Jane Goodall is one of the world’s leading primatologists. Her work in the 1960s revolutionized our understanding of chimpanzee behaviour, and challenged traditional research methodology. She now travels the world speaking about conservation and animal rights, and is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, which seeks to improve global understanding of great apes and help protect their habitat.
The Mirabal Sisters were four sisters from the Dominican Republic who led an opposition movement against the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the late 1950s. On November 25, 1960, three of the four sisters were murdered on orders from Trujillo. Their death sparked outrage across the country and eventually led to Trujillo’s assassination. In their honour, the United Nations in 1999 designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Cora Weiss is President of the Hague Appeal for Peace, an international network dedicated to the abolition of war and making peace a human right. An activist since the 1950s, Weiss’ work has included breaking race barriers in the 1960s, a leadership role in the anti-Vietnam war movement, convening women peacemakers during the Cold War and, in 2000, helping realize the historic United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 that recognizes the essential role of women as peacebuilders.
Latifah Ibn Ziaten is a Moroccan-born French activist who lost her son to an extremist attack in 2012. After her son’s death, Latifah dedicated her life to combatting radicalization through tolerance and interfaith understanding. She travels throughout France giving talks on the subject, and is the founder of the Imad Association for Youth and Peace, which aims to help youth in troubled communities. In 2016, she won an International Women of Courage Award.
Betty Oyella Bigombe was a key figure in peace negotiations with the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda starting in the 1990s, acting as the main mediator between the LRA and the Ugandan government, even holding talks with rebel leader Joseph Kony. She is now the Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank.
Shannen Koostachin was a young activist from the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Canada. At 12 years old, Shannen launched a social media campaign demanding a new school for her community. The campaign gained national attention and inspired thousands of children across Canada. Shannen died in a car accident at the age of 16, but her campaign continues through the Shannen’s Dream Foundation.
Marcela Lagarde y de los Ríos is one of Mexico’s most influential feminists. An anthropologist, academic and former politician, Lagarde is credited with introducing the concept of “femicide”—the systematic disappearance and killing of women, in which the state is complicit either directly or by perpetrating impunity for such crimes—to Latin America. Her research on femicides contributed to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights verdict in 2009 against Mexico for its failure to protect hundreds of women in Ciudad Juarez.
Jewell Faye McDonald was six years old when she was taken from her Ponca family and sent to a Bureau of Indian Affairs Boarding School in Oklahoma. When she returned to her community as a teenager, she was reintroduced to the customs, knowledge and traditions of her people, which she passed on to her six children, some of whom today are prominent Native rights activists and environmentalists.
Ginn Fourie is a South African activist whose daughter was killed during apartheid. She works for reconciliation, peace and community building in South Africa and beyond, through various initiatives, including the Lyndi Fourie Foundation, which she co-founded with Letlapa Mphahlele, the man who masterminded the attack that killed her daughter.
Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization dedicated to the planting of trees, environmental conservation and women’s rights. In 2004, she became the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her contributions to sustainable development, democracy and peace. In 2006, she helped to co-found the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Wangari died in 2011.
Leymah Gbowee won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her work leading a women’s peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War. She travels the world speaking to audiences about gender-based violence and women-led peace building in conflict countries. She is the founder and president of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, a co-founder of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, and is on the board of directors of Nobel Women’s Initiative.
Gloria Steinem is one of the most influential and defining feminists of the past century. Born in the U.S., Steinem started as a journalist and came to prominence as a leader of the women’s movement in the 1960s. Now in her 80s, Steinem continues to write about and speak on issues impacting women around the world, including peace and security.
Nawal El Saadawi is a prolific Egyptian author, playwright, human rights activist and physician, and one of the leading feminists of her generation. Her books, which often address feminist issues that are taboo in Arab societies, have regularly been banned in Egypt and other Arab countries. Her recent work on women’s rights has focused on eliminating the widespread practice of female genital mutilation.
Charlotte Mannya Maxeke became her country’s first black female university graduate in 1901, and eventually was known as the “Mother of Black Freedom” in South Africa. A talented singer, Charlotte performed throughout Britain and North America with a choir group, and completed her Bachelor in Science at Wilberforce University in Ohio. On her return to South Africa, she became a social activist, fighting for the rights of women and black South Africans, particularly the right to education.
