Student Media: A ‘race’ to the bottom

Student Media: A ‘race’ to the bottom

Reading an article in the Metro today about diversity in the BBC, following their published list of their highest earners, it reminded me of this post I wrote earlier on in the year about diversity in student media. Clearly there are still inequalities, be it in student media or in the big old industry!

See Metro article: Metro article:


We are almost two decades into the 21st century and still we find that minority groups continue to be marginalised within mainstream media, often being misrepresented or unrepresented altogether. Which is worse?  Surely what is covered within the media is worth discussing (usually), but what about the stories of the voices which are left unexposed? Should they not bear an equal weight of importance, too? Why chose not to cover the struggles faced by black women and girls within Sub-Saharan Africa, but have expansive airtime of an anti-immigration, anti-global aid assistance and misogynistic (for good measure) president? These are complex questions which require much thought and discussion into the ways in which this normative ignorance within media reportage can possibly be improved.

17273547_10210733646792495_1512973016_o Hazel Healey from New Internationalist talks about community share

On Saturday 4 March, the ‘War of Words: Progressive Media Conference’ took place at my very own university…

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Grenfell: United We Stand

Grenfell: United We Stand

On June 14th, the lives of hundreds of people, thousands even, changed overnight. A fire, which attacked and seized all within reach, grew higher, attacked higher, seized higher, for hours on end, with little respect for future consequences. Some have called it ‘social cleansing’, others a mere accident. But in light of this, in light of what this tragedy represents, it also demonstrates the human solidarity and unity which collects itself; you shrug off the smoke and the ashes, and get back up to help others. To keep moving. To keep people living. To keep the faith. This is a photo essay about the Grenfell Tower fire, and how ‘United We Stand’.

Photo 1: Grenfell Tower from afar, burnt to a crisp but still standing

This photo of Grenfell Tower weeks on from the fire, taken from afar, is a bold and striking reminder of a fatal incident. You can see the building from miles away, and which is only really within walking distance from Latymer Road Underground Station, West London. Location is a particularly significant part of this puzzle. This piece of wounded architecture standing tightly in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea seems to represent the inequality within the area between working-class people and those with power and authority; those who have the power to make decisions – which are clearly not always well-thought through. More so, just around the corner are wealthier, middle-income earning individuals and celebrities, which only has led to people theorising over the concept of ‘social cleansing’, which, while I believe this to be a horrible use of language, can only be deemed as a possible explanation given the contemporary climate. Within a developed country in the world, who would have thought that this would be possible?

Photo 2: Photos of missing peoples stuck onto a door of the Nottinghill Methodist Church

These are the faces of the individuals, whose whereabouts are still unknown. Families are being separated, with both young and older people still missing. Police are keeping the death toll at around 80, but people are not stupid. There are so many questions to ask, and so few people willing to answer them.

Photo 3: Among flowers, notes and candles is a child’s toy

All around the neighbouring area are candles, notes and flowers scattered to mark the loss of a loved one, or from those hoping that more are still alive. But in the centre of this photo is a children’s toy, ‘Eeyore’, a well-known character, taken from a well-loved children’s story, ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’. I loved Winnie-the-Pooh when I was younger, so to have this symbolise a child’s life either sacrificed or still missing, only honed in the harsh reality of this fateful incident even more so. Very, very young children have lost their lives to this, with the world missing out on what they could have seen, been and done.

Photo 4: A Liverpool scarf is hung onto the gates by Nottinghill Methodist Church

This fourth photo I thought was very interesting. It both resembles this sense of unity and support from the local, national and international community, but it also reminds me of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. In an article I read in the New York Times a week before taking these photographs, I found that there are some harrowing similarities between this historical disaster and Grenfell. Both young and working-class people were victims of poor decision-making on behalf of authoritative powers (do I hear social-cleansing again?). And these so-called authorities seemed to blame the incident, which was a semi-final match taking place at Hillsborough Stadium in Liverpool, on those aforementioned ‘rowdy’ young and working class. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t take almost another 30 years for a thorough inquiry to be published, let alone a genuine apology.

