Angelina Jolie has opened Europe’s first academic center, The Center on Women, Peace, and Security, to fight violence against women in war zones. The center is located at the London School of Economics. It will offer a postgraduate teaching program beginning in 2016 and will “Focus on the participation of women in conflict-related processes and on enhancing accountability and ending impunity for rape and sexual violence in war,” according to a press release.
“I am excited at the thought of all the students in years to come who will study in this new center,” Angelina Jolie, who serves as a special envoy to the United Nations Commission For Refugees, said. “There is no stable future for a world in which crimes against women go unpunished. 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 to make a decisive difference.”
Jolie has opened the center in a partnership with the First Secretary of State for England, William Hague. It will support the goals of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), a campaign that was co-founded by Jolie, Hague, the London School of Economics, and the U.K. government, in 2012.
“If you were to ask me who I think this centre is for, I picture someone who is not in this room today,” Jolie told the U.K.’s Guardian. “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.” The teenager was captured by ISIS and raped. “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.”
In a meeting with officials, Jolie spoke about the international conflict that many women face around the world.
“Most conflict today takes place within states, not between them,” Jolie said to an audience that included the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Hague. “An estimated 90 percent of all casualties are women and children and rape is a favored military tactic we seem unable to prevent or punish. I recently returned from northern Iraq, where women and girls are systematically targeted by armed groups, including ISIS. The intensity and brutality of the sexual violence is terrifying. It is premeditated, organized, and brazen.”
Jolie hoped to raise awareness of the violence and stigma faced by women, requesting that the delegates help her by fighting against “the pernicious use of supposed religious doctrine to denigrate or dehumanize. This is violence that respects and spares no one, of any religion or ethnicity. It is fueled by impunity.”
The delegates concluded the meeting by pledging to speak out against sexual violence in their communities.
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