Charlize Theron on Me Too: 'Not just a Hollywood thing anymore'

'I can tell you that there's been a fire lit with women in my industry, and I'm proud to be witnessing it, and I'm proud to be lighting that fire with them'

Actress Charlize Theron speaks at an event at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, March 17, 2018. Theron said Saturday that the idea of arming teachers after recent U.S. school shootings or otherwise "adding more guns" to the situation is "so outrageous." (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
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Charlize Theron spoke at Dubai's Global Educations & Skills Forum on Saturday and discussed women's rights, gun violence, the importance of an arts education and the #MeToo movement.

She touched upon how she has personally been affected by gun violence, and how the world is evolving due to activism around sexual assault and pay disparity, and how in her opinion the change will be permanent.

Here are some of the highlights from her talk...

On the #MeToo movement in Hollywood - are things getting better? 

"Yes, I'm an optimist. I think we all have to be. It's sometimes hard... but I think that it's undeniable what's happening with this women's movement right now, and how incredibly active it is. And whatever the catalyst was... we all have different opinions of what the catalyst was... I don't care, as long as this conversation continues.

"I think the numbers of women who have found strength and a voice to be able to speak about what's happened to them, things that they have seen, things that they have experienced, is just too powerful for this to not have caused change.

"And so I can definitely tell you that in my industry, hands down, people are thinking differently, they're talking differently, their awareness is at a level that it's never been before. And I just don't see how we can move backwards from that... we can only move forwards."

On the gender pay gap in Hollywood

"Women are asking for transparency... I think we always knew it existed but I think we were in denial about how extreme the numbers and the discrepancies were."

"I can tell you that there's been a fire lit with women in my industry, and I'm proud to be witnessing it, and I'm proud to be lighting that fire with them, and I think the nicest thing about all of it is that women are realising that this is crossing borders, this is crossing nationalities, this is crossing industries. This is not just a Hollywood thing anymore."

On her work to battle the HIV epidemic in South Africa 

She talked about the Charlize Theron African Outreach Project, which she launched in 2007.

She said she was very aware of the devastation of the AIDS epidemic "from a very young age".

"South Africa is the hardest hit when it comes to HIV in the world... we lost an entire generation of parents from AIDS." Her organisation works on prevention via grassroots organisations that are embedded in the hardest hit communities in South Africa. Her organisation is also launching a scholarship fund next year, because, as she pointed out, it's impossible to prevent HIV without education.

"The thing that's very important for me is to get people to work together, that's one of my biggest drivers with CTAOP, is to look at people who are doing all the work already, and what would happen if they had access to more tools, to more money. How do you connect what they're doing with maybe another grassroots organisation?"

On the suggestion that teachers should be armed with guns in the US

She initially spoke about how inspirational the outspoken survivors of the Parkland school shooting in Florida are (some of who were also at the conference):

"I'm so happy to finally see the youth take ownership with their voice about what's going on with gun control in America, since they are the ones affected by it, one hundred per cent. I'm incredibly proud when I see these kids on CNN and BBC, travelling the world, talking about their own experiences... and they're the ones coming up with solutions. And I hope politicians are hearing that conversation... it is our duty to support them.

"I will only say, let's listen to our kids. I don't think any one of those kids said that [arming teachers] was the solution, and I'm going with the kids on this one. I have a very personal experience with gun violence. I lost my father to gun violence and I just don't understand when people try to make the argument that the fix is more guns. It's so outrageous to me, but it also makes complete sense when you look at the policies that are in place and you look at the support and where it's going, and where the finances are coming from. People are in bed with each other that shouldn't be in bed with each other."

On her primary school experience

"My lower school experience was great. I grew up in a very rural part of South Africa... and so there was only one school. That was your choice. And there were about 500 kids. It was this little school built in a dirt field, some kids didn't even wear shoes to school. It was poor, but I think nobody in that school ever felt poor because of the teachers. When you're in an environment where your life is being enriched in other ways... you don't feel like you're lacking."

On what the world will be like in 2030

"I am an optimist. I wake up in the morning and my attitude is, whatever is not working, we need to fix. I have two little kids in my house that inspire me on a daily basis to go out and be part of that fight. I hope that we can get to a place where an estimated 98 million kids, most of them girls, can be in school. If we can solve that... invest in that... then I'm very optimistic about the future. We may actually solve poverty, we'll solve HIV for sure and we'll have healthier communities.

"What are we really saying when we don't educate young girls around the world? Millions and millions of them. We're saying that they're not worth it. That we don't value them. So when you start looking at Me Too and all of these movements, we have to go a little bit further back, and we have to solve it before we get to this place where women are already in the workplace and are being harassed. You stop that by getting society to value women more. We value them if we educate them. We value them by giving them equal pay... through our actions."

You can watch Charlize's full Dubai talk here: 


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