Photo 5: Signs are displayed to voice the injustice faced by Grenfell Tower victims

People want their voices heard. There is so much loss, uncertainty, anger…

Photo 6: A star hangs on a gate, with the slogan ‘United We Stand’

… and hope. This last photo I thought I would save for the end of this photo essay to reiterate just how strongly people come together in times of despair, whether its an incident like Manchester, Finsbury Park, London Bridge or Grenfell. The peace, the love, the harmony – it’s all wrapped up within this one symbol, which serves as a sign that while Grenfell tower still stands, albeit for some time, so will we.


I am currently working on a video I filmed about these tributes to Grenfell Tower victims, including shots of people that are still missing. A friend will also be composing original music for this short video. We hope to edit and publish this as soon as.

Trump, you troublesome troll, who will bridge the gap now?

The man who is prepared to cut US foreign aid in developing countries, particularly in areas of family planing, who I hope knowingly leads to various catastrophic consequences, goes by a name none other than Donald Trump.

Indeed, this isn’t a character assassination as such, but more of a rant on one singular man’s poor political decision-making

The problem: According to articles published in The Guardian today, and in the last few days, his actions include: planned budget cuts (having already decided to cut ObamaCare), and adopting a sterner approach towards the ‘Global Gag’ rule (otherwise known as the Mexico City rule), which, for those of you who are not familiar, ‘requires NGOs to certify that they will not perform or promote abortions anywhere in the world as a condition for receiving US family planning funds’. Those of which who refuse to sign will be denied access to health assistance, such as for HIV, TB and malaria programmes, and nutrition.

The ‘Global Gag’ rule will lead to an amalgamation of catastrophic consequences, particularly for NGOs who promote sexual and reproductive rights, and who are tackling high demands for abortion. However, in countries such as the Philippines, a country which is 78% Catholic, abortion is not allowed under the eyes of the law, nor the Catholic Church. Emergency contraception is not an option, not even for rape victims.

As a result, this leads to clandestine and unsafe abortions. In a documentary, also produced and edited by The Guardian, it was noted that 610,000 abortions occur each year in the Philippines, of which 3 women die every day due to unsafe circumstances. I ask you, Trump, is this really the reality you intend on enforcing?

It’s torture. Pure torture.

Women are having their abdomens punched and kicked; having barbecue sticks inserted into their vaginas in order to potentially puncture the fetus, all for a lack of funding – which had previously seen progress in population control.

This is true in the case of Nigeria, which now poses risks of a population boom as a result of the ‘Global Gag’ rule. ‘Cuts to US foreign aid enacted by the US administration mean that supplies of contraception are dwindling in Nigerian family planning services.’ As a result, this means that Nigeria is set to overtake the US in becoming the third largest country by 2050, just after India and China. Philippines will be 13th.

Contraception, you may suggest? Well, as ideal as this sounds, contraception is majoratively inaccessible, and individuals also choose to not take it for a variety of reasons. In the Philippines, 65% of women don’t use contraception. This is because of a fear of side-effects, lack of knowledge, and even embarrassment (in asking parents for contraception, such as condoms or the pill). Children as young as 12 and 13 are considering having sexual intercourse, and end up becoming pregnant due to the stigma of being deemed sexually promiscuous, as well as the fact that schools don’t have sex-education/contraception sessions.

The wider problem: Women do not have the choice in controlling their own bodies – governments and patriarchy do. Women are seen as second-class citizens in many developing countries. This is leading to many problems, including both deaths and population increase at the same time.

The debate: Understandably, many countries are against abortion because of societal norms, traditions, and culture, stemming from their religious beliefs and values. This is certainly the case in the Philippines. Yet, women should not want to seek abortions, should they have the materials, resources and support in place in order to plan their pregnancies more effectively and carefully. However, with lack of access or even knowledge of contraception, most of which is because of a LACK OF FUNDING, how are women practically meant to get themselves out of this vicious circle they call day-to-day reality? Trump, I ask you again, who will bridge the gap now?

