Stories

105
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My name is Mahbouba Seraj. I am 74 years old. I am an activist and women’s rights defender and I live in Afghanistan. A historian by education, for the last 12 months I chose to stay in Afghanistan to witness what was happening to my country and its people and to work for a better Afghanistan—one that belongs to all of us.
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Najiba*, 45, is a mother, former university lecturer and counsellor who helps women heal from trauma in Afghanistan. Despite threats and restrictions on her freedom to move, she continues to enable women to learn and heal.
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Zarina*, 28, is a young Afghan woman entrepreneur. Her drive for innovating and passion for baking made her one of Afghanistan’s youngest entrepreneurs. Her business is still running, but her clients are scarce and her plans for expansion across the country had to be shut down.
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Nasima*, 36, is a peacebuilder and a women’s rights activists. She has been living in Afghanistan all her life. After 15 August 2021, she continued to work in Afghanistan in what would soon become one of the world’s most complex humanitarian emergencies.
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Larysa Denysenko is a journalist, attorney, human rights activist and co-founder of the Association of Women’s Lawyers of Ukraine, “JurFem”. Before the war, Denysenko and JurFem mainly advocated for women’s leadership in legal professions, provided mentorship and supported strategic court cases related to domestic violence and gender-based discrimination. Now, this has extended to representing the interests of those who have survived conflict-related sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by the Russian military in Ukraine.
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Mariam lived with an abusive husband for 17 years before leaving him in 2018 after she sought protection and legal help from KAFA, a Lebanese non-governmental organization and a UN Women partner. With legal services and support, Mariam was able to access justice and regain the strength she thought was lost.
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Riko Nagu is a women’s and girls’ rights activist, member of the United Church Women’s Fellowship group.
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Nahla Haidar is a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and a Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). She has over 30 years of professional experience mainly within the United Nations System, ranging from social development, to relief coordination, to peace-building and human rights. Ms. Haidar is CEDAW’s rapporteur on reprisals and covers cases on women human rights defenders.
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Gladys Koech has been working as an occupational therapist for persons with disabilities in Kenya’s coastal region for more than 10 years. Through the Association of the Physically Disabled of Kenya (APDK), she also works with communities to strengthen their understanding of disabilities and combat widespread stigma. UN Women’s partnership with the Council of Governors in Kenya has boosted resources to helplines around the country. As COVID-19 has increased demand for psychosocial services, Koech has witnessed a growing trend of mothers of children with disabilities being abandoned by their partners. Part of UN Women’s COVID-19 response in Kenya is being carried out in conjunction with UNICEF and UNDP as part of the Joint Devolution Programme supported by the Governments of Sweden, Finland, and Italy.
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Miriam Coronel-Ferrer made history as the first female chief negotiator in the world to sign a final peace accord with a rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines in 2014. Today, she teaches political science at the University of the Philippines and works on mediation with the United Nations.
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Dr. Christine Sadia is a gender and public health expert with over 30 years’ experience advising governments on health and gender issues, such as psychosocial needs of women in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and HIV programming during the Indonesia tsunami. UN Women is supporting Dr. Sadia in her current role as a Gender and Public Health Advisor for Kenya’s State Department for Gender Affairs, to advise on the country’s national emergency response for COVID-19.
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Zahra Namuli is a journalist reporting on health issues at NBS TV in Uganda. During a time when most people are quarantined at home, Namuli is one of the few remaining female journalists at the front line reporting about COVID -19 in Uganda. UN Women works to strengthen gender-sensitive reporting in countries around the world.
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Sylvia Karungi is a member of the National Association of Women with Disabilities in Uganda (NAWODU), an organization for women with disabilities that receives funding from UN Women under the EU spotlight programme. She is also a community Psychologist.
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Chinyere Eyoh is the Executive Director of Sexual Offences Awareness and Victims Rehabilitation Initiative (SOAR), Nigeria, which received a grant from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. She spoke to UN Women about what motivated her to start the organization.
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Yana Panfilova, 22, is a Ukrainian HIV positive activist and co-founder as well as chairwoman of Teenergizer, an organization that supports and advocates for the rights of HIV positive youth in Europe and Central Asia (Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia). She was also nominated as a heroine for UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign in Ukraine.  
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Françoise Gbeko , 36, is one of the many Christian women married to Muslim men who were living in harmony in the Central African Republic (CAR) until the latest crisis erupted in December 2012. Despite the short respite following the Peace Agreement in February 2019, an estimated 2.6 million people (63 per cent of the population) are still in need of humanitarian assistance, half of them are women and girls.
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Madina Mousa fled the war in Syria with her family in 2013, and now lives in Kawergosk Refugee Camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. She started volunteering to help other refugees and now works as a Protection Supervisor at the Women’s Empowerment Organization (WEO), local partner organization of UN Women implementing the regional programme, “Strengthening the Resilience of Syrian Women and Girls and Host Communities in Iraq, Jordan and Turkey”, funded by the European Union under the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis (the EU MADAD Fund).
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As a mentor, Claudia Macz Chen, 25, works with girls to encourage their empowerment, self-esteem and continued education in rural and indigenous communities in Guatemala. She attended her first training with the Population Council in the Chisec Municipality when she was 17 and has since honed her leadership and advocacy skills. With UN Women’s support, she participated in the National Women’s Forum, having received training on the monitoring of the Guatemalan Peace Accords.
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Milica Gudović is an activist of the Citizens Association for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and All Forms of Gender-Based Violence (ATINA). Here she speaks about the work of ATINA which is supported by UN Women with funding from the European Union. With vocational training and business skills, the organization helps survivors of trafficking to reintegrate into society, become independent and and earn an income. ATINA also provides psychosocial support, legal aid and safe-houses for the survivors of trafficking.
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Dorcas Amakobe is the Executive Director of “Moving the Goalposts”, a sport for development organization based Kilifi, a coastal town in Kenya. As part of a UN Women programme funded by the Government of Japan on enhancing women’s active participation in prevention of violent extremism in Kenya, the organization ran a project that provided livelihood skills training and helped build financial independence of young women engaged in its sport programme to build their resilience.