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Associated Press Online, February 19, 2007

Kidman Praises UNIFEM, U.N. Trust Fund

By JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press Writer

Nicole Kidman on Friday praised a U.N. fund set up 10 years ago for initiatives to end violence against women worldwide, saying it had made a difference in the lives of countless people.

Kidman, the goodwill ambassador of the U.N. Development Fund for Women, or UNIFEM, told a gathering of U.N. diplomats via teleconference from Los Angeles that she heard many stories of survival during a tour of Kosovo in October.

She said one woman had been repeatedly raped by soldiers and become pregnant, making her an outcast in her community.

With the help of women's rights activists, though, she testified about the abuse she suffered before the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands, Kidman said.

"Her rape was used as a weapon of war, how it shatters women's lives and communities," she said.

Kidman, who is in Los Angeles shooting the science fiction thriller "The Invasion," spoke as part of an event to mark the 10-year anniversary of the establishment of the U.N. Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women.

"What is so impressive is how (the women) are speaking out, helping one another and organizing to achieve political and social change," Kidman said. "For the past 10 years, UNIFEM and the U.N. trust fund ... have been a key ally in this movement for change and gender equality."

Since its inception, the fund has granted more than $13 million to 226 initiatives around the globe, including in Kosovo where UNIFEM has run several projects assessing the impact of the 1990s war on women.

Some of the grant money was also used last year to ensure the implementation of policies and laws to address violence against women in many countries, said Noeleen Heyzer, UNIFEM executive director.

In Liberia, the program is funding organizations that are monitoring how a stiff new law against rape is being enacted, the country's president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said in a video message to the group.

"These grants are contributing to the movement in my country toward an accountable government," said Sirleaf, who became Africa's first elected female head of state when she took office last year.

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