Annie Lennox’s message
I’d like to share some background as to how the notion of The Circle came about…
It goes back to Cape Town, South Africa in November of 2003, when I was privileged to take part in the launch concert for Nelson Mandela’s HIV/AIDS Foundation – 46664.
The following day, all the artists joined Mandela on Robbin Island where he stood directly in front of his former prison cell in the exercise yard to deliver a speech to an assemblage of international press.
Describing the HIV pandemic taking place in South Africa as a genocide, with women and children as the frontline victims, he told everyone emphatically…“Women and children are the face of AIDS”.
With the death rate running at 1,000 people every day, the political leadership at that time had no interest in ensuring that people had access to life saving treatment.
Mandela’s 46664 Foundation invited the musicians to visit hospitals, orphanages, townships and people’s homes, so we could see the ravages of AIDS for ourselves.
This kind of personal witnessing had a profound affect on me.
I was shocked and appalled by the fact that so few people seemed to be aware of what was happening, let alone taking effective action.
As a woman and mother, I resolved to contribute to supporting the cause and amplifying the virtually silent voice of women and children affected by HIV and AIDS.
It was a life changing experience and I became resolved to do whatever I could to make a difference.
My campaigning and advocacy work was about to begin….
Through various organisations, including Comic Relief and Oxfam, I was given more opportunities to witness the challenges and injustices facing some of the most marginalised people across the globe.
My encounters and experiences woke me up to a multitude of stark realities regarding the contrasting way of life between Western nations and the so called developing world, especially with regard to women and girls.
Every time I came back to the UK I realised how resourceful we are and how easy it is to take so many things for granted.
The list is long.. Access to education, the democratic vote, access to legal rights, health care, clean running water and sanitation etc..
Consider the following facts…
- There are 757 million adults who cannot read or write a sentence – 2 out of 3 of these are women.
- In Africa, 28 million girls are not in education and will never step inside a classroom.
- Across the world 39,000 girls under the age of 18 become child brides every day.
- Worldwide, 800 women a day die due to pregnancy or child birth related complications, of these 99% of them live in developing countries.
- In developing countries 20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth every day.
- In 2013 60% of all new HIV infections in 15-24 year olds were in adolescent girls and young women.
- Women around the world aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria.
- It is estimated that globally women and girls spend 140 million hours a day simply collecting water for themselves and their families. This is time not spent going to school or working at an income generating job or caring for their family – all things that will help them realise their potential.
- Women make up only 22% of the world’s parliamentarian seats.
- Just 8% of companies worldwide with revenues of at least $500 million have a female CEO.
Though over recent years there has been some progress to lessen the inequality it is obvious there is still a long way to go and much work to be done to make the world a fairer and more equal place.
As a woman, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude and debt to the women of the Suffragette movement who sacrificed so much in dedicating their lives to creating justice and transformative change for future generations down the line.
Their work has had a direct impact upon every one of us, whether we realise it or not.
The concept of The Circle came from the notion of women supporting, connecting and inspiring each other to become advocates and change agents, through our passion, skills and ideas.
We started off in an informal and organic way with just a small group of friends meeting for dinner.
Many of us on meeting each other for the first time would discover that we had more in common than we might otherwise have realised.
Over the years we have collaborated with each other, creating events, raising funds, raising awareness and exploring our potential.
We are very proud of what we have achieved since those early days –
We have raised over £1.86m which, working with partners, has been used to reach and make a difference to over 100,000 women and girls in more than 13 developing countries.
We have produced advocacy tools for lasting change such as our report on the implementation of the Maputo Protocol in Kenya and of the fundamental right of a Living Wage.
We have amplified the voices of vulnerable women by bringing attention to important issues such as sexual violence, ie..through our support for Panzi Hospital in the DRC.
We have now come to the time to move from our growing informal network to becoming an organisation with charitable status, working with a wider range of partners.
We are very excited about this next chapter in our development and all our future planned activities and projects.
I’m committed to the vision of The Circle becoming a long term contributor to the Global movement for the rights of women and girls and I’m very much looking forwards to collectively using our voices, skills and resources to make a significant difference towards a fairer and more equal world.