Tag Archives: 100 women

Causes to Celebrate – 100 Unseen Powerful Women Awards and Farewell to One World Action

31 Oct

– Laura Ouseley, Campaigns Coordinator, One World Action

The One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women campaign by One World Action culminated on 27th October with an awards ceremony at the King’s Fund, London. We were joined by over 200 supporters, campaigners, colleagues, and many of the women from the One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women list. The evening paid tribute to the many remarkable examples of women’s leadership.

The comedian Neil Mullarkey, one of One World Action’s patrons, hosted the presentation, and was joined by Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, former MP Barbara Follett and theatre producer Philip Headley in celebrating the achievements of the 100 women and One World Action.

International NGOs and social networks nominated a long list of women from 40 different countries, including Iran, Somalia, Nepal and Peru. In September a panel of judges including Laura Fox, Barbara Follett, Renana Jhabvala and Rebecca Tinsley narrowed the list of 100 women down to eight winners, who were honoured last Thursday.

The winners and runner-ups in each of the four categories represent a wide range of activities and come from all corners of the globe. Together with One World Action’s Director Hannah Davies, panel member Barbara Follett presented the awards.

In the category of Public Service, the winner was Dr Hawa Abdi – a gynaecologist in Somalia who provides shelter, relief and medical care for women and children escaping the conflict. The runner-up in this category was Marceline Kongolo-Bicé – an anti-rape campaigner in Eastern Congo who has provided training, economic opportunities and care to victims of sexual violence.

In the category of Business and Entrepreneur, the winner was Meenu Vadera – an entrepreneur in Delhi who founded and runs the city’s first women-only taxi service. The runner-up was Adelaide Foute Tega – a market trader in Douala, Cameroon who has improved the economic conditions of other women traders by challenging harassment and discrimination in the market. In Adelaide’s own words, ‘After 2 years of training and coaching, women traders are a force to reckon with in the Sandaga market, the largest food market inCentral Africa. Women traders have asserted themselves and are gradually improving the business environment in the market for themselves and generations to come’.

In the category of Human Rights, the winner was Maryam Bibi – a women’s rights campaigner in the tribal areas of Pakistan who provides training and medical care to hundreds of women in the face of prejudice and threats of violence. The runner-up was Fanny Chirisa – a political activist in Zimbabwe who campaigns to change the political culture and end political violence and intolerance by promoting equity and accountability among public officials.

In the final category, Arts and Media, the winner was Mary Luz Avendaño – a campaigning journalist in Medellin, Colombia who has uncovered links between police officers and criminal gangs. We were privileged to have Mary Luz at the event to collect her award in person. The runner-up was Durgabai Vyam – an innovative Dalit artist who uses her unique visual style to challenge caste discrimination in India. You can see some of Durgabai’s work here.

Some of the 100 Unseen Powerful Women who attended the event. Photo: Laura Wetherall

We were also pleased to showcase a great comedian Lara A King. Always keen to promote women who work in fields dominated by men – in this case comedy – this year’s winner of the Funny Women Awards did an excellent job keeping the mood of the event one of celebration!

Jon Snow rushed in just in time to tell us about what has made One World Action different over the last 22 years and why he has been such a committed supporter of the organisation. Sadly, One World Action is closing this month but it was great that Sue Turrell, Director of Womankind Worldwide – the organisation taking forward much of One World Action’s legacy and active projects, especially in Africa – was there to tell us more about the organisation.

As Jon Snow said, it is great that One World Action can go out with a bang, and its approach and legacy will go so much further.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event and who has supported the One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women campaign. All of us at One World Action hope that the campaign can continue in 2012. As I am sure you will agree there are thousands more Unseen Powerful Women around the world who are doing outstanding and courageous things to improve the lives of others, and these women deserve to be recognised for their work.


You can see more photos from the event here.


