Angelina Jolie’s resume of humanitarian work once again proves to be one of the most extensive in Hollywood.
The actress and director was named an ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2001 and has since been promoted to special envoy due to her immense activism. On Tuesday, World Refugee Day, she traveled to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi to visit approximately 20 adolescent refugee girls currently living in the Heshima Kenya Safe House.
“Over half of all refugees and displaced people worldwide are women and children,” Jolie said, according to the UNHCR. “How we treat them is a measure of our humanity as nations.”
This marks the activist’s third visit to Kenya, but she has been known to do humanitarian work with refugees across the globe.
The UNHCR reports that Kenya is home to about 491,000 refugees from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Burundi and Rwanda, and many, if not all, of the girls Jolie met with have fled from extreme sexual and gender-based violence. A number of the girls are currently pregnant or have given birth after being raped.
“On World Refugee Day my only ask is that people consider the pain and suffering of young girls like these,” Jolie said, according to the UNHCR. “Not only have they had to flee extreme violence or persecution, lost everything and witness the death of family members, but they have also had to face so much abuse and intolerance and hardship.”
Jolie additionally helped launch the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) in 2012 with the goal of ending sexual violence in war zones, and the issue remains at the forefront of her activism.
“The reality is that women and girls, as well as men and boys, can still be raped with near-total impunity in conflict zones around the world,” she said in a speech. “On behalf of victims of sexual violence, I want to plead with all of you to take this issue seriously and personally, to use your position and your influence to spread this message within your armed forces and on all the missions on which you serve.”
The girls Jolie met with are participating in Heshima Kenya’s Girls’ Empowerment Program, which strives to provide them with the education and skills to lead them to self-reliance.
“[Refugees] are doing their best to carry on with minimal support, trying to live lives on dignity against impossible odds,” Jolie said, according to the UNHCR. “It was an honor to spend the day with them.”