Global Council

The International Museum of Women's Global Council is a group of diverse international leaders committed to strengthening and improving the lives of women throughout the world through education, health care, social welfare, community development, politics, law, arts, media, science, technology, sports, philanthropy, business, protection of the environment, and promotion of world peace and justice. They are supportive of and dedicated to the mission and vision of the Museum. 

Hafsat Abiola-Costello, Nigeria

Founder, China Africa Bridge;
Founder, China Africa Forum;
Founder and Director, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy;
Founding Member: State of the World Forum's Emerging Leaders Program; Global Youth Connect

Hafsat Abiola-Costello is a human rights and democracy advocate from Nigeria. She is the founder of China Africa Bridge and China Africa Forum. She founded the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), an organization dedicated to strengthening civil society and promoting democracy in Nigeria. She draws inspiration from her parents, both political activists. Her father, M.K.O. Abiola, was elected president of Nigeria in 1993, but served his term in solitary confinement and died in prison. Her mother, Kudirat, was assassinated on the streets of Lagos in 1996.

Hafsat is a founding member of the State of the World Forum's Emerging Leaders Program and Global Youth Connect. These programs are dedicated to developing women and youth as social change agents through youth seminars and training in leadership skills. She is also a founding member of several initiatives including Youth Employment Campaign and Vital Voices: Women in Democracy. Hafsat is the president of the National Pro-Democracy Movement of Nigeria and sits on a number of boards, including Educate Girls Globally, Women's Learning Partnership, Youth Employment Campaign, and Institute of Noetic Sciences.

Did You Know?

  • A prolific journalist, Hafsat's articles for the international press, including the New York Times, Tell, Time, Newsweek and the International Herald Tribune, have increased international awareness of contemporary Nigerian struggles for democracy, human rights and gender equality.
  • In September 2003, Hafsat conducted a moving interview with Amina Lawal, a woman who made worldwide headlines in mid-2002 after being sentenced to stoning by a Shari'a court in Nigeria for having a baby out of wedlock.
  • In 2004, she was awarded a Doctor of Public Letters from Haverford College.

Mahnaz Afkhami, Iran/U.S.A.

President and CEO, Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace;
Executive Director, Foundation for Iranian Studies

Mahnaz Afkhami has been an activist for women's rights, peace and democracy for more than three decades. She is a scholar and authority on women in Muslim societies, and has been an outspoken advocate for the elimination of violence against girls and women in the Muslim world. Since 2000, Mahnaz has been president and CEO of the Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace, whose aim is to empower women and girls in the Global South.

Mahnaz was Iran's minister of state for women's affairs from 1965-1978, and for nine years prior, served secretary general of the Women's Organization of Iran. She has been living in the U.S. since 1979 and while in exile, has founded several international non-governmental organizations focused on advancing the status of women. She was the former executive director of Sisterhood Is Global and serves on the advisory boards of Global Fund for Women, the International League for Human Rights, the Commission on Globalization, and the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

Did You Know?

  • Mahnaz has served as an advisor to the Iranian delegation to the U.N. General Assembly.
  • Mahnaz has written, co-authored or edited 12 books, among them Faith and Freedom: Women's Human Rights in the Muslim World and Women in Exile.
  • She has participated in numerous international conferences addressing the needs of Muslim women.

Rajaa H. Dhaher Al-Khuzai, Iraq

Former Member, Iraqi Parliament;
Former Member, Interim Governing Council of Iraq;
President, Iraqi Widow's Organization;
Chairperson, National Council for Women

Rajaa H. Dhaher Al-Khuzai is a physician and former member of the Iraqi National Assembly. Prior to the formation of the National Assembly, she was one of three women who served on Iraq's Governing Council. She has represented the voice of Iraqi women in meetings with former U.S. President George W. Bush, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair, former U.S. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer and other international coalition officials. The primary focus of Rajaa's work is strengthening the participation of women in the construction of the new Iraqi government and its parliament, and ensuring their involvement in drafting Iraq's new constitution.

As a political leader and women's health practitioner, Rajaa is determined to develop a women's health strategy for post-war Iraq. She holds degrees in obstetrics and gynecology from the University of London, is the director of a hospital in the southern city of Diwaniah, and is a lecturer at the local medical college. Through the two non-governmental organizations she leads, Rajaa has been developing new programs to address the pressing health, education, and psychosocial needs to women in a war-torn country attempting reconstruction. She is president of the Women's Organization in Diwaniah, founder of the Women's Health Center in Baghdad, and founder of the Iraqi Widows Organization, which supports widows with training programs and short term loans for their small businesses.

