Ending violence against women isn’t the most “cuddly” of campaigns because to support and advance this cause is to face and acknowledge the ugly side of humanity. Indeed, the wall of silence and taboo still surrounding violence against women and the sheer scale of this most widespread of human rights issues often become an obstacle that prevents ordinary people, as well as celebrities, from getting actively involved with the cause.
The 16 celebrities who have made our list have overcome that obstacle with gusto, and have shown dedication, commitment and energy in the campaign to end violence against women, for good. All 16 celebrities have used their fame, influence and fund raising capacity in a positive way- and our blog post today goes some way to show our thanks for their efforts.
We have selected celebrities from the industries that have traditionally spawned celebrity culture including the film, music and television because they are amongst the most visible influencers due to the ubiquity and power of popular culture. Indeed, these celebrities have used their popularity and high profile to shine a much-needed spotlight on the cause.
Of the 16 celebrities listed, we have included six male celebrities because men’s influence in the global push to stop gender-based violence cannot be underestimated and we strongly believe that men need to join forces with women to end violence against women. We have noticed hesitation from many male celebrities in getting on board the cause to speak out against violence against women and hope that the six men in this blog post will inspire other men, be they celebrities or regular guys, to join the cause.
In fact, did you know at the Pixel Project we have our very own Male Celebrity Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign where our mystery male role models include a Nobel Laureate, a Pulitzer Prize Winner and a world renowned environmentalist? Buy some pixels today and you will be able to find out who it is once the entire collage is revealed. All funds raised via pixel sales will be in benefit of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Malaysia’s Women’s Aid Organisation.
And now, without further ado – here is our first ever list of 16 celebrities in alphabetical order!
Written by Angelique Mulholland; Edited by Regina Yau
International superstar and passionate, life-long women’s rights campaigner, Annie Lennox is renowned for her charity work, campaigning and advocacy on women’s rights. In April 2010 Annie signed a letter to UK government officials urging them to make a pledge an end global violence against women and make it a foreign policy priority.
In 2008, she presented a series of investigative reports of widespread violence against women in Africa, she commented: “Violence against women threatens the lives of more young women than cancer, malaria or war. It affects one in three women worldwide. It leaves women mentally scarred for life, and it is usually inflicted by a family member.”
In addition, Annie has also campaigned tirelessly for HIV/AIDS awareness and the links between sexual violence against women and the prevalence of the disease in Africa.
Charlize Theron is a UN ambassador for peace and a leader in the “Stop rape now” campaign. Stop Rape Now is a joint effort by a network of UN agencies known as UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict to prevent the use of rape as a tactic of war and respond effectively to the needs of survivors. As part of her ambassadorial work, Charlize visited the Democratic Republic of Congo -where an epidemic of sexual violence has left a generation of women physically and emotionally scarred by the brutality of war. Charlize commented:
“Hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been beaten, tortured and raped—atrocities beyond anything that I have ever heard of or could imagine… For a problem so big and so complicated, where do you begin? What I have found and what I believe is that you begin somewhere, anywhere, but you must begin. You must act. As you read this, consider your humanity. Consider for one moment if you or your sister, your mother or your daughter lived in such a dire situation—then act.”
Celebrity Anti-VAW Campaigner Number 3: Daniel Craig
Famed for his role as James Bond, Daniel Craig showed his support for women’s human rights and equality on March 11th of this year, International Women’s Day, by featuring in a short film, “Are we equal?” created by Equality Now. Beginning the short film as James Bond, “the great lover of women”, he finishes the film in drag. Stepping into a woman’s shoes, he demonstrates the realities of being a woman in today’s world.
The great “lover of women” reminds us that women’s human rights are still seriously violated in every country in the world and are we are still far from being equal.
Daniel Craig produced this short film for free. He is now starring in the feature film “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo”. Based on a Swedish novel originally entitled, “Men who hate women”, the story follows a young woman who is violated by men, including her father, at a young age. With the help of a passionate journalist (Daniel Craig), she seeks justice.
David is a committed and life-long campaigner for victims of rape. He sits on the board of “The Rape Foundation in Santa Monica” and has been part of many educational campaigns against date rape drugs. He has spoken candidly about people close to him who are survivors of rape and incest:
“I’ve had two girlfriends who were victims of child sexual abuse, and one was also later a date-rape victim. That sensitised me to the issue in a way that I hadn’t been before.”
He recently produced and directed a film called “Trust”. This film follows the story of a 14 year old girl who is groomed on the internet by a paedophile and then raped. It expresses the deep seated horror and rage her father feels at the violation of his child, and him not being able to protect her. David speaks candidly about his disillusionment at a society which advocates the sexualisation of young women through popular culture and advertisement, but then fails to protect them from predators and paedophiles.
He commented: “I wanted to take part in this campaign because it’s so easy to forget the many women who live their lives in fear because of domestic violence. Men have an important role to play in sending out the message that real men do not hurt or abuse their partners.”
Ian is also a committed environmental and animal rights activist. He uses social media to connect with and positively influence his young fans. In recognition of his brilliant work, he has just picked up a ‘World of Good’ award at the Carmel Art and Film Festival.
Jamelia signed her first record contract at 16 years old and over the last 12 years, the 30-year old R&B/pop singer-songwriter, television presenter and occasional model has had eight British Top 10 singles, won four Mobo awards, a Q award and received nine Brit nominations. One of a her chart topping singles was a powerful song called “Thank you.” The song chronicles the violence she endured at the hands of a former partner. Rather than anger and retribution, this song shows her the inner strength that years of abuse gave her to succeed in life.
