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Kidman named U.N. goodwill ambassador

Kidman
Nicole Kidman says she heard about UNIFEM from her mother.

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Nicole Kidman
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Actress Nicole Kidman was appointed a goodwill ambassador Thursday for a U.N. organization that fights for women's rights.

"I have been given many, many blessings in this life, and so much of it is about now, a time and a place about giving back," Kidman said.

In her work for the U.N. Development Fund for Women, or UNIFEM, Kidman said she hopes to focus attention on violence against women. (Watch Kidman talk about a real-life role -- 1:56)

Noeleen Heyzer, head of UNIFEM, called Kidman "a gift because she will use her visibility, her voice, her connections."

Heyzer said there had been some progress for women but said, "Progress is too slow when we look just at the range of violence that has affected women's lives, be it rape, be it abuse in the household, trafficking, because of traditional practices."

Kidman will start her work in a few weeks by traveling with UNIFEM to "educate herself" to hear firsthand from women about the problems they face.

Kidman said possible stops include Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Liberia. The actress says she hopes her name and face will cause people who wouldn't normally be interested in women's rights to "leave the TV running or read the papers."

Another U.N. goodwill ambassador, Angelina Jolie, has drawn massive attention for her work with refugees around the world.

Kidman said it was her own "passion toward helping women" that motivated her to first call the United Nations and said she hoped it would "result in lifelong commitment."

In addition to Jolie, Kidman joins a large roster of celebrities as global goodwill ambassadors for the United Nations. Jackie Chan, Whoopi Goldberg, David Beckham, Harry Belafonte, Susan Sarandon and Ricky Martin are among those who travel and speak on issues ranging from refugees and HIV/AIDS to sex tourism.

In a press conference Thursday at the United Nations, Kidman told reporters she became aware of the depth of the problem of violence against women when she prepared for the film "The Human Stain."

Kidman said she met with a lot of women in U.S. shelters. "The stories that I heard there, and this is America, were so disturbing," she said.

While Kidman said she likes her personal life to "stay out of the limelight," she said she hopes to be able to bring her son and daughter on some of her travels. She said she believes "seeing will hopefully put them in a position where they will step into their responsibility as privileged children."

CNN's Elizabeth Neisloss and Richard Roth contributed to this report.

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