Annie Lennox, Founder of The Circle, will take part in the 25th Concerto di Natale — Christmas Concert — on 16 December 2017 at the Aula Paolo VI, in the Vatican, under the patronage of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
All proceeds from tickets sales, as well as the donations to the solidarity SMS number 45549, will be donated to two projects that support vulnerable children: the Scholas Occurrentes foundation and the Global Don Bosco Foundation.
The Scholas Occurrentes Foundation, created by Pope Francis when he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires, aims to end the use of child labour, often in slave-like conditions, in Congolese mines that extract cobalt, a mineral that is essential for the manufacture of smart phones and computers.
The Global Don Bosco Foundation teaches children to use digital communication in a safe way, focusing particularly in ending cyber bullying.
Annie will be singing along a top level cast, including Patti Smith (USA), Noa (Israel), Imany (France), Joaquín Cortés (Spain), Lola Ponce (Argentina), Hevia (Spain), Al Bano (Italy), Alex Britti (Italy), Suor Cristina (Italy), Gigi D’Alessio (Italy), Fabio Armiliato (Italy), Giò Di Tonno (Italy), Andrea Griminelli (Italy), Syria (Italy), Cheryl Porter & Hallelujah Gospel Singers (USA), Art Voice Academy (Italy) and Il Piccolo Coro di Piazza Vittorio (Italy).
Children taking part in the Live Smart project, in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Credit: Dental Wellness Trust.
I am very lucky. My job entails working closely with members of The Circle. And this means that I am constantly learning about their areas of expertise and how they apply them to further gender equality.
They are also women who appear to exceed the limitations of time, which they manage to give so generously to empowering women and girls, in addition to the significant commitments of their professional and personal lives.
On 4 and 5 November I had the pleasure of experiencing a night and day in the world of one of our newest members, Dr Linda Greenwall. Linda is a dentist on the commendable mission to save kids’ teeth. She founded the Dental Wellness Trust in 2011, fulfilling a life goal of setting up a dental health charity for those in need. It was the start of an incredible journey that now reaches 5,000 children enrolled in school programmes and a further 2,000 who are enrolled in the LiveSmart Evening Health Programme, run by mothers in the community of Khayelitsha, South Africa. Khayelitsha is the same township where the Nonceba women shelter is based, which The Circle supports. And for those of you who joined us at the launch of this project on South African Women’s Day, on 8 August, you’ll remember Linda as our exceptional guest speaker of the night.
I am not a dentist. In fact, as I sat taking in all the information about children’s dental wellbeing, I was acutely aware that I hadn’t been to the dentist for over five years. I also had an Oprah Winfrey moment of gratitude for the education and the significant time and financial investment my parents made to ensure my dental health was the best that it could be.
So, what does a general member of the public with a professional interest in empowering women and girls take away from the wealth of knowledge presented by some of the best industry experts at the Saving Kids Teeth 2017 conference?
Way more that I can squeeze into this blog post! So, I am going to tell you about three fundamental things:
1. Tooth decay
Tooth decay is preventable. Wholly and completely preventable. Prevention is the only real solution to avoid pain, expensive procedures and a multitude of ripple effects that will impact on a child’s health, wellbeing and development from tooth to toe, body and mind.
Give a child a tooth brush and teach them how to use it and not only do you prevent dental issues, you also ensure children aren’t going to miss school because of unnecessary toothache, aren’t going to be bullied or experience low self-esteem because of the appearance of their teeth. It also won’t inevitably lead to painful, expensive procedures in the future.
There are many obstacles that stand in the way of girls accessing an education, which you can find out more about in our project supporting Educate Girls, India. So, it’s even more important to do what we can to avoid adding more obstacles to that list, especially if they are preventable!
2. Let’s talk about sugar
There is a clear, undeniable link between tooth decay, obesity and poverty in children. All of the speakers, talking from very different professional standpoints, clearly identified the same cause — sugar.
I’ll repeat that — despite their different focus points and experiences treating children with a multitude of different issues, they all identified sugar as the problem. Financial limitations, convenience of cheap products (generally high in sugar) and a lack of education about dental hygiene are the main reasons for the severe lack of dental wellbeing in children globally. In areas of poverty where addiction to sugar is high (because it is accessible, affordable, tasty, considered a treat or a reward, and easily shipped from western countries) tooth decay is much higher.
It felt very forward-thinking to hear the connections being made between dental decay and obesity in children. Encouraging approaches to integrated health are increasing our knowledge of how sugar affects the teeth and the gut, two crucial parts of the digestive system that aren’t traditionally considered together. And it seems obvious from the outside looking in that more integrated healthcare discussions need to be happening across specialisations to ensure a child’s wellbeing.
In my opinion, there is a third prong missing in this triangle, and that is mental wellbeing. Both Dr Sandra White and Prof Terence Stephenson spoke about a lack of confidence and the likelihood of bullying in children who are living with tooth decay and obesity. Sugar is the common enemy, regardless of the side of the health sector from which the story is being told.
Sugar is also the wolf in sheep’s clothing acting as the comforter and temporary solution to anxiety, stress and depression. The little comfort and happiness craved when a child has low confidence is being bullied. I think it would be interesting to bring in a mental health specialist to the table who specialises in understanding how living in poverty, experiencing pain and being bullied all contribute to how and why we make the choices we do, so that we can educate children and their parents to make good choices about their teeth and their food. And, simultaneously, raise the bar on what food is made available and why, for reasons pertaining to health instead of profit.
