Tag Archives: power

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.

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

Made in Dagenham on point: Rights. Not privileges.

16 Aug

– Laura Ouseley, Campaigns Coordinator, One World Action

On Saturday night I finally sat down and watched Made in Dagenham. The film tells the story of the 187 women machinists from Ford’s Dagenham plant who, in 1968, bravely stood up and went onto the picket line to demand equal pay. At the time, it was the last thing anyone expected them to do. There aren’t enough feminist films around and this is a great one. At the end of the film I was struck by how this success story for women’s rights so closely reflects One World Action’s work over the last 22 years.

As the film shows, strong women’s leadership is essential for generating positive change for women. Celebrating and supporting women’s leadership in all its forms is something that One World Action has been doing for years, and getting to know so many inspirational women has led to our latest campaign to find One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women who Change the World. In the film, the role of the unseen powerful woman falls to Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins), who is stirred into action to lead the other women workers.

The film was interesting in it showed how the women’s striking had an impact on their relationships with men and the challenge it made to traditional gender roles.. Breaking a gender stereotype was – and continues to be – one of the biggest obstacles to women’s political participation in every country of the world. Whilst women stood by their husbands when they were on strike, women going on strike was seen as somehow laughable and outside what was within the accepted boundaries of behaviour, particularly if men’s jobs were affected. Perhaps my favourite part of the film is when Rita is arguing with her husband Eddie about going out on strike. As Rita put is ‘you’re right actually. You don’t knock us about, you don’t drink, you don’t gamble, you do join in with the family. That’s-as-it-should-be! Try and understand that. Please. What you’re talkin’ about now, what I’ve been fightin’ for, the last few weeks. Same thing. Rights. Not privileges’.

One World Action has always been a proudly political organisation. It has supported low-paid garment workers and trade unions across the world for many years. Women home workers in India are now better represented and better paid since joining SEWA – a trade union movement of informal women workers supported by One World Action. SEWA believe that women’s human rights will not be achieved without economic empowerment and self reliance. The movement began in 1971 when a handful of women came together to protest against their unfair treatment by local merchants and it currently has over one million members.

But sometimes strong women’s leadership or trade union membership is not enough. Women still need men and women in positions of power who support women’s rights. Getting more women into positions of power was what One World Action’s last campaign was all about: the More Women More Power campaign called for more women in parliament – and asked women already in power to use their voices to amplify the voices of women who are fighting to be heard. In the late 1960s it was Secretary of State Barbara Castle’s (Miranda Richardson) support for the women’s demands for equal pay that secured their success.

Seeing women stand up for their rights in this film was inspirational, but let’s not forget that in the UK the full-time gender wage gap is still 15.5%. What’s more, women are paid less but they often have to work harder as well. There is no doubt that more men are doing their share of childcare and housework, but it can safely be said that these tasks remain firmly in the area of ‘women’s work’.

Despite the Equal Pay Act being passed in 1970, 41 years later women are still fighting for equal pay. In fact, there are currently 45,000 women in the UK taking equal pay claims to court!

I am not convinced that women being politically active has been fully accepted in the UK, so it gives me hope when I hear that 200 people signed up in the first 24 hours to attend the Feminist Summer Camp that took place last weekend. What’s more, UK Feminista is setting up a new activist group so that even more people can stand up and demand a more equal world – just like the 187 machinists from Dagenham.



87, and still campaigning

11 Jul

– Rosamund Urwin, Evening Standard Journalist

TOO often, awards celebrate youth. “Top 30 under 30”, “the ones to watch”, “stars of the future”: if you’re collecting your pension, you don’t get a look in. This is especially true for women, who seem to be almost edited out of public life when wrinkles start to appear.

So when I was told about the “unseen powerful women who change the world” campaign, I knew immediately who I wished to nominate: 87-year-old Ena Abrahams. I first read about Mrs Abrahams earlier this year in the Waltham Forest Guardian, a local newspaper in East London. She was named as the leader of a campaign to save the under-threat Connaught Day Hospital, a centre within Whipps Cross Hospital which specialises in caring for the elderly.

