Celebrating heroes: Angelina Jolie

Nothing would mean anything if I didn’t live a life of use to others

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Angelina Jolie in Chad, Africa ©Per-Anders Pettersson

It was International Women’s Day recently and it got me thinking about the inspirational women around the world. Malala Yousafzai, Angelique Namaika, Bogaletch Gebre, Edna Adan, Dafroza Gauthier…. women who you may not have heard of, probably because the don’t get much attention in the press and if there is an article about them it’s usually tucked away somewhere.

We unfortunately live in a celeb obsessed culture where people can become famous for doing nothing of value. Instead of promoting good role models we’re bombarded with selfies of skinny, ‘perfect’ looking celebs and taught that beauty is only skin deep.

There’s one ‘celebrity’ though that puts her money where her mouth is, using her insane amount of fame to make a big difference in this world.

Most people probably don’t know a lot about Angelina Jolie’s other life. The majority of what we read about her is the tabloid fodder about ‘Brangelina’. With this article I want to highlight the stuff we should be reading about and the stuff we should know her for.

It’s probably unfair to call her a celebrity because as well as being an Oscar-winning film star and mother she is also a humanitarian – in fact she spends more of her time devoting it to others, giving a voice to the voiceless, than she does to making films.

©Per-anders Pettersson

Angelina Jolie in Chad, Africa ©Per-Anders Pettersson

She has worked for the UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) for over ten years now, working tirelessly to highlight the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons in over 30 countries including Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Haiti, Somalia and Thailand. On all of her field missions over the years she has covered all of her costs and shares the same working and living conditions as the UNHCR field staff.

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Her inspiration came from her own mother Marcheline Bertrand, a woman who never had an unkind word to say to or about anyone. On International Women’s Day in 2003, Bertrand produced a benefit concert for Afghan women refugees in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, of which Jolie is now a Special Envoy. Sadly, Bertrand died in 2007.

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Jolie and her mother Marcheline

Jolie says about her mother that “she was very clear that nothing would mean anything if I didn’t live a life of use to others. I didn’t know what that meant for a long time,” she said. “I came into this business young and worried about my own experiences and my own pain. And it was only when I began to travel and look and live beyond my home that I understood my responsibility to others.” In November last year Jolie was awarded an honorary Oscar, the Jean Hersholt award, for her humanitarian work.

Jolie’s acceptance speech

Here are some of the many reasons she’s an inspiration:

She puts her life on the line for those in need

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On a recent trip to Afghanistan she revealed that she had written a farewell letter to Brad Pitt after being warned she was a target for attack.

She explained: ‘I had moments where I’ve been in a house and people have pounded on the doors and screamed at you and said, “We know she’s in there and we want her passport,” and I’ve had moments recently when I went to Afghanistan, and I’ve got off the plane thinking, this is fine.’

‘And then I got there and they said, “The people are very angry with you. They are angry that you are a woman and you are American and you are with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), so you are the target”.

‘And so they gave me a briefing and they said everybody needs to write their blood type down.’

She added: ‘There’s a guy outside with a bulletproof vest, he put his passport in the vest, because he would be the one to take me out. I wrote a note to Brad in the process and figured if anything happens he’ll find it.

‘I was fine, but then two weeks later they did attack the UN and they killed everybody in the bunker.’

Angelina has set up and financed many charity organisations
Jolie in Ecuador ©Gettyimages

Jolie in Ecuador ©Gettyimages

In 2003, she founded the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation (after her first son, Maddox, who she adopted from Cambodia) which is dedicated to community development and environmental conservation in Cambodia.

In 2007 Jolie joined forces with economist Dr. Gene Sperling, Director of The Centre for Universal Education at the Council on Foreign Relations, and founded the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which funds education for children affected by man-made or natural disasters. Of the partnership Jolie said “Education can make the difference between whether children of conflict can turn to violence and despair, or whether they become the can be the new leaders of a better future for their families and nations.”

In 2008, she worked with Microsoft to set up the Kids in Need of Defense, a group of law firms and volunteers who have committed to giving legal counsel for immigrant kids in the US.

She spends millions of dollars of her own money helping others

Both Angelina and Brad dig deep when it comes to charity, with the pair donating millions and millions of their own money each year. Records from 2008 show the couple gave over $8m to charitable causes and in 2009 they gave at least $7m.