After three of her sister’s children were killed during the violence between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, Mairead Maguire organized massive demonstrations and other action calling for a nonviolent end to the conflict. Along with Betty Williams, she is the co-founder of Peace People, and together the two women won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976. She has spent her life since then to bearing witness to oppression and standing in solidarity with people living in conflict, including in Palestine, Afghanistan and, most recently, in Syria.
Born in 1860, Jane Addams was a peace activist, suffragist, and an advocate for labor rights, civil rights and free speech. In 1919 she founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a women’s movement to convince world powers to disarm and enter into peace agreements. She also co-founded Hull House, the first settlement house in the U.S., which provided poor people and immigrants with social, educational and artistic programs. In 1931, she became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Rebecca Masika Katsuva was a highly respected human rights leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After she and her daughters survived brutal sexual assaults in eastern Congo, she set up an organization that provides shelter, resources and compassionate care to survivors of sexual assault in conflict and their children. She died in 2016.
In 2011, at the age of 32, Tawakkol Karman became the youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In her native Yemen, she was at the forefront of the struggle for human rights and women’s participation in peacebuilding for years, organizing non violent protests that swelled in size and became part of the 2011 Arab Spring movements.
Flora MacDonald was a prominent Canadian politician and humanitarian. She was Canada’s first female external affairs minister, and one of the first women to run a high-profile campaign for the leadership of a major Canadian political party. In 2007 she founded Future Generations, an organization that supports schools, health and farming projects in Afghan villages. She died in 2015.
Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian activist, human rights lawyer and former judge who won the Nobel Peace Price in 2003 for her work to improve human rights in Iran, especially those of women, children and political prisoners. She was the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and is a founder of the Defender of Human Rights Center in Iran and a co-founder of Nobel Women’s Initiative. Shirin’s most recent book is Until We Are Free: My Fight For Human Rights in Iran.
Prolific poet, activist and teacher, June Jordan was born to Jamaican immigrant parent in Harlem in 1936, and grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. She was a passionate and influential voice for liberation, and was fiercely dedicated to civil rights, women’s rights and sexual freedom. In her 1982 classic personal essay, “Report from the Bahamas”, June Jordan broke new ground discussing both the possibilities and difficulties of self-identification on the basis of race, class, and gender identity. The essay became an important contribution to women’s and gender studies, sociology, and anthropology. She died in 2002.
Natalya Estemirova was an internationally renowned Russian journalist who reported regularly on human rights abuses in Chechnya. She was also a board member of the human rights organization Memorial, and was a regular consultant for Human Rights Watch. In 2009, Natalya was abducted and murdered.
In 1973, as a correspondent for The Washington Post, Elizabeth Becker became one of the first Western journalists to extensively report on the civil war in Cambodia and the rise of the Khmer Rouge. Now an award-winning journalist and author, she has written a number of books, including When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution.
A professor of philosophy and aesthetics, Ding Zilin founded the organization Tiananman Mothers after her 17-year-old son was shot by government troops—alongside an unknown number of others—during peaceful democracy protests in Tianaman Square on June 4, 1989. Tiananmen Mothers is comprised of relations of those killed in the 1989 protests, and seeks truth and accountability from the Chinese government for the massacre.
Helen Caldicott is an Australian physician and one of the world’s leading anti-nuclear advocates. She is an internationally renowned speaker and author on the subject of the nuclear age’s hazards to human and environmental health, and is the president of The Helen Caldicott Foundation, which aims to raise awareness about the dangers of nuclear power and promote a nuclear energy and weapons-free world.
Jody Williams won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. The Chair of Nobel Women’s Initiative, Jody travels the world advocating for human rights—particularly self-determination and women’s rights. She is globally recognized for her contributions to peace and security, including through a current campaign to ban killer robots. In 2013 she published My Name is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize.
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is a life-long activist for Indigenous and women’s rights who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, and whose struggle to share with the world the history of oppression and violence against the Mayan peoples has made her an iconic global leader. In 2007 and 2011 she ran for president of Guatemala. She is a member of the board of Nobel Women’s Initiative.
Berta Cáceres was a Honduran activist who took on everyone from a corrupt police force to powerful landowners in her many efforts to protect the environment and fight for Indigenous rights. The co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, Cáceres was murdered in her home in March 2016, shortly after being threatened for her opposition to a hydroelectric project.