Stories

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As the first female Sub-Prefect Officer in the Guinean Navy, Captain Bontou Soumah has risen above discrimination and challenges to achieve her dream of becoming a seafarer. Living through sometimes choppy waters both in her career and her life, she has risen above the tides to be a top leader in the Navy. Climbing up the ranks, she eventually won the appointment of Officer and Chevalier of the Order of Merit of the Republic in 2005, by order of the President.
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Fatou Bensouda of the Gambia was elected by consensus as the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in December 2011. She has received numerous accolades, including the International Jurists Award from the World Jurists’ Association, and was named among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2012 and by Jeune Afrique as one of 50 African women who, by their actions and initiatives in their respective roles, advance the African continent (2014 & 2015). The former Head of the Legal Advisory Unit of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and former Deputy Prosecutor of the ICC, she has played a key role in many far-reaching international cases over the last three decades.
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Archana Sardana, a 40-year old adventure enthusiast is India’s first woman civilian BASE jumper, often jumping from a bridge of over 3,600 metres (12,000 feet). Raised in India, a country where’s women’s participation in sports remains uneven, Sardana did not grow up as an adventure sports enthusiast. A mother of two boys, she graduated with a diploma in interior design, and says she never took an interest in outdoor activities. But just 20 days after her...
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UN Women and the Consortium of NGOs, a group of NGOs brought together to promote the global Beijing+20 campaign in Guinea continue to lead the way in defending girls rights and commemorating the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. In a country facing the Ebola crisis wherein women and girls are often on the frontlines of caring for the patients, a special advocacy event titled Voices of Girls: Today’s Girls, Tomorrow’s Women was held to focus on the importance of girls and their futures on the International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October.
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It all started on a hot summer day near the southern city of Coimbatore in India. Struck by his wife’s statement that she could either have milk or sanitary napkins, Arunachalam Muruganantham, a man from a poor household who had only gone to school till the age of 14, decided to do something. He wanted to get to the bottom of why women in his community were using rags instead of sanitary towels, rags so dirty, that he would not even use them to clean his scooter. Was this a financial problem? Or one that occurred due to the lack of information about women’s hygiene? The answer was both: after doing some informal research in his village, he found that less than one in ten women were using sanitary napkins. They were expensive and women could not afford them, and they also did not know the adverse health consequences of what they used instead, sometimes sand, sawdust, leaves and even ash and mud.
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India’s Rafiq Pathan stands at the forefront of efforts to end discrimination towards girls, and symbolically plants a fruit tree every time a girl is born. He treads on the difficult path where few men have gone before, undertaking grass-roots advocacy to change the hearts and minds of parents, many of whom value boys more than girls.
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Radha Bai, started as a self-help group member of the Narmada Mahila Sangh, a federation of women’s self-help groups spread over 217 villages fighting violence against women in rural areas, and providing safe spaces to earn income and learn new skills. At the Beijing+20 India Civil Society National Consultation from 11-12 August, she voiced the experiences of thousands of grass-roots women from her home state of Madhya Pradesh. "After receiving gender training and understanding about what gender inequality entails, I would go back home and count the number of times that I was discriminated against. It was eye-opening, and I realized how much women suffer in a patriarchal society." She now works as a community mobilizer, training women on issues of patriarchy, their rights and entitlements, and the damaging effects of discrimination.
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A digital expert and a gender activist, Dhruv Arora, 25, is passionate about both these dimensions of his work and is widely known in New Delhi, India, as the man galvanizing action through an online movement on gender issues.
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It all started with a visit to a rural Indian village. Sanchaita Gajapati Raju draws inspiration from her mother, who from a very young age instilled in her a deep civic sense and encouraged her to help those less fortunate. On a visit to an impoverished village, Sanchaita noted the lack of facilities and clean drinking water. Through her interactions with the communities there, she got a better understanding of their predicament and how technology could improve peoples’ lives by not only enhancing public health, but also through creating services that would allow people, primarily women, to spend less time collecting fresh water. Thus her organization SANA was born.
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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.
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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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Ranjana Kumari was 42 years old when she attended the Beijing Conference in 1995 as Convener of the South Asian Network for Women in Politics. She was also the Director of the Centre for Social Research in India at the time, a position she still holds today.