. It really opened my eyes up to the incredible artistry of my home country. We agreed then that one day we would like to start a business that would allow us to support Mexican artisans but also give back to Misión Mexico.

In 2016 after many years of thinking about it, we made it happen! We flew to Mexico City and travelled down to various artisan communities throughout Mexico and Guatemala. During that trip we met some incredibly humble, inspirational and creative artisans. We were lucky enough to partner with 3 women’s cooperative groups and 1 small family business. We sourced and developed so many beautiful designs that we couldn’t wait to share with the world. Pam also accompanied us on parts of the trip and it was amazing to share the experience with her.

In July we arrived back in Australia with our handcrafted products and launched our online store www.cielocollective.com.au in October. Since then we have been working with each artisan group from afar to develop new designs and perfect old ones and have also connected with more artisan groups that we now work with. We also attend local markets in our area and love sharing the stories of each piece and artisan group with people in Australia and throughout the world.

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What’s the big dream for it all? 

Our dream is to provide our artisan partners with a sustainable partnership so that we can continue working with them and support them into the future. We are growing bit by bit and have been proudly creating more and more designs each year.

We want to share the beauty, skill, spirit and traditions of our artisan partners with the world, so that people all over develop a deeper appreciation for their craft and culture. We also want to continue growing our brand, so that we can not only continue working creatively on something we love, but also increase our donation to Misión Mexico year by year.

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What is the connection with Mision Mexico and why is it so important to keep the connection?

I was rescued by Misión Mexico in 2004. Pam and Alan (mum and dad) gave me a home, a family, an education and a brighter future. Because of them, my life is filled with opportunity, happiness and purpose. Not only did they put me on the right track, but they also gave me the most incredible (and large) family who continue to support me to this day. I am so grateful for everything Misión Mexico has done for me and that is why it is so important for us to give back through Cielo Collective.

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How can we check out your pieces, donate or find out more about Cielo Collective? 

You can check out our pieces online at www.cielocollective.com.au. Here you can read more information about our story, Misión Mexico and our artisan partners as well as blog posts from our travels. We are also on Facebook and Instagram as Cielo Collective.

If you live on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, you can see us at the Peregian Beach Markets every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month and at the Sunshine Coast Collective Markets every 4th Sunday of the month. We also have a range of clutches available at The Travelling Kimono store in the Noosa Junction. Our home studio is also open by appointment, so you can get in touch through our website or social media channels if you would like to visit.

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And tell us about you two! The big wedding this year? We can’t wait!

Yes!! After 8 years together, we are finally tying the knot! We are so excited that both our families will be together to celebrate, which is so rare. Mum and dad (Pam and Alan) have touched down in Australia and Maria, Lupita and Sammy from MM will be there to celebrate with us too! It is going to be an amazing day filled with love and happiness. We can’t wait to finally be Mr and Mrs and hopefully we can honeymoon in Mexico and celebrate with the kids in Tapachula sometime in the future!

Thank you so much to our wonderful Moacir and Skye for all the great they do, not only for us, but for so many others too! We want to congratulate them again on their wedding, because they’ve since got married! We can’t wait to see them soon! Wishing them all the best for the future and all the love in the world!

Love the Mision Mexico family

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You can watch Moacir’s story here; 

And support Cielo Collective here; 

And support Mision Mexico with these links; 

Who made your clothes?

So, I’m starting this blog with an exercise. I want you to look down your body. Run your hands over every item of clothing that you’re wearing, every layer and feel right down to your shoes. Feel that material and look close at the stitches. Now, think about all the other hands that have touched your clothes too. Do you know how many? Now, check the labels. Made in where? Vietnam? China? Bangladesh? And made by who?

Did you know that, if you’re reading this, you have 4x the amount of clothes in your wardrobe than your parents did? Did you know that 1 in 4 people around the world work in the fashion industry as we know it, with 98% of those people living below the poverty line, and 80% of those people being women? And is any of this making any of us happier? Hell to the no. Far from it.

I want you to meet Nazma, who at 13 years old, started work in a Bangladeshi garment factory; earning a wage equivalent to £2 a month. Nazma’s life has been extremely difficult, because not only has she worked in conditions, that some consider as modern-day slavery since she was 13 years old, but she’s also seen the hardships and inequalities of hundreds just like her.

I saw Nazma last year. She was angry with the world and asking for change.

