Pioneers

babzug-bw-portraitBella Abzug, USA
A passionate perfectionist and risk-taker, Bella S. Abzug was born on July 24, 1920, one month before U.S. women won their long struggle for the right to vote.  Recognized early as a natural leader, Bella S. Abzug lived to become one of the 20th century’s great women leaders.  She was honored and loved for her championship of the world’s women, human rights, the poor and oppressed, and most of all for her people-nurturing vision of a healthy, peaceful planet.  Admirers and foes alike praised her for her brilliance, honesty, principles and dedication to women’s empowerment and democratic values.

mimMim Kelber, USA
Co-founder of WEDO, Mim was a noted journalist and feminist. She was a co-founder of Women Strike for Peace and a speechwriter and policy advisor for Bella Abzug (they were high school and college classmates) during Bella’s years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mim served as policy director on President Carter’s National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year and a chief writer and editor of the Spirit of Houston Report. She wrote numerous magazine and newspaper articles on feminist and political issues, and was co-author of “Bella Abzug’s Guide to Political Power for Women” (1984). As a WEDO board member and its editorial director (1991-98), she was a co-editor and writer for News and Views (insert link) and also chief writer of a book “Women and Government, New Ways to Political Power.” Among Mimís accolades and awards are the Ms. Foundation’s Wonder Women Award (1984) and a Feminist Majority Foundation’s year 2000 award for outstanding leadership.

thaiscorralThais Corral, Brazil
Thais is the founding director of the Network for Human Development, an NGO dedicated to bringing women’s perspectives to development issues in Brazil. She is also co-founder and former vice president of the international Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), and the founder of Communication, Education, Information on Gender, a Brazil based NGO. In the 1990s, Ms. Corral represented the interests of women and civil society at various United Nations Global Conferences. Trained as a journalist, Ms. Corral created a radio conglomerate of over four hundred radio stations in Brazil that promote grassroots activism and adult education. Thais conceived and coordinated a training program to integrate issues such as environment, human rights, sexual orientation, and race and ethnicity in the curriculum of adult education in Brazil. She is also a board member of Leadership for Environment and Development International (LEAD) and recipient of numerous awards.

jocelyndowJocelyn Dow, Guyana
An activist at the national, regional and international levels, Jocelyn Dow is the founding member and Executive Director of Red Thread, a womenís collective in Guyana. She is also former WEDO Board President. As a businesswoman, Dow is committed to environmentally sound development, exemplified in her furniture company, Liana Cane Interiors, which is based on the sustainable use of non-timber forest products.  Dow has served as a former board member of the Caribbean Conservation Association and as a Member of the Guyana Elections Commission and of the External Gender Consultative Group of the World Bank.  She has been a member of the Guyana Elections Commission and of the External Gender Consultative Group of the World Bank. In September 2002, she was appointed to the United Nations Secretary Generalís Panel of Eminent Persons for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

brownieBrownie Ledbetter, USA
Activist, founding member of Women USA and Women USA Fund from which WEDO was organized, member of U.S. Women Connect, the National Congress for Neighborhood Women and GROOTS International. Brownie also worked locally in Arkansas for 30 years as founder of three nonprofit organizations and executive director of one, the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.  Brownie was staff or consultant in many Arkansas political campaigns in the 60′s and 70′s including campaign manager for McGovern in 1972.  She was Political Action Chair of the National Women’s Political Caucus from 1973-75 and on President Carter’s Commission on Women. She organized the first Planned Parenthood Affiliate in Arkansas in 1986 and directed the campaign that defeated the first ballot effort to prohibit the private and legal choice Arkansas women have for some forms of birth control and abortion in 1985.

wangari-001Wangari Maathai, Kenya
2004 Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathi is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, a women-driven grassroots reforestation and sustainable development movement that has planted more than 40 million trees; its 3,000 tree nurseries are managed by some 60,000 women and 1,500 men.  Maathai, a former WEDO board member, was an elected member of Parliament and served as Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki from 2003 to 2005.  A biologist, Wangari was the first Kenyan woman to earn a PhD, to teach and chair a department at the University of Nairobi; an environmental and sociopolitical activist, her numerous awards include the Goldman Environmental Prize, the Africa Prize for Leadership and the UNEP/Eyes on the Environment Award.  Maathai is a co-founder of The Nobel Women’s Initiative, whose goal is to support women’s rights around the world. Her autobiography, Unbowed: One Womanís Story, was released in 2006.

chiefbisiChief Bisi Ogunleye, Nigeria
Chief Bisi was founder and national coordinator of Country Women Association of Nigeria (COWAN), a rural women’s self-help organization operating in 25 states of Nigeria, with 24,000 working groups representing 120,000 members.  She was also founder and president of the Network of African Rural Women’s Association; vice-president of the Forum of African Voluntary Development Organizations; board member of PACT and the United Nations Earth Council.  In 1996 Chief Bisi was awarded the Africa Prize for Leadership by the Hunger Project.  A former WEDO board member, she has served as co-chair of the Microcredit Summit Council of Advocates.