$2.9m raised through crowdfunding to fight sexual harassment

LONDON • It is not just talk to weed out sexual abusers. Folk clamouring for change are walking the talk, with a crowdfunding campaign to fight sexual harassment raising almost £1.6 million (S$2.9 million), a day after the initiative was spotlighted at Britain's prestigious Bafta film awards.

Harry Potter star Emma Watson donated £1 million to the UK Justice and Equality Fund which has received more than 280 contributions in two days - ranging from just a few pounds to two anonymous contributions of £400,000 and £100,000.

"We are delighted with the reaction that we've had... it just goes to show that people are really looking for this change," Ms Seyi Newell, a spokesman for Rosa, the women's rights group behind the campaign, said.

The fund was launched ahead of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) awards, where the campaign for women's rights in the entertainment industry took centrestage.

In an open letter published on Sunday in British newspaper The Observer, more than 200 actresses, including Oscar winners Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, called for sexual harassment and abuse to be rooted out from the industry.

"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 read.

"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," it added.

Ms Kate Kinninmont, who heads the Women in Film & Television UK group, said the money would support organisations that help victims of harassment and abuse.

"Many of these organisations are woefully underfunded, and we want to help fund their vital work," she pointed out.

Award-winning director Susanna White called for the establishment of an independent body to deal with reports of harassment and bullying in the entertainment sector.

The initiative comes after a slew of allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein last year sparked the #MeToo campaign, with women and men using social media to share their experiences of harassment.

The authorities in several countries have also launched investigations.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2018, with the headline '$2.9m raised through crowdfunding to fight sexual harassment'. Print Edition | Subscribe