“Women are earning £50 a month. They make your t-shirts, your dresses, your leggings. The multi-national and retailers come to where the labour markets are cheap. And when clothes are cheap, women are cheap. Nothing comes for free in this world, nothing is discount, women pay with their blood and their sweat… Women are not respected. Women should be safe in all workplaces, everywhere.” – Nazma Akter, London, 2017

And above is Laboni and her husband, who moved to Bangladesh to find work and a new life. Laboni, alongside 1,137 others died when her factory collapsed five years ago.  The Rana Plaza story still hits me hard because it’s a story so common and a story that is never taken seriously enough. A story where workers rights and concerns were ignored, and the clothes that now fill our wardrobes were made at a human cost, just like so many others.

Most of my wardrobe, and yours, would have started in the hands of girls like Laboni and Nazma. They then end up in shops worth billions of pounds. Worth enough money to pay these women and men fair living wages. Worth enough money for their CEO’s and management to actually make time and visit the hands that are making their goods. Worth enough money to ensure that no human is working in these unsafe and inhumane conditions, yet alone a 13-year-old child. Worth enough money to make a change.

You cannot exploit women in one country to empower them in another. It shouldn’t work like that. That’s not empowerment. That’s not freedom, or love, or anything positive in fact.

But we’re greedy, right? And at least they’ve got jobs, right?

Yeah in deathly conditions. You know in the UK when it hits over 25 degrees, and everyone starts banging on about ‘safe working conditions’ and workers’ rights in that godforsaken heat? Well imagine that, plus another 10 degrees, plus 10-hour working days, plus seeing your family twice a year, plus dirty living conditions, plus gruelling work environments that are unsafe and the air is filled with chemicals, plus very little choice so you’re trapped and taken advantage of. Workers in Cambodia faint daily from the heat, starvation and pure exhaustion. Who do they work for? Suppliers to Nike and Puma. For how much? £120 a month.

And that’s just a snippet of the effect it has on the people of our planet, but the fashion industry is harming our planet in extraordinary ways too.

As the consumers, we are the cause of this. We are the cause of a 500% increase in consumption. Because of us, the consumers, the factory industry is now the world’s biggest plastic polluter, the second biggest energy consumer and the biggest producer of the non-bio gradable material that is polyester. Click here for my last blog to read more about the effects that fashion has on our planet. 

 

What are the solutions?

The solutions are in our hands, and there are so many of them! As a consumer (and human being!), I love to shop, I like my clothes, and I love getting dressed up. And I’m not saying we should stop, that we should boycott and throw tomatoes at the doors of Zara, but we can shop with a conscience, with more care and with more heart. This is easier said than done, when every time you flick on to Instagram you see girls earning big bucks for promoting these labels hard. I get the pressures of society. But think, is it worth it? What’s going to really matter 10 years from now?

  • Repair, re-wear and reuse your clothes

Don’t buy anything with the thought of chucking it away. Buy things that you love and wear them with love, repeatedly. Repair them, learn to sew things up and customise!

  • Engage with and challenge current suppliers

Shop ethically and challenge the fashion industry. If a company doesn’t have transparency regarding their suppliers and production makers, then the likelihood that they either have no idea who is making their clothes or that they’re in unsuitable, unethical conditions is highly likely. Do your research, ask questions and don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right.

  • Stop sending all your old sh*t to charity shops

Use Depop, eBay, car boot sales and sell them on! You’ll make some money and your clothes will go to a new home, instead of a landfill like the ones damaging Haiti. Who’s winning now?!

  • Realise change starts with you

Nazma is now a human rights activist who spends her days fighting for justice, safe working conditions and fair pay for factory workers. We can do the same. Follow ethical brands on Instagram, shop from ethical brands and support these people hard! Move away from the stereotype that ethical fashion is expensive and exclusive. Imagine if every brand was ethical? It would all be affordable and sustainable.

 

In fact, only 1-3% of the final cost goes to the hands that actually made them, so realistically speaking, we just need to shift the money from the hands of the super rich CEO’s and into the hands of these women. This way, costs wouldn’t even go up for us…

The makers of our clothing, those who are so often invisible and marginalised, are worth celebrating and given safety and quality of life too. No-one’s life, and the future of our planet is worth losing over the latest material trends. Let’s call on the UK fashion brands to protect the women who make our clothes and the planet that we live on.

And next time you change your outfit or purchase a new item of clothing, I dare you to look at the label and ask; Who made my clothes? Is she getting paid? Is she safe? Who is she?

Thanks for reading you lovely lot!

