Armistice Day: Remember Sophie Scholl

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On Armistice day we remember those who are not normally remembered for sacrificing their lives, and Esther Freeman, tells the story of her personal hero.

Sophie Scholl

At 11am on 11th November, 1918 the guns fell silent on the Western Front. The moment would be forever marked as people said ‘never forget’ and ‘never again’.

Yet just over 20 years later we were once more at war. And since then we haven’t stopped either.

While I would never wish to take away from the bravery of those who lost their lives, the narrative around Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day has changed. People now talk of “those who have their lost lives for their country”. This is a problematic statement when many consider our most recent wars as unjustified (remember those non-existent WMDs) and even possibly illegal. This is why I, along with other war veterans, choose not to wear a poppy.

The other reason I won’t wear a poppy is because of the people we are supposed to remember. British Legion adverts mainly show women as victims – wives and mothers who have lost their sons. Where are the representations of women who gave their lives, often using great courage and intelligence?

One of my greatest war heroes is Sophie Scholl. I’m not surprised that you haven’t heard of her because not only was she a woman, but she was also a pacifist and a German.

Yet she has been attributed with one of the greatest acts of non-violent civil disobedience against the Nazi party in Germany. And she paid for it with her life.

Sophie Scholl, along with her brother Peter, were part of the White Rose Movement, a student resistance group in Berlin during WW2. They were caught distributing anti-Nazi leaflets and were executed.

At her trial Sophie said: “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.”

She was said to have faced her execution with unrelenting courage. Her final words were: “How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

After her death the leaflet she had been caught with was smuggled out of the country and ended up in Allied hands. Copies of the leaflet were then dropped over Germany in their millions.

Women like this should be remembered, not only for their bravery but also because they acted without violence. The contribution the White Rose movement made in destabilising the Nazi has been described as “significant” by many social commentators.

The world is certainly a better place for people like Sophie. Today we will remember her in quiet contemplation.

Amazing women: Charlotte Church

Our Amazing Women series continues with someone whose gone from child star, to tabloid favourite, to out-spoken feminist.

Charlotte ChurchCharlotte Church has spent her whole life in the limelight. From a child star singing for the President of the United States, to tabloid favourite with some pretty questionable pop videos along the way.

But now Charlotte Church has spoken out about how uncomfortable she felt about doing those videos; how she was manipulated by the industry into wearing revealing clothing. Most worrying of all, she says she still pays the price today, with vicious attacks on Twitter and a music industry who refuses to take her seriously.

A little while ago we talked about the way women in the music industry seem to be wearing fewer clothes than ever before. We posed a question – are these the women you want to be your daughter’s role models?

We did receive some flack for this, mainly from a misunderstanding that we were attacking the women themselves. In fact we were trying to analyse and question industry that seems to be pushing women into this.

In her BBC 6 Music John Peel lecture, Charlotte Church echoes exactly our concerns, and confirms our suspicions that women are being cajoled into it. Church confesses that she felt deeply uncomfortable in the clothes she was encouraged to wear in her pop music videos.

Some argue that people like Rhianna are completely in control of their image. They know what they’re doing – they’re playing with their sexuality and using it to get what they want. However Church says that while this might be the case, if they do decide they no longer want to do this, they won’t be able to stop. The industry won’t let them. They may also find that it haunts them for the rest of their careers.

We believe it was pretty brave of Charlotte Church to stand up and say these things; to lift the curtain on the industry. She admitted she got it wrong, and that takes guts. What’s more she’s pushing to make it right again.

>> Listen to the full lecture by Charlotte Church

>> Read about our other Amazing Women

 

Photo: Kevin Law

Amazing Women: Lucy Holmes

Our latest in the Amazing Women series focuses on someone who decided to take on the might of the Murdoch empire. In doing so she allowed women across the UK to finally say how they felt about Page 3 of The Sun.

No More Page 3

Lucy Holmes is a small, bubbly and beautiful women. She’s also not afraid to say ‘tits’ quite a lot. It’s kind of unavoidable when you’ve mounted one of the biggest ever campaigns against Page 3 of The Sun.

Less than a year ago Lucy decided that she’d really had enough of seeing bare breasted women in our biggest selling newspaper. It sells itself as a family newspaper, but there for any child to see, every day, were a half naked woman.

Other countries find it incredible that our biggest selling national newspaper has soft porn in it. They find it even stranger that we all seem to put up with it.

But Lucy decided she wasn’t putting up with it any more. She she wrote to the editor of the Sun and asked him to get rid of Page 3 topless models. Of course she didn’t get a reply.

So Lucy set up a petition. So far that petition has over 85,000 signatures, including from Caitlin Moran, Jennifer Saunders and Alistair Campbell. She’s persuaded 10% of MPs to support the campaign and was successful in getting Lego to withdraw their support of The Sun.

