Ashley Judd at the Sonagachhi centre of Apne Aap where she spent over a couple of hours on Tuesday evening meeting the members. Pictures: Rashebhari Das and B. Halder
(Above) Ashley, who was impressed by the braids of one of the children she met at a bungalow on Garden Reach Road, was delighted when a girl offered to braid hers. (Below) The Hollywood actress-activist bowled them over with her opening greeting of namaste.
Ashley joins Ruchira Gupta in the Apne Aap chants of ‘azadi’ — from all kinds of oppression and exploitation.
When Kiss the Girls and Double Jeopardy star Ashley Judd walked into Lata Bajoria’s Garden Reach Road bungalow on Tuesday afternoon, the annual picnic of the mothers and children from Apne Aap Women Worldwide was in full swing. Ashley is in India for the Second World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Women and Girls organised by CAP International and Apne Aap in Delhi from January 29 to 31. On January 26, she will be in conversation with Ruchira Gupta, president and founder of Apne Aap (that works to end sex trafficking), at Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet, in association with The Telegraph, at the Victoria Memorial.
In a far cry from the firebrand anti-Trump activist who had ruled Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington (in picture) like a boss, Ashley seemed quite at home on her first visit to Calcutta shaking hands and hugging all the children and mothers who had come from the red-light areas of Munshigunj and Sonagachhi. “I am very excited to be here and to meet all of you but I will go to bed unhappy tonight if I don’t get a hug from every single person,” she told the gathering and was promptly swallowed by a sea of heads.
“I am from a different part of the world, my skin colour is different. But one of the things that we all have in common is that we are all loved by god. It’s been a long journey to heal from sexual abuse and sometimes it is very painful.... Things change and women are gaining more dignity and respect. Take everything that is being offered to you by Apne Aap that will help empower you,” she urged.
Ashley spoke about her journey as a survivor of child sexual abuse, both at the picnic and during her visit to Apne Aap’s Sonagachhi centre. “I myself am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.... I learnt from another survivor that the perpetrator is shameless and trying to put that shame on me. I turned it around and understood that it was the perpetrator’s shame, not mine. That day I became powerful,” said Ashley, who has been friends with Ruchira for 10 years and is an Apne Aap goodwill ambassador.