Issue: Women’s health and rights
How he delivers for women: In his twice-weekly columns for The New York Times and on his blog, Kristof tackles sensitive, provocative, and important issues – particularly for women in developing countries. He is unafraid to speak his mind, and to open his readers’ eyes to the grave realities that women face in so many parts of the world. His writing regularly recognizes local women leaders and fearless women advocates moving mountains to change the future for themselves and their sisters.
Learn more: http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/
Issue: Maternal health
How he delivers for women: Between 2000 and 2005, there were 52 maternal deaths in the 89 villages under Kwataine’s traditional authority – a statistic which prompted him to launch a pioneering, grassroots maternal health campaign. Kwataine’s initiative urged women to give birth in hospitals, organized counselors to advise pregnant women, and launched an education campaign, even painting maternal health slogans on houses. When the increase in patients threatened to overwhelm the local hospital, he organized villagers to construct their own clinic. In the three years after the initiative began, not one woman died in childbirth – a groundbreaking achievement in Malawi, which has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates. Kwataine’s brilliant, practical approach to maternal health is proof of what can be achieved when leaders make it clear that women matter – and communities come together to turn that principle into practice.
Learn more: http://ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=52965
Issue: Women’s rights and abortion
How she delivers for women: To be an outspoken feminist in Mexico takes courage, perseverance, and strategic thinking, and Lamas has all three. She spearheaded Mexico’s women’s rights movement and is widely recognized as the country’s leading feminist. Her writing has revolutionized thought on critical women’s issues in Mexico, from women’s leadership to gender discrimination to abortion. In 1992, she co-founded GIRE to provide lawmakers with research on bioethical, social and legal perspectives on abortion, and in 2007 her labors bore fruit when Mexico City decriminalized first-trimester abortions. She is President of the board of Semillas, a fund supporting women-led initiatives. Semillas means “seeds” -- a fitting description for her groundbreaking work, which has yielded results for women across the region.
Learn more: http://www.genderacrossborders.com/2009/04/20/global-feminist-profiles-marta-lamas-of-mexico/
Issue: Gender equality and women’s empowerment
How she delivers for women: Xie is the champion of China’s rural women, among the country’s most isolated and vulnerable populations. Approximately three-fourths of Chinese women live in the countryside, often with little economic opportunity or independence. In 1993, Xie founded Rural Women Magazine, which prominently featured correspondence from women across the countryside. The magazine touched a nerve, offering readers an outlet and a lifeline to the outside world. Her readers’ struggles drove Xie to found the Cultural Development Center for Rural Women, which offers literacy programs, job training, suicide prevention, and microfinance programs, and supports rural migrants to China’s cities. Xie has fought for protections for domestic laborers, pressed for government action on sexual harassment, and exposed suicide rates among rural women. Perhaps most importantly, she has created a space for women to connect with one another.
Learn more: http://www.nongjianv.org/english/aboutus/askedquestions.html
Issue: Environmental renewal and women’s empowerment
How she delivers for women: Maathai has proven that environmental integrity and women’s empowerment go hand in hand. When firewood runs scarce or rivers run dry, as they did in villages in Maathai’s native Kenya, women are affected first. In response, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, which taps the power of local women to address environmental degradation. Women are paid a small stipend to plant trees, in the process protecting their land and empowering themselves. A pioneer of women’s rights, Maathai was the first woman in East Africa to earn a PhD, and for her outspoken activism has braved imprisonment and violence. But her commitment to environmental stewardship and women’s independence has never wavered. The result? 40 million trees planted, and a Nobel Peace Prize for Maathai – the first ever awarded to an African woman or an environmentalist.
Learn more: http://greenbeltmovement.org/w.php?id=59
Issue: Women and children’s rights
How she delivers for women: As one of the fiercest and most respected voices of Africa’s independence generation, Machel has been outspoken on issues ranging from maternal health to the plight of refugees. As a minister in Mozambique’s first post-independence government, Machel championed the rights and education of women and children. Her groundbreaking UN report on the impact of armed conflict on children in 1996 transformed international policy, and she has been tireless in drawing attention to the unequal impact of war on women and children. In 2007, Machel and her spouse, Nelson Mandela, helped found the Elders, a group of eminent global leaders working to address conflicts worldwide, and she has used the platform to focus global attention on women’s health and equality.
Learn more: http://www.theelders.org/elders/graca-machel#biography
Issues: Gender equality, women’s rights within Islam, and HIV/AIDS
How she delivers for women: A newspaper columnist, blogger and TV producer, Mahathir has been an advocate for women’s equality in Malaysia for almost two decades, and an evangelist for safe sex and HIV prevention. On her blog, Rantings byMM, she often writes about the place of feminism in Islam, calling for interpretations of the Quran that promote women’s rights rather than stifle them. She has taken Islamic judges to task for discrimination against women within Malaysia’s Syariah Court system, arguing that new Islamic laws have made Muslim women second class citizens while their non-Muslim counterparts are gaining rights and opportunities. And she has written extensively about women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. Mahathir is willing to speak up, ask difficult questions and address sensitive subjects – and she has proven herself an indispensable voice on behalf of Malaysia’s women.
