How Women's Leadership Shapes International Women's Rights

by rita-henley-jensen | | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 5 May 2011 21:05 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Tuesday night, May 3, Women’s eNews gave an award to the woman who has been given the mission at the United Nation to lead all of its efforts to assist women of the world as they try to fix it—all the disadvantages and violence limiting their lives.

Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, is now the under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women, in charge of all the U.N. programs that serve women. Where should Bachelet begin (other than to raise money to fund her new agency)?

The awardees at the Women’s eNews 10th annual gala—21 Leaders for the 21st Century, vividly demonstrate the swath of bias that runs through every culture and legal system and provide a rough diagram of the core issues of particular concern to women and the leaders addressing them—in their neighborhood, their states, their nation and even internationally. For the event, we grouped the leaders into four broad categories, but they are all intertwined and so the divisions are in part arbitrary. For example, is anti-violence work with teens in the girls section, the health and human rights category, the violence arena or the leadership development section?

Leading off, three extraordinary investigative broadcast journalists will be receiving the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism. Kim Balin, Sianne Garlick and Laura Minnear are the journalism trio behind "Pornland, Oregon," an hour-long program that became the most-downloaded episode of "Dan Rather Reports." The award is named after a former slave who established her own newspaper Memphis, Tenn., and became the journalist who documented and challenged lynchings in the Reconstruction Era.

Swanee Hunt, an internationally known activist and philanthropist dedicated to stopping the demand for commercial sex, introduced the Ida B. Wells winners, making a comparison between the slavery of the 1800s and the buying and selling of women’s bodies today.

Our other 20 leaders cover so many bases that I'm running with very short descriptions of their work and with links to the leaders’ full bios at the Women's eNews site.


Beverly Bond, Hip Hop deejay and founder of Black Girls Rock

Leah Castella, founder of a debate camp for female high schoolers

Patricia D. Galloway, civil engineer who recruits young women into science fields

Valerie Oliver-Durrah, creator of the Black Women’s Giving Circle for Black Girls

Pamela Shifman, the director of the Novo Foundation’s international program for girls



Michelle Brane, an advocate for immigrant women in detention

Robina Niaz, a battered immigrant who created program for other Muslim victims

Alexine Clement Jackson, An African American dedicated to fight cancer in all women

Kathryn Hall-Trujillo, An African American training midwives in U.S. and abroad

Judith Goldberg, developer of wellness program for disabled women



Emily May, creator of anti-street harassment program using latest technology

Beth Klein, leading attorney developing anti-sex trafficking laws

Jimmie Briggs, co-creator of ManUp, an anti-violence against women 

Kayrita Anderson, activist philanthropist leading anti-sex trafficking initiatives

Maile Zambuto, head of foundation that helps heal victims of gender violence


Leadership Development:

Katherine Acey, lesbian rights advocate for more than 25 years

Linda Basch, head of membership organization for researchers of women’s issues 

Jessica Lagunas, Guatemalan using feminist art to challenge stereotypes

Toni Reinhold, editor who transformed club for female journalists

Lauren Embrey, philanthropist supporting board network of activists


As this assemblage makes clear, under-secretary general Bachelet not only has an enormous opportunity to improve the lives of women across the globe but also she has an incredible number of leaders on the ground, ready to do their part of the job.