Mrs Abrahams receives treatment at the Connaught every fortnight and is one of its great advocates, fighting to stop its closure because “older patients are treated with dignity there” and because “it takes a holistic approach”. Since she started her campaign, the bosses of the hospital trust have said they are considering expanding the Connaught’s services, as an alternative to closing it.

Mrs Abrahams calls herself “a self-appointed emissary of the elderly” and is speaking up because she wants her generation to have a voice: “There are patients here who don’t know how to defend themselves, they have an inbuilt fear of authority.” That certainly does not apply to Mrs Abrahams, for whom campaigning seems to come naturally. As part of the patients’ panel at Whipps Cross, she has successfully lobbied for the Paediatric Accident & Emergency to be open 24 hours a day. Before she retired, the former headmistress was also very active in the teachers’ union.

Ena Abrahams outside the Connaught Day Hospital. Photo: Joe Curtis, Wanstead and Woodford Guardian

Having taught thousands of school pupils, Mrs Abrahams decided to teach the teachers how to teach, as a tutor at Goldsmiths, a London university. She remains passionate about the power of education and believes we should never stop learning: in her late Seventies she studied for a masters in sociology. “I got a distinction and I was 40 years older than the next oldest student,” she recalls.

Mrs Abrahams is also a mine of historical information. She can remember the Wall Street Crash and the depression of the 1930s. She describes growing up in a Shoreditch slum; there was no running water in her family’s flat, so her mother had to traipse down three floors to collect it.

Ena Abrahams is not the type of person who is usually described as powerful. Although politically-active, she is not a politician. But she is a reminder of what can be achieved – at any age – if you possess an indefatigable spirit.

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

New campaign on women’s leadership launched today

23 Jun

Today One World Action is launching a new campaign to find One Hundred Unseen Powerful Women who change the world. We want to highlight the achievements of women around the world who make a difference in ways that are not always visible or recognised. The campaign will showcase innovative modes of leadership by women who might not be in conventional positions of power but who use their resources creatively to challenge, question and change their lives and the lives of those around them.

100 Unseen Powerful Women Who Change The World

Complementing existing lists of rich and powerful women, we want to shed more light on the ways women can have an impact in many different walks of life and show how women can be, and are, active participants in society leading to positive political, social and economic and change.

We are asking you to nominate women you think should be included in our list of One Hundred Women. Our scope for nominations is as broad as the strengths of the women pushing for change. Whether they are community activists, artists, inventors, educators, health workers or entrepreneurs, we want to hear about the women who people think have made a difference to their communities and to pay tribute to their efforts. We want to celebrate the significant changes women make through their bravery, commitment and leadership.

I would like to introduce Durgabai Vyam – the first woman to be nominated for the list:

Durgabai Vyam is one of the innovative artists of the controversial graphic novel Bhimayana – a novel that confronts caste discrimination against Dalits in India. Caste discrimination denies Dalits, basic human rights and confines them in a system that rates them as less than human.

Durgabai Vyam

Durgabai has played a pivotal role bringing to light the often taboo subject of how Dalits are treated and has exposed the many costs – emotional, psychological and physical – of caste discrimination. Through her compelling use of traditional graphic art, Durgabai’s artistic skill provides the book with a unique and powerful vision.

Through her work Durgabai has taken risks: she has transcended the boundaries of the traditionally western genre of graphic novels by refusing to confine her art within conventional boxes. Durgabai’s innovative style challenges perceptions of the acceptability of caste discrimination and encourages dialogue by confronting societal values. Using her artistic vision to visually stimulate change, Durgabai has paved the way for further discussions which highlight and challenge caste discrimination, giving a voice to Dalits through this vibrant and compelling piece of work.

For more information and to nominate your unseen powerful women please go to: https://oneworldaction.wordpress.com/100-unseen-powerful-women/  

We will be awarding prizes to the top ten women within several categories. To donate to the campaign fund, which will also support One World Action’s work to empower women leaders around the world, please visit the following page: http://www.justgiving.com/OneHundredWomen  

Or text POWA00 followed by £2, £5 or £10 to 70070