Solutions… Fortunately, there are some individuals who, collectively, want to implement further sustainable family planning. Starting with Melinda Gates from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), along with the UK Department for International Development (DIFD) and the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, together they have co-hosted summit in London, where Gates will announce a big funding increase for family planning. However, this is still not enough.

If we want to see a world with a sustainably controlled population growth, and lack of ‘botched’, tortuous abortions, we need to have the world’s most powerful coming together to tackle these challenges. Rather than diverting funds towards waging wars, or spending half of your time on Twitter feuds, why not target your time and money towards allowing women to have more control over their bodies. This may be asking for a lot, but certainly and most positively when a woman is empowered, her whole family (or planned family) is, too. Think about it. I dare you, Trump, just think.


Here are the number of articles I refer to in this post:

Gender Trouble

Gender Trouble

Hairy calves standing boldly under a leather skirt; a flat chest under a fish-net vest; a woman dressed in a suit. Is this masculine enough? Too feminine? Heterosexual? Homosexual? Whether there are any such explanations which can actually answer such heavy questions, this is the work of Anna Sampson, photographer, whose photographs challenge the notions of gender identity.

Outside Doomed Gallery, Ridley Road Market

Hidden away and almost out of sight near the bottom of Ridley Road Market – closest station, Dalston Kingsland – it’s all too easy to innocently walk past (much like I did) Doomed Gallery, where Sampson, London-based photographer, is showcasing her photographs.

Various photographs taken from Sampson’s series of photographs

Sampson graduated from Chelsea College of Arts in BA Fine Art, where her central work was on her series of portraits called ‘Gender Trouble’. Taken from the event page on ArtRabbit, the exhibition is described as: “Shot over the past two years, her images posit a suggestion that true feminism requires real equality – and that there should be no hierarchy between the sexes. By merging and blurring gender clichés and stereotypes, Anna seeks to free gender from its bipolar shackles, supporting Judith Butler’s argument by demonstrating that gender, like sexuality, is fluid and non-binary.”

Spectator’s admire Sampson’s work

Getting her friends to dress up in alternative clothing, such as men in fish-net stockings, and women in a full shirt and trousers, her work is supposedly meant to challenge the confines of gender. Clothes do not necessarily have to define an individual’s gender, surely? If a woman chooses to wear a pair of trousers, or a man wear a skirt, this doesn’t mean that she is any less feminine, nor is he any less masculine. This is a key message, which seeps through her photographs: gender is simply a social construct.

Coincided with this is a photograph of two men kissing, and the intimacy captured between a woman and another woman; Sampson’s photographs also challenge the dimensions of sexuality. Inspired by the work of Judith Butler, philosopher and gender-theorist, Sampson’s exhibition illustrates the theory that gender does not directly correlate with sexuality. By this, I am suggesting that a male, who has a more feminine demeanour does not necessarily have to be homosexual because he appears “less of man” to be heterosexual, in the same way that a more ‘masculine’ woman, who may be more “butch” and less interested in clothes shopping, or getting their nails done has to be deemed a lesbian. As aforementioned, these are simply socially constructed. As Judith Butler famously theorised, these dimensions are fluid.

Inside the Doomed Gallery exhibition space

The exhibition space is small and minimalist, yet intimate, which I felt was somewhat symbolic of the nature of the work. The enclosed environment makes the message all the more hard-hitting and inescapable, which I think is only necessary in this day and age, whereby individuals should have the freedom to express themselves in any way they feel fit, regardless of gender, sexuality, or any other socially-defining entity, which is why you should experience it for yourself.

“Shot over the past two years, her images posit a suggestion that true feminism requires real equality – and that there should be no hierarchy between the sexes. By merging and blurring gender clichés and stereotypes, Anna seeks to free gender from its bipolar shackles, supporting Judith Butler’s argument by demonstrating that gender, like sexuality, is fluid and non-binary.”

What makes this exhibition all the more enticing is the fact that it is only on for four days. I visited it last night, with its opening day on Thursday. Which means that tomorrow is the last day that you can attend, so do if you can!