Although The Sun has not yet removed the boobs from its paper, what Lucy has started is a conversation. No longer do we have to pretend that it doesn’t bother us or doesn’t matter. She’s also allowed men and women across the UK to come together and say, we’re not alright with this and we don’t want it any more.

If you want bare boobs out of The Sun then sign the petition today.

>> Read about our other Amazing Women.

 

Amazing women: Malala Yousafzai

The latest in our Amazing Women series should make us all feel humble. For she’s not a women at all, but a 15 year old girl, who’s as tough and brave as any solider.

Malala-Yousafzai-Stand-up-for-your-rightAt only 11 years old Malala Yousafzai was already taking the world by storm. She wasn’t a wanna be pop star, parading around on a reality TV show, or a pre-teen ‘it’ girl. She was a blogger. But her blogs were some of the bravest every written.

She began writing a diary for BBC Urdu where she described life under Taliban rule in her home town of Mingora, in northwest Pakistan. The Taliban had banned women from going to the market, and shopping under their austere ininterpretation of Sharia Law. But the issue that bothered Malala the most was the prohibition of female education. In her blog she became one of the few people willing to speak out against it.

In 2009, with the support of her family, she took her campaign on to TV. In 2011 she was nominated for the Children’s International Peace Prize, and last year she was awarded a National Peace Prize by her government.

However her actions had not gone unnoticed by the Taliban, and she ended up on their hit list. Although the family had received death threats before, nothing could have prepared them for what happened.

In early October last year, while sitting on a school bus with her friends, a bearded man entered and shot her at close range in the head and chest. She was immediately rushed to hospital in Pakistan, and later transferred to Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in Birmingham to receive treatment not available in her own country. Last week she was finally released, but is due to have further surgery next month.

Since arriving in the UK, Malala has received thousands of cards from well wishers, and a petition has been launched to give Malala the Nobel Peace Prize.

>> Read other stories in our Amazing Women Series

Photo: Don’t Give Up On the World

Amazing women: Livia Firth

Continuing our series of Amazing Women we profile one of ethical fashion’s biggest pioneers – Livia Firth. Being recently awarded UN Leader of Change, she proves that celebrity can have a conscience too.

Livia Firth with husband Colin FirthAll over the world women do amazing things. And these women come in all shapes and sizes, and from all walks of life. But the latest nominee in our Amazing Women series definitely comes from the glamourous side of the tracks.

Livia Firth has done so much for the world of ethical fashion in the last few years that to simply describe her as “the wife of Colin Firth” would be ridiculous. As well as being the Creative Director of Eco-Age, she has recently launched her own sustainable minded capsule collection and this month was awarded the UN Leader of Change.

But it is probably for the Green Carpet Challenge that she has become most famous in ethical fashion. Working her connections in the world of fashion and showbiz, she has succeeded in getting A-list celebrities on to the red carpet in range of ethical fashion gowns. This includes the likes of Cameron Diaz, Meryl Streep and Viola Davis.

Firth doesn’t hide her own excitement at this boost in ethical fashion’s status. In a recent interview she said: “To have Viola Davis walking the Bafta red carpet in a stunning recycled bottled dress by Valentino…our hearts were palpitating.”

Ethical fashion undoubtably needs the glamour and edge of celebrity, and Firth has been one of the biggest innovators in ensuring it gets it.

>> Read the other stories in our Amazing Women series.

Photo: Sharon Graphics

Amazing women: Hadija Fatima, Niger

Around the world women do incredible things. But the traditional media often ignore women in the developing world. Here we try to readdress that. Here we tell their stories and celebrate their incredible achievements. 

Forced marriage in NigerThe little girl in this picture is called Aissata. She is eight years old and lives in Niger. She’s tiny – her feet don’t even reach the floor when she sits on a chair. Despite this someone decided she was ready to be married off.

The man picked to be Aissata’s husband was old enough to be her grandfather. But she escaped and Haija Fatima stepped in.

Haija Fatima is the district child protection officer and according to Justin Byworth, World Vision’s Chief Executive, she’s a “force of nature”.  Along side Aissata’s case she is fighting  through the courts the forced marriage of nine other children. She told World Vision: “I am ready to die for this.”

The forced marriage of children isn’t new or unique to Niger. It’s a reality around the world. However women and children in Niger face the additional pressure of drought and failed harvest. Women and children in Niger, and across the Horn of Africa, are facing starvation.

These stories aren’t of interest to the mainstream media. They don’t care until people actually start dying. So World Vision are asking bloggers and tweeters to raise awareness of these issues themselves.

If this story moves you then share it on Twitter using the hashtag #shareniger. You can also donate to World Vision’s Children in Emergencies Appeal.

Photo: World Vision