Jolie and Pitt in Bosnia

Jolie and Pitt in Bosnia

When Brad and Angelina’s twins, Knox and Vivienne, were born the couple sold the first images of the babies to People and Hello! for $14 million, using the entire amount to help fund the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation.

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Last year Jolie announced that she had opened an all-girls primary school outside of war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan. The school educates between 200 and 300 Afghan girls, many of them refugees whose homes and villages have been destroyed in the years since the Taliban regime came to power. But now that the Taliban’s stronghold over the country has collapsed, people are hoping to resume normal life. Getting kids back to school every day is one way to do just that.
Jolie in Afghanistan

Jolie in Afghanistan ©Marco Di Lauro

To fund this venture, Jolie has released a personal jewellery collection, designed alongside jeweller Robert Procop, through Kansas City-based, high-end jewelry shop, Tivol. The collection is called Style of Jolie and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to her foundation, The Education Partnership for Children of Conflict.

jolie_Tivol_jpg_330x330_q85“Beyond enjoying the artistic satisfaction of designing these jewels, we are inspired by knowing our work is also serving the mutual goal of providing for children in need,” Jolie said.

“We launched this collaborative collection with the intent that 100 percent of the profits will go to charity,” Jolie’s long-time designing partner Procop said. “The beauty of these creations is matched by the beauty of spirit behind Angelina’s most heartfelt mission — to empower children in crisis.”

“Tivol, with their historic reputation and dedication to family values is a wonderful retail partner to launch our collection in the U.S.,” Jolie added.

If this business model proves successful, Jolie and Pitt, hope to fund more schools and educational initiatives in the places that need them most.

She uses film to educate about the horrors of war
Angelina Jolie directing on the set of “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” about the war in Bosnia. ©Dean Semler/FilmDistrict and GK Films

Angelina Jolie directing on the set of “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” about the war in Bosnia. ©Dean Semler/FilmDistrict and GK Films

Angelina used her directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, to highlight the horrors of the war in Bosnia. The war lasted from 1992 to 1995 and around 100,000 people were killed with up to 50,000 women being raped and 2.2 million people displaced.

Jolie and some of the cast of the film received threats due to making the film. At the movie’s premiere in Sarajevo, she said: ‘There were things sent to me, there were things posted online. The cast have never complained to me about these threats but I’ve heard through other people it was happening. One of them did have their windows smashed in on their cars and someone else had an issue when their phone was hacked and emails were sent out saying they were from them and saying they had been hurt.’

She gets involved in politics – and not in a bad way

Recently Angelina joined forces with William Hague to raise awareness about the use of rape as a weapon of war in conflicts. Hague had watched In the Land of Blood and Honey at the urging of his senior special adviser, Arminka Helic, a Bosnian who fled to the U.K. in 1992 to earn a Ph.D. Hague was struck by the power of the film. “I started this campaign with Angelina Jolie because foreign policy has got to be about more than just dealing with urgent crises—it has to be about improving the condition of humanity,” he said.

Jolie and Hague at the G8 in London

Jolie and Hague at the G8 in London

In Rwanda, up to 500,000 people were raped during the genocide 20 years ago. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, which Jolie and Hague visited a year ago as part of their campaign, there an estimated 200,000 surviving rape victims and the issue is still ongoing – it has in fact been called the ‘rape capital of the world’ and in 2011 it was estimated that around 1,000 women a day were raped. In Syria today there are thought to have been countless rapes but there are no approximate figures for this due to the taboo surrounding rape for Muslim women. Many do not report it or even tell their husbands or family.

They were recently at the G8 in London to talk about the £23million pledged towards tackling sexual violence in conflict zones around the world.

Angelina Jolie and William Hague in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Angelina Jolie and William Hague in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Their campaign, called the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), aims to end the shame that victims feel as well as the impunity that often follows such crimes.

At the end of last month they visited Bosnia where they to raise the awareness of the scale of rape during conflict. About 50,000 women, mostly Muslim, were raped during Bosnia’s inter-ethnic war in the 1990s and so far only 33 people have been convicted for the crimes by local courts and 30 by a UN war crimes tribunal ate the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands.

Between 10 – 13th June, Hague and Jolie will host a four-day summit in London that will bring together governments from 141 countries. They aim to create irreversible momentum against sexual violence in conflict and promote practical action that impacts those on the ground (peacekeepers, police and the justice system).

