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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Emma Watson gives £1m to UK women's Justice and Equality Fund

The new British fund will help support women who face workplace harassment and abuse

Activist Marai Larasi, left, and Emma Watson, right, at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony. Mike Nelson/ EPA
Activist Marai Larasi, left, and Emma Watson, right, at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony. Mike Nelson/ EPA

Actress and activist Emma Watson has donated £1 million (Dh5.15 million) to kick-start a new British fund to help women facing harassment and abuse at work, launched ahead of Sunday's Baftas and backed by hundreds of female entertainment stars.

The justice and equality fund was announced in an open letter supporting the US Time's Up movement, signed by around 200 women, including actresses Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Keira Knightley and Saoirse Ronan.

The letter is addressed to "dear sisters" — as was a similar missive signed by Hollywood stars last month — and calls for an international movement to stamp out a culture of abuse exposed by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

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The fund-raising page for the new fund shows Watson, who won fame in the Harry Potter films and is now a UN Women goodwill ambassador, made the opening £1 million (1.13 million euros, $1.4 million) donation.

Knightley and British actor Tom Hiddleston have both given £10,000 to the fund, which will be used to set up a network of advice, support and advocacy projects to tackle abuse across all sectors of work.

It follows a legal aid fund set up by A-list stars in the United States to help both women and men abused at work.

"In the very near past, we lived in a world where sexual harassment was an uncomfortable joke; an unavoidable, awkward part of being a girl or a woman," the letter published in The Observer newspaper says.

"In 2018, we seem to have woken up in a world ripe for change. If we truly embrace this moment, a line in the sand will turn to stone."

Imbalance of power

The letter was published ahead of the British Academy Film Awards on Sunday night, when stars are expected to repeat the protest staged at last month's Golden Globes awards and wear black in a show of solidarity with victims.

Some are also expected to bring activists with them to highlight their work.

"As we approach the Baftas, our industry's time for celebration and acknowledgement, we hope we can celebrate this tremendous moment of solidarity and unity across borders by coming together and making this movement international," the letter says.

It emphasises that revelations about abuse in Hollywood have now spread across the world, saying the movement is about more than just the entertainment industry.

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Read more:

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Comment: Maybe the sisterhood does exist after all

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It highlights problems in Britain such as the gender pay gap and changes to work that often make it more insecure.

"This movement is intersectional, with conversations across race, class, community, ability and work environment, to talk about the imbalance of power," the letter states.

Around 160 activists and academics have signed a sister letter pledging support for the new fund, which will be administered by the organisation Rosa.

The signatories thank the high-profile stars for helping "push issues such as sexual harassment and rape into the public consciousness in an unprecedented way".

"We believe that this is a moment in time when we can harness our collective energies to dismantle the wall of silence that surrounds violence against women and girls," they say.