Vanisha

X

Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

 

Things to follow:

Things to watch:

 

The dangers of fashion

Documentary watch: The True Cost and Minimalism (find them on Netflix now)

Got a new date? Buy a new dress. Feeling down? Hit the shops. Hole in your socks? Bin em. Don’t like that tee? Charity bag. Hate spending? Get bored quickly? Want cheap clothes and a tonne of option? It all sounds pretty harmless but the true cost of our shopping is literally damaging our planet and failing to protect the lives of millions around the world. Where are we going so wrong and how can we do better?

It’s funny how as you walk into a store like Topshop, you feel fully ready to splash the cash and treat yo’self (for the third time that week), whilst in a land not-so-far away, people are suffering because we just can’t help ourselves. We live in a world where we want, spend, buy, and chuck at the most alarming rates, whilst separating ourselves from the production and side-effects. The average American is currently consuming 4x more than what our planet can sustainably supply, and we brits are next in line. Altogether, we are consuming 400% more than we were twenty-years ago with the consumption of 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. Doesn’t sound so fun now right?

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Consumerism is a fairly new definition which is why there’s no surprise that people are A) unaware of the word in general and B) think it’s a joke similar to global warming. Well actually, it’s very real and very damaging and the way we are consuming is in fact the biggest joke.

Now this is not a lecture or a blog to tell you to stop waking into H&M, but a conversation with information about how we can create a better lifestyles for ourselves and others by changing our behaviours and thoughts before it’s really too late…

 The People

  • “Without my wardrobe, people would have no work” – It’s true that 97% of our clothing is made abroad, however our consumption is not only causing inhumane working conditions for the workers (that are mostly women), but is also putting people out of work too. For instance, giving all your leftovers and unwanted stuff to charity is not always the best idea. In fact only 10% of clothing gets sold in charity stores and the rest ends up in dumpsites and stores in developing countries which is then cutting out their local industries and filling their landfills with pollution and more issues thanks to the us in the west.
  • 1 in 6 people in the world work in the fashion industry. Most of these are women who are earning less than $3 a day and working in extreme conditions. From Beyonce’s big Ivy Park scandal to the deaths of over a thousand workers at Rana Plaza, people are suffering directly as a result of our mindlessness materialism.

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The Environment

  • So the 90% of clothes that don’t get sold in charity shops is boxed up and packaged to countries like Haiti and Mexico where they sit in empty shops, landfills and pollute the land and water because it’s not bio-degradable and the people in these countries don’t have the right tools and knowledge to deal with all our mess.
  • Cotton is in such high-demand that it’s now genetically modified and grown. But at a huge cost. Studies suggest that there’s almost a 20-50% chance for cotton farmers to develop cancer and other related diseases as a result of exposure. The True Cost documentary also highlights how over 250,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves due to debt related pressure from cotton farming.

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How you can make a difference:

  • Watch the documentaries ‘The True Cost’ and ‘Minimalism’ which can both be found on Netflix and will both make you question what on earth we’re doing! I’ve watched both a bunch of times and they’ve really inspired me.
  • Send your old coats to http://care4calais.org/winter-coats-needed/ and https://wrapuplondon.org.uk/
  • Stop sending all your old sh*t to charity shops. Use Depop, eBay, car boot sales and sell them on! You’ll make some money and your clothes will go to a new home, instead of a landfill like the ones damaging Haiti. Winner winner.
  • Give directly to the people that might need them and cut out the middle man of charity shops.
  • Re-vamp them, give the old stuff some love and get creative with your clothes.
  • Be a conscience shopper. Know the difference between want and need. Find things that you really love and invest rather than buying endless amounts of throwaway clothes. Slow down, think and re-wear. If you don’t love it that much, then don’t buy it. Isn’t it funny that our parents have clothes from 30 years ago in their wardrobes and I struggle to find anything older than 5 years?

Fashion can be fun, but fashion should never be the cause of someone’s death and livelihood. That’s not fun. Time to turn it around! We have a responsibility to our planet and the people in them. Let’s change the future

Thanks for reading you beautiful bunch!

Vanisha

X

Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

Resources

http://clothesaid.co.uk/where-do-your-clothes-go/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30227025

https://truecostmovie.com/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/beyonces-ivy-park-sportswear-line-denies-claims-its-clothes-were-produced-by-sweatshop-workers-a7035926.html

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17569-consumerism-is-eating-the-future/

https://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/5-crazy-facts-new-fashion-documentary-true-cost/

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Who is Frida Kahlo?

You all know her face, the famous monobrow and her colourful headdresses, but do you know who she is? Why is her face worldwide? Who is the woman behind the art and the woman behind the selfies? Who is Frida Kahlo?

