ANNIE LENNOX ON A LIFE-CHANGING STRANGER
I’m so proud to be standing with my arms around the woman in this photo. She was one of a group of women I’d visited in Uganda in 2005. Although I don’t remember her name, I know her, and I know her circumstances. She represents billions of women across the planet – women who live in total poverty; women with no access to rights or resources. These are the women we all need to be more aware of. I had flown to the capital city, Kampala, with Comic Relief to visit the headquarters of the National Association of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (NACWOLA) – of which this beautiful woman was a member. Meeting her was humbling. It was one of the many opportunities I’ve had to witness how women in the most difficult circumstances, often ostracised by their own communities, can join together in supportive groups, to help each other stay alive and healthy. I also witnessed how HIV/AIDS can ravage people’s lives, taking them down in the harshest of ways. If you have a little bit of passion for human rights, the experience of directly meeting women who are affected by AIDS strengthens your resolve to become involved in trying to make a difference.
Being a women’s rights activist feels like a true vocation for me. My first baby was stillborn, and I think this was such an overwhelming personal experience that it gave me a more profound insight into how much women have to go through in so many stages of their lives. And although any tragic experience is personal to you, it can also connect you to a much larger universal picture.
My focus on HIV/AIDS really began in 2003 when I was invited to perform at the launch of Nelson Mandela’s AIDS campaign 46664. Hearing Mr Mandela describe HIV/AIDS as a genocide that was taking place in South Africa, with women and children at the face of the epidemic, had a marked effect on me as a woman and a mother. Women are the mothers of the world; women bring all human life into the world and, as someone who’s had that experience, I strongly identify with the idea of something going wrong. If you’re
HIV positive and expecting a baby but have no access to treatment, it must be overwhelming. If I think back on all the chapters of my life, there are so many things that I’ve been through as a woman. Motherhood changes everything. It gives you an unconditional perspective, a different kind of love to the one you’ve been pursuing throughout your life. That’s one of the reasons I work with mothers2mothers (m2m), a charitable organisation working to help women with HIV deliver babies who are born free of the virus. It does extraordinary, life-saving work.
The world is full of despair, but as an activist you are always looking for solutions. Using interpersonal skills and resources, each individual one of us can be a contributing agent for change in the world.
‘Although any tragic experience is personal to you, it can also connect you to a much larger universal picture’