Exclusive: Cate Blanchett speaks out about the refugee crisis

Cate Blanchett in conversation with the Deputy High Commissioner at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, covered exclusively by Marie Claire

Words by Charlotte Philby

To mark International Women’s Day, Marie Claire is proud to exclusively showcase Golden Globe-winning actress and UNHCR ambassador Cate Blanchett in conversation with Kelly Clements, the Deputy High Commissioner at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). With 65.6m people currently displaced around the world, Blanchett is a representative of UNHCR, the UN’s Refugee Agency, which offers protection to some 20 million women and their children, who have been forced to flee their homes.

Cate Blanchett

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett and Camp Manager Hovig Etyemezian at Zaatari refugee camp walk Champs Elysees. Zaatari has 3000 shops throughout the camp, many of which are located on this main road. Credit: UN

Recalling her own experiences visiting Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp with her then-nine-year-old son, Cate Blanchett says ‘He was initially nervous but the moment he went in there, there were other boys and girls and he was out there playing soccer with them and there was no point of difference. Life goes on for refugees. Unfortunately, because the average time that a refugee is displaced is 19/20 years, they have to make a life – it is wonderful to see my son experience that.’

Referring to her time at the head of an organisation offering support to refugees through a range of services and programmes around basic living, education and health at a number of its safe-havens, Clements praises the prominence of women in the humanitarian field. ‘In this line of work the compassion what motivates public service inspires many women. Advice I would give [to those looking to join such a profession] is to be patient look for those opportunities, don’t turn them down, be hungry,’ she says.

Cate Blanchett

The Deputy High Commissioner, Kelly T. Clements, meets Rohingya refugees during a visit to Kutupalong refugee camp. Credit: UNHCR

Ensuring camps and services are designed with women and children in mind, UNHCR takes into account the safety and wellbeing of its more vulnerable citizens such as locating water points, providing separate toilets for men and women, ensuring camps are well-lit to prevent attacks after dark, while lobbying for the appointment of a female officer to accompany girls who are alone. It also offers a range of strategic services from support to victims of domestic violence, to activities to improve displaced people’s chances of getting work.

You can show your solidarity and stand #WithRefugees by signing its petition – sending a clear message to decision-makers around the world that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility, in order to protect millions of vulnerable people.

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