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Vital Voices: World Changing Women

Panmela Castro is a multi-media artist in Brazil. She began her career painting graffiti in the favelas of Rio to promote Brazil's first domestic violence law. Today, she leads a coalition of young people who use street art to start conversations about domestic violence and women's rights.

In 2007 Andeisha started a non-profit, the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO). Today, AFCECO runs 10 orphanages in Afghanistan and Pakistan with over 450 children of diverse ethnicities.

Sunitha Krishnan is the co-founder of Prajwala (Eternal Flame), a group that rescues women and children from brothels and provides quality education to the children of prostitutes. It stands upon five pillars: prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and advocacy.

Hanan Saab heads one of the Middle East’s most successful pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies. She also serves on the board of the Lebanese League for Women in Business, an association of women business owners and professionals.

Danielle Saint-Lôt is the former executive director of Haiti’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its former Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. She co-founded Haiti’s Femmes en Démocratie in 1998, one of the oldest and strongest Vital Voices affiliates in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

In 1991, Adi Tafuna'i co-established an organization called Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI) to encourage Samoan women in business. In an effort to create livelihood opportunities for Samoan farmers, Adi brokered a deal to supply virgin coconut oil to The Body Shop. She is now working to scale the collective export model for the entire Pacific region.

Kah Walla is a business owner and political leader in Cameroon. In 2012 she became the first woman candidate for President in Cameroon. She is guided by a firm belief that Africans have all of the ability, all of the resources and all of the capacity to respond to the needs of the people who live there.

Linda Swana is building a citizen’s movement in Guatemala. She links diverse groups who share a common belief — Guatemala must rely on Guatemalans to move it forward.

Throughout a 30-year career in parliament, Margaret Alva used her legislative wins for women’s rights to spearhead India’s “silent revolution” — an effort to engage millions of her countrywomen in the political process.

Myo Su is a Burmese entrepreneur. As her country begins to open up, she wants all of its young people to be equipped to play a role. She and her staff created a vocational training school for young women and men so that they can pursue lucrative jobs in their own country.

In May 2009, 32 girls enrolled at the Kakenya Center for Excellence, the girls’ school Kakenya built in her village. It is the first residential primary school for girls that has ever existed there. In 2014, 170 girls attend the school and the first class graduated last summer.

In 2003, Samar Minallah, a Pakistani Pashtun filmmaker and anthropologist, created a documentary on swara. Her goal was to raise awareness of the horrific custom and mobilize policymakers to abolish it. Thanks in part to Samar’s campaign, swara was made illegal in Pakistan in 2004. Dozens of girls were rescued.

Rebecca Lolosoli is the matriarch of Umoja Uaso Women’s Village, a safe haven for women and girls fleeing abuse, as well as a training center for those seeking to promote human rights and economic development. The women's traditional Samburu beadwork brings income to sustain the village and has allowed them to build a small school for their children and those of the surrounding area.

After serving in finance and economics capacities, including Minister of Finance, in newly independent Timor-Leste, Fernanda Borges co-founded the National Unity Party (PUN) and led the party to Parliament in 2007. She is the only female party leader in the country — a central player and steady opposition voice on the national political scene.

Luz Maria de la Mora served Mexico as an international trade negotiator. She is currently helping companies increase trade and devise business development strategies. In addition, she is maximizing uptake of economic services available to women entrepreneurs.

Felicia Coleman serves as the chief prosecutor of a gender based sexual violent crimes unit in Liberia. She is working with partners in the government, law enforcement, and NGOs to make the prosecution of sexual violence a priority.

Ruth Zavaleta Salgado is a member of Mexico's Congress. She is a founding member of the PRD but is currently affiliated with Mexico's Green Party.

Lana Dajani creates systems that will capitalize on people's strengths and identify areas for improvement. She wants others to be passionate about what they do.

Manal Al-Sharif is the Founder of a social media movement called Women2Drive. She initiated a social movement when she asked a friend to video her driving a car in Saudi Arabia and then posted the footage on Facebook.

Amira Yahyaoui created an NGO, Al Bawsala, which is monitoring the constitutional assembly and advocating for human rights. She also launched the Tunisian Parliament Monitor to protect the free expression of the Tunisian people.

Mu Sochua was elected to Cambodia’s Parliament in 1998. She became the first woman to head the Ministry of Women's Affairs, a position she held for six years. Today, she is Director General of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, a coalition of the two leading opposition parties.

Social media activist and political and human rights journalist, Shatha al-Harazi, has been a voice for young people in Yemen during and following that country's political transition.

Kiran Bedi became the first woman police officer in the Indian Police Service. As such, she was a role model for countless women officers who followed. Today, she is a well known activist and political figure in India.

Oksana Horbunova exposed the plight of disappearing Ukrainian women to government officials from around the world. Her brave intervention produced the first U.S. – Ukraine bilateral agreement on trafficking. Today, Oksana works with the International Organization for Migration. Her hotline gives a voice to silenced women and reunites many victims with their families.

The hotline Marina established in 1993 was the only avenue for victims of domestic violence in Russia, where the economic reforms that flowed from the end of the Soviet era failed to alter the troubling dynamic of family violence that wrought havoc on so many Russian households.

Annie Rashidi continues to speak in support of women’s rights in the DRC where women have borne the worst ramifications of civil war. For these efforts, she has been arrested numerous times and has had many threats against her life.

In 2005, Inez founded the organization Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) which supports disadvantaged groups to assert their right to participate in social and economic decisions which affect their lives. PPR currently works with a range of groups on issues including housing, mental health, urban regeneration, youth, domestic abuse and migrant rights, amongst others.

Samar Haj Hassan is the managing partner of Mahara Professional Consultancies in Development, Samar advises companies on their adoption of socially responsible business policies and practices. For the first time, a Jordanian firm is advancing corporate responsibility by providing comprehensive services, including research and surveys, monitoring and evaluation, project management and training.

Thoko Majokweni is a pioneer in the field of victim centered response to sexual violence. As Director of the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit in the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa, she has set up a one-stop shop model for victims of rape called the Thuthuzela Care Center. Thuthuzela centers are being replicated all over the country.

Noha Khatieb works for Israel’s Ministry of Education as the director of civic and multicultural education. Noha works with both Arab and Jewish schools of all levels, developing curricula that include community involvement, democratic values and shared citizenship with the “other.”

In 2003, Rosana founded a nonprofit organization, Touching Humanity in Need of Kindness (THINK, Inc.), to aid Liberia’s healing process. She focused THINK’s efforts on the former girl soldiers and “war wives,” offering shelter, medical care, counseling, academic classes, vocational learning and life-skills training.

Maria Gabriela Hoch has used her unique position as a business and social leader to identify and strengthen future generations of women leaders in Argentina. She is the Founder and President of the Vital Voices local chapter in Argentina.

Credits: Exhibit

Photography — Micky Wiswedel
Photography — Sharon Farmer
Photography — Kate Cummings
Photography — Aaron Kisner
Videography — Georgia Court
Design — Kim Dulaney

Credits: All media
The exhibit featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.