Hague said that today “sexual violence is used deliberately as a weapon of war” in the conflicts in Syria, Central African Republic and South Sudan. He said: “I hope we can all work together to prevent the horrors seen in this region from being repeated in future conflicts anywhere in the world.”

She gives a voice to the voiceless

On World Refugee Day in June last year, Jolie did a report for CNN to bring to the attention the plight of the thousands of Syrian refugees. For many, being a refugee is like being in prison for a crime you didn’t commit, for you don’t know how long. Children in the camp suffer from diarrhoea, respiratory infections, high fever, ear infections and skin diseases, due to poor sanitation and hygiene. In winter the camps are constantly flooded due to rain and snow and in the summer the temperatures regularly top 100°F making living conditions in the dusty camp unbearable. Jolie yet again used her considerable fame to bring attention to a worthy cause.

She wrote about her double mastectomy in the hope that other women would benefit from her decision.

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When Jolie discovered she had the BRCA1 faulty gene, giving her an 87 per cent risk of developing breast cancer and a 50 per cent risk of ovarian cancer, she took the brave decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. She wrote a moving op-ed piece for the New York Times about her decision in the hope that other women would benefit from her experience.

Brad Pitt said of his fiancé – ‘She’s faced her problems head on and found out her options to make the smartest decision for her, and she’s shared that knowledge with everyone else.

‘It’s important that this testing is not available for everyone and it should be, and that there are surgical options and everyone should have these options.’

‘I always want her by my side. Life will go on and we’re taking care of business as usual. We’re on the other side of that.

‘It’s the bravest thing and I get a little emotional about the act she did for our family and telling her story to others. She’s a very special woman.’

Angelina Jolie and William Hague visit survivors of sexual violence in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Angelina Jolie and William Hague in the Democratic Republic of Congo yesterday ©AFP

Angelina Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague visited the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday to meet survivors of sexual violence as part of their campaign to tackle rape in war zones.

The number of women, girls, men and boys who have been subjected to rape in conflict zones numbers in the hundreds of thousands. 50,000 were raped in Bosnia, 64,000 in Sierra Leone, 200,000 in Congo and 400,000 in Rwanda. The UN has estimated that only 30 convictions have resulted from the Bosnian War.

Jolie and Hague spent time at the Nzolo Internally Displaced Persons camp, north of Goma and the Lac Vert camp on the edge of Goma. Their next stop is Rwanda.

The aim of the trip is to force the Group of Eight world powers to address the issue more seriously and the Foreign Secretary has said he will make the issue his priority when he hosts the annual meeting of G8 foreign ministers next month in London.

Hague has already put in place a 70-strong specialist team of police, lawyers, psychologists, doctors and forensic experts to help survivors and witnesses and has also contributed £1 million this financial year to support the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Angelina Joile and William Hague in the DRC ©Telegraph

Angelina Joile and William Hague in the DRC ©Telegraph

“More often than not the international community looks away, the perpetrators of these brutal crimes walk free and the cycle of injustice and conflict is repeated. We have to shatter this culture of impunity,” Hague said. “It is time for real, meaningful action by the governments of the world to say that the use of rape as a weapon of war is unacceptable, to bring perpetrators to justice and to lift the stigma from survivors. This is my personal priority for the meeting of G8 foreign ministers.”

Jolie said on the trip: “This visit is about hearing first hand from people who have endured rape and sexual violence during the conflict in the eastern DRC. We want to learn the lessons that their experience holds for how the world can protect thousands of women, men and children at risk of rape in many other conflict zones. And we want to persuade governments around the world to give this issue the attention it deserves. Unless the world acts, we will always be reacting to atrocities, treating survivors rather than preventing rape in the first place.”

“It’s often that we speak about the drama and the pain and the horrors of the Congo but it’s also a wonderful place with extraordinary people. The big message is that this initiative started by the Foreign Secretary is extraordinary, but what we’re here to do is to try to scale it up and make this a worldwide focus. It’s been going on in every war, every crisis and it’s often an afterthought – and it’s due time to end this, and put an end to impunity, and they deserve it.”