Did You Know?

  • Rajaa Al-Khuzai has been working to keep Iraqi family law free of religious restrictions, and to ensure that 25% of the seats of the new parliament are reserved for women.
  • Rajaa was guest of honor at the Nacht der Wiener Wirtschaft (Night of the Viennese Commerce) in Vienna in February of 2007.
  • Rajaa was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her World Bank-supported project to help Iraqi widows.

Barbara Barrett, U.S.A

President and CEO, Triple Creek Guest Ranch;
Former U.S. Ambassador to Finland;
Former President, International Women’s Forum;
Former Deputy Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration

Barbara Barrett, a lawyer by training, is multifaceted in her interests and expertise. She is the former U.S. Ambassador to Finland, a successful international business woman and entrepreneur, a politician and an expert aviator. She served as the first female deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and was chairman of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. Barbara has held many appointments in Republican administrations, was on the Committee on Women in the Armed Services, and ran for Governor of Arizona. She has worked in both the public and private sectors in transportation and in restructuring commercial aviation.

Barbara is a recognized expert on business management education and has been a teaching fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is on the board of the Center for International Private Enterprise. She served on the boards of Freedom House and the Global Center for Dispute Resolution. In 2000, she was president of the International Women’s Forum (IWF) and was instrumental in initiating IWF in Ireland. In 2003, Barbara was sworn in by then Secretary of State Colin Powell as chairman of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. She is currently president and CEO of the Triple Creek Guest Ranch and serves on the boards of the Mayo Clinic, Smithsonian, and the Aerospace Corporation. She is also a member of the U.S.­ Afghan Women’s Council as well as the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board.

Did You Know?

  • Barbara was the youngest vice chairman in the history of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board.
  • In December of 2006, Barbara received an honorary Doctor of International Laws degree from the Garvin School of International Management.
  • Barbara was an advisor to U.S. Presidents Reagan and Bush on trade policy.

Indira Chakravarty, India

Member, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India;
Honorary Scientific Advisor, Foundation for Community Support and Development;(FCSD); Former Director, All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkata

Indira Chakravarty, Ph.D. and Doctor of Science, is a member of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and Honorary Scientific Advisor for the Foundation for Community Support and Development (FCSD). She is the former director of the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health in Kolkata. As a scientist and scholar, she is recognized for her research and scientific papers addressing a wide range of public health issues such as consumer safety, nutrition, water, contamination, and the environment.

Several years ago, Indira conducted an innovative study among street food vendors in Kolkata and reported that while the street food sector offered highly nutritious and tasty food at a very low cost, 60% of it was contaminated with E. coli bacteria. With her encouragement, rather than ban street vending, which is an integral part of the Indian lifestyle, the West Bengal government trained 3,500 vendors in food safety. This study received the prestigious Eduardo Sauma Award from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and helped develop the Kolkata Model to ensure the quality and safety of street foods.

Indira is active in the World Summit for Children and The Hunger Project and was a regional advisor on nutrition for the World Health Organization (WHO). She is considered a world leader and expert on global health and environmental issues. She has worked for several U.N. and international agencies in more than 40 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and the U.S., such as the FAO of the United Nations, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the International Development Research Center (IDRC).

Did You Know?

  • Indira has participated with other world leaders, including Nelson Mandela, in conferences on spirituality and leadership.
  • Indria is the director of the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI), which is a premier regional cancer center for Eastern India involved in prevention, research and treatment of cancer.
  • In May of 2007, Indira spoke before members of the Calcutta High Court to present a necessary action plan on preventing water-borne diseases during the summer and monsoon seasons.

Elizabeth L. Colton, U.S.A.

Founding President, International Museum of Women;
Advisory Council, Audacia;
Member, International Women’s Forum
Trustee Fellow, Emma Willard School;
Former Member, Women's Leadership Board, Harvard Kennedy School of Government


Elizabeth is the founding president and former board chair of the International Museum of Women, a position she held from 1998 to 2010. Her vision and inspired leadership have created widespread support for a global educational institution that documents the history of women throughout the world, explores contemporary socio-cultural, economic and political issues and serves as a catalyst for social change. Prior to her work with I.M.O.W., Elizabeth headed her own political and public affairs consulting firm, and at that time worked with many of the leading museums in San Francisco.