“When I was with Teja’s father, I was beaten up almost every day and I honestly didn’t know that was not normal. I thought, I don’t want this for her, and left him.”
Now a spokesperson for single mothers, Jamelia champions their rights and criticises their unfair demonization within society. A single mother herself, Jamelia knows the pain of picking up the pieces of absent fathers, and abusive partners.
Best known for her starring role in High School Musical, Monique is a committed philanthropist and active campaigner for an end to violence against women. A UN Youth Champion, Monique took 16 days of activism by storm by entering the twittersphere and tweeting about ending violence against women in the lead up to Nov 25th – Elimination of Violence Against Women Day.
A powerful role model to young women, Monique is a great asset to the global campaign to end violence against women.
Why not follow her on twitter? @gimmemotalk
“Violence against women is an appalling human rights violation. But it is not inevitable.”
The face of the online campaign “Say no to violence against women campaign”, Nicole has campaigned for decision makers of every Nation to make funding for end violence against women campaigns a top priority. Nicole commented, “In the real world, the laws go unenforced and impunity is the norm.”
One of the 21st century’s most well-known philanthropists, Oprah Winfrey has used her fame and fortune to promote numerous causes, not least of which an end to violence against women. On her television programme “The Oprah Winfrey” show, Oprah has dedicated countless shows to helping victims of rape and incest. A victim of child abuse herself, Oprah is a powerful advocate for women’s empowerment.
In 1985 Oprah starred in the Stephen Speilberg film, “The Colour Purple”. A film based on a book by Alice Walker, which follows the story of a young girl who is raped and beaten by first of all her step father, and then her husband.
Oprah also famously made a public appeal to 20 year old R&B singer, Rihanna, to leave her then boyfriend Chris Brown, after he violently attacked her.
Peter Gabriel became famous for being the vocalist in the hit band of the 80s “Genesis”. After leaving the band he became heavily involved in social activism with Amnesty International. In 1992 he co-founded WITNESS, a non-profit group that equips, trains and supports locally-based organizations worldwide to use video and the internet in human rights documentation and advocacy. As part of his on-going commitment to human rights he has supported many women’s rights organisations around the world and the 10 year long Amnesty campaign, “Stop Violence Against Women.”
This included supporting a global campaign to resolve the disappearances and murders of hundreds of women on the Mexico / U.S. border. In 2009, he met with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón to urge him to investigate and end the femicide.
He commented on his Human Rights work: “Those of us who have the eyes and ears of the media have a responsibility to amplify the voices of the voiceless.”
Reese is a committed and active campaigner in ending violence against women. She is an honorary chair of the Avon Foundation, which is a charity which aims to empower women and raise awareness of domestic violence.
In 2009, Witherspoon helped launch the Refuge campaign Four Ways to Speak Out against domestic violence. Reese called upon the UK government to do more to prevent violence against women: every year in the U.K, two women are killed by their partners.
Reese commented: “There remains what can seem like an impenetrable wall of silence around violence,” she said, “and we must all play a role in breaking this silence.”
Robin actively supports the Enough Project- a movement to end genocide and crimes against humanity. She is currently shooting a documentary in Bukavu, a city in the eastern part of the Congo where many of the atrocities against women – including rape, gang rape and mutilation- have gone unpunished.
“I’m going to Bukavu because that’s where the hospitals are,” she explained. “News stories report that thousands of women who are victims of rape and mutilation stream annually into the medical facilities.”
Salma Hayek, Mexican actress, is a powerful activist in raising awareness about violence against women and discrimination, particularly in immigrant communities. Her charity, the Salma Hayek Foundation, supports organizations giving aid to and raising awareness of victims of domestic violence. She also works with disadvantaged children on the streets of Mexico, helping them to overcome problems such as drugs, violence or lack of education.
Hayek says: “No woman has to be a victim of physical abuse. Women have to feel like they are not alone.”
Working with his wife, Faith Hill, he has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for battered women’s shelters in Tennessee. In August 2010, he received the True Ally Award at the 2010 Men Stopping Violence Annual Awards Ceremony.
Supermodel Waris Dirie is campaigning for an end to Female Genital Mutilation. Backing the launch of a film highlighting the plight of young girls facing circumcision in the UK this year, she is supporting the project together with the Metropolitan Police in London to highlight the potentially fatal practice of female genital mutilation.
A victim of FGM herself, Dirie said: ‘Female genital mutilation targets little girls, baby girls – fragile angels who are helpless, who cannot fight back… It’s a crime against a child, a crime against humanity. It’s abuse. It’s absolutely criminal and we have to stop it.’
Will Young, former Pop Idol turned successful solo artist is an active campaigner for victims of domestic violence. He became a Women’s Aid’s Ambassador in 2003 and has since dedicated a great deal of time to understand their work and help them out with fund raising. He raised money through a variety of contacts and performances- including an Ebay auction where he cleared out his wardrobe to raise money for charity! Will’s speech and press work at the launch of The Hideout in April 2005 greatly contributed the launch’s success, ensuring thousands more children knew that help was available through the site.
He also featured in the Real Man campaign, launched earlier this year by Women’s Aid to raise awareness about domestic violence. He said:
“I have been working with Women’s Aid since 2003 when I became the charity’s first Ambassador, and am so pleased to be able to be a part of the ‘Real Man’ campaign against domestic violence. I studied domestic violence at university and feel passionately that we need to raise awareness of violence against women and children and refuse to ignore it. Just by speaking out against domestic violence and being supportive of those directly affected we can all make a positive difference.”