William Hague and Angelina Jolie team up for campaign against rape in warzones

Foreign Secretary William Hague with Special Envoy to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, Angelina Jolie, at the a Wilton Park Conference on ‘Preventing sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations’ ©fco

Back in May, Angelina Jolie was in London to lend her voice the British Government’s global campaign aimed at tackling sexual violence in conflict zones around the world. Today, she was back in the UK to listen to the Foreign Secretary give his keynote address at the “Preventing sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations” meeting at Wilton Park, Sussex. Hague joked ‘She assures me she is here to meet you and to listen to our discussion, but I also think she may be checking up on whether we have lived up to our promises’.

Following his announcement in May, that Britain would create a team of experts to be deployed to conflict areas around the world to support UN missions and gather evidence about sexual violence, Hague announced yesterday that a 70-strong specialist team of police, lawyers, psychologists, doctors and forensic experts is ready to head overseas to help survivors and witnesses. He said that each deployment will be tailored to meet local needs and circumstances and that the deployments will be based on ‘in-depth assessments of national and international responses in that country to date and how the British team could reinforce or complement existing efforts, as well as consultations with the authorities in each country’.

The Foreign Secretary also pledged additional funding of more than £¼ million over a three-year period to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support to develop policies, guidance and training for use by UN peacekeepers as first responders to incidents of sexual violence.

Angelina Jolie with Syrian refugees in Lebanon ©UNHCR

Yesterday Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) added:

“I am delighted to be working with Foreign Secretary Hague again on the United Kingdom’s initiative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. In many conflicts, sexual violence is used as a tactic of war, intended to hurt not only a single individual, but their family, their community, their ethnic group”.

Jolie has been drawing attention to some of the worlds worst humanitarian disasters for over 10  years and has worked tirelessly to highlight the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons in over 30 countries including Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Haiti, Somalia and Thailand.

She further said that sexual violence has almost “become a rule rather than an exception, and we all must work together to combat the impunity and ensure justice for the victims.”

Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, at the a Wilton Park Conference on ‘Preventing sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations ©fco

Speaking about the conference, the Foreign Secretary said:

“I believe that a critical mass of public opinion has now begun to build up against the use of rape as a weapon of war in many countries.

“My experience as a politician leads me to believe that this is the moment to mobilise global public opinion and to rally the efforts of nations, in the same way that we have mustered the will to ban the use of landmines and cluster munitions, and are on the verge of securing an international Arms Trade Treaty.

“Shattering the culture of impunity for those who use rape as a weapon of war is the next great global challenge of our generation. It is a cause whose time has come.”

The 70-strong team of police, lawyers, psychologists, doctors and forensic experts will be deployed overseas by the end of the year.

William Hague’s speech can be found here.

Further information about the UNHCR can be found here.

Making the world a better place: The man who rebuilds the lives of women and children in the rape capital of the world

Dr Denis Mukwege at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, eastern DR Congo © Endre Vestvik http://flic.kr/p/v6Lkh

When Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for his ‘extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples’, he had been inaugurated less than two weeks before the 1 February nomination deadline. Many thought this premature, especially as he was up against Columbia’s ‘woman of peace’ and the father of Chinese democracy, but one man stood out on the nominee list for me, a man whose selfless commitment for the last 14 years has ensured that thousands of women have been able to rebuild their lives in what has been described as the worst country in the world to be a woman.

Healthcare was poor in rural areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo when Denis Mukwege was a child. His father, a pastor, would often take him to visit the sick and together they would pray for them, but Denis couldn’t understand why his father didn’t give out medicine or prescriptions to help the patients. When he asked his father the question, he replied that he wasn’t a doctor. This experience made Denis realise that prayer alone was not enough.

He travelled to Burundi to study medicine and a few years later returned to the DRC to work as a general practitioner at the Hospital of Lemera in Kivu. But after witnessing the lack of pre and post natal care in his country he went to France to study gynaecology and obstetrics and came back to Lemera where he created a special maternity ward.

Panzi Hospital, Bukavu DRC © cyclopsr http-_bit.ly_NYUhoW

In 1996 though, during the first civil war of the Democratic Republic of Congo, it was destroyed by Banyamulenge militia and Mukwege left for the city of Bukavu where he built a new maternity ward with an operating room at the Panzi Hospital.