Elizabeth is a well-known philanthropist, respected for her support and advocacy for women’s causes, human rights, the arts, and political campaigns. She is a former board member of Emma Willard School in Troy, New York, and currently serves as a member of the school's executive campaign committee. Elizabeth is a member of Emily’s List Majority Council, the International Women’s Forum, and the Women’s Leadership Board, Kennedy School of Government. She also serves on the board of Lykes Bros. Inc., a Florida-based agricultural industry corporation.

Did You Know?

  • In 2002, Elizabeth was honored as one of the 10 leading women in public life who have affected great social change by Flyaway Production’s “10 Women Campaign,” a celebration of the risk, empowerment and social potency of women.
  • In 2005, Elizabeth was selected as the first alumna of Emma Willard School to be featured in a series of articles profiling accomplished alumnae who exemplify the mission of the school to “serve and shape her world,” and in 2006 received the “Distinguished Alumnae Award” for her accomplishments in her field of interest.
  • In 2006, Elizabeth was named one of the “Bay Area’s Most Influential Women in Business,” by the San Francisco Business Times for the non-profit sector.

Riane Eisler, U.S.A.

President, the Center for Partnership Studies;
Co-Founder, the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence;
Fellow, World Academy of Art and Science

Riane Eisler is a cultural historian, evolutionary theorist, human rights activist and celebrated author. In her bestseller, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future, she integrates historical, archeological, cross-cultural and contemporary empirical data to develop what she terms the “partnership” (in contrast to “dominator”) model for egalitarian human relationships. Her other books include the award-winning Tomorrow’s Children, The Power of Partnership, Sacred Pleasure and The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics. She has also lectured widely in an effort to demonstrate the value of employing the partnership model in every aspect of our existence, from intimate relations, religion, and the education of children, to community development and public policies to end violence.

Riane, who is Austrian by birth, fled from the Nazis as a child, was raised in Cuba and received her higher education at the University of California. She is the president of the Center for Partnership Studies, and the co-founder of the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence. She is a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science and a founding member of the General Evolution Research Group. She has received many honors, including the Humanist Pioneer Award and membership in the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality. She is a charismatic keynote speaker at conferences worldwide.

Did You Know?

  • Riane’s novel, The Chalice and the Blade, has been translated into 22 languages, including Chinese, Russian, Korean, Hebrew, and Japanese.
  • In recognition of the lasting importance of her work, Riane has received the honor of being selected as the only woman among twenty great thinkers including Hegel, Marx, and Toynbee for inclusion in Macrohistory and Macrohistorians.
  • Riane is the author of over 200 essays and articles in publications ranging from The UNESCO Courier to the World Encyclopedia of Peace.

Eve Ensler, U.S.A.

Founder, V-Day;
Chair, the Women’s Committee of PEN American Center

Eve Ensler is an award-winning playwright and activist whose plays reflect her commitment to social change. She is best known for The Vagina Monologues, which she wrote and performed in 1996 and which won the Obie Award. The play, based on interviews with more than 200 women, became an international phenomenon, with women from diverse cultures embracing its two messages: a celebration of women’s sexuality and a condemnation of sexual violation.

The response to her play inspired Eve to create V-Day, conceived as an annual event to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is now part of a global movement to support anti-violence organizations throughout the world and has produced innovative gatherings, films and programs to educate and change social attitudes. In 2004, there were more than 2,000 V-Day benefits throughout the world. Eve also leads a writer’s group in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Her efforts working with women inmates is the subject of her play, Borrowed Light. Eve is chair of the Women’s Committee of PEN American Center.

Did You Know?

  • The Vagina Monologues has been translated into over 35 languages and has had sold-out runs in schools and theaters all over the world.
  • In June of 2006, V-Day launched Until Violence Stops, a festival of theater, spoken word, performance, and community events in New York City with the purpose of raising awareness of violence against women.
  • Eve’s commitment to social and political activism is reflected in many of her plays, which are often written with humor and irony, such as Necessary Targets, set in a Bosnian refugee camp; Conviction about two sisters, one of whom had been incarcerated; and Ladies about homeless women.

Aminatta Forna, Sierra Leone/UK

Author, Broadcaster and Journalist;
Former BBC television reporter;
Founder, Rogbonko Village School in Sierra Leone

Aminatta Forna is an award-winning former journalist for BBC Television (1989-99) and is now a full-time writer. Her most recent published works are Ancestor Stones, a novel set in West Africa, and The Devil That Danced on the Water, a memoir of her dissident father and her country. In addition, she has published many essays and articles and written for television and radio.

