International Women's Day 2012

International Women’s Day 2012

Profile of speakers


Mr. Stephen Lewis is the co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World an international advocacy organization that works to promote more urgent and more effective global responses to HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Lewis’ work with the United Nations spanned more than two decades. He served as UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and Canada's Ambassador to the UN.

In addition to his work with AIDS-Free World, Mr. Lewis is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. He also serves as a Commissioner for the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, created by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the support of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to focus on the relationship between legal responses, human rights and HIV.

Mr. Lewis serves as the board chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, in Canada, a foundation that supports community-level organizations that are turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa since 2003. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Emeritus Board Member of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.

Mr. Lewis holds 34 honorary degrees from Canadian universities. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest honour for lifetime achievement, in 2003. In 2007, King Letsie III, Monarch of the Kingdom of Lesotho invested Mr. Lewis as Knight Commander of the Most Dignified Order of Moshoeshoe. The order is named for the founder of Lesotho and the knighthood is the country’s highest honour.  


Maryam al-Khawaja is currently the Head of Foreign Relations for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

In Bahrain, Ms. al-Khawaja played an instrumental role in the democratic protests of February 2011.

She is the daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who was among a group of high-profile activists and opposition leaders recently sentenced to life imprisonment.

Although Ms. al-Khawaja has left Bahrain, she remains very connected to the events in her country and has emerged as a leading voice for human rights and political reform. She has been influential in shaping official responses to the atrocities in Bahrain around the world by engaging with prominent European and American policymakers in her advocacy efforts.


Born in South Africa, Kumi Naidoo became involved in the country’s liberation struggle at the age of 15. In 1986 he was charged with violating the emergency regulations and was forced underground for almost a year before fleeing to exile. During this time he was a Rhodes Scholar and later earned a doctorate in political sociology. After Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990, Naidoo returned to South Africa to work on the legalization of the African National Congress. During the democratic elections in 1994 he directed the training of all electoral staff in the country and was one of the official spokespersons of the Independent Electoral Commission.

Kumi Naidoo has served as Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, was the founding executive director of the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) and also the founding Chair of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP), where he remains global ambassador. Naidoo has also served as a board member of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) and in 2003 was appointed by the former Secretary General of the United Nations to the Eminent Persons Panel on UN Civil Society Relations. He is a board member of Global Reporting Initiative (2006-2011), Earth Rights International (2008-2011) and Food and Trees for Africa (2008 till present).

Kumi Naidoo is currently Executive Director of Greenpeace International and Chair of the civil society alliance ‘Global Campaign for Climate Action’ (GCCA).  


Ms. Kim Phúc was born in Viet Nam. Her photo as a burned child escaping from her Vietnamese village which has been bombed with napalm (8 June 1972) has travelled across the world and has earned the photographer, Nick Ut of the Associated Press, a Pulitzer Prize. The photograph showed Kim - "the girl in the picture" - a nine year old running down the road in the village of Trang Bang. It was Ut who took her to the hospital. Kim's skin was so badly burned by napalm that she was not expected to survive, but after 14 month in a Saigon hospital, she returned to her village to begin rebuilding her life.

After numerous operations, she continued her studies in Cuba and there she met fellow student Bui Huy Toan. They married in 1992. They demanded political asylum in Canada. Ms. Kim Phúc is a bearer of the message of forgiveness, reconciliation, and tolerance, especially concerning the civil victims in war-stricken countries
In 1977, the Kim Foundation was established in the United States and later in Canada, in Kim's name to help heal child victims of war.

Since 1997 Ms. Kim Phúc has been active as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

Ms. Kim Phúc was awarded honorary Doctorate of Law from York University in Toronto, Ontario, for her work to support child victims of war around the world in 2004.

ALICE WALKER (via video) 

Alice Walker is an internationally celebrated author, poet and activist whose books include seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, and volumes of essays and poetry. She’s best known for The Color Purple, the 1983 novel for which she won the Pulitzer Prize—the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction—and the National Book Award.

Ms. Walker has written many additional best sellers; among them, Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), which detailed the devastating effects of female genital mutilation. In addition to many others, she was also awarded the Lennon/Ono Peace Grant in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Ms. Walker has been an activist all of her adult life, and believes that learning to extend the range of our compassion is activity and work available to all. During the American civil rights era, she marched with hundreds of thousands in August in the 1963 March on Washington. As a young adult, she volunteered to register black voters in Georgia and Mississippi. In 2003 Ms. Walker was arrested along with twenty-four others for crossing a police-line during an anti-war protest outside of the White House.

Ms. Walker is a staunch defender not only of human rights, but of the rights of all living beings. She is one of the world’s most prolific writers, yet tirelessly continues to travel the world to literally stand on the side of the poor, and the economically, spiritually and politically oppressed. She also stands, however, on the side of the revolutionaries, teachers and leaders who seek change and transformation of the world