It is important to talk about issues that negatively impact children. Sugar is a common enemy and we need to be talking about how bad it is for children’s teeth, childhood obesity and the options available to those living below the poverty line globally.
3. Spit, don’t rinse
Finally, I learnt lots of science about fluoride and that water and fluoride don’t mix. The formula for healthy teeth is more fluoride and less sugar. So, remember — SPIT, DON’T RINSE!
Together Linda and I are exploring how our two worlds can meet to further empower women and girls, so if you have a connection to the dental sector, please contact us, sign up as a member if you haven’t already and watch this space in 2018!
Peta Barrett is a member of The Circle since 2016 and our Relationship Manager since 2017.
The biggest treasure in life is sisterhood. The power of women in supporting each other is endless and so different from anything else in the world
At The Circle,we are ever-inspired by each and every one of our members. From the students and the mothers to the lawyers and the musicians. They are doers and they are the engine moving The Circle.
One of those women is co-founding member of The Circle Livia Firth. Founder and Creative Director of the sustainability brand consultancy Eco-Age, a UN Leader of Change, an Oxfam Global Ambassador and mother of two, Livia has also somehow found time to executive produce The True Cost movie and work on The Lawyers Circle’s ground-breaking report that was published in May 2017 and that shows that a living wage is a fundamental right.
In the relatively quiet time between the media frenzy about the report and the next phase in the project, we talked to Livia about what the next steps are to ensure a living wage for garment workers, how to be a more ethical consumer and what makes The Circle different.
Every member has her own unique journey within The Circle. Can you tell us a bit about your journey and why, after so many years, you still support The Circle as a member?
I consider myself an active citizen and support different NGOs — in environmental and social justice and all the different aspects of these two pillars. I am very lucky as I had the opportunity to travel a lot with Oxfam or collaborate with the small and powerful Reprieve, among others NGOs I come across in my work at Eco-Age. The Circle is very different — when you put women in charge and women together, the opportunities are endless and the results are very concrete.
The Circle is about women coming together to empower the most vulnerable women and girls worldwide. But many members of The Circle feel empowered by being part of our network too. How has The Circle helped you to feel empowered?
The biggest treasure in life is sisterhood. The power of women in supporting each other is endless and so different from anything else in the world. The Circle is the perfect manifestation of this — knowing that there is this wonderful resource of women of every background which each one of us, wherever in the world (from a big city in England to a small village in Africa), can call upon and create true change. It’s magnificent!
Can you tell us about an inspiring woman that you have met through The Circle?
Too many! Are there un-inspiring women?
You are best known for being a leading advocate of ethical fashion and have worked closely with The Lawyers Circle on their Living Wage report, which focusses on wages and working conditions in the fashion industry. How did your interest in ethical fashion begin?
When I met Lucy Siegle, Orsola De Castro and Jocelyn Whipple back in 2008 at Eco-Age. It was the first time I heard about human rights and environmental justice being linked to fashion. Then, the same year, I went to Bangladesh with Lucy Siegle for the first ever trip The Circle did — and we got smuggled into a garment factory and what I saw shocked me: so many women working producing 150 garments an hour on different production lines, in a building with no air, and bars at the windows and no fire escape or anything like that. Armed guards at the only door to get in and out, two toilet breaks a day and the most inhumane conditions you can imagine. It was a real eye-opener.
What are your top tips to be a more ethical consumer of fashion?
Just a simple one: stop consuming obsessively and treating fashion as disposable. Buy only things you know you will wear for years and that you will take care of. This is how you build a sustainable wardrobe full of things you love (and full of memories too!).
So we should buy less too?
Absolutely buy less. And take care of things. When did we become the society that buys ready-made mashed potatoes? Do you know how long it takes to boil two potatoes and mash them? And it’s cheaper. Or mend the hole in that sock rather than throw it away because it’s easier to buy a new pack of socks for £5. They have made us addicted to consuming and being lazy.
Often the clothes most of us can afford are manufactured in countries with weak workers’ rights and wages regulations. How can one be a more conscientious consumer on a low budget?
Do you know that most people who think they have no money and therefore buy fast fashion cheap clothes end up spending much more on fashion? Do you really want to save money? Invest in clothes that last forever.
Changing the way we consume is necessary, and, if enough people do it, in the long term brands will have to change the way they produce too. But how can we, as individuals, help make that shift quicker? How can we influence brands that are not ethical?
Stop buying from fast fashion brands at the pace we are shopping today. Then they will have to produce less! They say it is because “the consumer wants it” — well, let’s show them the consumer does not want it anymore.
You recently went to Copenhagen to launch The Lawyers Circle report. The report argues that a living wage is a fundamental right and that fashion brands have a responsibility to ensure that garment workers earn a living wage. What are your next steps in the struggle to ensure a living wage for workers in the fashion industry?
The report took two years to make and it’s ground breaking — it’s the first time ever that the living wage issue and discussions (which have been on the scene for more than a century) are analysed from a legal point of view. Watch out for what not only the power of law but the power of women lawyers will unleash! The second phase will be to align different stakeholders — business, governments and more legal entities — to progress on achieving the results we want: to end slave labour worldwide.