So now we know, Jan, Gemma, Doreen, Jennie and Naomi are "The Harmonies: The Voice of the WI." And what voices they have! I told you the standard was high, didn't I? Their version of Jerusalem is particularly beautiful: I love it, and I don’t think it’s in competition with Parry's version; it's just a different stance musically, giving it a more soulful, thoughtful aura. It’s also a huge thrill to know that they are to sing for Prince Charles. Being a member of the WI really can make it "...a wonderful world"
You know, before the girls had even left the BBC Breakfast studio yesterday morning, we were receiving calls at head office from women wanting to know how to join the WI. So heartfelt congratulations to The Harmonies! We can't wait for the CD to be released and of course you are all invited to sing to your fellow members at the AGM in Liverpool next June - with bells on.
But on the other side of the world there are some harrowing tales to be heard. At an Oxfam reception earlier this week I was introduced to "The Circle ", an initiative set up by the singer Annie Lennox with Oxfam. The WI' s own Women Reaching Women project is run in conjunction with Oxfam and, of course, has women's rights, their education and their heath at its heart. However, The Circle, with many female celebrity supporters, throws up salient facts to ponder:
- Two thirds of the 72 million children denied school are girls.
- Sixty four percent of the 771 million illiterate adults worldwide are women.
- Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours, yet earn only 10% of the world's income.
- Women hold only 14% of the world's parliamentary seats.
- Every minute a woman with no medical help dies in pregnancy or childbirth.
- Domestic violence is the single biggest cause of death and injury to women worldwide.
A wonderful world?