Ashley Judd on a Mission

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Away from camera flashes and red carpets, and shorn of cakes of make-up, Ashley Judd comes to India on a mission. As the global youth AIDS ambassador, Judd was in town as part of NGO Population Services International’s campaign to spread AIDS awareness among the masses and sex workers. “Who could have possibly guessed that Hollywood would be my entry into the slums and brothels,” she states.

This Hollywood actress could empathize with the suffering of young girls because she herself had a troubled childhood and considers this trip to India a part of her healing process as well. “I was physically, emotionally, sexually and spiritually abused, and as a result I was a damaged, wounded person. I was drawn to this work partially because, although these circumstances were different, I identified with what I saw people going through.”

Traveling from Mumbai to Delhi and Jaipur, Judd visited places like Kamathipura, the hub for prostitution in Mumbai; Cotton Green, the meeting point for truck drivers; and Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum. She visited brothels to gauge the plight of sex workers and worked with NGOs to find solutions to promote better living conditions, checked out helpline centers and male sex worker clinics.

In Mumbai, besides meeting up with Sushmita Sen, Judd also shot a campaign to promote HIV/AIDS awareness for the National Geographic channel. In Jaipur, she was joined by Akshay Kumar to launch the emergency contraception program. Akshay Kumar, who took time off from shooting for Priyadarshan’sBhool Bhulaiya, addressed the women, telling them that they should not hesitate to ask their husbands to use contraceptive devices like condoms and told every man to involve his wife in family planning.

Ashley Judd left India, as she put it, emotionally stirred.

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Ashley Judd on Shah Rukh Khan:

“While I was in Mumbai, Shah Rukh Khan hosted a party to raise funds for a charity. I was invited too. I did not get to meet him because he arrived after I’d left. We met after he called me the next morning. He gallantly offered to sign up for my cause. His charm and grace floored me.”

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