South Africa’s Academy Award winning actress and activist Charlize Theron said a woman is raped every 26 seconds in her home country, a situation she described as “quite horrific.”
Appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Theron took over her new job as United Nations Messenger of Peace to lead the campaign to end violence against women.
“The statistics on rape cases were quite horrific,” Theron told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York on her first day at work, joining nine other existing Messengers of Peace to help advance various UN campaigns.
“One in every three women is raped in her lifetime and the number was devastating,” Theron said. “It is getting worse.” Theron founded the Cape Town Rape Crisis Centre in 1999 to deal with the widespread cases of rape and the high number of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. But she said she now needs the support of the UN to fight rape more effectively.
“It’s very exciting to work for the UN because it gives you access to the source of information and the responsibility,” she said.
Theron founded The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project in partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) to help improve the lives of poor children and their families in her native South Africa, particularly those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
“I am convinced you’ll be a persuasive and powerful Messenger of Peace,” Ban said, after he appointed Theron last week. “You have consistently dedicated yourself to improving the lives of women and children in South Africa, and to preventing and stopping violence against women and girls. I look forward to working with you to end this terrible scourge.” Other Messengers of Peace include George Clooney for UN peacekeeping, Daniel Barenboim for peace and tolerance, Michael Douglas for disarmament and Yo-Yo Ma for youth.
Theron, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a serial killer in the film Monster, has used her star power to advocate for women since she emerged on the international scene more than a decade ago.