In 2003, Aminatta helped her family’s village of Rogbonko in Sierra Leone build a primary school. Rogbonko Village School now has over 200 children, a library, sports facilities and solar lighting – the first electricity in the village. The school also runs evening adult education classes and will soon begin a skills training program for young adults. In 2004, Aminatta began work establishing a cashew plantation in Rogbonko to improve the prospects of the village. Local farmers are joining the project by producing cashews on their own small holdings. Aminatta is a trustee of the Royal Literary Fund, and sits on the advisory committee of the Caine Prize for African Writing, for which she has twice acted as a judge. In 2007 she was named by Vanity Fair as one of Africa's most promising new writers and her work has been translated into ten languages. She divides her time between London and Sierra Leone. 

Did You Know?

  • In November 2007, Aminatta won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for debut fiction for Ancestor Stories.
  • In 2003, The Devil That Danced on the Water was runner up for Britain’s most prestigious non-fiction award, the Samuel Johnson Prize. The book was serialized on BBC Radio and in The Sunday Times.
  • Aminatta has contributed articles to the Economist, The Sunday Times, The Observer, and Vogue.

Shamaya Gilo, Israel/U.S.A.


President, Shamaya Gilo World Design;
Founder and President, Winds of Change Foundation;
Former Board Chair, Women Thrive Worldwide;
Founding Member, Pluralism Fund

Shamaya Gilo is a venture philanthropist and the founder and president of the Winds of Change Foundation. The foundation, created in 1998, seeks to redefine leadership as a social issue and to develop new mechanisms to nourish and empower women as agents of change within private and public institutions. Shamaya provides direction and financial support in the promotion of programs to enhance women’s leadership and independence through access to economic means.

Shamaya is also a peace activist who has offered generous financial support, energy and ideas to many organizations promoting peace and justice. She is a founding member of the Pluralism Fund and former board chair of Women Thrive Worldwide. She was a member of the V-Day delegation to the Afghan Women’s Leadership Program held in Kabul in 2003. Shamaya oversees support to projects benefiting women in science and technology, programs in health and education for women and children, and programs in the arts and the environment. She is also president of Shamaya Gilo World Design.

Did You Know?

  • Shamaya was raised on a kibbutz in Israel, where she served underprivileged and immigrant families and fulfilled her military service in the Israeli army.
  • Shamaya has contributed to the Congressional campaigns of Democratic women in an effort to promote women leaders in politics.
  • Shamaya is a past president of the board of directors of the Mexican Museum in San Francisco. In this position, she helped lead the museum in developing its identity independent of local political forces and empowering the local Mexican-American community.

Shamaya Gilo's profile in the I.M.O.W. community

Noeleen Heyzer, Singapore/U.S.A.

Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP);
Former Executive Director, UNIFEM; Founding Member, Development Alternatives with Women for A New Era; Asia Pacific Women in Law and Development; ISIS International

As executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Noeleen Heyzer is the first woman to head the largest of the UN's five regional commissions. In this position, Noeleen focuses her efforts on bringing a more integrated approach to advancing the Asia-Pacific region’s social, economic and environmental agenda.

Previously, Noeleen was executive director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) beginning in  1994, playing a key role in directing the U.N. to strengthen its programs to eliminate violence against women and to empower women through micro-finance, education and health care. Additionally, she has been recognized as an important advocate for promoting women in governance positions during the reconstruction of countries emerging from war. Noeleen has published extensively on economic and social issues concerning women.

Did You Know?

  • Under Noeleen's leadership, UNIFEM's resources increased five-fold to over US$60 million and gender equality became a higher priority at the U.N.
  • Noeleen believes women are better at peacefully resolving political crises, so she works toward involving women as leaders in peace negotiations.
  • Noeleen is a founding member of ISIS International, a non-governmental organization focused on advancing women's rights, leadership and empowerment in Asia.

Dolores Huerta, U.S.A.

Founder and President, Dolores Huerta Foundation;
Co-Founder, United Farm Workers of America;
Board Member, Feminist Majority Foundation

Dolores Huerta is regarded as the most prominent Chicana labor leader in the U.S. She is the founder and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, whose mission is to build active communities in disadvantaged areas and to work towards fair and equal access to healthcare, housing, education, jobs, civic participation and economic resources with an emphasis on women and youth.

