UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Oscar-winning South African-born actress Charlize Theron was named a United Nations messenger of peace on Friday, with a special focus on ending violence against women.

Messengers of peace, of which there will now be 10, are celebrities mainly from the fields of film, music, literature and sport who are charged with promoting U.N. activities and ideals through public appearances and media contacts.


Theron, 33, won an Academy Award for her role in the 2003 movie “Monster,” in which she played serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who came from a background of violence and abuse and was executed in Florida in 2002.

In the 2005 film, “North Country” she played a woman who fights back against sexual harassment. She has been in dramas like “The Cider House Rules,” thrillers such as “The Italian Job” and the special-effects filled “AEon Flux.”

Theron, named by Esquire magazine last year as its “Sexiest Woman Alive,” has also been involved in charitable causes such as putting mobile health clinics in rural areas of her native South Africa where access to care is limited.

She had her own experience of domestic violence at the age of 15 when her mother fatally shot her alcoholic father as he threatened the family in a drunken rage.

Designating her a messenger of peace, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “You have used your voice, compassion and special relationship with the public to create a better world.”

The other messengers of peace are actors George Clooney and Michael Douglas, musicians Daniel Barenboim, Midori Goto and Yo-Yo Ma, authors Paulo Coelho and Elie Wiesel, equestrian Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein and naturalist Jane Goodall.

(Reporting by Patrick Worsnip; editing by Chris Wilson)