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Upskirting activist Gina Martin explains what it’s really like to organise a national campaign

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Hannah Keegan
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“I decided I could either get angry or change things.”

Gina Martin, 27, is the social activist behind the anti-upskirting campaign. She lives in London with her boyfriend, Jordy, and tortoise, Gary Tortellini.

My alarm goes off…

At 7.30am most days. I have 10 different alarms that go off at four-minute intervals – it drives my boyfriend crazy. The first thing I do is message my partner in the campaign, Ryan Whelan. He’s a lawyer and deals with the legal side of things; he helps me focus on what I need to do that day. If I’m doing something public, then I’ll wear bright colours as they help me project confidence. I’ll eat an egg dish for breakfast.

I’m responsible for…

Using my privilege to make other people’s lives easier. I founded the campaign to make upskirting – taking unauthorised photos up someone’s skirt – a sexual offence, and I hope to make people safer in every situation. I feel responsible for inspiring people to realise they actually can change things, too.

I got the job… 

After being a victim of upskirting. It happened to me at a music festival. I went to the police and they told me there was nothing they could do so I decided I could either get angry or change things. I shared my story on social media, which led to a petition and attention from the media. Eventually, I met Ryan, a lawyer at firm Gibson Dunn, and we began to have meetings with the government. Right now, the bill has made it through Commons and has three stages left in the House of Lords. We’re on track for it to be passed at the beginning of next year.

Social media has played a crucial role in Gina’s activism 

My typical day…

Is different depending on the day. I work as a copywriter four days a week and the rest of my time is spent on the campaign. On a campaign day, I start by going through my emails, then I’ll go and see Ryan at Gibson Dunn and he’ll give me a desk space. If there’s a benchmark coming up, for example, when our petition got 100,000 signatures, I know that people are going to want to know about it so I reach out to the media. If I need to put some pressure on the government, I’ll talk to the media too. I’m often asked to film pieces for TV and do interviews. I try to stop for lunch at 1pm and have something comforting like veggie pasta or soup. In a busy month, I’ll probably have three meetings with the government.

That could be a meeting with MP Lucy Frazer, who champions the campaign, where we’ll discuss what to do next. It was really nerve-wracking to be in those meetings at first – I studied art and have no political background – but I’ve realised that I don’t have to know everything, I just have to be passionate. I try to finish working at 7pm most nights.

Her bill is on track to be passed in 2019

My most memorable moment…

Was when I found out the government was backing the campaign. I burst out crying!

The worst part of my job…

Is the abuse online. It’s not so bad now, but for the first year it was relentless rape threats.

The best part of my job…

Is knowing that an ordinary person can actually change the law if they work hard enough.

After work… 

My boyfriend makes dinner, often a stir-fry, and we’ll watch TV. Then I read – right now it’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I spend a good chunk of my time on social media; I love Instagram. I try to reply to all the messages I get asking for advice, it genuinely brings me joy. I’m asleep by 11pm.

Images: Holly McGlynn

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Hannah Keegan

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