Source: The Daily Record

OVER the course of three decades Annie Lennox has raised awareness for great causes.


She has helped ­anti-apartheid, Make Poverty History and HIV awareness but now the award-winning singer has set her sights on domestic violence. And she is being helped by some of Scotland’s most influential businesswomen, designers and entertainers.


This week, Annie, awarded an OBE last year for her tireless charitable work, attended the Scottish branch of The Circle, a group of influential women helping to fight poverty and inequality at home and abroad. The Circle’s inaugural We Can event raised £100,000 to help Oxfam tackle violence against women in Pakistan. Annie, 57, said: “The women in The Circle are from different backgrounds. “Some are businesswomen, some are lawyers. They are in the arts, film-makers, journalists and photographers.


“On my travels and encounters with women in developing countries, I have witnessed such a lack of legislative protection at home from violence, abuse or rape.  “In some countries, girls don’t get access to education or training to help them sustain their lives.  “As a woman and mother with the benefit of the vote, freedom of speech and resources, I called out to other women from different backgrounds that might be as passionate about engaging in grassroots projects.”


Oxfam statistics reveal that Scotland also has a domestic abuse problem, with police called to 60,000 incidents each year.  One in five women in Scotland will experience domestic abuse at some stage. “The problem is that domestic violence happens in the home between partners or spouses and people with children,” said Annie. “It is hard for the woman to come out and say the man that might be supporting her and the family is abusive. “How does she get away from a man who is abusing her and supporting her too? Domestic violence is endemic and really shocking. It’s sad.”


But the situation is much worse in countries such as Pakistan where, according to reports from Oxfam and the Human Rights Commission, 80per cent of women are subjected to violence at home. Every two hours a woman is raped and every eight hours there is an incidence of gang rape. A thousand women are victim to ‘honour’ killings each year, while 5,000 are imprisoned under the ‘Hudood Ordinance’ — laws introduced in 1979 to bring conformity with Islamic law — for sex outside marriage, including being raped.


One in six female infants in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan die from neglect due to discrimination. Annie hopes her profile can help raise awareness as a first step to stopping the sort of terrible abuses that happen worldwide. “I have never experienced domestic violence personally but I can empathise,” said Annie. “The first thing that needs to happen is that people need to know about it. “It’s like HIV. The stigma around HIV prevents people knowing that it exists on an epidemic level in countries. “So first of all it is getting the issue out of the closet.”


Annie admits the task of educating men and women in an attempt to reduce instances of domestic violence in countries such as Pakistan, and in Scotland, may seem overwhelming. She said: “There is the victim and the perpetrator. If you have a family and the man is violent, the children are going to see the women victimised. “They are going to grow up with trauma and are probably going to become perpetrators or victims of domestic violence themselves. “I am particularly interested in women with very few rights. “We think we have equality here but there is disparity here, as well as around the globe. “We have very much in common with women who are being abused in the developing countries. It’s not much different. “A woman abused here has the same experience as the women being abused elsewhere.


“Having said that, there are horrendous abuses of young girls being forced into marriages and cases of honour killings. “This is something that Pakistani women here are very conscious of. Because we are a multicultural society these are issues we have to be conscious of because they are happening here.” The former Eurythmics singer is aware armchair critics will say she is a ‘do-gooder’ who should stick to music. “I know that is going to happen,” she said. “It’s my passion and I’m not going to stop doing what I do because somebody tells me I’m a do-gooder. I don’t care.


“I would ask the person who is doing that, what are you doing? Are you sitting on your sofa watching reality TV, doing nothing? If so, shame on you.” She added: “For the price of a glossy magazine you could contribute something to a charitable project each week. “You open a lot of these magazines at the hairdressers that are full of advertising and celebrity bullsh*t. It’s depressing.. “It is gossip on a larger scale. It’s colourful, it’s glossy and we all want a little bit of that to take us out of our normal, flat, mundane lives that are grey.


“You look up to these so-called celebrities in their evening dresses and designer clothes and think, amazing. I want to live like that. Then if you see them doing anything human, like having a breakdown, a divorce or falling out of a taxi, you think, yes that’s great. “It appeals to our gossiping selves rather than appealing to us to do something useful with our lives. “You may sense there is something sick about that glossy magazine. “If you are buying The Sun or bought the News Of The World, you’re part of the problem. It’s not just the hackers. “If you want to tell the journalists in those newspapers you don’t approve, don’t buy their newspaper and you’ll soon get rid of it.”


With Circles in London, Glasgow and Milan, other cities are expected to get involved and Annie insists she will continue to campaign for good causes. “I don’t want to preach to anybody, but I do want to inspire,” she explained. “I put my head above the parapet. If 50 per cent think it’s a great idea, fantastic. “If 50 per cent think, I can’t stand that Lennox woman, so be it. But at least people will have been inspired to think about it.”

She added: “The Circle has been a very organic affair. “We put out some calls to people we knew. We started by having dinners at my house. “I’m not a saint. I’m not an angel. I’m a human being. “I do it because I love to commit. ‘Not everybody is going to support you. You just decide what your values are in life and what you are going to do and then you feel like you count and that makes life worth living.

“It makes my life meaningful.”