Kirstie Brewer

I am a commissioning editor at the Guardian and run its Public Servant: My Letter to the Public series, designed to give a voice to the staff behind public services. I also write on social affairs, women, and inequality for places including The Guardian, the BBC and The Pool.

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Why are privatised probation services using public libraries to see clients?
It's a Thursday afternoon and Weston-super-Mare's town hall is buzzing with activity. Through the main entrance is the public library, where Dean (not his real name) is waiting....
The UK city where sex work is banned, but hasn't stopped
Hull is the UK's only city to have banned sex workers from its red light district, effectively making prostitution illegal. The council says the policy is working, but Millie,...
Over a century ago, Dickens said it was cruel, wrong and "tampered with the brain". So why is...
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How Scotland is putting a stop to period poverty
When faced with a choice between buying food for their children or tampons for themselves, the four mothers I am talking to in an Aberdeen food bank all say they will deprive...
How the tech industry wrote women out of history
Sadie the typist and Susie her computer: sophisticated but cheap. That's how the duo are billed when they appear in 1960s adverts to promote a now defunct UK computer company....
We Need To Talk About Period Poverty In The UK
Every month, hundreds of UK schoolgirls like Marie resort to measures like these because they can't afford to buy the safe, hygienic sanitary pads and tampons sold in the shops....
After the crime: why employers should give ex-offenders a working chance
When Michaela was 19 she got into a fight in a nightclub with a stranger and was handed a four-year prison sentence for GBH. "It was a 30-second mistake I'll always regret,"...
Why young people are renting rooms in a Helsinki care home | Kirstie Brewer
It's a sunny Thursday afternoon and residents of the Rudolf Seniors Home - Helsinki's largest state care home - are eating raspberry swiss roll and having a spirited guitar...
BehindBras: lingerie business dreamed up in jail aims to help women prisoners
On Barbara Burton's first night in HMP Durham, she was given three sets of prison-issue underwear. It was plucked hastily from a shelf and didn't fit properly. "From that point...
Dying in prison: Two women's stories - BBC News
The number of women who died in prison in England and Wales reached a record high of 22 last year, and more than half of them took their own lives, Prisons and Probation...
New York's deputy mayor: After the US election we just have to get up and work harder every day
With New York City still reeling from Donald Trump's surprise victory, deputy mayor Alicia Glen is trying to take small solace in the fact that the president-elect is, at least,...
The Brits helping refugees help Britain
Britain's referendum decision to leave the EU was seen in some quarters as a damning verdict on immigration. But while some see incomers as a threat and a drain, others...
Meet Afghanistan's female coders who are defying gender stereotypes
In the city of Herat in western Afghanistan, a small but determined contingent of young women are quietly learning to code. They grow more empowered, creative and confident...
Untangling where your hair extensions really come from - BBC News
From wigs to weaves and hair extensions, the market for human hair is enormous. But few know where these lustrous locks come from and the journey they take across the globe. Go...
Police at Notting Hill carnival: 'It's difficult not to want to dance, we're only human'
To dance or not to dance? It's a divisive question where police officers at London's Notting Hill carnival are concerned. Supt Robyn Williams certainly doesn't want to see stony...
The podcaster encouraging women everywhere to talk about their abortions
When Melissa Madera sticks out her hand to shake mine I notice her wristbands straight away. "I have had an abortion," they say - a slogan that is also printed on the tote bag...
Mind over mat: how yoga is helping refugee women
On Tuesday mornings female refugees like Eden come to practise yoga. The sessions are run by Ourmala, a voluntary organisation that every week gives around 60 refugee women a...
The day Iceland's women went on strike - BBC News
Forty years ago, the women of Iceland went on strike - they refused to work, cook and look after children for a day. It was a moment that changed the way women were seen in the...
A Woman's Place
When Tep Vanny’s neighbourhood was given over to a private developer and its residents forcibly evicted she launched a seven-year campaign that has landed her in prison twice....
'If diversity means giving white men more work writing about black women, we've failed'
Screenwriter Misan Sagay doesn't identify with the "sassy black women" portrayed in films and on television. "I have never met a black woman who behaves like that. I wouldn't...
The women who escape domestic abuse but lose their social housing
When Amber (not her real name) fled the council flat she shared with her violent partner, she slept on a bus for a night with her three-year-old daughter. "I left because I...
Seth Shostak: We will find aliens in the next two decades
Astronomer Seth Shostak believes we will find ET in the next two decades; he has a cup of coffee riding on it. But don't interpret such modest stakes as scepticism -...
Why don't they make shoes for black ballet dancers? - BBC News
The world of ballet has long been criticised for having a problem with diversity. But could one small quirk be a symbol of the barriers facing non-white dancers, asks Kirstie...
Services for LGBT young people will just disappear | Kirstie Brewer
Every Wednesday evening, Lukasz Konieczka and his team at the Mosaic youth centre in north London welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people from across...
Making up the Walking Dead: 'Growing up, I wanted to make monsters'
What would a zombie who had been half-melted into the ground after a napalm attack look like? Its rotting flesh would be blistered and stretched - like a hot dog that had been...
The 13-year-old girl sent on a 'day-trip' to Australia - BBC News
Up until the late 1960s the UK sent children living in care homes to new lives in Australia and other countries. It was a brutal experience for many, writes Kirstie Brewer. In...
How two men survived a prison where 12,000 were killed - BBC News
Tuol Sleng is Cambodia's most notorious prison - in the 1970s, at least 12,000 people were tortured there and murdered. Only a handful of prisoners survived but now, 40 years...
'The first time you cut human skin is monumental'
In Sue Black's line of work, gallows humour is a must. As a forensic anthropologist, her job is to identify human remains, often of those killed in war zones or mass disasters....
Shhh, quiet: an introvert's guide to networking
Do not make eye contact. Pretend to look for someone by peering pensively into the middle distance. Do a few sweaty laps of the room. Get another drink. Get a third. Busy...

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