In a world fraught with global conflict, a special band of women have risen up to change the status quo. Today Salt highlights the brave and intrepid females who are fighting against the odds for freedom and peace. For the full list of 100 Inspirational Women, see the new May/June print issue of Salt, out at all good news agents now.
Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi is an icon of peaceful resistance in the face of severe political oppression. As an opposition politician and chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar, she has spent almost 15 years under house arrest for trying to bring democracy to her country. Released by the authorities six days after the 2010 elections, she has now re-joined the political process and is continuing her push for democratic reforms. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
Bineta Diop is a Senegalese woman who has peace and the power of women at the top of her agenda. She is founder and president of Femmes Africa Solidarité, an international NGO that promotes the role of women in resolving conflicts and aims to give women a voice in African policy- making. Bineta is also special envoy for women, peace and security to the African Union, a role that has seen her oversee elections in post-conflict states to ensure transparent democracy.
The founder of Lives Not Knives is a proud Londoner who has first-hand experience of the devastation knife crime can cause. Eliza Rebeiro revealed in interviews how she lost friends to the gang and knife culture that is now a routine part of daily life in some areas of London. However, she claims that until the London Riots of August 2011, the majority of Brits knew little about this sub-culture. Her experiences inspired her to found Lives Not Knives at the age of just 14. The organisation sends volunteers into schools and colleges to help educate young people who are vulnerable to being drawn into gangs, and about the impacts of knife crime. Each member of the Lives Not Knives team is aged 18–24 and has been directly affected by stabbings. Eliza’s personal touch has helped to save countless young lives.
Few self-help authors are as respected as Marianne Williamson. She has written four bestsellers and launched campaigns against poverty in the US and around the world. She founded a meals-on-wheels programme for homebound AIDS sufferers and is working towards the establishment of a US Department for Peace. Marianne chairs a number of seminars on the fight against poverty, which continues to be the driving motivation behind her work.
New Zealand Maori elder Pauline Tangiora is a lifelong peacemaker. She is a justice of the peace, a member of the Earth Council, and vice president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Aotearoa. Her work with several NGOs and international organisations seeking peace and respect of indigenous peoples has led her to becoming one of the pioneers of Rising Women Rising World movement.
An inspiring poet, Rami Mani is recognised internationally as a peace leader and security strategist. All of the money raised at her performances is used to support her peace and humanitarian initiatives. She has taught at NATO and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, and is a co-founder of the visionary group, Rising Women Rising World.
Three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Scilla Elworthy founded the Oxford Research Group in 1982 to create meaningful dialogue between nuclear policy makers and their critics. She went on to create Peace Direct, a charity which supports local peacemakers in conflict zones, and her numerous drives towards world peace have earned her recognition as one of the world’s most respected peace activists. Her TED talk on non-violence has had nearly one million views to date.
The 2003 Nobel Peace Prize-winning Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi is a peace activist who also campaigns for women’s, children’s and refugee’s rights in the oppressive state of Iran. She became the country’s first female judge in 1975 after being appointed president of Tehran City Court, but following the 1979 revolution was removed because of her gender. She was finally allowed to practise as a lawyer again in 1993 and began to specialise in human rights cases, such as that of Arian Golshani, a girl who was tortured and killed by her father. In 1995 she founded the Association for Support of Children’s Rights, and in 2002 helped draft legislation against the physical abuse of children. She also founded the Human Rights Defence Centre in 2001, which promoted the protection of basic human rights in Iran. Her achievements culminated in her becoming the first Iranian to win a Nobel Prize. However, her criticism of the Iranian regime has forced her to live in exile in the UK since 2009.
Zahira Kamal is general secretary of the Palestinian Democratic Union Party and one of her state’s leading women. She was minister for women’s affairs in the Palestinian cabinet that took part in the Arab-Israeli Peace Process during the 1990s and has since worked with the UN and several NGOs to help find a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Zahira is one of the pioneering members of Rising Women Rising World, an international community of women aiming to promote feminine values and improve the world.