Fresh off testifying before the U.N. Security Council, Angelina Jolie Pitt put the finishing touches on the 2015 Women in the World Summit Friday afternoon with an impassioned speech on women’s rights in war-torn regions like Syria and Iraq.
Jolie Pitt shared chilling images with the live audience of some of the devastation she’s witnessed firsthand as Special Envoy of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Her remarks were preceded by a short video showing heartbreaking footage of women and children refugees displaced by the war and chaos that has gripped Syria and parts of Iraq over the last four years.
“Who among us thought we’d see in the twenty-first century images of women sold in cages, young girls sold in sex slavery?” Jolie Pitt asked the audience. She pointed to the horrors that have played out amid the civil war in Syria, which she said has fallen back 40 years in economic terms, as a scourge that demands the immediate attention of policymakers around the world. The lack of order there, she suggested, has forced a whole generation out of school and resulted in a climate where systematic rape by extremist groups and militia has become a tragic norm.
Jolie Pitt said that advancing the rights of women and girls worldwide goes beyond being just a moral right.
“Women are still treated as secondary issues. It is still far too easy and accepted for leaders to ignore uncomfortable truths, from FGM (female genital mutilation) to child marriage. It is still the norm for women to be excluded from the peace process. Women, we know, are the first to be affected by war, and the last to be taken into account when it ends,” she said.
“Everyone in this room knows an outcry is not enough. We need to change attitudes around the world. We have a particular responsibility,” Jolie Pitt said at the conclusion of her remarks.
Appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2001, and UNHCR Special Envoy in 2012, Jolie Pitt has carried out more than 40 field missions to some of the most remote regions of the world to highlight the plight of millions of uprooted people and to advocate for their protection. She is also co-founder of The Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.
Jolie Pitt’s appearance capped three invigorating days at New York City’s famed Lincoln Center that were filled with stories of firebrand activists, self-sacrificing trailblazers, heartbreaking survivors, and innovative solutions to problems plaguing the world.
It was the fifth appearance the actress and advocate has made to the Summit in six years.