Powerful Women Taking Control

31 Oct

– Hannah Davies, Director, One World Action

The 100 (unseen) powerful women in the list are fantastically inspiring each in their own way. They represent a huge range of activity and commitment – from a health campaigner in East London to a solar power project in Kenya. But do they have anything in common? Is there any unifying wider point? About the role of women? About social change?

The idea for the list came from reading an article about the upcoming list of powerful women that gets published every year by the Forbes magazine. While it’s great that they recognise women’s leadership it’s always a certain kind of woman and a certain kind of leadership: privileging the already privileged and recognising only certain kinds of power and influence.

More recently I have been reading another book that has an interesting take on how ordinary (or unseen) individuals can be powerful and affect change. In his book The Leaderless Revolution, Carne Ross stresses the simple idea of agency. In the face of an almost overwhelming barrage of global problems (terrorism, climate change, financial meltdown and so on), he emphasises how individuals taking control of their lives through individual or collective action is one way – possibly the only way – to overcome the challenges we face.

I think it’s particularly important for women to recognise their own agency – to not always look to be led by a charismatic leader (usually a man). That understanding of our own individual power is a fundamental part of empowerment: recognising this in each other is hopefully one of the benefits of the list.

Standing up for Blind Women’s Rights in El Salvador

3 Oct


We spoke to Rubidia Cornejo – President of the Association of Blind Women in El Salvador (AMUCES) and named in One World Action’s list of One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women who Change the World – about the work of AMUCES and the obstacles faced by blind women living in El Salvador.


What does AMUCES do?


We help blind women in El Salvador exercise and demand their rights.

Blind women in El Salvador have specific needs. The biggest problem for people living with disabilities in El Salvador – especially in rural areas – is unemployment and a lack of resources. So these are the women that AMUCES tries to target. Many of the blind women we work with may have been taken out of school and have no way of earning an income. These women first need to have their confidence built up, and then need training so that they are able to organise themselves.

Giving blind women the opportunity to earn a salary is a priority for AMUCES – without it the women cannot take control of their lives.

How long has AMUCES been running?

We are quite young but are growing all the time – AMUCES has been running since 2006. I was always keen to focus on blind women and we took a lot of inspiration at the time from strong women’s organisations in El Salvador such as Las Melidas and Las Dignas.

Providing an income for blind women - Xpress Massage was set up by AMUCES at El Salvador's international airport

Which women have inspired you?

Internationally I have always found Hillary Clinton an inspiration, but here in El Salvador Eileen Giron has always been an inspiration to me because of her great leadership. I think it is important that women, including women with disabilities, have others around them who they can look up to.

How long have you been working for the rights of blind people?

I became a member of ASCES in 1989 but before that I was involved in other organisations. I was always interested in the subject of blind people’s rights and have been involved in associations and organisations since I was at university. When I considered the situation of blind people in El Salvador it was obvious that massive changes needed to take place – and still do!

What are you most proud of since being with AMUCES?

In just a few years we have become recognised within El Salvador and Latin America and have managed to include the opinion of blind women in national debates.

How can people learn more or help with the work you do?

XPress Massage

People can find out more by going to the website for the Association of Blind People in El Salvador (ASCES) – our sister organisation. AMUCES doesn’t have a website yet.

There are still huge amounts of work to be done in El Salvador to ensure blind people – in particular blind women – enjoy their rights as equal citizens. The main problem we face is getting funding for our advocacy work. This is increasingly difficult because international cooperation is being pulled out of Central America all the time. Being classed as ‘middle-income’ countries has not helped.

Other than getting funding, what is the biggest obstacle you face?

The biggest practical obstacle is delinquency. I live a long way from the office outside of the capital San Salvador and rely on public transport to get into work everyday. But because of crime and gangs extorting bus drivers, buses are often robbed, frequently cancelled, and always stop early in the evening. Delinquency is increasing in El Salvador and it can be very dangerous to make long journeys alone late at night, especially for blind woman.

Are you working with blind women? What are the biggest obstacles where you live and work? Tell us by leaving a comment below.