Dolores is co-founder, with Cesar Chavez, of United Farm Workers (UFW), whose non-violent tactics led to the passage of the U.S. Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Early in her career as a political activist, she fought for legislation to permit voters to cast their ballots in Spanish, and the right for drivers to take the license exam in their native languages. At age 77, she is still a tireless advocate for political and social change, reproductive justice and equality marriage. Dolores is a board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation, which advocates for gender balance, and the California Museum of History, Women, and the Arts. She is also vice president emeritus and secretary-treasurer emeritus of United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO (UFW) and former field director for People for the American Way.

Did You Know?

  • In 2006, Dolores was honored by Princeton University with a doctoral degree for her contribution to civil rights.
  • In 1999, Dolores received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award from President Clinton.
  • In 1993, Dolores was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and became a recipient of the ACLU Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award.
  • She is the proud mother of 11 children, 20 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren.

Dadi Janki, U.K.

Administrative Head, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University;
United Nations designated Wisdom Keeper;
Spiritual Leader and Author

Dadi Janki is the administrative head of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, headquartered in London. She became one of the first active women spiritual leaders, just following India’s independence, traveling throughout India to teach self-reliance and empower women to become leaders in their communities. At 90 years of age, Dadi Janki continues to be revered throughout the world as a spiritual leader and advocate for peaceful solutions to world problems, and maintains an unrivalled daily lecture and touring schedule. The university, established in India in the 1930s, is based on the teachings of Raja Yoga, a meditation style that enables the integration of spiritual identity with surrounding social and physical realities, to restore a functional and healthy balance between the inner and outer worlds.

In 1974, Dadi established Brahma Kumaris in London, the first center outside India. There are now 5,400 Brahma Kumaris centers in 129 countries around the world. The center’s programs are multicultural and embrace a variety of disciplines, including law, education, science, social action and governance. Deeply concerned with integrating spiritual values into our professional and personal lives, Dadi is the president of the Janki Foundation for Global Health Care, which she established and launched in 1997, as well as a member of the Global Peace Initiative.

Did You Know?

  • In 1992, Dadi Janki was designated one of the United Nations 10 prestigious Wisdom Keepers, and in this capacity was a spiritual adviser at the Earth Summit in Brazil.
  • Dadi Janki has written three books: Companion of God, Wings of Soul, and Pearls of Wisdom.
  • In 2002, Dadi Janki led a delegation to the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Sister Jayanti, U.K.

European Director, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University;
Spiritual Leader and Author; United Nations Designated Wisdom Keeper

Sister Jayanti is the European director for the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University in London and its non-governmental representative to the United Nations. She is a spiritual leader who has dedicated her life to promoting global peace and women’s rights through a spiritual lens. Born in India and raised and educated in England, Sister has a unique blend of Eastern wisdom and Western education and culture. She is a sought-after trainer and lecturer throughout the world, and her prominent lecture themes have focused on health, education, racial harmony, peace, international relations, and the need for women to develop positive communication among the religious leaders of the world.

Sister views the erosion of spiritual values as an underlying cause of contemporary world crises; she believes that economic and social growth cannot be achieved without personal growth. She is a leader in the promotion of interfaith friendship and dialogue to bring about the peaceful resolution of world problems, and she is a member of the executive committee of the World Congress of Faiths.

Did You Know?

  • Sister Jayanti has worked with the Dalai Lama.
  • Sister Jayanti is the author of Practical Meditation: Spiritual Yoga for the Mind, a widely acclaimed book.
  • Sister Jayanti is a popular lecturer, perceived as a powerful and mesmerizing speaker despite a soft-spoken and gentle demeanor.

Luz Lajous, Mexico

Founder and Board Member, Pro Mujer-Mexico;
Founder and Former Managing Director, Russell Reynolds Associates, Mexico;
Former Member, Mexican Congress, House of Representatives and Senate;
Past President, International Women’s Forum

Luz Lajous has long been a prominent Mexican businesswoman and active politician. She is the founder of and serves on the board of Pro Mujer in Mexico, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to empower poor women in Latin America through micro loans for small businesses. Luz has been active in promoting U.S.-Mexican business relationships, studying linkages between the two governments and examining cross-border issues.

Luz is treasurer of Fondación LLNAM, the fundraising arm of Mexico's Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México. She has been named to the board of fellows for the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

She is a past president of the International Women's Forum, one of the foremost global women’s leadership organizations, which provides access, information, leadership exchange, and development for women on issues of international concern.

