Actor, director, and humanitarian Angelina Jolie can add a new title to her resume: beekeeper.
Jolie was recently named the “Godmother” of the Women for Bees initiative, a five-year program designed to empower women by training them as beekeepers.
The program is part of a broad partnership between The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Guerlain, one of the oldest perfume houses in the world. Jolie was the face of the French cosmetics house’s Mon Guerlain fragrance.
Women from Cambodia, China, France, Italy, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Bulgaria, Russia, and Slovenia will be trained this year, with more joining as the program progresses.
And, Jolie herself will join the accelerated 30-day training program, led by beekeeping experts from the French Observatory of Apidology in Provence. The 45-year-old actor believes deeply in the importance of protecting the environment, and that teaching women to be good stewards of the planet will set off a chain reaction.
“When women gain skills and knowledge their instinct is to help raise others. I’m excited to meet the women taking part in this programme from all over the world,” Jolie said in a statement. “I look forward to getting to know them and learning about their culture and environment and the role bees play in that. I hope the training will strengthen their independence, their livelihoods and their communities.“
Saving Bees and Empowering Women
Put simply, the planet cannot thrive without bees. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators like bees and butterflies help pollinate roughly 75 percent of the world’s flowering plants. They pollinate approximately 35 percent of the world’s food crops—including fruits and vegetables. And they also support the production of 87 of the world’s leading food crops.
“To have a network, learning how to be the best beekeepers with all the latest science and methods, and having something they can make and sell,” Jolie said in an interview with National Geographic. “It’s not just about going around teaching women, it’s about learning from women all around the world who have different practices.”
But bee populations are dwindling. Although there are more than 20,000 different species, a 2016 assessment by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) found a growing number of pollinator species are on the brink of extinction. But, Jolie believes that we can take action to protect pollinators.
“Instead of stepping forward and saying, ‘We are losing the bees, we have certain species that have gone extinct, are going extinct,’ we’re coming forward to say, ‘Yes, this is how you have to protect.’ You have to be more conscious of chemicals and deforestation,” Jolie explained.
“But also, here are things different people can do. You don’t even have to have land, but you can consider being a part of the solution,” she continued. “What’s exciting is that we’re coming at this with solutions [and] empowering women in their livelihoods.”
In addition to fostering women’s empowerment, the female beekeeping entrepreneurship program will promote the welfare and maintenance of local and native bee populations. It will also provide education on the importance of pollinators.
Jolie the Humanitarian
Jolie has been a longtime advocate of at-risk groups, including refugees, women, and children for the past two decades.
In her role as special envoy for the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees, the actor and director has undertaken dozens of field missions around the world to meet with refugees. She’s even traveled to dangerous war zones like the Syrian-Iraqi border during the Second Gulf War.
In 2003, she founded the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation—a conservation group (named after her eldest son) that works to preserve Cambodia’s environment and endangered wildlife.
“With so much we are worried about around the world and so many people feeling overwhelmed with bad news and the reality of what is collapsing, this is one that we can manage,” Jolie said. “We can certainly all step in and do our part.”