Personally I find studying Gender to be incredibly interesting, in many contexts, particularly in Development. This summer, I have an internship with a new organisation called SecurityWomen, which advocates for a 50:50 gender balance in the security sector – that is, to have more women working in the armed forces, military, police and decision-making roles. And the research I am doing into this is simply eye-opening. For example, in conversations with the director of SecurityWomen, it became known to me that there is a correlation whereby countries which have women in these roles tend to have less conflict. Hence why, rather than advocating for more violence, this can contribute towards keeping peace and peace-building. While this is not the crux of this post, I will surely be talking about this in a later one!

Small and unassuming, yet intimate and inescapable

To explore Sampson’s work in more depth, read this interview from online magazine Kaltblut, which explains her views on challenging gender stereotypes, and answers questions such as why she mostly shoots in black and white.

While only short and almost unassuming, the subject of the photographs is far from it, with a deeper meaning behind. In my view, it is not simply a cultural norm to be able to live the way you want to, or dress in the way you believe expresses you best, despite it flouting certain gender norms, but a personal freedom – a human right. So do try and attend the exhibition tomorrow if possible, since it’s the last showing. It’s important, it’s relevant, it’s true. And it’s far from being trouble-free.

The gallery is open from 12pm-8pm tomorrow, and is completely FREE to attend. Here is the link to the exhibition page to find out more:


Garment Workers’ Rights

Garment Workers’ Rights

Poor working conditions for workers in South Asia and South-East Asia are not new phenomenon. With long hours, in high temperatures, low wages and little to no breaks, this is hardly any different from slave labour. While a lot of the literature on this area of employment is interesting, it certainly reveals some of the harsh realities mentioned, which workers, particularly garment workers, who produce the clothes supplied by household names, such as Nike, Primark and Monsoon, have to face on a daily basis.

The following image depicts a handful of informative booklets I picked up when popping into Traid, which is a charity dedicated to reducing the waste from the clothes that we buy and wear – to stop them from being thrown away. I love their mission, aims and values, as they not only advocate towards reducing clothes waste, but also funds projects to campaign for and empower workers to know their rights, and improve their working conditions. Check out their website to find out more.

Booklets produced by Traid covering poverty and workers’ rights

What has inspired this particular blog post is an article I read in The Guardian this week. It reminded me of a piece which I wrote and published in my university’s student newspaper: Concrete. It describes some of the changes I have noticed in myself regarding the injustices in the world, which I have learnt about in my first year of studying International Development, and how my way of thinking and being has slowly evolved. You  can read the full Guardian article by clicking on the link below, and read on to find my original piece:


How my Degree is Reshaping Who I Am

Chloe Howcroft


I’m a first year undergraduate in the school of International Development, with my second year now fast approaching. A common motif within my field of study is change, which can sometimes be perceived as a pleasant experience in some communities yet, more often than not, is detrimental for others. And while I find many aspects of studying International Development incredibly fascinating, I do think that the most noteworthy of all is its subtle ability to gradually change one’s worldview. This is an account of how my degree is already reshaping who I am.

I began to notice a change somewhere within the first few weeks of the course, when the realities of being a ‘fresher’ at university reigned in. I felt excited. The soft haze of summer just gone was slowly slipping away, and I was beginning to settle into university life. However, I also felt something else. I felt disgust. Sitting in a politics lecture, I was learning about the ‘politics of production’, which, to my understanding, is the study of power relations within each strand of the supply chain, from the factory floor on an operational level, to a more decision-making level from (majoratively) Western retailers, such as the likes of Tesco, Monsoon, and Nike, to name but a few. And Primark. The collapse of the Rana Plaza building near Dhaka, Bangladesh, some four years ago today, which accommodated a number of garment factories for retailers including Primark, was used as a case study to illustrate the inequalities among the supply chain. More than one thousand garment workers died in this unnatural disaster.

When this occurred, I was still in high school, only vaguely aware of such global development issues. In fact, I frequently shopped at Primark, knowing that I would practically be buying a whole new wardrobe at a ridiculously low price. But fast-forward a few years later, and I now cannot fathom walking into such a store; simply walking past one makes me squirm. In this way, my degree makes me question the clothes and other products I buy and wear from certain retailers, for I am now more conscious of broader structural inequalities. If anything, I much prefer traipsing around car boot-sales or charity shops at the very least.