Learn more: http://rantingsbymm.blogspot.com/
Issue: Sex trafficking
How she delivers for women: Somaly Mam’s story is one of remarkable resilience. An estimated two million women and children are sold into sexual slavery each year. In the 1980s, Mam was one of them. Orphaned during the Khmer Rouge, she was forced into prostitution as a child, enduring torture and abuse before finally escaping to France with the help of a local aid worker. She returned to Cambodia in 1996 to found AFESIP, a network of shelters for victims of sex-trafficking across Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. Her shelters have supported thousands of women and girls, offering education and job-skills training while working with police to help others escape the brothels. In 2007, she created the Somaly Mam Foundation to support anti-trafficking efforts worldwide. Mam and her family have been repeatedly threatened and attacked for her work, but she has remained an unyielding crusader against the sex trade.
Learn more: http://www.somaly.org/about-smf/somaly-mam
Issue: Women’s studies and gender equality
How she delivers for women: As a Missionary Benedictine sister, Mananzan has led the way in integrating feminist activism into Catholic faith. She was a pioneer in the field of women’s studies, founding the program at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila, one of the Phillippines’ most prestigious and progressive colleges for women. She has been instrumental in developing a feminist and a third-world theology within the Catholic Church, criticizing the Church for being hierarchical and male-dominated. In her writing, she has highlighted the particular oppression of third world women through violence and gender discrimination. In her groundbreaking career, Mananzan has worked to empower women and to combat injustice and oppression wherever she finds it –whether within the political system, or at the hands of the church.
Learn more: http://www.catherineofsiena.net/about/patrons2.asp
Issue: Sexual and reproductive rights
How she delivers for women: Mejia has dedicated her career to ending the ongoing devastation wrought by unsafe abortions in Latin America. Every year, over four million women in the region will undergo an illegal abortion, which is a leading cause of maternal death in Latin America. Mejia has led the fight to turn these statistics around. As co-Founder and Director of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir, she is the leading pro-choice advocate in the region, and has been instrumental in opening up dialogue between religious leaders and advocates for safe abortion. Mejia has worked to show those in power that being Catholic and pro-choice is not only possible, but essential to saving the lives of women throughout Latin America.
Learn more: http://www.catolicasmexico.org
Issue: Women’s and children’s health and education
How she delivers for women: In Qatar, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah has become a symbol of women’s right to work and an education. A mother of seven, she is leading an effort to improve education and increase employment opportunities for young people across the region. As the chairperson of the Qatar Foundation, she established Education City, a 2,500 acre hub for students including six coed universities. She has used her public position to speak out against domestic violence, establishing the region's first battered women's shelter. And as founder and Chair of the Arab Democracy Foundation, she has worked to increase women’s participation in politics and encourage freedom of the press, and an open discussion of obstacles faced by Arab women. Her advocacy for women’s rights, education, and opportunity is sure to reverberate across the region for years to come.
Learn more: http://www.mozabintnasser.qa/Her%20Highness/Biography/Pages/default.aspx
Issue: Violence against women
How he delivers for women: Up to ten times a day, Mukwege enters the operating room at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu to repair the damage of Congo’s 14-year war. In a country where hundreds of thousands of women have been brutally raped, Mukwege has become an unwilling expert at treating the wounds of extreme sexual violence. His Panzi Hospital is one of the only institutions dedicated to caring for the war’s survivors, and he has treated over 21,000 women. Mukwege has spoken out furiously and eloquently about the scale of atrocities during the war, and the way in which rape has been systematically used to shred the social fabric of the Congo. In the face of unending violence and strained resources, he and his staff maintain one of the only oases of support for women devastated by extraordinary violence.
Learn more: http://www.panzihospitalbukavu.org/drmukwege.php?weblang=1
Issue: Violence against women
How she delivers for women: Namegabe was one of the first journalists to broadcast the stories of Congolese women, hundreds of thousands of whom have been raped and tortured in the past decade. As Eastern Congo descended into war in the late 1990s, Namegabe, a self-taught radio journalist, launched a talk show on community radio to air the graphic testimonies of rape survivors. Realizing the potential impact of media coverage in holding governments accountable for atrocities, Namegabe founded the South Kivu Women’s Media Association (AFEM) to fund her activism and train other women journalists. With AFEM and through her radio broadcasts, Namegabe has exposed and denounced government corruption and human rights abuses, and given Congo’s women a way to make their voices heard.
