NAIROBI — In June 2017, Angelina Jolie visited Nairobi, capital of Kenya, and met with 200 refugee girls, who are unaccompanied or separated from their parents and are now living in the Heshima Kenya Safe House. The young women are participating in a girls’ empowerment project.
The girls fled extreme violence or persecution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi and Rwanda. Almost all have suffered sexual and gender-based violence, robbing them of their childhoods. Many have given birth after being raped or are currently pregnant.
The UNHCR reports that Kenya hosts some 491,000 refugees, of which 101,713 are from South Sudan, which the U.N. has said is the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. South Sudan has now become the biggest new factor in global forced displacement after a disastrous break-up of peace efforts in July 2016 contributed to an outflow of 737,400 people by the end of the year.
While Angelina Jolie visited Nairobi, she stated, “Over half of all refugees and displaced people worldwide are women and children. How we treat them is a measure of our humanity as nations.” She went on to describe how the girls have, “had to flee extreme violence or persecution, lost everything and witnessed the death of family members, but they have also had to face so much abuse and intolerance and hardship.” Jolie then spoke of how honored she felt to be with the young women.
This was Angelina Jolie’s third visit to Kenya, home to nearly 491,000 refugees from neighboring nations in the region. However, it was Jolie’s first visit to Nairobi. Most of the 67,000 urban refugees in Kenya struggle to survive on aid from UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations, and to recover from horrifying abuse and terror endured before or during their flight.
From her visit to Nairobi, the renowned actress is hoping to bring awareness to the girls in the country.
– Paige Wilson