 

Feeling recently inspired after watching the movie ‘Frida’ and visiting her home and museum in Mexico City, I want to share a few facts about this real life wonder woman and why I love Frida Kahlo!

 

Frida Kahlo was born in Mexico in 1907. Fighting for change in the revolution and being unapologetically herself, Frida is now an inspiration to the people of Mexico as well as the women of the world. Her face features in fashion, her art is sold for millions and her words have reached thousands. Frida Kahlo is an incredible human for so many reasons, and little did she know that her life experiences and social commitments would relate to people all over the globe!

 

Frida and Gender

Frida was well known for her eccentric style and embraced her femininity through fashion including mixes of traditional Mexican garments. However, Frida also challenged gender stereotypes on the reg. From wearing big, colourful dresses and flowers in her hair to wearing suits, competing in tequila challenges and refusing to rid her (now famous) monobrow and moustache. Frida defied what it meant to be male or female and was truly a one-of-a-kind of her time.

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Frida and Sexuality

Even today (big thanks to Salma Hayek and the movie on Netflix) people talk about Frida’s relationships and her sexuality, especially with her husband Diego. Her boldness and colourful love for life and people was completely apparent in her sexuality. Although Diego was known to be quite the womaniser (including affairs with Frida’s sister) Frida was not so innocent herself and was also known to indulge in multiple love affairs but with a twist. Frida had a love for both men and women making her actions and behaviour fearless, bold and completely inspiring. And also, a predominant LGBT icon!

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Frida Fighting for Change

Yet another reason why Frida was extraordinary was because of her determination and fight for life. Despite suffering from polio when she was younger which led to disabilities and surviving a near-fatal accident, which horrifically pained her for the rest of her life and ruined her chances of reproducing, Frida still insisted on living life to the fullest and this was represented in her social fight in the revolution, contributions to society and her promotion for peace in Mexico.

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Frida’s Art

Her art depicts her realities and pains that she felt from her own life experiences. They were raw, honest and full of emotion but so real and full of beauty. Frida painted mostly self-portraits featuring taboo topics like abortion and miscarriages. She’s the original selfie queen! Because of her art, people are drawn to her. You can really feel the heartache and frustrations that she felt through life in her paintings and drawings.

So, now you know that Frida Kahlo is not only just a pretty face, but that she is an artist, feminist and revolutionary who has inspired millions including me.

 

  • You can visit La Casa Azul in Mexico City and see the home of Diego and Frida, as well as learning more about their lives from the museum. The nearest metro station is Coyoaćan and is only 5 pesos for one journey from any location. Entrance can be pricey but if you have a student ID it’s about 1/3 of the price which is handy and totally worth it. The place was magical.
La Casa Azul
Me at La Casa Azul

You can follow me in Mexico on my Instagram @vanishamay 😊

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha

X

The Fashion of Feminism

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieWe Should All Be Feminists

 

So, my second blog is all about, guess what? Gender. Not only because it’s one of my favourite subjects to talk about but because Wednesday 8th March is International Women’s Day. And because I need a distraction from my dissertation which is due in exactly 70 days. Probably not the smartest idea but here we go…

 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the commercialisation and the trendiness of ‘girl power’ and what it means to be a feminist in 2017. Feminism is finally cool and trendy, but are we missing the point? Feminism is not about hating men and wearing Topshop t-shirts that say ‘girls bite back’. Feminism is the fight for economic, political, social, cultural equality and for the personal and human rights of women worldwide. It’s equality, and choice, and freedom, and opportunity. Feminism is for the girls that get shamed for being virgins, but at the same time shamed for being sluts. Feminism is for the 700 million women alive today that were married before the age of 18. Feminism is for the estimated 60-100 million women and girls literally ‘missing’ from the planet due to infanticide, sex-selective abortion and fatal neglect. Feminism is for all of us. But have we forgotten this?

 

Which is why I’m struggling with the modernity of it all, and although many of you may be surprised, I’m gonna use Beyoncé as my main example. Beyhive, brace yourselves. I feel that the future of feminism and the real reasons for the importance of it all is becoming tedious and silly thanks to mainstream media and the fashion of being a feminist. Are we commodifying the issues and struggles that affect at least 49.6% of the worlds population? I feel that people are buying into the fad of it, but have no real knowledge of the point of being a feminist, or for those who don’t like the term, for the real fight for equality and lives that depend on it.

