Beijing+20 – The Beijing Platform for Action turns 20

 
The Beijing Platform for Action
Turns 20

Women of achievement

This series of portraits spotlights women and girls who have made it in their respective fields — often in uncharted territories — by overcoming barriers and beating the odds to reach their goals. Although far from the limelight, their struggle, passion and work inspires all who know them and they are role models for many.

A brave crusader, opening many doors

Braving criticism and challenging discrimination and stereotypes, Georgina Beyer paved a new path when she became the world’s first openly transsexual mayor in 1995, as well as the first openly transsexual Member of Parliament (MP) in 2000. A long-standing human rights advocate, her legacy includes a long and powerful list of legislative reform in New Zealand. She worked with various marginalized and vulnerable groups, starting with indigenous groups, drafting one of the first bills for equitable natural resource management. She then played a key role in the passage of the Prostitution Law Reform in 2003, guaranteeing protection for minors and health services for all sex workers.

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Trekking across the globe for environmental change

Liv Arnesen

A self-described typical teacher and mother of three, Norwegian polar explorer Liv Arnesen knows what it’s like to make strides in male-dominated arenas. She is the first woman ever to ski alone, without the assistance of a guide or supplies, from the outside world to the south pole, has climbed within 1,900 metres of the summit of Mount Everest, and lead the first group of women over the Greenland Ice Cap, unsupported. Liv and her expedition partner, Ann Bancroft, have established Bancroft Arnesen Explore, an organization dedicated to motivating people, especially women and girls, to reach for their own dreams.

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The sky's the limit

In 2014, Chanda Kochhar, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ICICI Bank Limited, India's largest private sector bank and the second-largest bank in the country, was named among Fortune's 50 most powerful women in business for the fourth consecutive year. She is widely recognized for her role in shaping the retail banking sector in India and for her leadership of the ICICI Group, as well as her contributions to various forums in India and globally.

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Raising a glass to gender equality

Sanja Juričić-Franić

At a winery at the end of a town in rural Herzegovina, a 32-year-old woman stands amid barrels of wine, staring across the vineyards. Her name is Sanja Juričić-Franić. Together with two more women, her sister and her mother, she leads the “Gangaš” winery in Čitluk, Bosnia and Herzegovina. A wife, mother and successful entrepreneur, she is an enologist who has had to combat prejudice and stereotypes in this male-dominated profession.

"As a woman, gender equality means having the freedom to make my own choices when it comes to life decisions, without being affected by social prejudices."

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Breaking stereotypes, reaching goals

Maha Almuneef

Maha Almuneef understands, first hand, the challenges of standing against cultural taboos. As a 53-year-old mother of three and a Board-certified physician living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Maha has overcome criticism and broken stereotypes in pursuit of her goal of achieving equality for men and women. Maha established the National Family Safety Programme (NFSP), the first specialized institution to address the issue of domestic violence in the country. As Executive Director, she focuses her attention on prevention programmes and on training professionals, such as police or lawyers, to improve support for survivors of violence.

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She builds bridges, schools and delivers results

Women of Achievement

Mother of three children and a home-maker for more than a decade, few in her sleepy village would have imagined that she would be planning bridges and schools today. But that is Vandana Bahadur Maida's life in Khankhandvi, in the populous state of Madhya Pradesh, India. Despite family opposition and cultural norms that define a woman's place in society, she was elected Head of the village council, the first woman Sarpanch. Her election was path-breaking for the village and also for Vandana's family—as she superseded her own husband who used to be a member of the village council but never the elected leader.

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Fighting the spirits, to defend and protect

Women of Achievement

Accusations of sorcery are widespread in the communities of the highlands in Papua New Guinea. Often for deaths or illness, for theft or accident, the cause is believed to be sorcery, with the villain more often than not being allegedly a woman. Protecting many such wrongly accused women is human rights defender Monica Paulus. Fearless, determined and outspoken, she rescues women and girls accused of sorcery, preventing many from violent punishment, or death.