100 Women List Now Published!

6 Sep

One Hundred Women: The Unseen Powerful Women Who Change The World

I feel privileged to have spent the last few months working on this campaign – reading about so many inspirational women around the world who are making a positive impact on their own lives and their communities.

The full list is now published and you can see it by visiting our campaign page:


Please feel free to share your thoughts about the women by leaving a comment. I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I have!

100 Unseen Powerful Women Who Change The World

Caroline Lucas MP – My nomination for One Hundred Women

22 Jul

I’d like to nominate Jess Wood from Allsorts as a woman who is changing the world. Allsorts works with young people under 26 who are unsure about the sexual orientation and /or gender identity. It helps empower and give young people a voice.

Jess founded Allsorts and is currently its Director. She first introduced me to the work they do in Brighton and Hove, which includes one to one advice, team building and, above all, creating spaces for young people to be themselves and explore their feelings. Jess started the project because of a lack of any services meeting the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans youth in the city. She drives Allsorts forward and makes a real difference to the lives of those involved – many of whom are vulnerable, alienated or marginalised.

Jess and the work she does make it a little easier for all young people to come to a clearer and more positive understanding of their sexuality, not just here in Brighton – which has one of the most vibrant LGBT communities in the world – but in every country across the globe. Jess is an example of the many powerful women who, unseen, are building a better world and I applaud her and those like her.

Caroline Lucas is MP for Brighton Pavilion and Leader of the Green Party for England and Wales. She is a passionate campaigner on the environment, social justice, peace and human rights and is a Women’s Rights Champion for One World Action.

To find out more about One World Action’s One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women Campaign and to nominate please go to:  https://oneworldaction.wordpress.com/100-unseen-powerful-women/

Female Footballers in Iran – Subversive Politics

14 Jul

– Healah Riazi, Volunteer, One World Action

Women’s presence within the sporting arena has unfortunately been a rare sighting both in their participation and in their assumed lack of interest. Traditionally considered a sphere socially reserved for men, male athletes and fans dominate the screens and stadiums placing women’s sport in a sub-standard category, often stereotypically characterised for its incompetency.

With the Women’s World Cup Finals now among us, a faint yet uplifting buzz can be sensed in the creeping appreciation and recognition of the value of women’s football. Women’s increased participation in such a renowned sport not only highlights the skills and passions of women away from conventional moulds, but it encourages and promotes an environment where men and women can engage in the same activities without exclusion and eventually, in equality.

One country that has particularly shaken up attitudes and sparked discussions of the associations made between women and sport, is Iran.

Women’s rights in Iran have long been a source of political contention within the Islamic regime of the country. Considered the symbolic upholders of national identity and traditionalist values, the position of women has always been charged with a religious and nationalist ideology, susceptible to change given the political context.

Despite the restrictive conditions that make for a difficult environment for women’s expression, a prolific women’s movement flourishes in Iran. Challenging existing political structures as well as working within the conservative Islamic framework to exercise these, women have created new spaces that allow for alternative forms of expression. The recent controversies around FIFA’s banning of the Iranian women’s team from the Olympics due to their religious yet legally required headwear have further highlighted the tensions between politically motivated interpretations of religion and women’s access to rights and privileges. These are the conditions Iranian women footballers are faced with constantly.

Women’s football in Iran not only challenges stifling stereotypes outside the country but it is a practice that speaks volumes in its demonstration of women’s abilities away from traditional duties and roles, offering an understated and subversive platform for women to assert their political presence in Iran.

One World Action are calling for nominations of women who you think have influenced and had a prominent impact on how women are perceived in sports. Whether they are sportswomen, campaigners or photographers, we want to hear about them!

You can nominate women by email to hdavies@oneworldaction.org,  by post to One World Action, Bradley’s Close, 74-77 White Lion St, London N1 9PF, or by leaving a comment to this post. Please provide a short paragraph letting us know how your nominated woman has demonstrated strong leadership, and how they have created positive social change in the world.