She is the founder and former managing director of Russell Reynolds Associates, Mexico, a leading global executive recruitment firm with 37 offices worldwide. While involved in politics in Mexico, she was also president of the Mexican Legislative Committee. Luz has served as executive vice president of the Nucleo Radio Mil radio network, secretary general of the Mexico City chapter of Partido Revolutionario, and a management consultant with McKinsey & Co.

Did You Know?

  • Luz Lajous was the first non-US president of the International Women’s Forum. (2001-2003)
  • Luz served for 15 years in the Mexican Congress, two terms in the House of Representatives, and one in the Senate.
  • In 2000, Luz completed a one-year fellowship at Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

Patricia Licuanan, Philippines

Chair, Commission on Higher Education (CHED);
Former President, Miriam College, Manila, Philippines;
Former Chair, Asia Pacific Women’s Watch;
Former Chair, United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

Patricia Licuanan, a social psychologist, educator and women’s rights activist, is president of Miriam College, an all-women’s college in Manila, Philippines. Prior to this position, she was professor and chair of the Department of Psychology, and academic vice-president of the Ateneo de Manila University, Manila, Philippines. Patricia is a recognized leader in advocating for gender equality in the Asia Pacific region. She served as chair of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women when it was preparing for the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995. At the conference, she chaired the Main Committee, responsible for drafting the Beijing Platform for Action, a document which still stands as the focal point and global benchmark for the advancement of women’s rights and quality of life.

Patricia also chaired the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women. She has lent her expertise regarding the special post-reconstruction needs of women to the United Nations and governmental organizations concerned with the reconstruction of war-torn countries and regions that have experienced natural disasters. Her most recent focus was on victims of the tsunami that devastated parts of southeast Asia in 2004.

Did You Know?

  • Patricia recently served as a UNIFEM adviser to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan.
  • Patricia is presently chairperson of Southeast Asia Watch (SEAWatch), a network dedicated to advocating and monitoring the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
  • During her academic tenure, Patricia championed gender equality and instituted sensitivity training regarding the sexual harassment of women.

Beatriz Merino, Peru

President, Association of Pension Fund Administrators (AAFP);
Former National Ombudsman of Peru;
Former Prime Minister of Peru;
Former Economist, World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Beatriz Merino is the first female National Ombudsman of Peru. She protects citizens against the abuse of public officials and serves as an independent watchdog when a citizen files a complaint concerning human rights or maladministration. In this position, she is free to take on the president, the courts, and the police. She is the former prime minister of Peru and the first woman prime minister in Latin America. Previously she served as senator from 1990 to 2002 and president of both the Environmental Committee and the Women’s Committee of the Congress of the Republic of Peru. Through these positions, she was able to draft and ratify legislation to advance women’s rights and protect the environment.

Beatriz has also held positions of leadership in the private sector. She was senior partner of Merino, van Hasselt & Morales, a corporate law firm, and the first female member of the Andean Commission of Jurist. She has authored two books: Peruvian Women in 20th Century Legislation and Marriage and Rape: Debate of Article 178 of the Peruvian Criminal Code. As a chief economist at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., she focused on Latin American and Peruvian economic development. Beatriz has worked to create an Anti-Corruption Unit for Peru to investigate citizens’ complaints regarding acts of corruption within the country’s public administration sector.

Did You Know?

  • Before her appointment as prime minister, Beatriz was head of the National Office of Tax Administration.
  • Beatriz was elected Woman of the Year by a local chapter of the Organization of Women in International Trade.
  • Recently, Beatriz has focused on the dangers of Peru’s highways and roads, providing reports and recommendations for Peru’s Congress, as well as national and regional governments in order to create a safer road plan.

Joyce Mungherera, Uganda

Former Vice President, World YWCA;
Retired Executive Director, YWCA of Uganda;
Council Member, The Hunger Project Uganda

Joyce Mungherera is a retired social and political activist in Uganda who, through her vision, determination and leadership, has been an important force in empowering women not only in her own country, but throughout Africa. She recently retired from her positions as national executive director of YWCA-Uganda and vice president of YWCA worldwide. YWCA-Uganda now has 1.6 million paying members and a staff of 1,000, and as a result of Joyce’s leadership, she and the YWCA are trusted and respected grassroots advocates. The government of Uganda entrusted the organization to administer Uganda’s first revolving credit scheme for rural women. The experiment was so successful that Joyce then worked to establish a rural women’s bank in Uganda.

