Ashley Judd Advocates for Women’s Rights at U.N. General Assembly

Actor Ashley Judd, a prominent figure in the #MeToo movement, delivered a powerful address at the U.N. General Assembly’s commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the landmark document adopted in Cairo. This document, endorsed by 179 countries, recognized women’s right to control their reproductive and sexual health and to choose when and if to become pregnant.

The Glorious Legacy of Cairo

Judd praised the program of action established in Cairo as a “glorious, aspirational document” that has shaped her advocacy work over the past two decades. Her travels across the globe have taken her to slums, brothels, refugee camps, schools, and drop-in centers, where she has tirelessly championed sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Women’s empowerment

From Numerical Targets to Empowering Choices

The Cairo conference transformed the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) by shifting its focus from numerical targets to promoting individual choices for women and men. Education for girls and economic development became key components of this approach. Research has consistently shown that educated women tend to have smaller families, emphasizing the importance of empowering women through education and access to reproductive health services.

The Ongoing Struggle

While Cairo recognized sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, it did not explicitly address sexual rights. That milestone came a year later at the 1995 U.N. women’s conference in Beijing. Judd highlighted the ongoing challenges, including the contentious issue of unsafe abortion. Governments must address unsafe abortion as a public health concern to save women’s lives, even as the debate around legalization continues.

Judd’s experiences in Madagascar and Turkey underscore the urgency of her mission. In Madagascar, she encountered women exploited by men due to systemic inequalities. In Turkey, she witnessed the dire conditions faced by families and refugees, where modern family planning choices are essential despite government restrictions.

Ashley Judd’s unwavering commitment to women’s rights serves as a beacon of hope, reminding us that progress is possible when we prioritize choice, education, and empowerment.


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