Annie at Nonceba, one of the projects she supports in South Africa
Since #MeToo, Time’s Up and Women’s March movements have placed women’s rights high on the global agenda, Annie Lennox is impatient to see glass ceilings smashed. “I am proud to call myself a feminist and stand in solidarity with everyone who understands the vital need for change in attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls,” says Lennox, who identifies herself as a ‘Global Feminist’. “The feminist movement is a broad church with different interpretations, opinions and ideas. I believe in equality of rights, with empowerment and justice made available for every woman and girl in every corner of the world.”
Earlier this month, Lennox launched #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist – an Instagram-led call to action bringing collective meaning and value to the term ‘Global Feminism’. “Feminism needs to be relevant, appreciated and respected where the needs are greatest— in countries where women and girls are not even near the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of human rights,” explains Lennox. “We want to create a massive advocacy wave to establish the term ‘Global Feminism’ and raise a better understanding about the bigger picture of global inequality.”
Annie’s own understanding of global inequality came as a result of her work with organisations such as Nelson Mandela’s 46664 Foundation, Comic Relief and Oxfam. Visiting projects in developing countries, she witnessed first-hand the challenges and injustices facing some of the most marginalised people across the globe. “Every time I came back to the UK, the contrast was palpable,” she says. “I woke up to how many resources we actually have access to and how easy it is to take so many things for granted, such as clean running water and sanitation, education from primary level upwards, health care, sexual and reproductive rights, and human rights.”
It was this realisation that inspired the creation of The Circle – the concept of which came from the notion of women connecting and inspiring each other to become advocates and change agents through resources, passion, skills and ideas. The Circle began in an informal and organic way, with Lennox and a small group of friends, including Eco-Age’s Creative Director Livia Firth, meeting for dinner back in 2008. “Many of us, on meeting each other for the first time, discovered that we had more in common than we might otherwise have realised,” recalls Lennox.
Over the years the group collaborated together, creating events, raising funds, raising awareness and exploring their potential. Reaching out to their networks, they brought more women to The Circle, and in 2015 it evolved from an informal association to a registered charitable organisation.
This was a pivotal moment for the organisation – it not only encouraged more women from all walks of life and corners of the globe to join The Circle, it also allowed The Circle to work with a more diverse range of grassroots NGOs. “Connecting with the women running these organisations and those who they represent has been truly inspiring,” says Lennox. “Witnessing transformative change and how much our support makes a difference is incredibly satisfying. We live thousands of miles away, but the fact that we care, we understand, and we support small organisations, is empowering and edifying all round.”
This year The Circle celebrated its first decade – a significant milestone. “We’re proud of the changes we have contributed to for many women and girls in different countries,” says Lennox, reflecting on the achievements of the past 10 years. “However, we’re not complacent – the dial on gender equality still needs to be turned up a significant amount, so we remain committed to the vision of The Circle becoming a long-term contributor to the global movement for the rights of women and girls.”
Since 2008, The Circle has made a significant contribution to the global women’s rights movement – raising over £2.5 million, which has been used to reach and make a difference to over 160,000 women and girls in more than 16 developing countries. The Circle has also produced advocacy tools for lasting sustainable change to give voice and support to girls and women and the issues they face, such as the implementation of the Maputo Protocol in Kenya and of the fundamental right of a Living Wage.
The movement is not without its challenges. Lennox says the scale of global inequality is overwhelming but playing an active part in contributing towards positive change as a member of The Circle goes some way towards counteracting that sense of helplessness. “We are an organisation of women who all mostly lead busy lives, so keeping momentum and traction can be tough, but the joy of The Circle is that our members can choose to become as involved as much as it suits them.”
“Although we’re 10 years’ old we are still ‘young’ in terms of developing as an organisation and we keep a small efficient and effective core team who lead the organisation and support the women of The Circle. As we go from toddling to walking then running in terms of our growth, the balance is to solidify and build, while keeping up with the opportunities and possibilities as they arise. It’s a challenge that we’re happy to have!”
To join the #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist campaign, have a picture taken holding a sheet of paper with one selected handwritten reason why you identify yourself as a Global Feminist. Post your picture on social media, using #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist and tag Annie Lennox and @TheCircleNgo. Feel free to help grow the campaign by tagging other organisations you support who work for the rights of women and girls, and ask your friends, family and colleagues to join in a collective wave for positive change for women’s rights around the world.
To join The Circle go to www.thecircle.ngo