For as long as we have published Diplomatic Courier we have published a special annual edition on International Women’s Day.
Last year, as our journalzine transitioned from a quarterly to a bi-monthly, for the first time, we also endeavored to list 100 top global women representing some of the most important industries women have made an impact on worldwide: diplomacy, politics, business, philanthropy, media, and law—a challenging and inspirational initiative. We followed tradition this year, adding some extraordinary women to our growing list. We asked them to reflect on what International Women’s Day means to them. The reflections represent a collection of inspirational advice for future women leaders.
United States; Israel
Businesswoman, Philanthropist, Owner of Arison Group
Shari Arison is an American-Israeli businesswoman, philanthropist, and owner of Arison Group. Arison Group is comprised of Arison Investments, its business arm, which includes some of the pillars of the Israeli economy: Bank Hapoalim, Shikun & Binui (an infrastructure and real estate company), Salt of the Earth, and Arison-founded Miya (a water efficiency company). The Ted Arison Family Foundation, the Group's philanthropic arm, is a private family foundation with subsidiary organizations, including Good Deeds Day, Essence of Life, Ruach Tova, Goodnet, and All One. Ms. Arison was the founder of Matan, the Israeli United Way. Repeatedly ranked by Forbes Magazine as one of the most powerful women in the world, as well as one of the world’s greenest billionaires, Ms. Arison leads her group to realize the vision of Doing Good.
National Coordinator for the Assembly of Women, Movement for Democratic Change Party (MDC)
Sally Dura is a human rights activist with a master’s degree in Development Studies. Currently, Sally is conducting Women’s Political Education Forums to provide women at the local level with access to education and opportunities to participate in politics so they might be inspired to pursue a leadership role. As a result of the first Forum, 103 more women registered to vote, 40 joined a political party, 103 signed up to be a campaign volunteer, 96 registered to run for municipal elections, 86 registered to run for legislative elections, and 133 signed up to be an independent election observer.
Antakya Office Manager, Syrian Emergency Task Force
Razan Shalab al-Sham is dedicated to building a democratic Syria. She works for the Syrian Emergency Task Force, the Syrian Women Organization, and other organizations to funnel aid to needy communities inside Syria. In December 2012, she traveled to Cairo to meet with the president of the Syrian National Coalition, where she transmitted the needs of Syrian's living inside Syria. Shalab al-Sham was profiled by National Public Radio for her work designing and providing civil police uniforms to villages inside Syria. She believes Syria should be governed by a secular, civil state and works to unite various communities around this vision.
President & Chief Executive Officer, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
The Honorable Patricia de Stacy Harrison is the president and chief executive officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the leading funder of public radio and public television programming for the American people. In 2011, Ms. Harrison created American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a nationwide public media initiative to help communities across the country identify and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. To date, more than 70 public media stations in 30 states and Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico are working with more than 800 partners to encourage students to stay on track to graduation. Ms. Harrison is also chairman of the Advisory Board of Women and Girls Lead, an innovative public media initiative designed to focus, educate and connect women, girls, and their allies across the globe to address the challenges of the 21st century. She sits on the boards of the National Italian American Foundation, the Meridian International Center and IREX.
Candidate, Tunisian Constituent Assembly, Ettakatol Party
Omezzine Khélifa left her finance job in France in 2011 to participate in the political transition in Tunisia. She joined Ettakatol, the Tunisian social democrat political party, one of the three parties of the governing coalition. Khélifa ran as an Ettakatol candidate in the Tunis district for the National Constituent Assembly elections in 2011. Khélifa is member of Ettakatol National Council; a member of the Young Socialists Democrats, the youth branch of Ettakatol; and a founding member of Ettakatol’s women’s organization. In 2012, she was honored with the Leaders for Democracy Award from the Project on Middle East Democracy.
Founder & CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation
Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker’s decades-long quest to end breast cancer began simply, with a story that is universally understood: a simple promise to a dying sister to end a terrible disease.
The dying sister was Susan G. Komen, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977 and died in 1980 at the age of 36. She left a husband and two small children, and Nancy. Two years later, Nancy set out to fulfill her promise to Suzy to do everything in her power to end suffering from breast cancer. To erase the stigma and shame that women felt at that time, and to do so wherever she could. In the 30 years since, Brinker’s Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization has reached millions of women, invested hundreds of millions in breast cancer research (more than any other nonprofit), and has been a force for change the world over.
Helping others comes naturally to Brinker. Growing up in Peoria, Illinois, the Goodman sisters came from a loving family of passionate volunteers. Brinker remembered her father, Marvin Goodman as a businessman with a big heart and solid values. Their mother, Ellie Goodman was a Girl Scout leader and community activist, who Brinker says had the ability to “light up rooms with her vibrant smile and she lived her faith with daily acts of loving kindness. Mom was a fundraising marvel, part of the army of everyday people who supported scientists in their search for a polio vaccine in the 1950s. Trooping along with her, Susan and I witnessed the powerful chemistry of caring and action, and it shaped our lives.”
Director of the Women’s Democracy Network
Recognizing that a full and robust democracy depends on the equal participation of women, the International Republican Institute (IRI) established the Women’s Democracy Network (WDN) in 2006, with the mission to increase women’s political participation, leadership skills and representation in elected office by linking women to their best resources: themselves. In just six years WDN has grown into a global organization that is active in 61 countries in every region of the world with 15 country chapters. These multi-partisan and multi-sector women’s organizations serve as WDN’s local, long-term partners in carrying out its programming.
Why is women’s political empowerment such an important area of focus?
Even though women comprise half of the world’s population, they are underrepresented in the very decision-making bodies which provide a voice for citizens and design the laws which govern their lives. According to the 2012 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, although the world’s population has nearly closed the gender gap in health and education, only 20 percent of the political disparity gap has been closed. The Inter-Parliamentary Union has found that the average of women serving in national-level legislatures worldwide stands at a mere 20.4 percent; and the legislatures of at least five countries include no women representatives at all.
Director of the Women’s Consortium of Ukraine
In 2012, Maria Alekseyenko collaborated with the WDN Ukraine Country Chapter to conduct the Gender Monitoring Project during the country’s October 2012 elections. The Project, funded by the United States Embassy in Ukraine, provided the first-ever research on Ukraine’s pre-election and election processes through a gender perspective. The Chapter mobilized political parties to include more women at the top of their candidate lists, assess the thematic priorities of parties to trace gender-inclusion, and develop a website to promulgate findings on a global scale. Alekseyenko provided tremendous support due to ten years of work experience related to gender equality.
Special Representative—Women, Peace, and Security, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
The endeavor to increase justice by enshrining human rights in international and domestic law is at the forefront of the global agenda. That everyone, by virtue of their humanity, may be ensured fundamental rights and guaranteed security and protection against forces that seek to take away those basic entitlements. Unfortunately, it took the catalyst of World War II, and the various forms of atrocities during that period of time, to drive the human rights issue onto the global stage and into the international conscience. But as with most progressions, there are those who are often left behind.
To say that women are unfamiliar with being an afterthought in civil advancements would be comically untrue. Even with the establishment and protection of the most fundamental rights, it took much deliberation to admit women such privileges. In 1993, 45 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna confirmed the obvious; that women are entitled to the same promotion and protection of inherent rights that men are.
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