Global Feminism is the movement Annie Lennox wants everyone to be talking about – and she outlined why to Stylist’s Felicity Thistlethwaite.
Born in Aberdeen in the Fifties, singer-songwriter and political activist Annie Lennox has witnessed significant political and social change across the UK.
In her lifetime, often despite a tough political climate, women’s rights have developed tenfold to bring about real social change for women and girls across Britain.
Single women were given access to the contraceptive pill in 1967, six years after married women were given the same rights. In 1976 the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act provided legal protection to female victims of domestic violence.
And in 1967, the Abortion Act legalised abortion in the UK for women who were up to 24 weeks pregnant.
And now, in 2019, the Scottish singer-songwriter is a firm believer Global Feminism is the way to push women’s rights and equality even further. But the demand to end discrimination and push equal opportunities shouldn’t end on home turf – we all have a responsibility to make positive change for women around the world, according to Lennox.
“Feminism is not a club that you join – that you pay into. It’s an actual ethical and qualitative attitude and value towards the world,” she tells me on the phone, while discussing her up-coming TEDxGlasgow talk on Global Feminism.
“Global Feminism is the way forward to transform the lives of girls and women everywhere,” she says. And the need to highlight women’s issues has never felt greater. The World Health Organisation estimates 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. And UN Women reports up to 15 million adolescent girls worldwide have experienced forced sex at some point in their life.
“I’m 64,” Lennox says. “I’ve been through quite a lot of different stages, through different periods of time. Since I was born in the Fifties, living through the Sixties, going on to be a young woman in the Seventies, Eighties, Nineties…I’ve watched everything develop and evolve sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse over those periods of time. And I think right now, it’s an interesting moment in terms of that glass ceiling.”
The singer-songwriter explains she believes the disparity in the rights of women living in Western countries, when compared to other countries, is “massive.”
“There are still issues that are so, so fundamental. Issues that have already been overcome by women in Western countries are still challenges faced by women in the developing world.
“In many countries, it’s as if the clock has spun backwards a hundred years.”
Two thirds of the 780 million people in the world who cannot read and write are women, she tells me during our conversation. “We need to look beyond our own Western bubble, and we need to look at feminism from a global perspective.”
A quick glance the website of the non-profit organisation Lennox founded called The Circle takes me through a further 19 shocking facts about women’s rights around the world.
It will take another 118 years – or until 2133 – until the global pay gap between men and women is finally closed, the website reads.
603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime. 71% of human trafficking victims are women and girls. I could go on.
Founded in 2008, Lennox describes The Circle as a network of women “from all walks of life and all backgrounds”. The Circle’s mission is to inspire and connect women, and to support some of the most “disempowered women and girls in the world as they challenge the injustice of inequality”.
But how can we make a difference on the global stage here in the UK, I ask? Well, it all starts with grass roots organisations, according to Annie. “I believe in the support, in the identification and empowerment of organisations that can effectively change attitudes with knowledge and therefore change behaviours. But it must go up to the highest level.
“It must go into government and it must go to legislation.”
She explains to me she believes we’re in a transient age; an “interesting, challenging time”. But what about the push of strong feminist values through popular culture? I name Beyoncé and Michelle Obama as two examples of women using their voice to highlight inequalities in women’s rights.
“I think that the bigger the conversation, the better,” she says. “And, you know, these inspirational change-makers are remarkable. All of them are making a contribution. I look at the women’s movement like this - it’s something that you might not always see, but it’s happening all the time. The conversation is going on all the time.
“I think everybody – women and men – can make a contribution to this.”
She adds: “You can’t change behaviour unless you change attitudes.”
And that’s what Lennox’s TEDxGlasgow talk is all about, changing the attitudes and informing as many people as possible about Global Feminism and women’s rights.
“It’s amazing. TEDx is a platform that has a massive outreach and if I can make my contribution to this dialogue – to the women’s movement – using my platform when I’m invited to a TEDx conversation like this, it’s a wonderful opportunity.
“As an advocate and activist myself – I’m always looking for opportunities where I can bring something to the table you see.”
Watch Annie Lennox’s TEDxGlasgow talk here from 9am, Friday 14 June.
Pictures: Getty images