Six women recognized at United Nations for leadership, humanitarian service


The six Rotary Global Women of Action for 2015 were recognized during Rotary Day at the United Nations on 7 November in New York City for their dedication and service, which have improved the lives of thousands around the world.

“The women we are honoring here today are leaders in Rotary,” said Rotary President K.R. Ravindran. “They are pushing the boundaries of Rotary service, pushing us all to do more, be more, and achieve more.”

Lakshmi Puri, assistant secretary-general of the United Nations and deputy executive director of UN Women, praised Rotary for its acknowledgment of the crucial role women play.

“I’m very pleased you have picked this team of gender equality and women empowerment,” she said.

The six women, who were selected by Rotary senior leaders and staff from more than 100 nominees from around the world, are:

  • Dr. Hashrat A. Begum, of the Rotary Club of Dhaka North West, in Bangladesh, who has implemented several large-scale projects to deliver health care to poor and underserved communities.
  • Stella S. Dongo, of the Rotary Club of Highlands, in Zimbabwe, who leads the Community Empowerment Project in the city of Harare. The project provides basic business and computer training to more than 6,000 women and youths affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • Lucy C. Hobgood-Brown, of the Rotary E-Club of Greater Sydney, in New South Wales, Australia, who co-founded HandUp Congo, a nonprofit that promotes and facilitates sustainable community-driven business, educational, social, and health initiatives in underprivileged communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Razia Jan, of the Rotary Club of Duxbury, in Massachusetts, USA, who has spent decades fighting for girls’ educational rights in Afghanistan. An Afghan native, she is the founder and director of the Zabuli Education Center, a school that provides free education to more than 480 girls in Deh’Subz, outside Kabul, Afghanistan. She was also recognized as a CNN Hero in 2012.
  • Kerstin Jeska-Thorwart, of the Rotary Club of Nürnberg-Sigena, in Germany, who launched the Babyhospital Galle project after surviving the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. With a budget of $1.8 million and the support of 200 Rotary clubs, the project rebuilt and equipped the Mahamodara Teaching Hospital, in Galle, Sri Lanka. The hospital has served more than 150,000 children and more than 2.2 million women.
  • Dr. Deborah K.W. Walters, of the Rotary Club of Unity, in Maine, USA, a neuroscientist who has served as director of Safe Passage (Camino Seguro), a nonprofit that provides educational and social services to families who live in the Guatemala City garbage dump.

Each of the women addressed attendees and led discussions on topics related to her work.

More than 1,000 Rotary members, UN officials, Rotary youth program participants, and guests gathered at this year’s annual event, which celebrated 70 years of partnership between Rotary and the UN. A morning youth session was open to high school students, including members of Rotary’s Interact and Youth Exchange programs.

Guest speakers included Fabia Yazaki, acting chief for evaluation and communications in the UN’s department of public information; Karin Ryan, senior project adviser for the human rights program at the Carter Center; Ambassador at-Large Susan Coppedge Amato, director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons for the U.S. Department of State; Melissa Russell, vice president of strategic partnerships for the International Justice Mission; Jeffrey Kluger, Time magazine editor at-large; and Archie Panjabi, Emmy Award-winning actress and Rotary polio ambassador.

Learn more about Rotary Day at the UN



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