Emma Watson has joined nearly 200 British female entertainers in spearheading a new campaign called the Justice and Equality Fund. Along with her signature on an open letter that calls for an end to sexual harassment, Watson donated £1 ($1.4 million USD) to the fund.
Inspired by the Time's Up and #MeToo movements in America, the group of UK-based women say they "have come together to challenge the sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination that persists across all industries and sections of society."
In a letter published by The Guardian this weekend, the group says, "This movement is bigger than just a change in our industry alone." Later, they add, "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."
Explaining that sexual harassment is far from just an American problem, the letter states, "Here in the UK, this movement is at a critical juncture. The gender pay gap for women in their 20s is now five times greater than it was six years ago. Research in the UK has found that more than half of all women said they have experienced sexual harassment at work. A growing reliance on freelance work forces creates power relationships which are conducive to harassment and abuse. Those engaged in insecure contract work are especially vulnerable to exploitation."
The fund will support organizations and projects across three areas of focus. One will be "advice, support, and signposting," which will work to "make sure people know their rights and can access good quality support for local and national issues." Another focus will be on legal and policy work, which will "support game-changing legal cases that can help improve laws and policies and create a safer future for us all." Finally, the group will support advocacy and prevention causes to "create campaigns and alliances that protect women’s rights, promote equality and ensure safe environments."
The letter was published on the eve of Sunday's 71st Annual British Academy Film Awards, which the group saw as an opportunity to "celebrate this tremendous moment of solidarity and unity across borders by coming together and making this movement international."
Watson's large financial commitment was joined by donations from other notable entertainers like Emma Thompson and Keira Knightley. As one of the UN's Goodwill Ambassadors, Watson has been speaking up for gender equality causes for years. In a powerful 2014 speech, she discussed the importance of bringing men and women together in support of these issues: "We want to try and galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality. And we don’t just want to talk about it, but make sure it is tangible."