Kirstie Brewer

Location icon United Kingdom

I am a BBC journalist focusing on women, social affairs, and inequality. Formerly a commissioning editor at the Guardian, where I ran its Public Servant: Letter to the Public series. Founding member of The Second Source, a group of women journalists working to end sexual harassment in the media. Twitter: @kirstiejbrewer

Portfolio

Latest

BBC News
08/18/2018
My baby died. Please ask me his name

There is no word in the English language for a parent whose child has died, as if the subject were too painful for society to confront. Elle Wright lost her son Teddy soon after he was born and wants to challenge the idea that a person can only be considered a parent if they have a living child.

BBC News
05/08/2018
Asylum whistleblower: Decisions are a 'lottery'

The Home Office has denied taking "arbitrary" decisions on asylum cases in order to meet deportation targets, but an asylum caseworker says staff have to work so fast that the results are a "lottery" - one that could result in people being sent home to their deaths.

BBC News
10/14/2018
I've been an 'abortion doula' 2,000 times

Doulas typically give women emotional support during childbirth, but in New York some help women through abortions too. Vicki Bloom has been in the room for more than 2,000 procedures since joining the non-profit Doula Project in 2010.

BBC News
06/13/2018
'Why my daughter wants a hysterectomy at 15'

When we told the story of Lucie, who had a hysterectomy at 28 because her periods made her feel suicidal , readers got in touch with similar experiences. For many, it took years to find a doctor who could help them - and often daughters inherited the condition from their mothers.

BBC News
03/15/2018
'I was suicidal - the NHS didn't know what to do with me'

It was the ninth time in the space of 10 days that Sherry Denness had tried to kill herself. "It felt like checkmate - there were no open doors or other ways for my life to turn, I just wanted to die," she says.

the Guardian
02/11/2018
'A lottery': asylum system is unjust, say Home Office whistleblowers

The British asylum process is a lottery and many asylum interviews are rushed, biased and resolved by "cut and paste" decisions by overworked Home Office staff, whistleblowers have told the Guardian. Former staff employed in deciding asylum claims said some colleagues had a harsh, even abusive, attitude towards applicants, mocking them to one another and employing "intimidation tactics" during interviews.

BBC News
01/18/2018
Why I took my wife's last name

These days many women keep their own name when they marry, and couples are increasingly opting for a double-barrelled or merged name. But men who take their wife's surname are still quite rare. Kirstie Brewer spoke to three.

the Guardian
11/01/2017
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. He's antsy, muttering to himself and jiggling his legs up and down. Where he sits is flanked by the children's books section and a bank of public computers.

BBC News
10/13/2017
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, who once worked on the streets herself, says it increases the danger for the women involved.

the Guardian
08/09/2017
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 themselves, with no hesitation. It can be humiliating and messy, but they say they will make do with wads of tissue.

the Guardian
08/10/2017
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. Using young, attractive women to advertise computers was a common ploy in Britain at the time, when male managers, uninitiated in the complexities of this new technology, viewed the machines as intimidating and opaque.

Refinery29
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. "It isn't just a matter of hygiene - it is about dignity.

the Guardian
06/21/2017
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 singalong to some traditional Finnish tunes. Among the trestle tables and rocking chairs occupied by the elderly Finns in the common room is someone considerably younger.

the Guardian
06/10/2017
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 your dignity is completely gone," she says, thinking back to that day in 2012. It was the first time the 55-year-old had been to prison.

BBC News
03/30/2017
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 Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen reported this week. "Behind the statistics are stories of avoidable tragedy," says Deborah Coles, director of the charity Inquest.

the Guardian
10/10/2016
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 recognise that many refugees come with skills, ambitions and ideas that should not be wasted.

BBC News
11/01/2016
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 online in search of a wig or hair extensions and you'll be presented with a dizzying spectrum of choices.

the Guardian
07/19/2016
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 safe space to breathe, heal and rehabilitate. Today, Eden, an Eritrean refugee, is joined in the modestly sized studio space in east London by eight other women from east and central Africa and Afghanistan.

BBC News
10/23/2015
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 country and helped put Iceland at the forefront of the fight for equality.

Delayed Gratification
09/20/2015
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. She talks to Kirstie Brewer about protest and graft in modern day Cambodia

the Guardian
07/01/2016
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 - the-72-year-old American has made it his life's work to listen for life beyond Earth, and, according to the man himself, just isn't the sort to bet a Maserati.

BBC News
03/11/2016
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 Brewer. Ballet dancer Eric Underwood was on tour last summer in the south of Italy when he had finally had enough.

the Guardian
02/02/2016
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 the capital. Here they can socialise in a safe place, receive support and mentoring from LGBT adults and get answers to questions never addressed at school.

the Guardian
03/22/2016
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 left in a microwave too long, says Greg Nicotero, The Walking Dead's special effects guru and Hollywood's go-to guy for all things gory.

BBC News
10/29/2015
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 the winter of 1949, 13-year-old Pamela Smedley boarded a ship to Australia with 27 other girls.

BBC News
06/11/2015
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 after Pol Pot took control of the country, two of them return to the cells every day to remind people what happened.

the Guardian
04/14/2016
'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. The evidence she collects contributes to convicting war criminals, building cases against child abusers and repatriating bodies back to families.

the Guardian
12/10/2015
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 yourself with your phone and visit the loo - again.

BBC World Service (radio)
10/23/2015
Iceland's Women Strike

In October 1975, 90% of all women in Iceland took part in a nationwide protest over inequality. Vigdis Finnbogadottir, later Iceland's first female president, talks about that momentous day.

Public Servant: My Letter to the Public

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