Scores of women started arrive at the hospital everyday, travelling for hundreds of miles to seek help from Dr Mukwege. Most came for the repair of fistula’s (a hole in the tissue between the vaginal wall and bladder) which cause the women to leak urine and faeces. The two main types of fistula’s he came across were those caused by childbirth – usually from prolonged, obstructed labour in areas with no adequate access to healthcare – and those caused by a new epidemic sweeping across the DRC, that of sexual violence, a weapon of war used against women and children in the ongoing conflict.

Mukwege was soon operating on 10 women a day, dealing with some of most horrific acts of sadism imaginable. Women who had been raped with bayonets, sticks and rifles, bullets shot into them, destroying their reproductive organs. In the worst case he has ever seen, one woman lost her colon, bladder, vagina and rectum after a man shot a cartridge into her. Miraculously, she survived.

Ross Kemp visited the hospital as part of his Extreme World series in 2011. He met Dr Mukwege and some of the survivors being treated at the hospital. Here’s what happened on his visit:

Ross Kemp meets Dr Denis Mukwege at the Panzi Hospital

Eve Ensler, writer of The Vagina Monologues, visited the hospital a few years ago and wrote an article for Glamour Magazine based on her trip. While at Panzi she met a young woman called Nadine who told Ensler her story: “I’m 29,” she begins. “I am from the village of Nindja. Normally there was insecurity in our area. We would hide many nights in the bush. The soldiers found us there. They killed our village chief and his children. We were 50 women. I was with my three children and my older brother; they told him to have sex with me. He refused, so they cut his head and he died.” They then murdered Nadine’s three children, all under the age of 5, and gang raped her causing a massive fistula. “When I got away from the soldiers, there was a man passing. He said, ‘What is that bad smell?’ It was me; because of my wounds, I couldn’t control my urine or faeces. I explained what had happened. The man wept right there. He and some others brought me to the Panzi Hospital.”

Nadine is just one of over 20,000 women Dr Mukwege has helped in the last 14 years and he has ensured the work will continue by training four other doctors to perform fistula surgery. Last year they completed over 1,000 surgeries.

In 2011 Mukwege, Ensler and Christine Schuler Deschryver, winner of the Guardian‘s Women of the Year award, opened the City of Joy in Bukavu after becoming fed up with countless broken promises of help from well-meaning visitors to the Panzi.

They built a centre at the City of Joy where survivors have the opportunity to take a six month intensive educational course, learning self-defense, literacy, human rights and many other skills ensuring a brighter future for the women of Congo.

Left to right: Eve Ensler, Denis Mukwege and Christine Schuler Deschryver at the City of Joy © Photograph: Paula Allen Guardian

Denis Mukwege, now 57, has sacrificed a great deal to make his country a better place for women to exist. He’s received death threats, treated rape victims as young as 3 years old and endured long periods away from his family, but he continues to work 16 hour days to repair not only the bodies of the survivors of sexual violence but their souls too.

If you would like to find out more about the Panzi Hospital or donate, here is the link – http://www.panzihospital.org/about/support-panzi-hospital

The origins of the recent troubles in the DR Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been taken advantage of many times, over many years and for two reasons: money and power.

In the late 1800s King Leopold II of Belgium and his army laid claim to the country and for their own financial benefit they extorted forced labour from the natives for the collection of sap from rubber plants. Due to global demand, the sale of rubber made Leopold a small fortune but at the cost of the lives of millions of Congolese natives who were killed and mutilated by Leopold’s men for not meeting unrealistic quotas.

Many years later, after their independence from Belgium in the 1960s, president Mobutu Sese Seko changed the country’s name to Zaire and used the country’s money to lavish himself with expensive clothes and trips while his country crumbled around him. Mobutu spent the rest of the money to ensure he stayed in power for the next 30 years but his rule came to an end in the mid 1990s just as ‘Africa’s World War’, the deadliest conflict since World War Two, began.

Mobutu Sese Seko © http://bit.ly/NluU1h

In April 1994, the president of neighbouring Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, was assassinated when his plane was shot down in the Rwandan capital Kigali. An ethnic Hutu extremist regime took control of the country and over the next 100 days they murdered 800,000 ethnic Rwandan Tutsis in the last genocide of the 20th century.

Tutsi rebels, led by the current President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, managed to overthrow the Hutu extremists and drove them across the border into Zaire where they received growing support from President Mobutu.

Paul Kagame © ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images

Hutu rebels attacked Rwanda from refugee camps across the border, killing Tutsi’s and forcibly recruiting Hutu men into their growing army. They started to attack native Tutsi’s in Zaire and when the Rwandan army got word it began to back rebel groups in Zaire who were now fighting both Hutu militia and Mobutu’s government troops.