Using the YWCA as a network, Joyce developed innovative educational, economic, health and social programs for women and children. Under her leadership, a successful micro-credit service and numeric training program for women was established. Joyce has also been an outspoken advocate against domestic violence in Africa, which plays a critical role in exposing women to HIV/AIDS. Joyce served on many United Nations committees and was involved in the planning of the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.

Did You Know?

  • In 1995, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, The Hunger Project awarded Joyce its Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger.
  • Joyce is often referred to as “General Joyce” because of her inspiring and incorruptible grassroots leadership.
  • Joyce was instrumental in keeping the YWCA alive in the 1970s during the rule of Idi Amin, whose dictatorship dismantled Uganda’s nongovernmental organizations. After Amin threatened her with execution if she did not close down, Joyce went into hiding and continued her work underground.

Irene Natividad, Philippines/U.S.A.

President, The Global Summit of Women;
Co-Chair, Corporate Women Directors International;
Former Chair, National Women’s Political Caucus

Irene Natividad is founder and president of the Global Summit of Women and co-chair of Corporate Women Directors International. Originally from the Philippines, she previously acted as founder and president of Asian American Professional Women and founding director of the National Network of Asian-Pacific American Women as well as the Child Care Action Campaign.

In 1985, she was elected to chair the National Women’s Political Caucus, becoming the first Asian-American to head a national women’s organization. In 1988, her work on the Political Caucus’ Coalition for Women’s Appointments, to promote women candidates for high administrative posts, led to a substantial increase in appointments for women in the first Bush administration. Irene has also served as chair of the National Commission on Working Women in the U.S. and in 1996, she helped increase voter registration and education by aiding the development of “Project Vote Smart.” Irene was the national chair of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Women for Hillary and is president of Globe Women, Inc.

Did You Know?

  • Irene was awarded the “Women Making History Award” in 1985 by the Women’s Congressional Caucus.
  • Approximately one-third of the women appointed to high level positions during the first Bush administration were recommended by the coalition under Irene’s direction.
  • Irene has edited a reference book for public and school libraries called Asian American Almanac.

Mary Robinson, Ireland/U.S.A.

President, Mary Robinson Foundation--Climate Justice;
Former President, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative;
Former Immediate Past Chair, Council of Women World Leaders;
Former President of Ireland;
Former United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights

Mary Robinson is the president of Mary Robinson Foundatoin - Climate Justice. She is the former president of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative. She served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002 and as president of Ireland from 1990 to 1997. Prior to her election as Ireland's president, she served as a senator for 20 years. She is a founder and past chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and member of the Club of Madrid. She chairs the International Board of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and is patron of the International Community of Women Living with AIDS (ICW).

Mary was awarded the 2009 Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Barack Obama. She is honorary president of Oxfam International, a confederation of 13 organizations working together to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice. In 1969 she became Reid Professor of Constitutional Law at Trinity College, Dublin, and now serves as chancellor of the University of Dublin. She was called to the bar in 1967, becoming a senior counsel in 1980, and a member of the English Bar (Middle Temple) in 1973. She is also a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the American Philosophical Society.

Did You Know?

  • Mary was the first woman president of Ireland.
  • Mary is one of the thirteen founding members of The Elders, a group of world leaders who contribute their wisdom, independent leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems.
  • Mary chairs the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights (BLIHR), a program to help lead and develop the corporate response to human rights.

Zainab Salbi, Iraq/U.S.A.

Founder, Women for Women International;
Lecturer and Author

Zainab Salbi is the co-founder and president of Women for Women International, a non-profit response and development organization dedicated to providing interpersonal, economic, and educational support to poor and vulnerable women who are survivors of armed conflicts and sustained periods of social, economic, and political upheaval. As a native of Iraq who came to the U.S. at the age of 19, Zainab’s experience with the Iran-Iraq war sensitized her to the plight of women in war worldwide.

At the age of 23, she decided to dedicate her life to providing the necessary support for women survivors of war, and tp ending economic and social injustices worldwide. Zainab has written and spoken extensively on the use of rape and other forms of violence against women during war and spoke out about the “talibanization” of Iraq in an article that appeared in the spring 2007 issue of Ms. Magazine. She serves on the advisory boards of the Clinton Global Initiative, the Tällberg Foundation International Advisory Council, the Peter Gruber Foundation’s Women’s Rights Prize, and World Pulse Magazine.

Did You Know?