Learn more: http://englishafemsk.blogspot.com/
Issue: Girls’ and womens’ rights
How she delivers for women: When 10-year-old Nujood Ali came to Nasser, a human rights lawyer and the founder of Yemen’s first all-female law office, Ali asked for one thing: a divorce. Nasser took the case, and in 2008 she won the first ruling in Yemen’s history freeing a child bride from forced marriage. Roughly 50 percent of Yemeni girls are married before they are 18, and though the law forbids sex until the bride is “suitable for sexual intercourse,” the requirement is often ignored. Ali and Nasser gained worldwide attention for the case, and Nasser has gone on to represent several other child brides, while pushing the government to raise the legal age of marriage. Through her courageous work, she has helped to shatter the silence surrounding child marriage, offering a new hope to girls across the region.
Issue: Violence against women
How she delivers for women: She may be only 23, but Negash has already helped countless girls in Ethiopia live free from sexual violence. At 13, she was twice kidnapped and brutally raped by a neighbor who then tried to force her into marriage. Ethiopian law at the time stated that a man could not be prosecuted for raping a woman he later married. But Negash, in a breathtaking act of courage, refused to marry, and with her father and the help of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association, she fought to have her attacker arrested. In 2005, as a result of their taboo-breaking stand, Ethiopia adopted a new penal code which states that rape is still rape, even when it is papered over by marriage. Negash broke the silence on sexual violence in Ethiopia, and her action spurred her nation toward justice.
Learn more: http://www.equalitynow.org/english/actions/action_2204_en.html
Issue: Maternal health and indigenous women’s health and rights
How she delivers for women: Nestor has led the fight to promote indigenous women’s health and rights in Central America, speaking out on behalf of women who have long been silenced. In Mexico, indigenous women are three times less likely to survive childbirth, and face daunting obstacles in accessing quality health care, often confronting language and financial barriers. To combat this, Nestor founded the CONAMI, which works with 40 NGOs throughout the region, providing leadership training to indigenous women. Nestor is helping indigenous raise their voices and fight for the right to safe childbirth, and she is ensuring the rest of the world listens.
Learn more: (in Spanish): http://casadesaludometepec.org/martha.htm
Issue: Women’s health and labor rights
How she delivers for women: Ngoma knows that a health system is only as strong as the workers behind it, and she has organized Malawi’s nurses to fight for their rights --and for their patients’ wellbeing. In Malawi, sixteen women die in childbirth each day; pregnant women are said to have “one foot in the grave.” As Executive Director of the National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi (NONM), Ngoma has trained nurses and lobbied legislators to improve conditions in hospitals, clinics and schools. She argues that to save women’s lives, health systems need skilled workers -- and those workers need effective management, facilities, and labor policies. Thanks to her, NONM’s membership has grown from 50 to over 7,000 members in just five years. She has stood up for both the women risking their lives to deliver their children, and the women who make safe deliveries possible.
Learn more: http://www.rcn.org.uk/aboutus/gov/fellows/browse/dorothy_ngoma
Issue: Sex education and HIV/AIDS
How she delivers for women: At just 21, Nkhoma has braved condemnation and violence to educate Malawi’s young people about HIV/AIDS. Inspired by her own sister’s difficult decision to disclose her HIV-positive status, Nkhoma committed herself to removing the stigma associated with HIV in Malawi. At her alma mater, where one in three students graduated HIV-positive, she worked to deliver crucial information about safe sex and HIV/AIDS, and to foster honest discussions about sexual behavior. For her life-saving frank talk, she came under enormous pressure from her government and community, and she was jailed and brutally beaten. But Nkhoma has persevered, dedicated to supporting those living with HIV, and working toward the day when all Malawians will live free of it.
Learn more: http://www.womendeliver.org/updates/entry/rage-for-justice-motivates-young-people/
Issue: Girls’ education and empowerment in Kenya
How she delivers for women: In a region where girls routinely marry at 13 and only 11% go on to high school, Kakenya is building a girls’ primary school and with it hope for a different kind of future. Raised in a Maasai village in rural Kenya, at 13 Kakenya struck a bargain with her father: if she underwent female circumcision, she could postpone marriage and attend high school. From that deal came another: if her village elders sent her to college in the US, she promised to return and build a school. Now, the Kakenya Center for Excellence is in its third year, teaching academic excellence, female empowerment, and leadership. And Kakenya is a passionate voice for girls on the international stage, speaking out about the power of girls’ education, particularly in combating practices like genital mutilation and child marriage.
