UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador inspires audiences and in turn is inspired by them

 

Image 3 – Ashley addressing crowd

Leading Hollywood actor, humanitarian and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Goodwill Ambassador Ashley Judd is savouring her recent visit to India, where she made an impassioned call for girls to claim their fundamental rights and to resist harmful practices such as child marriage.

You all are so smart. Stand for your rights – the right to choose when to marry and when to have children. Stand against sexual abuse. Be bold, be strong and be powerful women” she told a crowd of 25,000 girls and boys from indigenous communities in the Indian state of Odisha.

 

Image 1 – Ashley speaks at the UN (photo from UNFPA India site)

The Emmy Award-winning actor spoke at a rally organized by the prestigious Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, which honoured her activism and commitment with its 2016 Humanitarian of the Year Award.  

February 2017 marked Ashley Judd’s first visit to India in her capacity as Goodwill Ambassador to promote UNFPA’s work in ensuring every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

 

Image 5 – Ashley with girls at the sanitary pad project at the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences

 

On her next stop, Ms. Judd met with girls working at a sanitary pad production plant in Odisha that has received UNFPA support, and called for more action to break down damaging taboos around menstruation.

Age-old superstitions and stereotypes in India and many other countries, both in South Asia and beyond, ostracize menstruation and other aspects of women’s and girls’ lives and health.  UNFPA, together with partners including governments, UNICEF and a range of civil society organizations, has been working to change that.

 

“Sexual and reproductive health and rights are human rights and very much essential for women’s empowerment,” she said.

 

Image 7 – Ashley with male peer-educators

 

Ms Judd also met with UNFPA-trained youth peer educators, who are teaching other young people about puberty and healthy approaches to sexuality and relationships, including respect for women and girls and ways in which men and boys can be sensitized about gender-based violence.

 

The peer educators spoke of the need to end child marriage, to believe in the power of girls and to draw society’s attention to the risks associated with adolescent pregnancy, sexual abuse and the damage to young lives wrought by negative attitudes towards women and girls.

Boys and men, girls and women. You need to stand for the rights of each and every girl,” Judd said.

 

Image 8 – Ashley meeting with an indigenous girl at the Odisha tribal fair in Bhubaneswar.

 

At the Shantipalli slum in the Odisha state capital of Bhubaneswar, local girls shared their dreams and aspirations amid the tough daily realities of life their challenged environment with the Hollywood icon, explaining how the city council now helps them get an education.

In a meeting with Naveen Patnaik, Odisha’s Chief Minister, Ms. Judd expressed her appreciation for the state government’s efforts to boost the health, education and well-being of the nearly half a million indigenous students at government-run schools and for pushing positive policies for the empowerment of women and girls.

“I am very happy that I got a remarkable opportunity to spend time with tribal children,” she said towards the tour’s end.

“The whole trip has been profoundly inspiring and I am taking back with me many valuable lessons about the role of education, nutrition and the community in raising children in a safer environment. I am happy that I got an opportunity to talk with girls about various issues related to their bodies. All girls have the right to grow and receive an education. They have full rights to live a life full of dignity, to get good education and skills, maintain their culture and go back to their own village to help people there bring about change.”

 

Ashley Judd was appointed UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador in March 2016. Ms. Judd, who is strongly committed to social justice, believes that the sexual and reproductive health of girls and women is at the heart of poverty eradication and sustainable development. She is also a passionate advocate of the right of every girl and boy to enter adulthood safely and empowered, and for ending all forms of gender-based violence everywhere.