Anne Judith Weyman OBE
Doctor of Laws
Orator - Professor Lesley Doyal
It gives me great pleasure to talk about the achievements of Anne Weyman who is in many ways a women after my own heart. She has not been afraid to tackle some of the most sensitive issues of the day. And she has always done this through the presentation of clear and consistent arguments and carefully marshalled evidence. She has not sought to promote her own individual interests but has been firmly committed to the causes she has chosen to serve. And as we shall see she has made a mark both on her local and national communities as well as contributing to global developments in the field of human rights.
Anne’s broadly-based education prepared her well for what has been a challenging career. She obtained a physics degree at Bristol in 1965 – one of the very few women to do so in that period. She then took up articles with a firm of chartered accountants and was admitted to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1968 (again one of the very few women to achieve this). By this time she was extremely well-qualified for a number of different careers. However her aspirations were turning towards the promotion of social change and so she undertook a third qualification - a degree in sociology at the London School of Economics which she obtained in 1972. This was followed by several years of social research at LSE and at Queen Mary’s Hospital Roehampton.
In 1977 the more activist phase of her career began through her involvement with Amnesty International. This is now one of the major human rights organisations in the world with branches in many different countries. When Anne Weyman took on the role of Head of Finance and Administration in 1977 it was already expanding rapidly and her expertise played a key role in ensuring its sustainability. One of her major achievements was the purchase and conversion of new premises that the International Secretariat still occupies. This development later won the Office of the Year Award, showing what could be achieved with few resources but high levels of skill and commitment.
In 1986 Anne’s growing interest in family policy was reflected in her choice of a new position as Information and Public Affairs Director at the National Children’s Bureau. Her approach to this work involved an extension of her interest in human rights issues to look in particular at the rights of children. She held this post for ten years until 1996 when she was appointed to her current post as Chief Executive of the Family Planning Association (fpa).
When she joined fpa it was relatively underdeveloped with a low public profile. Anne widened its focus to include not just contraception but abortion and related issues of sexual health. In recent years the notion of sexual and reproductive rights has moved much higher up national and international agendas and fpa is now regarded as one of the most influential players in this arena.
The Family Planning Association is the only NGO working to improve the sexual health and reproductive rights of all people in the UK. It runs a comprehensive information service, including a national telephone helpline, which responds to over 100,000 queries each year on a wide range of issues. It also produces a variety of publications to support professionals and the public, and provides resources including training courses for those involved in delivering sexual health services. Its overall aim is to see a society with positive and open attitudes to sex, in which everybody enjoys good sexual health and where sexual and reproductive rights are respected.
But of course these are not easy aims to achieve. Sensitive issues need to be publicly debated in ways that bring people together rather than polarizing them. Anne Weyman has proved herself very adept at this. She has taken up the issue of abortion services in Northern Ireland for instance, supporting the campaign for changes in legislation to ensure that all women in the UK have equal access to care. In order to speed up the delivery of services she has joined the calls for appropriately-trained nurses to be allowed to carry out terminations. Under her guidance fpa was also one of the first organizations to recognise the problems caused by untreated Chlamydia and to campaign for greater awareness and improved services.
Not content to work only through fpa, Anne Weyman has also been extremely active in a range of other voluntary organizations as well as taking on public appointments. Just to give a flavour of her work in the voluntary sector, Anne founded the influential Sex Education Forum in 1987, was its Chair from 1987 – 1996 and is now president. She was a Trustee of the Children’s Rights Office from 1991-99 and Chair of the National Child Care Campaign and the Day Care Trust from 1986–87.
The quality of Anne’s work in the field of sexual health has been recognised in the public as well as the voluntary sector. Despite the fact that she has what some would see as radical views on a number of issues her participation has been sought by the government in important positions at both local and national levels. She is currently a Non-Executive Director of Islington PCT; she is Vice-Chair of the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV and a member of the Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy.
It is not always easy to maintain your principles and your sensitivity to other people’s feelings while engaging in public debate about complex ethical issues. I believe that Anne has managed to do this. The value of her achievements was recognized at the highest level in 2000 when she was awarded the OBE for services to family planning. Anne Weyman’s career has probably been very different from that of most people graduating from Bristol with a physics degree in 1965. But it is one that both she and the University can be very proud of.
Madam Chancellor. I present to you Anne Judith Weyman as eminently worthy of the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.