Charlize – A decade of making a difference

2017-12-10 13:00

Johannesburg - Oscar winner Charlize Theron has taken a keen interest in the 16 Days of Activism campaign, knowing what it’s like to grow up in an abusive home.

“I grew up in a very turbulent home, as my father was an alcoholic. I think what affected me most was waking up each day, not knowing what was going to happen or how my day was going to go. Everything depended on whether or not somebody else was going to drink,” she told City Press this week.

“My mother was a true inspiration during this tumultuous time, and her attitude is something that women who find themselves in similar situations can find strength in. Her philosophy was: ‘This is horrible. Acknowledge that this is horrible. Now make a choice. Will this define you? Are you going to sink or are you going to swim?’,” she said.

This year, Theron is celebrating the 10th anniversary of her Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP), her charity which “invests in African youth to keep themselves safe from HIV/Aids”.

“Part of what we are aiming to do at the CTAOP is to create and provide more of those tools and opportunities for young people so that they can become changemakers. That’s the thinking behind the creation of the CTAOP Youth Leaders Scholarship Fund, which we recently announced,” she said.

Theron first encountered HIV/Aids as a young girl in South Africa.

“I can distinctly recall the moment when I realised the gravity of the epidemic. I was driving in the car with my mum to the hospital with one of her employees, and a week after that, we had to do it all over again. People were dying and no one knew why,” she says.

“It was shocking and terrifying. And although I left South Africa decades ago, every single time I returned, I could see the utter devastation that HIV/Aids was causing.

“I still see the devastation of Aids today, but I also see hope and the possibility of the end of the epidemic.”

About the hashtag #MenAreTrash, which made a big impact in South Africa, Theron says it takes harsh words to “start the dialogue”, adding that “hashtags such as this are code for ‘We’ve had enough’”.

“Changing the culture of abuse has to start somewhere, and that includes being truthful about the shame and stigma that the victims carry ... We all need to take a hard and honest look at the societal inequalities that still exist everywhere.

“Stigma, discrimination and inequity play a huge role in preventing us from stopping the spread of HIV, for example, and we need to stare that truth in the face and start tackling it.”

Following the 2013 launch by Theron’s foundation of Choma mobile magazine, it has launched an app in the form of a game that “lets you navigate through your virtual life and lets you experience risky behaviour and its consequences”.

The past 10 years of the foundation have been full of highs and lows.

“It is really inspiring to see young people who stand up and say: ‘Let’s change things – not tomorrow or the next day, but now,’” she said of her most recent trip home.

And the lows?

“Sometimes it feels too big – when you really think about all the social drivers that are fuelling this epidemic: poverty, sexism, racism, homophobia. You have moments when it feels like there is no way to possibly tackle it all. But we can’t not try. We must try.”

Read more on:    charlize theron  |  16 days of  |  hiv  |  activism

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