  • In 1995, President Clinton honored Zainab at the White House for her humanitarian work in Bosnia.
  • Zainab is the author of Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam, which was published in 2005.
  • In 2006, Zainab was asked to speak to global business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Sima Samar, Afghanistan

Chair, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission;
Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights on Sudan;
Founder and Director, Shuhada Organization and Shuhada Clinic;
Past Prime Minister for Interim Administration of Afghanistan

Sima is a leading authority on health care for Afghan women and chair of the first Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. She convened, established, and has chaired the commission since July, 2002. In this position, Sima oversees the conduct of human rights, facilitates education programs across the country, has implemented a nationwide women’s rights education program, and monitors and investigates human rights abuses.

Sima was selected as winner of the 2008 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award (ADRHA) by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

In 1989, Sima established the Shuhada Organization to empower women and children during her 17 years of exile in Pakistan. The Shuhada Organization currently operates 12 clinics and 4 hospitals in Afghanistan and Pakistan and established the first and only shelter for vulnerable women in Afghanistan.

From 2001 until 2002, Sima served as the deputy prime minister and minister of women’s affairs for the interim administration of Afghanistan. During this time, Sima established the first-ever Afghanistan Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Under her leadership, buildings for the ministry were secured and rehabilitated and the ministry began advocacy, training, and service programs to help restore the rights of women

Did You Know?

  • In 2005, Sima was appointed as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan.
  • She was one of only two women cabinet ministers in the transitional government of Afghanistan.
  • In 2001, Sima became one of Ms. Magazine’s "Women of the Year" on behalf of Afghan women.

Larisa Skuratovskaya, Russia

Scientific Secretary, Institute of General Pathology and Pathophysiology, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences;
Vice President, International Women’s Forum, Russia

Larisa Skuratovskaya, M.D., Ph.D., is an internationally known Russian research physician and scientific secretary of the Institute of General Pathology and Pathophysiology at the Russian Academy of Medicine. She is an activist with a deep commitment to furthering the international women’s movement, peace and human rights, and global environmental responsibility. As a feminist, physician and human rights activist, Larisa has written about women’s health in contemporary Russia, the need to ensure reproductive rights as part of Russia’s move toward democracy, and the integration of health as an essential aspect of Russian freedom and human rights.

Larisa is a member of the International Federation of Health Professionals for Health and Human Rights, the Council of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the International Group on Climate Change Research, World Council of Churches, and the New York Academy of Sciences. She is a member and former president of the International Women’s Forum, Russia. Larisa has participated in numerous international U.N. sponsored conferences, such as the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Did You Know?

  • Larisa has authored 50 publications and is the scientific editor of five books, including Chernobyl: Interdependence of Health, Environment and Human Rights and The Kyoto Protocol: Analysis and Interpretation.
  • Larisa has worked closely with the international peace movement for organizations such as Peace Links.
  • Larisa has been awarded a medal for “Health Service Excellence” and the “Medal in Commemoration of the 850th Anniversary of Moscow.”

Lynne Twist, U.S.A.

President, The Soul of Money Institute;
Former Chief Fundraiser, The Hunger Project;
Co-Founder, The Pachamama Alliance;
Board of Directors, Institute of Noetic Sciences

Lynne Twist is author of the award-winning book The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, and has devoted her life to eradicating hunger and poverty and promoting global sustainability, human rights, economic integrity and spiritual authenticity. Lynne founded the Soul of Money Institute in 2003, which develops unique training programs for fundraisers guided by humanitarian principles. Drawn to the Ecuadorian rainforest, Lynne and her husband founded the Pachamama Alliance, an organization that preserves tropical rainforests by empowering the indigenous people who are its natural custodians.

Lynne is a founding member and president of Turning Tide Coalition, a gathering of like-minded organizations committed to global sustainability. She is a trustee of the Fetzer Institute and a board member of the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Lynne also serves on the board of directors of Educate Girls Globally and on the advisory boards of Youth for Environmental Sanity, Kudirat Institute for Nigerian Democracy, the California Institute of Integral Studies, The Center for Partnership Studies, and Global Youth Action Network, among others.

Did You Know?

  • Lynne has raised more than $150 million for worldwide charitable causes to reduce chronic world hunger, advance global sustainability and security, and promote human rights, economic integrity and spiritual authenticity.
  • In 1994, Lynne was named a “Woman of Distinction” at the United Nations by the International Health Awareness Network for her work to end hunger.
  • Lynne received the 2005 Humanitarian of the Year Award from Youth at Risk.

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