Actress and activist Charlize Theron just joined watch brand Breitling’s all-female Spotlight Squad and sat down with Forbes to promote the campaign focused on innovative women. She touched on several of the world’s major challenges and how she is working to address them.
The Academy Award winner known for hit films like Monster and Mad Max juggles several humanitarian projects when she’s not on screen, including her role as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
“My interest in global awareness and the lack of equality is something that matters so much to me, so it is just a part of me; it doesn’t feel like work,” Theron told Forbes.
Theron has led the youth HIV education organization Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) in her home country of South Africa since 2007. She wanted to use her platform to help address the gap in preventative care in the country where young people are disproportionately at risk of becoming HIV positive.
“You can’t stop AIDS if you don’t look at all the things that are driving it. Right?” Theron said.
The star set out to use a holistic approach with CTAOP and identify other factors contributing to HIV risks including gender inequality, addiction, education, and early pregnancies.
Theron, who has spoken out against gender-based violence in the past, also recently helped form the Together for Her initiative to highlight women’s experiences. The campaign is in direct response to the uptick in gender-based violence amid the COVID-19 pandemic as women are trapped at home with their abusers during lockdowns.
“Gender-based violence is a really serious problem globally and I know that there is [a] lot to look at now but I feel like that Together for Her campaign is going to bring an awareness out in the world so we understand what is happening to women around the globe,” she said. “It’s not pretty.”
The #MeToo movement has been pivotal in encouraging women who have faced abuse to uplift each other and can act as a roadmap for other movements, according to Theron.
“We are realizing that we really are, sometimes, all we have so we have to support each other and if we fight for another woman’s rights, then we really are just making our lives better,” she said.
Theron is hopeful that by shining a spotlight on society’s biggest problems, the COVID-19 pandemic can propel change and advised young people not to be discouraged.
“Be resilient and realize that a lot of where you want to go will come from failure, so be ready for that; understand that who you are and where you find your place in the world will come from how you pick yourself up from failing,” she said. “I think this world is showing us, especially with the conflicts we are facing right now, that nothing comes easy and you should be suspicious when it does.”