The New Zealand actress, writer and producer Anne Chamberlain who has written a solo play, EGLANTYNE, about Save the Children's founder Eglantyne Jebb talks in this interview about Eglantyne's life and her visionary work for children.

As Save the Children Switzerland has hosted EGLANTYNE about the founder of Save the Children – Eglantyne Jebb – it feels like we all got to know this strong woman in person. Anne Chamberlain presented Eglantyne Jebb in such a powerful way that the audience could literally meet her and the most important people in her life on the stage. The actress not only tells about Eglantyne’s big heroics, but more importantly presents her as a whole person which draws her even closer to us and inspires us.

Anne Chamberlain, why did you decide to write and perform a solo play about Eglantyne Jebb?
Because I thought this is definitely a story worth telling! I had a short-term contract with Save the Children in New Zealand and came across the fact that she wrote the Declaration of Geneva which inspired today’s UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. I was amazed by her and wondered why I have not heard of this amazing woman before? Reading more about Eglantyne’s life, I felt emotionally connected with her and was personally very interested. I have never done a solo play before but with her story I could see how it would work well as a solo play.

How would you describe Eglantyne’s character?
For me Eglantyne Jebb was a visionary, brave woman and an incredibly modern thinker for her time. Visionary because working in the aid field she was thinking one step further when solving a problem and if her first idea didn’t work out, she came up with an alternative. Helping children she thought: “what else can we do?” and realized that children do not have rights. To change this, she wrote the first declaration of the Rights of the Child.

She was brave, she put ideas out in the open and spoke out to the public requesting help for children. After the First World War, Eglantyne and her sister Dorothy tried the conventional way of lobbying the British government to help children starving in Europe, but nothing happened. So they decided they must let the public know what was happening and ask them to help.

Eglantyne was a global thinker and her visionary actions helped break international boundaries. This was an incredibly great achievement after the First World War when the economic blockade punished Europe and caused famine. She was convinced that collaboration amongst people and nations was very important to eliminate crisis. Eglantyne saw humanity!
In the theater play you show through different scenes that Eglantyne did not fit into the time she lived. Why?
In the early 1920s, Eglantyne and her sister Dorothy, being women, had to do more to be heard. They had to think carefully about whom they must contact for support. Sometimes they needed men to open doors for them. Even though Eglantyne grew up in a good and wealthy family, she could not rely on these privileges, as she did not stay within her circles. She used her privilege, education at Oxford University, and social connections to help other people – another act of breaking boundaries!

What made her achieve such great things in this challenging time period?
Eglantyne was very persuasive and did not hesitate to put things out in the open! As she started to fundraise for starving children, she had the impression that the problems were not taken seriously enough and she wanted to show people how it really was. When the Russian famine took place in 1921, she sent a photographer to film scenes of the famine and the starving children. This was the first time film was used for fundraising, which proves her modern way of thinking! Also, in 1924 she travelled by train around Europe to persuade Prime Ministers, Presidents, Kings and Queens to sign and commit to the Declaration of Geneva.

How do you think Eglantyne would fit in today’s world?
The world is a much more open place now and women have more rights and possibilities, and Eglantyne would have more ways of being heard. I think her behavior would be quite similar today, but she would have different platforms and option available. With the internet and social media, she would be able to reach many more people globally. Eglantyne’s biggest legacy is the Declaration of the Rights of the Child which still impacts today’s world and enhances children’s rights. If she saw the devastating situations in Syria and Yemen for example, she would definitely stand up for children and their families and ask the world to stop the war on children and help them.

Let us all be part of Eglantyne’s legacy and inspired by her to act as heroes for children!