Jolie launches centre for women in war

Al Arabyia News

She is relentless. Last month, she was in Iraq’s Kurdistan region visiting refugee camps and meeting officials. And now she is in London, kick starting Europe’s first academic center for studying brutality against women in warzones.

Hollywood star and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie together with British First Secretary of State William Hague launched the new Center for Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics (LSE) on Tuesday.

In collaboration with LSE and the UK government, the center aims to develop data and influence policy experts in combating sexual violence against women in conflict zones and bringing perpetrators to justice, according to a statement by LSE. The center will also focus on the participation of women conflict-related processes.

Speaking at the opening event, Jolie said: “As students you will have the opportunity to find ways to overcome problems that others before you have brushed off as simply too difficult, or not important,” according to the Financial Times.

“It is often said that there isn’t enough hard data on sexual violence in conflict . . . you can fix that . . . now is the time to do this because there is new political will, and momentum.”

The center is a continuation to a 2012 initiative Jolie and Hague have founded together, Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI).

“If you were to ask me who I think this center is for, I picture someone who is not in this room today,” The Guardian quoted Jolie as saying. “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 girl was reportedly captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and kept as a sex slave.

“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.”

Hague said that the academic center would give a “greater academic underpinning” to their work, especially at a period of “systemic instability,” adding that sexual brutality was often seen as an inevitable part of war.

“Crimes against women have been accorded a lesser priority throughout history,” The Guardian quoted Hague as saying.

“Sexual violence in conflict involves the deliberate targeting of women and children and men, in ways that often simply defy the power of description.”
“Despite this, 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,” he added.

Hague announced that the UK government would provide $1.5 million for the center, and that the initiative has already received many messages of support, including from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

“This initiative would be welcome at any moment but it is especially timely now as we strike to prevent further atrocities, by Daesh [ISIS], al-Qaida, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and other terrorist groups that are kidnapping and abusing women and girls and are consigning thousands into slavery,” wrote Kerry in a letter. Coinciding with the opening of the center, Jolie and UNHCR released two short films sharing the stories of women who have suffered brutality at the hands of ISIS.

Staff Writer, Al Arabyia News, 11/02/2015