Along the same vein, another retailer that crops up more often than not is Apple. Almost all students in DEV appear to own an iPhone – an observation which, admittedly, somewhat surprises me. Now the last thing I want to do is cast judgements on others’ choice of mobile phone device, but it is far from unknown that iPhones are an overstated, superficial fashion trend. Apple (or rather, Foxconn), also have their own ethical issues, namely poor working conditions, which have led to several cases of suicide, hence my disillusionment in finding so many DEV students with a phone that not only reproduces inequalities in labour conditions and the capitalist system, but is also unnecessarily pricey. I thought that DEV students encouraged sustainability and ethical living, not superficiality and consumerism.

Furthermore, my degree has altered the types of food I consume. If there is one thing that DEV students also have in common, it’s vegetarianism or veganism – and everything else in between. Though I am not a self-proclaimed veggie (as of yet), I am certainly advancing towards the lifestyle. My consumption of meat has decreased considerably since being at university, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that Norwich seems to be a Vegan haven (or could it be watching a certain DiCaprio movie on climate action, I wonder?) I rarely buy meat in my weekly shop, and if I feel tempted, I usually buy substitutes of Quorn or succulent Linda McCartney sausages. Such good food.

Finally, my degree has invigorated my interests in learning more about other religions and beliefs. Recently, I took part in an introductory course into Buddhism, where I had an overview of several Buddhist teachings and values, most of which resonate with my own interests in practicing mindfulness and interconnectivity. This not only helps with self-development and growth, but also is an insight into other cultures in the Far East and South, which predominantly practice Buddhism, namely China, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. These countries are where I only dream of travelling to, and doing potential development work. Thus, learning about other cultures is a large part of why I love studying International Development.

I don’t mean to sound like a cynical, judgemental nag, but I do strongly believe that your degree, or whatever you do, should have some influence in the choices you make in your life. Next time you find yourself in a store like Primark, think about the effort that has gone into producing yet another ridiculously cheap top. In fact, think about why it is so cheap.




The White Helmets

The White Helmets

‘I’d much rather save a life than take a life…’

This is a quote from one of the volunteers from Syria Civil Defence, a volunteer organisation which operates in rebel-controlled Turkey and Syria. Unofficially, they call themselves ‘The White Helmets’, and a short documentary film of the same name was produced about them last year.

The White Helmets film poster: Website

‘I’d much rather save a life than take a life…’

Imagine, even just for a minute, that one day you feel safe – inside your home with your nearest and dearest – and the next, that feeling of warmth and security has been snatched so barbarically from you. What do you do? How do you feel? How is anyone meant to cope in such unwelcome, UNEXPECTED, situations? This is where The White Helmets enter.

In aid of Refugee Week 2017 Books for Amnesty in Hammersmith joined forces with Hammersmith and Fulham Refugees Welcome  to organise the film screening of ‘The White Helmets’, which creates a visual representation of the true reality facing civilians within Syria and Turkey.

Books for Amnesty, Hammersmith – the film screening venue

A White Helmet is no superhuman, although one could easily argue otherwise. They have backgrounds in various avenues of life: some previously working as pharmacists, bakers, tailors, some even students (like myself). All 3,200 of these like-minded individuals unite under one shared motto: ‘to save one life, is to save all of humanity’. Despite the many risks they may face in the aftermaths of bombed areas and airstrikes, these volunteers seek to save lives, having already saved close to 100,000 en-counting.

‘to save one life, is to save all of humanity’.

With reference to the screening, and as their website states:

“When the bombs rain down, the Syrian Civil Defence rushes in. In a place where public services no longer function these unarmed volunteers risk their lives to help anyone in need – regardless of their religion or politics. Known as the White Helmets these volunteer rescue workers operate in the most dangerous place on earth.”

As is probably evident, my thoughts are still processing themselves. Sitting in the centre of a bookshop, which fundraises and advocates for the rights and freedoms of every single human being, it’s almost difficult to believe that these brutal conditions are what many people are still facing as a result of a civil war.