To see the women nominated so far for our list of One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women who Change the World please visit: https://oneworldaction.wordpress.com/100-unseen-powerful-women/ 

Why we need an alternative list

23 Jun

– Hannah Davies, Director, One World Action

I have always loved lists. And although lists can be criticised for being superficial they can also be a useful way to synthesise and structure our thoughts. So I have to confess that I will always read with interest the lists in glossy magazines of the 10 most, or 40 best or the 100 richest, most powerful or influential, arguing about who’s included and who’s left out.

But one of the drawbacks of these kinds of lists is that they very often draw attention to what we already know. When it comes to lists of women, we often see women defined as powerful because of their husband or father: who they are rather than what they do.But there are all kinds of interesting, powerful, important, clever, talented women who are powerful because of their actions and choices who will never make it onto any list because their impact is unseen.

Women are powerful and take decisions every day. In all sorts of unrecognised ways they are educators and role models. Their work often keeps homes running as well as families and communities fed. It’s an often quoted statistic from the Food and Agriculture Organization that women produce between 60 and 80 percent of the food in most developing countries and are responsible for half of the world’s food production.

Not only is so much of women’s work unrecognised or under-valued, there are also lots of barriers to women being able to fulfil their potential – particularly in public life: at One World Action we work with women to overcome some of them: violence against women politicians, cultural attitudes that limit economic opportunities for women home workers, and on a very basic level lack of sexual and reproductive choice that leads, for example, to forced marriage. So for many women, to go public and take on a leadership role – however small – often involves additional risks.

It’s through working with powerful women dealing with these challenges every day, without the benefits of a high-profile husband or father and lots of media attention that I came up with the idea for a list of 100 powerful – but unseen – women. We have many examples from our work at One World Action and I’m sure there are way more than 100 out there. So we will be looking for nominations from all over the world and from all areas of life: teachers, artists, migrants, health-care workers, farmers.

To get the ball rolling here are two powerful women that I’d like to nominate. They are definitely not invisible within their own communities but they’re still “unseen” in the wider world.

For more information and to nominate women please go to:


Luz Melon is a friend and an inspiration. She’s now a Counsellor at the Argentinean mission to the UN in New York but came to diplomacy late after working as a teacher in inner-city Buenos Aries. One of the things I admire about Luz is her capacity for hard work. But where I think she’s really shown leadership is championing human rights in the United Nations. She played a lead role in the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and has been a brilliant advocate for disabled people. Most recently she took on the more economically powerful UN member states to push for a convention on the rights of elder people. And she’s been a consistent advocate for sexual and reproductive rights.It’s sometimes difficult for diplomats from developing countries to really promote rights – particularly around gender and sexuality – because there’s sometimes a perception that human rights are a western construct. Luz won’t have any of this, and would argue that, growing up under an oppressive dictatorship in Argentina, there is a very specific and indigenous human rights culture in Latin America. Throughout her life she has also made brave personal decisions and has had the courage to challenge stereotypes.

Mary Taylor* is definitely a powerful woman. Mary had very little formal education and, when I knew here, she was already a pensioner. She’s not always the easiest person to deal with and she’s made a fair few enemies but she will always stand up for what she believes is right and is not afraid to take risks. She’s a long-term resident of council estate in South East London and when I was her neighbour for a few years she would be the person who knew exactly what was going on. She’d be the first to take on the local council if she thought that tenants’ interests were being taken for granted or that there were changes being introduced that would make life worse for the people who actually lived in the flats. She also took personal risks. While so many of us would “tut” and turn away when we saw people leaving litter or drawing graffiti in the estate, she would never be afraid of standing up to them and pointing out bad behaviour.There were people on the estate that didn’t like Mary and didn’t always share her views of how things should work but her energy and her commitment came from a very strong idea about her environment and why community mattered.

* Not her real name