Stories

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Dual passions of flying and sport harmonize in Patricia Campos Doménech’s life. She is the first female pilot in the Spanish Armed Forces, and one of the first female professional European soccer coaches for an American team. She has won several awards for her piloting career, has been honoured as an official speaker for the U.S. organization Women in Aviation, and has also been given awards from the Spanish government on multiple occasions for both her piloting and coaching careers. Trailblazing in the Spanish Navy and in sport, she is a powerful voice for change.
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Asnaini Mirzan decided to create space for women in local politics after watching her parents live a life of public service. The first and only female head of the village council in Aceh province, she demonstrates through her own example that women can be leaders, farmers and mothers simultaneously. Her goals to improve women’s access to health care, achieve gender parity in schools and create transparent administrative processes have seen much progress, along with contributing to peace and development for the village. She also teaches agricultural courses for women to support women’s economic independence.
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Peace Kyamureku attended the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing as Deputy Secretary-General of the National Association of Women Organizations in Uganda. She had quit her job and took a steep salary cut to start working for the Association where she spent 17 years after the Conference championing women’s rights. Today she is a volunteer Technical Advisor through VSO International, an organization that places volunteers where they are needed. Her current placement is with at UN Women Tanzania supporting the work to advance gender equality and the women’s movement.
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Cristina Amaral, or Kiki as she likes to be called, is Timor-Leste’s first female pilot. She grew up in the isolated district of Oecusse in a country known for its recently restored independence, and couldn’t help but notice that all pilots in her beloved country were male. After studying and balancing the care of her four siblings, she won a scholarship to attend flight school, standing up against the odds in her male-dominated profession. Today, she proudly soars high above the clouds, a remarkable figure in the aviation industry.
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Christiana Thorpe is Sierra Leone’s first female Chief Electoral Commissioner. She serves as the Chairperson of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), the entity with the sole authority to prepare and conduct all public elections. A former nun, school teacher, principal, and professor, she values education and freedom above all else. A former Minister of Education and the only female member of the Cabinet at that time, she launched an organization to promote women’s rights in education and the workplace during her tenure. Taking pride in her accomplishments, she inspires both women and men with her tenacity.
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Zeliha Ünaldi, a long-standing gender advocate who attended the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, speaks on the impact of the meeting on her life. She now works as a Gender Officer in the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Turkey.
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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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Zahra Abdelnaieem is the head of Niswa, a network of community, religious and political leaders that connects with conflict-affected groups to work towards peace and reconciliation. The group also supports survivors of gender-based violence by linking them to medical, legal and community services. Though she has lost the people closest to her and endured incredible struggle to sustain the network, she overcomes obstacles by keeping a positive attitude and tenaciously continues to reach out to her community for strength.
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To mark the historic 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, and its 20th anniversary this year, representatives from politics, the private sector, civil society and academia came together today in Berlin. The event with German Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Manuela Schwesig, and the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, was held in the Representation of the State North Rhine-Westphalia in Berlin, hosted by the UN Women National Committee for Germany and attended by high officials and other dignitaries.
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UN Women took an active role at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the main decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), which hosted its 68th session in Geneva from 18 to 26 May 2015. It featured a 20-year assessment of the state of women’s health and women’s role in health, as well as the need for gender mainstreaming in this sector.
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Living in a country where patriarchy is deeply entrenched, Nazokat Begmatova, a 34-year old women from a village in southern Tajikistan took an unusual professional path as a humanitarian deminer. Delaying marriage and strapping on 25 kilograms of equipment on her body daily, she broke stereotypes of what a working woman looks like. Her desire to be active, to develop her personal skills and explore more opportunities for economic independence motivated her to overcome her immense fear of mines. She now works as part of an all-female demining team.
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A messenger of peace, a mother of ten children and leader of the first Peace Hut and Women’s Empowerment Centre of Liberia, Annie Nushann is a household name in peacebuilding in her post-conflict country. With 17 Peace Huts and Women’s Empowerment Centres now in operation, 425 women leaders have been trained on conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and economic empowerment, and some have even begun training others. Through training sessions on financial management and small business ownership, these Centres bring sustainable peace and a strengthened economy through women’s leadership.
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In Afghanistan, she is known as the first female provincial governor, no small feat in a country that has weathered conflict and hardship for nearly 40 years. Through it all, Dr. Habiba Sarabi’s passion for human rights and education for women have grown every day. Recognized by Time Magazine in 2008 as a Hero for the Environment, and after several ministerial posts, she is currently the Advisor to the Chief Executive Officer on Women’s Affairs and Youth, a prestigious position in the new government.
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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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A proud defender of human rights and known as one of the most creative people in the industry, Vesna Andree Zaimović is co-creator of Radio Sarajevo’s web portal, one of the most visited websites in the Bosnia and Herzegovina, and what many call the best news source in today’s new media landscape in the country. She was also the brain behind Manjine.ba, the first web project for the disadvantaged, highlighting triumphs in claiming rights and kick-starting an online community. A trained musicologist, she is a veteran of the Eurovision song contest, one of the longest running TV shows in history.
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UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka attended the opening session of the Global Conference on Women and Social Inclusion: From Beijing to Post-2015, held in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 6th May. The Conference runs from 6-8 May, and is co-organized by the Argentinian government and UNDP. Bringing together over 200 global leaders, parliamentarians, policy-makers, researchers and activists, the Conference aims to analyze progress made since the Beijing Platform for Action with a focus on poverty, political participation and leadership and their impact on promoting equality for women.
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Chief Correspondent at the United Nations for the Associated Press (AP) and an icon in the field of journalism, Edith Lederer of the U.S. has had a long tryst with issues of gender equality and led the AP team at the historic Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. She was also one of the first female war reporters at a time when it was still fairly rare for women to be covering the news from the battle front, and the first woman to head a foreign AP bureau, in charge of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. With a long list of accolades, including the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from International Women's Media Foundation, she has reported for the AP for nearly five decades.
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The founder and former editor of world-renowned newspaper, The Namibian, Gwen Lister has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. She established two newspapers, and is the winner of a long list of awards including the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Inter Press Service’s International Journalism Award. She was also honoured with the prestigious World Press Freedom Hero award by the International Press Institute. Using her media publications to advocate for Namibia’s independence, she has overcome attacks, slander and death threats to uphold her convictions.
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Aasha Mehreen Amin was one of the first female editors of the most read English language magazine in Bangladesh, The Star, and is now the deputy editor of the Editorial and Op-ed section of the most widely circulated English newspaper in the country, The Daily Star. In her column “No Strings Attached”, in the paper, she provides insightful commentary on the news of the day. An emblem of courageous journalism, she is well-known in a media landscape where political commentary is a risky business, and the workforce, especially in the news media, dominated by men.
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As part of a #Beijing20 social media campaign that runs throughout May 2015, inspiring journalists tell us what changes they want to see for women and the media.