Angelina Jolie Opens Center In The UK To Fight Warzone Violence Against Women

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You know that #askhermore social media campaign that everyone is talking about? This is the kind of news that needs to be talked about between reporters and female celebrities on the red carpet. If Angelina Jolie ever gets asked superficial questions about her outfit or hair, then we’ve lost all hope in humanity!

Thankfully Angelina herself has not. In fact she uses her celebrity status as a way to elevate humanity as much as she can. As a United Nations Human Rights Commission special envoy, she has traveled all over the world raising awareness of the plight of men, women and children suffering at the hands of tyranny and war.

Her most recent visit to Iraq and Syria to talk to displaced refugees impacted her in a way like never before. She spoke about how the the situation has actually gotten worse, and that the international community needs to do more.

Following on from her visit, Angelina was involved the opening of a ground-breaking new center at the London School of Economics. It is called the Centre on Women, Peace and Security, where students come up with solutions that can change the world. The center will be hosted in the LSE’s new Institute of Global Affairs, which will offer an MSc program in women, peace and security from 2016.

Alongside UK Foreign Secretary William Hague who she launched the ‘End Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones’ summit with, Angelina called for “the empowerment of women to be the highest priority for the finest minds, in the best academic institutions”.

“If you were to ask me who I think this centre is for, I picture someone who is not in this room today,” she said. “I think of a girl I met in Iraq three weeks ago. She is 13 years old, but instead of going to school, she sits on the floor in a makeshift tent.”

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The girl was captured by Isis as a sex slave, and repeatedly raped, Jolie said. “Now she may never be able to complete her education, or get married or have a family, because in her society victims of rape are shunned, and considered shameful. To my mind, what we have begun today at LSE is for that Iraqi girl and others like her.”

William Hague said the UK government is pledging £1million, and believes violence toward women in conflict zones prevents development. He also admitted this issue is not something that is often talked about amongst politicians, which is extremely disappointing to hear.

“Crimes against women have been accorded a lesser priority throughout history,” he said. “Sexual violence in conflict involves the deliberate targeting of women and children and men, in ways that often simply defy the power of description.”

“We always have to strive to do something else as the United Kingdom, and that is to try to improve the condition of humanity … We can overcome that feeling that it’s a hopeless matter, that you can never change it.”

US former and current Secretaries of State, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, sent their well-wishes and thoughts about this ground-breaking new facility.

John Kerry said the center is timely as the US strikes to prevent terrorist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram from kidnapping and abusing women and girls and forcing them into slavery.

Hillary Clinton believes the LSE center will help give women “the tools and resources to break the barriers that keep them from contributing and participating fully in their governments, economies and societies”.

As for Angelina Jolie, she says she cannot fathom that is has taken this long for action to be taken on this level.

“I cannot fathom why it has ever been alright to treat women this way. I find it abhorrent and it makes absolutely no sense to me that we know that girls are being are being sold into sexual slavery; that when a woman is raped she is forced from her community; that girls as young as nine are being married off.”

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Her Hollywood career may seem like a far cry from her humanitarian work, but over the past few years there has been a marked crossover. Director of the award-nominated film ‘Unbroken’ showed her penchant for incredible stories about human strength.

Her directorial debut in 2011 was the acclaimed film ‘In The Land Of Blood And Honey‘ was set during the Bosnian war that tore the Balkan region apart in the 1990s.

And while this wasn’t her film originally, she became the executive producer of a movie out of Ethiopia called ‘Difret’.

“It is based on a true story from the 1990s about a girl who was kidnapped to be a child bride but, in running away from her captors, ended up shooting to death her would-be husband. The act of marriage through abduction—which includes raping a girl until she’s impregnated—is called telefa in Ethiopian and is considered cultural tradition in some parts of the country. But “tradition” is too-often cover for gender discrimination, and telefa is an act that completely removes girls’ power and forces them into being wives and mothers before they’re ready for either,” writes Michele Kort at Ms. Magazine.

The film was made by Ethiopian writer/director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, who attended film school at the University of Southern California. After seeing the film, Angelina Jolie (whose adopted daughter Zahara is Ethiopian) signed on as executive producer in order to bring more awareness to the violence inflicted upon women.

“When I first saw this film, I was moved to tears by the story. I couldn’t believe what I was watching—what these young girls have been subjected to. But those tears of sadness became tears of joy as I watched … how they fought back, and in turn what they have done for countless other women,” she said.

While these films only show a glimpse of what Angelina Jolie is passionate about, her work raising awareness is even more important. Using her status as an international icon is not to draw attention to herself, but to really show the rest of the world how vital it is that we fight for the rights of girls in developing countries. The Center on Women, Peace and Security is another piece of armor in the global battle to achieve gender equality.

“There is no stable future for a world in which crimes committed against women go unpunished,” she said.

“We need the next generation of educated youth with inquisitive minds and fresh energy, who are willing not only to sit in the classroom but to go out into the field and the courtrooms and make a decisive difference.”

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