Angelina Jolie is joining forces with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to target sexual violence against women.
The actress and human rights campaigner, 42, visited NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on Wednesday to discuss how the alliance can step up its efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict zones, during a meeting with NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg.
“There can be no lasting peace and security without equal rights and participation for women in all societies,” Jolie told reporters in a press conference after her discussions with Stoltenburg — who penned a joint op-ed with Jolie for The Guardian, titled “Why NATO Must Defend Women’s Rights.” “Those rights cannot be achieved in an environment where there is impunity for mass crimes against women and girls.”
She added, “This is not only a question of protecting women; this is a question of valuing women.”
Stoltenberg confirmed the commitment of NATO to the process of protecting women in war zones outlined within Jolie’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative. Launched five years ago in London, the campaign now has 157 countries signed up to its protocols.
“We must shine a bright line on this darkest of crimes,” said Stoltenberg. “NATO has the responsibility to be a leading protector of women’s rights. We know from experience that strengthening the role of women in the armed forces is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do.
“Sexual violence is a tactic of war against women and girls, but also men and boys. NATO is already doing a lot to tackle this issue but there is more that we can do.
“Today, Special Envoy Jolie and I have decided to work together, focusing on three points: training, monitoring and reporting, and awareness.”
Jolie’s NATO visit is the latest stop in a whirlwind tour that has combined business with pleasure. On Tuesday, the Oscar-winner visited Paris to film a commercial on the Champs-Elysées for perfume house Guerlain, before taking all six of her children to explore the world-famous Louvre art museum.
Later that afternoon, Jolie met with the French President Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Brigitte Macron during a visit to the presidential Elysées Palace to discuss “education, violence against women and [Jolie]’s activities as UNHCR Special Envoy,” a source tells PEOPLE.
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This followed a trip to the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan on Sunday, where Jolie and daughters Zahara, 13, and Shiloh, 11, met Syrians who’ve fled the devastating civil war in the country, including a number of young girls who are part of the TIGER (These Inspiring Girls Enjoy Reading) project, which focuses on education and empowerment.
“I have met with victims of sexual violence male and female, young and old around the world and when I meet them I wish that I could put a camera to them and I wish the world could hear their voices and they could speak about themselves,” added Jolie at NATO headquarters, which she visited because “we need those who have the capacity to make change to be focused on the right things and doing the right things”.
She continued, “This fight for equality is not about giving women their rights. You don’t give it to them – they have it. They’re born with their rights. This is something that every woman and every girl is born with their human rights and we must protect them and fight for them.”