In the last of our International Women’s Day Gender Series, we are rounding off March with a special post to celebrate Women’s History Month. We crowdsourced the content for this post from you – our lovely readers! So, enjoy this special post featuring three inspiring women from the development sector, who are positive role models for us all.
Emma Whitty on Gina Olivieri
Gina has been part of the international development community for ten years. A 2006 trip to Melbourne for the Make Poverty History concert sparked her desire to tackle poverty. Since then Gina has volunteered at the Oaktree Foundation, studied a Bachelor of Science (Psychology), and done secretarial and publicity work for her local chapter of Soroptimist International.
In 2008 Gina attended UNESCO’s Human Rights conference in Paris. She also went on a study tour to Sierra Leone in 2010, and spent six months volunteering in South Africa. These experiences have shaped Gina’s understanding of extreme poverty and its causes, symptoms, and possible solutions.
Gina firmly believes that “where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live,” and aims to bring about a just, sustainable and fulfilling world where everybody has access to the basics for a dignified life. Gina began working on Grassroots Engagement for RESULTS (now in it’s 30th year) in June 2013.
Gina has, without a doubt, been the most influential female leader for me in the international development space. Gina leads by example and her superpower is empowering volunteers to do things that may seem daunting, like meeting with their local MP, writing a letter to the editor of a paper or travelling to Parliament House to guide MPs and policy makers on issues of global health, education and inequality. I certainly wouldn’t have done any of the aforementioned activities without Gina’s support and leadership and for that I am truly grateful.
Gina’s leadership is also inspiring a wonderful community of change-makers who are reclaiming their democracy for good.
Thank you Gina!
Emma is a Sponsor Visit Consultant at World Vision Australia, a Citizen Advocate at RESULTS International (Australia), and a Committee Member at the Margaret Pratt Foundation. You can follow her on twitter @elwhits.
Amoga Laxmi on Neelam Singh
Neelam Singh is a coordinator at Aide et Action’s iLEAD centre in GB Road, New Dehli, one of the largest red-light districts in India. The centre provides livelihood training to local young people who have dropped out of school. By facilitating other opportunities for education and employment, one of their priorities is to discourage young people from entering into sex work, and thus end the cycle of one generation following on from another. Neelam holds a Masters in Social Work and plays a key role in motivating young people to enroll at iLEAD. She is involved in all aspects of the centre’s activities, including organising the Community Mobilisation Drive to reach out to local youth to enroll on courses and motivating them to plan for their future careers.
Neelam works in an environment that is, at best, hostile towards women. Despite enduring constant harassment in the street, she continues to carry out her work at the centre because she cares passionately about providing opportunities for young people. She supports them to help overcome the stigma attached to sex work. Her work visiting homes of young people nearby GB road, and encouraging parents to send their children to the iLEAD centre, has also broken down boundaries. She is helping to provide a vital alternative for young people who otherwise would have had no choice but to enter into sex work.
Katharine Mansell on Barbara Ward
Barbara Ward, founder of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), was a pioneering economist, writer and lecturer, and one of the first people to articulate the concept of sustainable development.
Born in 1914, she was a trailblazer, attending Oxford University in 1931 and later graduating with the highest honours in philosophy, politics and economics.
During the Second World War she worked for the Ministry of Information, and joined The Economist magazine as an assistant editor in 1939, eventually becoming their first female foreign editor.
Ward wrote many books throughout the 1950s and 1960s, publishing her first one aged 24. She is best known her for her book ‘Only One Earth: The Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet’, published in 1972, one year after she founded IIED to lead the way on the principles of sustainable development. The institute played a key role in the Stockholm Conference of 1972, the Brundtland Commission of 1987, the 1992 Earth Summit and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.
In ‘Only One Earth’, she writes of the need “clearly to define what should be done to maintain the earth as a place suitable for human life not only now, but also for future generations.” This book is generally considered the first and best definition of the concept of sustainable development.
Although she was a widely published author, her greatest influence was as an informal advisor to international leaders. She counted Indira Gandhi and Willy Brandt as friends, as well as US presidents John F Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter, and several UK prime ministers and heads of state from Africa and Asia.
In 2000, she was named one of the 20th century’s most influential visionaries by Time magazine. Ward was further posthumously honoured in 2014 with a stamp in the Royal Mail’s Remarkable Lives series.
Katharine is the Media and External Affairs Manager at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
Featured image shows a sign reading “well behaved women rarely make history.” Photo from Pixabay.
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