 

Andi Zeisler talks about the issues with marketplace feminism and the rise of celebrities jumping on the ‘feminist bandwagon’ in her book “We Were Feminists Once”. Here we have a generation of girls completely lapping up everything to do with ‘girl power’, (and don’t get me wrong, I’m digging most of it) but I’d like to think I’m quite educated on the subject and passionate about the issues surrounding gender inequality. Well hopefully, otherwise these last few years at uni were a waste and I need to re-think my whole future career. The issue that I have is that although it’s all well and good that we can showcase our feminism more, how is it actively and affectively changing our situations?

 

Watching Beyoncé at the O2 arena a few years ago nearly bought a tear to my eye. The words FEMINISM in huge letters behind her while she sings about running the world. Amazing. And thanks to her performances, millions of people of all genders, people like me, felt the empowerment and solidarity that feminism is all about. She’s an incredibly strong, powerful and successful woman. But she’s also a successful businesswoman and brand. And the realisation of singing a song, or singing along to a song could be all that we have to offer feminism in a 21st century was pretty poop. Although it could be a start, it’s not enough for the real struggles girls face around the world. Beyoncé is not alone, along with other celebrities, the same could be said for companies such as Always with their #LikeAGirl campaign and Pantenes’ #ShineStrong campaign, companies that are ‘femvertising’ to the fullest. Here we see the rise of hashtag feminism, likes, shares and “stories told in 140 characters”, but where videos like Pantene promotes the ideas that women are too apologetic, while having ‘swishy, shiny hair’, is this fourth wave of feminism selling the fight for feminism or selling their brands in the name of feminism? As Zeisler says “The important thing is to have a degree of literacy about it” which is something that is missing from mainstream media and those following marketplace feminism.

We have come a long way though. People are finally embracing feminism, and celebrities using their platform to promote equality whether it be women’s right or black rights is not all bad surely?

 

The scandal that could suggest where feminism is going wrong is the Ivy Park scandal that we saw last year. Picture this: Beyoncé and her team of all women dancers, on a stage in front of millions, with a speech by the legendary Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the words feminism in bold, big letters behind her, then on comes ‘Who Run The World?’. Meanwhile, in South Asia, are the women workers who are making Beyoncé’s (who has a net worth estimate of £216million) new clothing line ‘Ivy Park’ for Topshop (a net worth estimate of $6.7billion), for an outrageous 52p per hour in cramped conditions where they have restricted freedoms, curfews at night, no kitchen spaces and share with men. My fangirling for Beyoncé was pretty shattered at this point, and everything she did after this including her infamous ‘Lemonade’ album where she supposedly ‘embraces feminism’ but is aggressive, slates other girls, and talk about how ‘bomb her pussy is’, makes me question what on earth she wants us to celebrate. Is feminism just a platform for her and other celebrities and companies to make money and mess with the movement?

 

I’m not about to delete all my Beyoncé and Taylor Swift songs off my itunes, for the same reason I’m not about to stop using Dove when I shower, because as brands and as music artists, I love them, I can’t fault them there. But as feminists? I think they’ve got a few things very wrong.

 

Issues like this, along with analysing some of the many ‘empowering’ songs that even I have on my ‘girl power’ playlist, are some of the reasons why I’m going to ask myself, and you, to challenge the fad of feminism, to do your research, to question the trend, and to remember the importance of the real issues that girls face in the world, just because they are girls.

 

For the 125 million girls who are out of education, for the girls who are growing up in situations where society tells them “It is more profitable to raise geese than a girl” (Yep, a traditional Chinese saying), for your friends, for your sisters, for your mothers, for yourselves, and for everyone, let’s focus on the importance of equality.

 

For those of you that are interested, here are a bunch of documentaries available on Netflix and online that highlight some of the issues girls face:

  • The Hunting Ground
  • Born into Brothels
  • The True Cost
  • India’s Daughter
  • Finding Home
  • Audrie & Daisy
  • Missrepresentation
  • It’s A Girl
  • The Invisible War
  • Half the Sky

 

International Women’s day is next week, Wednesday 8th March. You can join in at these events:

London – Sunday 5th March, 12pm – March 4 Women by Care International

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/march4women-registration-30692401800?aff=erelexpmlt

London – Wednesday 8th March, 18:00pm – BE Unplugged ‘Disrupting the Future: Passion, Purpose and Change

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/be-unplugged-disrupting-the-future-passion-purpose-and-change-tickets-31879903650

London – Saturday 11th March, 12:30pm – Million Women March and Rally

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/million-women-rise-march-and-rally-tickets-32049705532?aff=erelexpmlt

 

https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

 

Thanks for reading guys!

Feedback is appreciated 🙂

xox