Angelina Jolie addressed the African Union Summit in Johannesburg on Thursday (11th June). The 40-year-old Unbroken director attended the summit as part of her continuing effort to raise awareness of violent crimes against women worldwide. She called upon the assembled delegates of the African nations to end violence to women both in times of war and in peace. 

Angelina JolieAngelina Jolie gave a speech at the African Union Summit.

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Jolie sat on a panel of foreign leaders, including former British foreign secretary William Hague, Senegalese activist Bineta Diop and the U.N.’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura. Jolie delivered a speech in which she described the desperate need to end violence against woman as a weapon in times of war. Jolie’s comments evoke the recent reports of ISIS using rape as a weapon and of captured women and children being sold as sex slaves, as the Independent reports. 

"There is a global epidemic of violence against women, both within conflict zones and within societies at peace, and it is still treated as a lesser crime and lower priority,” the Maleficent actress said in her speech.  

"The near-total impunity that exists worldwide for crimes against women, in conflict zones in particular, means that we are seeing more and more armed groups turn it into their weapon of choice. Women and girls are bearing the brunt of extremists that revel in treating them barbarically. This is inextricably linked to our overall failure to prevent and end conflicts worldwide, which is causing human suffering on an unprecedented level."

Statistics of violence against women are shocking and some figures are considerably higher than one would expect. For instance, a UN study in 2013 revealed 35% of women worldwide have experienced ‘physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.’ Some national studies revealed 70% of women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence at least once at the hands of their intimate partner during their lifetimes.  

Jolie further stated what needs to be done to tackle violence against women: 

"We need policies for long-term security that are designed by women, focused on women, executed by women – not at the expense of men, or instead of men, but alongside and with men. There is no greater pillar of stability than a strong, free and educated woman, and there is no more inspiring role model than a man who respects and cherishes women and champions their leadership."

Jolie has used her prominent position to raise awareness for a number of causes close to her heart including ending violence against women and the plight of refugees. She attended the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence last year and has continued to focus on her position as U.N. Special Envoy for Refugee Issues.

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