British actress Emma Watson traveled to Uruguay this week as a UN Goodwill Ambassador, following the lead of Angelina Jolie and others who have strived to use their fame to make a difference in the world. Watson was appointed a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador this summer.
Watson’s U.N. role is advocating for gender equality and empowerment of women. Jolie has focused her efforts on helping refugees and displaced populations worldwide.
The trip to Uruguay was the first U.N. role Watson, 24, undertook since her a appointment two months ago. The actress visited the country’s Parliament in Montevideo on Wednesday for an event organized by women’s groups to push legislators to support increasing the number of female elected officials. Watson delivered a 4,000-signature petition that called for increased political participation for women to the lawmakers, many of whom brought children or grandchildren that are Harry Potter fans.
Watson reported that she was “immensely touched” by the reception she received in Uruguay, where hundreds of young people waiting to greet her. “Women’s rights are personal to me, especially on political participation and leadership,” she said. Watson emphasized that “women must have a say in matters that affect their countries, communities and families. After all, they are half of the population, so women’s equal participation in decision-making is a question of justice and democracy,” she noted.
While this was Watson’s first U.N. Ambassador trip, she has previously visited Bangladesh and Zambia for humanitarian efforts. She also served as an ambassador for Camfed International, a movement promoting efforts to educate girls in rural Africa.
Since becoming a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ambassador in 2001, Jolie has been on more than 40 trips out into remote regions of the world to talk with displaced people and use her fame to shine a light on the plight of the millions out there displaced by war, famine, natural disasters and other issues. In April 2012, Jolie was appointed Special Envoy of UNHCR António Guterres and took on a greater role in dealing with meal crises that force people from their homes.
Angelina Jolie has also personally donated more than $5 million to UNHCR. The funds have helped build schools in Kenya, Afghanistan and other locations as well as supporting other initiatives to help the displaced.
Since the early 1950s, the U.N. has asked prominent personalities from a variety of fields to be Goodwill Ambassadors or celebrity advocates working on behalf of U.N. initiatives. Other current U.N. Women’s Ambassadors include actress Nicole Kidman and Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol from Thailand.
When asked to serve, Watson said it was truly humbling and promised that she would not take the responsibility lightly. “Women’s rights are something so inextricably linked with who I am, so deeply personal and rooted in my life that I can’t imagine an opportunity more exciting. I still have so much to learn, but as I progress I hope to bring more of my individual knowledge, experience and awareness to this role,” she said
Emma Watson clearly wants to be following in Angelina Jolie’s footsteps in using her fame to help others. Thankfully, I have this platform and I’m able to shine a light on these issues, “ she said, acknowledging that they “are really important to me and this is what I want to continue to do and what I believe in passionately.”
By Dyanne Weiss