11/17/2008 at 06:00 PM EST
was named a United Nations messenger of peace during a ceremony on Friday, Reuters
Theron, 33, will focus on ending violence against women – an issue that is personally resonant with the actress. At age 15, her mother fatally shot her father, an alcoholic, who drunkenly threatened her family.
"You have used your voice, compassion and special relationship with the public to create a better world," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Hancock
star at the ceremony.
The South African-born actress is one of 10 celebrities serving in this role.
Other celebrity messengers of peace include cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Douglas and George Clooney
, who was appointed in January
for his humanitarian work as an advocate for refugees in Darfur.
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