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Forging a new path, she flies high

Women of Achievement

She creates an unfamiliar sight on the tarmac, as she goes about her daily job. At the age of 25, she flies planes, serving as a pilot for one of the biggest airline in Central Asia. One among a handful of women in a male-dominated field is how she is known not only in Kazakhstan where she is based, but also in the region. Yevgeniya Goncharova has broken numerous barriers and climbed many mountains to get to where she is today. The road travelled was not an easy one. With gender stereotypes still strong in Central Asian societies, flying aircrafts is not considered a woman's job in Kazakhstan, nor is her young age considered an advantage.

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She gets a kick out of helping people

Women of achievement

Every time she heard someone say that she should be doing something else, Caroline Amasis Maher's determination grew and she trained even harder. She ignored the naysayers and the cultural barriers by not only playing a male-dominated sport but also excelling in it. Recently she became the first Arab-African female to be inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame – the highest and most prestigious award in the sport. This meteoric rise to the top makes her extremely proud. In 2011, Caroline was ranked 11th on the World Taekwondo Federation's World Athlete Ranking.

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Malian lawyer builds peace and hope

Women of Achievement

The stories of gang-rape, forced marriage and fathers being forced to rape their own daughters at gunpoint keep her awake at night. Saran Keïta Diakité has listened to countless women recount the atrocities that the people of her war-torn country (Mali) have endured at the hands of armed groups since a military coup d'état in March 2012. In April 2012, she was one of only a handful of women who took part in peace talks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso – as women have slowly been making inroads at peace talks around the world. "During that time, I can assure you most sincerely, our voices were clearly heard. All the concerns that we raised were taken into account in the resolution, in the final Ouagadougou Declaration," she recalls.

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Making the invisible visible

Women of Achievement

When Marcelina Bautista Bautista left her indigenous Mixtec community in Nochtixtlan, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, at the age of 14 with only a primary school education and no knowledge of Spanish, she didn't dream that one day she would end up contributing to the development of an international treaty for domestic workers' rights.

Driven by her experience which she shares with many other women, Marcelina made the invisible visible by revealing the conditions of millions of domestic workers who do not have a contract, fixed working hours, benefits or social security.

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Creating history is herstory: a local girl turns public leader

Women of Achievement

In the landlocked Himalayan nation of Bhutan, Namgay Peldon never thought she would make history, but she did. She was elected the first women Gup, the block leader, as the nation voted for the first time, transitioning from monarchy to democracy in 2008. Gewogs are official administrative units in Bhutan, each headed by a Gup. From Tashiding sub-district in central Bhutan, Namgay Peldon's story is unusual in a country which is beset with societal taboos and where women's representation in politics is extremely low, with only 8.5 per cent women in the National Assembly.

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From Costa Rica to Mars

Women of Achievement

Growing up impoverished in Costa Rica without even a roof over her head, few could have predicted the career and life Sandra Cauffman has today. She is the Deputy Project Manager on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States, devoted to understanding Mars' upper atmosphere. The daughter of a domestic violence survivor who escaped her abuser and had to take three jobs to support her children, Sandra's mantra was her mother's words "not to repeat the same story". Today she is a role model, a mother and a NASA employee, who is supporting NASA's quest to explore de red planet.

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The unstoppable police officer of Timor-Leste

Women of achievement

The petite lady in uniform is a familiar sight. Although she doesn't drive a car or ride a motorbike, long distances cannot deter Sergeant Amelia de Jesus Amaral. She will walk on foot, no matter how long it takes, when she gets a complaint from survivors of domestic violence. Winner of the prestigious 2014 Gender Equality Advocate Award of the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality in November 2013, Amelia, a police officer with the Vulnerable Person's Unit of the National Police of Timor-Leste, is a powerful voice and a role model.

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The Good Doctor

Dr. Krisana Kraisintu

Death threats are common, so are dangerous environments in Asia and Africa, where she works. There are some victories, many failures, lives saved and some lost. But Dr. Krisana Kraisintu of Thailand, the 'Gypsy Pharmacist' as she is popularly known, continues relentless. Her mission: to ensure affordable health care for all, which she considers a basic human right. "My life is dedicated to bringing about local pharmaceutical production by formulating and manufacturing affordable generic drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases to improve people's heath," she says.

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