The leader of the rebels in Zaire, Laurent Kabila, and the Rwandan army soon took control of the capital Kinshasa and President Mobutu was forced to flee. Kabila was put in charge of the country and he changed its name back to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But the relationship between Rwanda and the DRC didn’t last long when Kabila ordered all Rwandan military to leave the country and failed to expel Hutu militia.

Laurent Kabila © http://bit.ly/M8NYyL

With the help of Uganda and Burundi, Rwanda tried to topple Kabila and almost did but the DRC had help from five other African nations including Angola and Zimbabwe.

The foreign armies, though, were more interested in money and plundered the country’s most valuable commodities –  diamonds, oil, gold and coltan/tantalum (a prized mineral used in mobile phones and mainly found in the DRC) – for their personal gain.

A peace agreement followed and saw the withdrawal of foreign troops but rebels with ties to the Rwandan army still controlled much of the east of the country and Hutu extremists including the men responsible for the genocide in Rwanda, started a new group, the FDLR, to drive the Tutsi’s from power.

Laurent Nkunda © AFP

Notorious warlord General Laurent Nkunda led a rival rebel group to protect the Tutsis from the FDLR, who he accused of being supported by the Congolese government, but he was overthrown by ‘Terminator’ Bosco Ntaganda, a man with a reputation for killing people easily. Both men are currently wanted for war crimes by the Congolese government and the International Criminal Court respectively. Ntaganda is wanted on counts which include mass murder and rape and is currently a fugitive living in the hills overlooking Kinshasa.

Nkunda was handed over to the Rwandans by Kabila’s government after they again switched sides to support the Tutsi rebel group. Nkunda is currently being held at an undisclosed location in Rwanda.

Bosco ‘The Terminator’ Ntaganda © Amnesty http://bit.ly/IGtQR3

After president Laurent Kabila was assassinated by his own bodyguard 11 years ago, his son Joseph Kabila took over and was elected president in 2006 in what was the first democratic elections for more than 40 years. Kabila Jnr has managed to assert some kind of control over the country during the last 6 years, but battles in the east of the DRC still continue and the government army have been accused of supporting the Hutu’s FDLR rebel group in their quest to control the country’s mines. Reports of mass rapes and killings committed by rebels and government troops still continue. Kabila has commented on the situation stating “It’s shocking. These kinds of acts are simply unforgivable.” He even visited the Panzi hospital back in 2010 but it remains to be seen what positive changes he will make in a country where rape is becoming ingrained as part of the culture in the east.

President Joseph Kabila, left, and Denis Mukwege at the Panzi Hospital © Panzi

But he needs only to look to Denis Mukwege to see what hard work and dedication can do in transforming the lives of others. Let’s hope he is inspired to make his country a better place after meeting a man who is, in my eyes, a hero.

Thanks for reading.

Angelina Jolie backs British Government initiative on preventing sexual violence in conflict zones

The British Government has launched a global campaign aimed at tackling sexual violence in war zones around the world. Angelina Jolie lent her voice to the campaign yesterday and, alongside William Hague, spoke about how sexual violence and rape are used as weapons of war. The UN has estimated that during the 1992 – 1995 Bosnian War 50,000 rapes were committed which has resulted in only 30 convictions.

The Government’s initiative is expected to be in place by the end of the year and will include a panel of UK experts consisting of doctors, lawyers, forensic experts and the police who will gather evidence about sexual violence in conflict zones with the aim of increasing the number of prosecutions through the international criminal courts.

Jolie, a special envoy for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), has been drawing attention to some of the worlds worst humanitarian disasters for over 10  years and has worked tirelessly to highlight the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons in over 30 countries including Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Haiti, Somalia and Thailand.

Last year she completed her directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, a love story set during the Bosnian war and gave an advanced screening of it during the launch of the scheme at the Foreign Office yesterday.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo over a thousand women, children and men are raped every day and the atrocities are also widespread throughout the Darfur region of Sudan. They, along with other countries, will be the projects main concern.

Hague stated in his speech: “Sexual violence is an issue which is central to conflict prevention and to peace building worldwide.

“Where there is no justice, the seeds of future conflict are sown, and development is held back.”