Learn more: http://www.kakenyasdream.org/
How she delivers for women: Since learning that she is HIV-positive, Odetoyinbo has traveled a personal journey from shameful silence to proud advocacy, and has inspired countless other women to do the same. Her devastating diagnosis left her waiting for death. But in 2002, she attended the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain and realized she wasn’t alone. In Nigeria, over half of those with HIV are girls and women. This growing “feminization” of AIDS drove Odetoyinbo to found Positive Action for Treatment Access to ensure equal access to critical information on HIV prevention, and humane treatment. Odetoyinbo trains HIV-positive volunteers as health educators, and works with doctors to reach out to those needing treatment. Today, she no longer waits for death, but instead lives as a powerful advocate for HIV-positive women’s empowerment and survival.
Learn more: http://www.pata-nigeria.com/about.html
Issue: Women’s health and breast cancer treatment
How she delivers for women: Breast cancer often hits women of African descent earlier—and harder—than their peers of European or Asian heritage, and breast cancer researcher Olopade has spent the past two decades trying to find out why. Her research has led to groundbreaking discoveries, including the realization that breast cancers in women of African heritage often originate in different cells, and require different treatments. As founding director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago, she developed a collaborative approach to cancer treatment and risk assessment, coordinating oncologists, primary care physicians, genetic counselors, sociologists, and psychologists to care for cancer patients. In both her pioneering research and her innovative approach to patient care, she has delivered breakthroughs for millions of women facing breast cancer worldwide.
Learn more: http://cancergenetics.uchicago.edu/clinic/FOlopade.htm
Issue: Ending violence against women
How she delivers for women: When Pisklakova-Parker opened Russia’s first domestic violence hotline in 1993, she answered the phone herself, counseling women alone for hours each day. Domestic violence in Russia was epidemic but invisible. Police would not intervene; there were no shelters, no support groups, and no legal aid. Pisklakova-Parker dragged gender-based violence out of the shadows. Her Center ANNA now operates crisis centers across the country and trains counselors, lawyers, and women’s rights groups to aid survivors of rape and domestic violence. And she has expanded her focus, fighting against sex-trafficking and working with communities in the North Caucasus to end honor killings and bridal abductions. With an estimated 14,000 Russian women killed by their husbands each year, and still no law against domestic violence, Pisklakova-Parker remains an essential voice raised on behalf of Russia’s women.
Learn more: http://www.vitalvoices.org/vital-voices-women/featured-voices/marina-pisklakova-parker
Jacqueline Pitanguy, Brazil
Professor of Women’s Studies, Founder and Director of Citizenship, Studies, Information and Action (Cidadania, Estudo, Pesquisa, Informação e Ação-CEPIA), Former President of National Council for Women’s Rights
Issue: Violence against women and reproductive health
How she delivers for women: In the 1970s Pitanguy helped create an actual flag to represent the feminist movements across Latin America, uniting women’s groups in opposition to the continent’s military regimes. When Brazil introduced democracy after years of military dictatorship, Pitanguy worked to break the long-imposed silence surrounding sexual violence and the severe lack of access to reproductive health services. She campaigned for gender equality within marriage and for the prevention of domestic violence and founded Cidadania, Estudo, Pesquisa, Informação e Ação (CEPIA) in 1990 to advocate against sexual violence and for reproductive health. During her long career as a heroic champion of gender equality, she has taken the concept, “women’s rights are human rights” and put it into concrete action.
Learn more: http://www.wmd.org/about/democracyvoices/jacqueline-pitanguy-cepia-brazil
Issue: Women’s labor rights
How she delivers for women: Poo is a driving force in the movement demanding rights for US domestic workers, one of the only groups still denied protection under American labor laws. An estimated 2.5 million domestic workers suffer low pay, long hours, and no guaranteed time off; they are often vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. In 2000, Poo helped found Domestic Workers United, mobilizing New York’s nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers to the elderly to fight for recognition and fair compensation. In 2010, New York was the first state to extend basic labor protections to domestic workers. This is just the first step for Poo and the extraordinary women of DWU, who are sending a message to the world that the work of female domestic laborers – often immigrants and women of color – must no longer be ignored and devalued.
Learn more: http://www.domesticworkersunited.org
Issue: Women’s rights and gender equality
How she delivers for women: During Iran's 2009 presidential elections, Rahnavard campaigned alongside her husband, reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi, -- the first time a political wife had ever done so. Women make up 65 percent of Iran’s university students, and they can work, drive, and run for parliament—but they have half the legal rights of men in criminal, divorce, child custody, and inheritance cases, and have to adhere to a strict Islamic dress code in public. During the elections, Rahnavard called for a revision of laws that discriminate against women and greater representation of women in government. In the aftermath of the election, when Iranians poured into the streets calling for reform, Rahnavard joined her husband as one of the faces of the Green Revolution, and despite brutal government repression, she has remained a steadfast voice for women’s rights.
Learn more: http://www.oprah.com/world/The-2010-O-Power-List/16
Photo credits for: Wangari Maathai