Inside the bookshop

It’s touching. It’s human. And it’s happening right now.

The film, which runs for approximately 40 minutes, can be found on Netflix. While I was aware of this, I still wanted to attend the screening to be in the presence of those who also feel strongly about advocating for the rights of vulnerable people who have to leave their home countries to seek refuge. And any Amnesty International location has such an inspiring atmosphere. Attending the Refugee Week Conference earlier this year made me even more determined to fight for what I believe in and pursue my interests. And the bookshop also seeps a similar feeling.

I would highly recommend watching ‘The White Helmets’ to get a visual understanding of those who are in danger, and those who risk their lives to save others.

It’s touching. It’s human. And it’s happening right now.

Fundraising, FUND-raising, FUN-draising: The Story Shop

Fundraising, FUND-raising, FUN-draising: The Story Shop

In the middle of a busy shopping centre in White City, West London, it was once possible to step into a cosy pop up stall, enclosed by elegant furniture and chests of drawers and sit and chat with a lady for a few minutes or so about…well…children. Sounds slightly odd, and for a number of reasons too, but let me clear this up. WorldVision came up with a creative, innovative and, dare I say, immersive idea with the aim of taking away passing members of the public from their intense shopping endeavours and talk to them, albeit for a few minutes, about how they can donate to WorldVision and make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children around the world, all within a domesticated setting. This creative, innovative and immersive idea became known as The Story Shop.

The Story Shop’s pop up stall in Westfield, White City

According to their website, WorldVision is the world’s largest international children’s charity, which aims to bring hope to this vulnerable demographic in disaster-stricken areas for immediate relief, or long-term, ongoing issues. You can donate, which contributes towards providing commodities, including food, water, and access to medical care, or even sponsor a child. And The Story Shop is a so-called campaign of WorldVision to help with these aims. Their byline is: CONNECTING TWO WORLDS – indeed, implying that of the first and the third, I presume? Watch this video for a more visual representation of what The Story Shop is:

Indeed, when traipsing around Westfield with my mum, we took a few moments to stop and appreciate the work that had gone into creating such as immersive, technological form of fundraising.


The pop up included frames of children’s stories, a chest of drawers which opens up to find out more information about them and the immersive mirror-like screen, which seemed quite a hit for passers-by. A child stands at the foreground of the screen, with their hand outstretched to touch yours. How can this be ignored? When my mum approached, the child’s story read: ‘We have no healthcare and my brothers and sisters are sick from diseases that can be easily treated.’

“We have no healthcare and my brothers and sisters are sick from diseases that can be easily treated.”

Mirror-like screen attached to chest of drawers for the public to interact with

Despite the fact that this was approximately two months ago, and the stall is no longer there, it is a concept that had embedded itself in my mind up until now,  due to its unique quality, hence why I felt compelled to talk about it here.

I believe that the way forward in fundraising is through immersive and interactive forms of communication and technology, which can help generate interest in the general public,  and to truly ‘connect two worlds’. It starts with sharing compelling, real-life and factual stories, and taking a step back from previous techniques of enforcing guilt upon publics, which has often resulted in compassion/media fatigue, which Chouliaraki (2012) and other academic thinkers have noticed within the area of fundraising and media and development. Instead, a FUN and guilt-free approach should be advocated.

Framed children’s stories and the East Africa Crisis Appeal

As I have probably mentioned a fair amount of times within my blog, Communication for Development (C4D) is what I want to do (as a career, as a life goal). I believe that this particular branch of fundraising is interesting, and should be talked about more widely as a form of communications and fundraising technique, which have the potential of raising awareness of the issues facing children in some of the most vulnerable and deprived areas of the world.

We can all make a change, and it starts by not looking on and walking away, but stepping up the challenge, listening to the stories of some people perhaps less fortunate than ourselves, and remembering that we are all human, and no amount of borders should separate that fact.


On a side note, if any of you have ever done any street fundraising with charities, please do share with me your experiences as I am interested in doing this over the Summer.

Click on the link below also to check out some of the interesting blog posts I have been reading over on the BBC Media Action page: