Fighting for Justice in 2010: Heroines and Heroes We Admire

Jodi Jacobson

This year, we asked members of the community of Rewire to share with us--and you--their heroines and heroes for 2010... those people who have worked to promote sexual and reproductive justice, environmental justice, women's human rights and the rights of LGBT persons. Just to be clear: This was not a contest and we did not intend to "choose" among these amazing people; rather we intended to recognize them all, as they were submitted by their colleagues. Below are brief profiles of the people recognized by our colleagues, and the names of those who submitted them. The names appear in alphabetical order.  We give a special thanks to all the heroines and heroes working for rights and justice everywhere, and thank each of them, whether named here or not.

This year, we asked members of the community of Rewire to share with us–and you–their heroines and heroes for 2010… those people who have worked to promote sexual and reproductive justice, environmental justice, women’s human rights and the rights of LGBT persons. Just to be clear: This was not a contest and we did not intend to “choose” among these amazing people; rather we intended to recognize them all, as they were submitted, by their colleagues.

Below are brief profiles of the people recognized by our colleagues, and the names of those who submitted them. The names appear in alphabetical order. 

We give a special thanks to all the heroines and heroes working for rights and justice everywhere, and thank each of them, whether named here or not.


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Dr Marijke Alblas

Dr Marijke Alblas is an abortion provider in South Africa who travels around the country in particular rural areas providing second trimester care. She often travels alone and has to take her own instruments working over 18 hour days. She is described as a saint in a context where surgical abortion designated facilities have decreased from 70 percent to 43 percent in terms of accessibility.

Submitted by Marion Stevens, who currently directs the Women and HIV/AIDS Gauge at the Health Systems Trust (South Africa) to engage with the continuum of HIV/AIDS care through a sexual and reproductive health and rights lens.

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Wyndi Anderson

My heroine is Wyndi Anderson, who has spent her entire career advocating for the needs of women who constantly slip through the cracks of mainstream education, service, and advocacy programs

Wyndi Anderson

Wyndi Anderson

—usually because they’re some combination of poor, of color, homeless, working in the sex industry, pregnant, and/or addicted to drugs or alcohol. This year she’s begun working on behalf of rural women as the Senior Director of Programs at the Abortion Access Project (read her terrific blog post here about the reproductive health care her own working class, rural grandmothers did and didn’t get). Previously, Wyndi traveled all over Russia, the Ukraine, and Indonesia as a consultant for the Open Society Institute, meeting with staff at harm reduction programs, including reproductive health staff, and teaching them how to work with all women, including pregnant, drug using women, effectively and respectfully. She also met with the women themselves, helping them learn self advocacy skills and reproductive health issues. In her spare time, Wyndi’s working with a DV shelter in DC, helping to make it accessible to all women, including women who are actively addicted. She is truly a heroine of reproductive and sexual justice/rights/health/dignity.

Submitted by Nancy Goldstein. Nancy Goldstein is a communications consultant and journalist whose work has appeared in venues including Rewire, NPR, Salon, Slate, The American Prospect, and The Washington Post, where she was an Editor’s Pick and the winner of the blogging round during their Next Great Pundit Contest. Follow her on Twitter.

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Malya Villard Appolon

In 2004, Malya Villard Appolon, who had been raped during the 1991-94 military dictatorship, came together with other rape survivors to create KOFAVIV. They formed solidarity groups, providing social and psychological support for rape survivors, and encouraged members to take collective action to fight gender-based violence.  When the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, KOFAVIV’s 3,000 members were at the epicenter of the disaster. Many lost their lives and many were displaced to dangerous, sprawling tent cities, where women and girls have faced epidemic levels of rape and sexual violence. Since the earthquake, KOFAVIV’s work has become more urgent than ever before.

Malya has refused to give in to despair. Instead, she organized and created a space for other women to overcome the shame and isolation of rape, heal their bodies and their lives, and advance a vision of social justice and gender equity in Haiti.  She had done so in the face of violent threats from people who would seek to stop her from holding rapists accountable.  Malya testified before the Human Rights Council, a groundbreaking victory in the context of limited access that Haitian women’s grassroots voices have historically had in the international arena.  She and the other women of KOFAVIV are forging ahead: distributing flashlights and whistles to women in the camps, accompanying rape survivors to access medical and legal services, and rebuilding the KOFAVIV women’s center that was destroyed in the earthquake.  The courage and determination that enabled Malya to become a founding member of KOFAVIV continues to fuel the organization today.

Submitted by Yifat Susskind, MADRE Policy and Communications Director, worked for several years as part of a joint Israeli-Palestinian human rights organization in Jerusalem before joining MADRE. She has written extensively on international development and women’s human rights.

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Jennifer Boulanger

Jennifer Boulanger, Executive Director, Allentown Women’s Center (Allentown, PA), works steadfastly and with immense compassion to destigmatize abortion through local outreach about reproductive rights to young girls, teens, and to religious, legal and social justice forums. Her passion for reproductive rights is evident when she renders the story of her life as a clinic director on Rachel Maddow and on PBS POV. Despite frivolous lawsuits, stalking at her residence, threatening mail and phone calls from anti abortion advocates, Jennifer’s resolve to forward women’s reproductive rights is like a beacon in a troubled sea.

Submitted by Dr. Kate Raneiri, who teaches documentary research in the Department of Media & Communication at Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA. She is currently working on a documentary about bullying at a local reproductive health care clinic. Kate is also a board member with the Abortion Care Network.

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Raven Bowen
She has mentored most of us in the Vancouver sex work advocacy movement.  Many of us credit her with bringing us together, giving us the skills necessary to do the work, supporting us whenever we’ve needed, leading trail-blazing projects, founding numerous programs and writing numerous publications – all with the intent to improve the lives of sex industry workers.  There is no one like her.  The BCCEC Ho of the Year Award is named after her and was created in her honour.  She deserves recognition and love for all her hard work, devotion, and compassion.

Submitted by Trina Rose

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Chicago Abortion Fund’s My Voice, My Choice Leadership Group

In 2007, the Chicago Abortion Fund launched the My Voice, My Choice leadership group to engage young women who have received funding and provide them with leadership development, public speaking training, and community organizing skills. The leadership group, currently composed of 14 members, is made up primarily of young women of color.  After training, the women join the Chicago Abortion Fund’s reproductive justice team and engage in organizing, community education in marginalized communities, and advocacy with elected officials. The participants of the My Voice, My Choice leadership group are new telling their abortion and life stories to their communities, their local lawmakers, and even Congress.  The Leadership Group also engages in clinic defense and public education about the need for Medicaid coverage of abortion. 

With support from the National Network of Abortion Funds, the group continues to grow and mobilize locally and nationally for greater access to abortion for low-income women and women of color. By empowering and supporting the leadership of the women most affected by barriers to access, the Chicago Abortion Fund is helping to build a stronger movement for change. The Leadership Group deserves national recognition for its critical work in supporting young women as emerging leaders in the reproductive justice movement. 

Submitted by the National Network of Abortion Funds

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Dr. Idon Chivi

Dr. Idon Chivi is a Bolivian lawyer of indigenous descent.  He is currently vice-minister for the newly formed Ministry of Decolonization. He had dedicated his professional career to defending human rights.  In 2008 Chivi began focusing on sexual and reproductive rights as Bolivia underwent a reform of its constitution and opportunities for broadening restrictive laws on abortion and other reproductive rights emerged.  Chivi is committed to indigenous rights, decolonization, and to an emerging issue that can’t be translated into English but loosely means—de-patriarchialization.  In a country where very few speak out publicly in favor of abortion and sexual and reproductive rights, especially from an indigenous perspective, Dr. Idon Chivi stands out for his candor and willingness to defend women’s rights, despite opposition from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and from conservatives within the Bolivian government.

Submitted by Gillian Kane, Senior Advisor, Policy IPAS

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Susan Davis

She works tirelessly to advocate for members of the sex industry, sitting on numerous committees, making frequent appearances before city officials and police boards.  She is always available to talk to if an industry member needs support or advice.  Her commitment to improving working conditions for sex industry workers is unparalleled.  She takes a lot of flack from mainstream people and industry people alike, but she does it for a purpose – to improve health and safety in the sex industry. She believes that if we just educate people and invite them into our discussions, we can help them see the truth. She is a compassionate, driven, authentic member of the sex industry and a strong voice for our movement.

Submitted by Trina Rose

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Donors to the Dr. George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund

When Dr. George Tiller was assassinated on May 31, 2009, pro-choice activists responded in a wonderfully constructive and noble way: by donating over $100,000 to the Dr. George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund.  The Fund was formed by the National Network of Abortion Funds in order to honor Dr. Tiller’s legacy. The Fund serves many of the same women to whom Dr. Tiller dedicated his life:  women seeking later abortion care, women traveling far from home for abortions, and other women facing particularly high obstacles to making the decision that is right for them.  The donors to the Dr. Tiller Fund would not be silenced or scared away, nor would they retaliate with violence or threats.  Instead, they transformed their outrage into goodness, justice, and compassion.

In January, when the anti-abortion Tim Tebow ad aired during the Super Bowl, donors responded with a celebration of Dr. Tiller’s life by donating to help women without resources.  After health care reform passed with severe restrictions on abortion, our community once more responded by celebrating the life of a man who was determined to ensure that all women could control their own reproductive futures.  Throughout 2010, as we have experienced political setbacks, the pro-choice community has rallied around the memory and cause of Dr. George Tiller.  In celebrating this hero of abortion access, the donors to the Dr. George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund have become heroes themselves.  They have done what he did:  invested in women, their dreams, their families, their futures, and their lives.

Submitted by the National Network of Abortion Funds

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Eastern Massachusettes Abortion Fund

My hero/ines of reproductive and sexual justice, rights, health, and dignity for 2010 are the volunteers of the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund. In the face of an economic slump that has been devastating to many people seeking to pay for their abortions, a political climate that has encouraged progressives and radicals to move to the middle as a “compromise,” the assassination of Dr. Tiller, and the continued devaluation of women, girls, trans people, and our reproductive rights during the attempt to pass a universal health care bill; the EMA Fund has grown, transformed, and continued to reinvent itself with passion and dignity. EMA has greatly multiplied the number of engaged volunteers in the last three years transitioning from service provision to movement building, and in March 2010 trained other abortion funds how to activate their volunteers at GO FARTHER, a mini-conference in Massachusetts. EMA has doubled its fundraising in two years, and gave out twice as much money to people unable to afford their abortions as was planned in 2010. EMA has proven that grassroots fundraising works, that young people and low-income people can fund their own causes without having to dilute their cause with the priorities and reporting of big foundations. When bowling alleys throughout the Boston area rejected EMA’s fundraiser as “too controversial” – EMA volunteers persevered and threw a party that became the country’s only abortion access “billiards-a-thon” – and raised more than any bowl-a-thon in the country except New York’s (NY, look out in 2011!!) In 2010 EMA’s volunteers developed a brand new statement of purpose, vision, and set of core values this year.

The vision speaks for itself. As with everything The EMA Fund’s amazing volunteers have done in the last year, the sky is the limit: “The EMA Fund envisions a world where every person has the right to bodily self determination including the means to access an abortion or carry a pregnancy to term without social or economic barriers.  We envision a world where every person has the right to determine their own future.”

Submitted by Sarah Morton, Board Member at the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund

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Chrisse France

My heroine of reproductive justice is Chrisse France, executive director of Preterm in Cleveland, OH. As the head of the largest independent abortion clinic in Ohio, Chrisse operates as though it were common knowledge that abortion providers are community leaders and socially conscious good neighbors.

Chrisse France

Chrisse France

Chrisse is committed to keeping excellent abortion care financially accessible to all women, to supporting women’s full range of pregnancy options, and to training the next generation of abortion providers. But her vision goes even further, connecting women’s health, environmental health, and reproductive justice. Preterm is the first healthcare facility in the country with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification for its existing building and strives to be a model of sustainability for patients, the local community, and other clinics and nonprofits.

I am lucky enough to work with Chrisse and to learn from her example of quiet, principled persistence, but she would be my heroine even if I didn’t.

Submitted by Toni Thayer, communications and development associate at Preterm, a freelance writer, an adjunct faculty member at Cleveland State University, an instructor for The LIT: Cleveland’s Literary Center, and a mom.

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Dr. Marlene Fried

In her tenure at Hampshire College as philosophy professor and the Director of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program, Dr. Marlene Fried has taken an untold number of young people under her wing, training them in the often-forgotten skill of critical thinking, helping them define (and then redefine) reproductive justice for themselves and their own communities, and supporting them through the difficult task of determining what their role could be in realizing an expansive vision of justice. This mentor, activist, scholar, and indefatigable force of a woman, became acting president of Hampshire College in 2010, and stands firm as an advocate for abortion rights and reproductive freedom, while maintaining a very public and political position. ;She has been my hero since I was her student in 2002, and I can think of no other who deserves this honor more than Dr. Marlene Fried.

Submitted by Amanda Dennis, Project Manager at Ibis Reproductive Health. Among her current projects, Ms. Dennis is conducting in-depth interviews with abortion providers to document their experiences with obtaining funding for abortions under the Federal Hyde Amendment. She is also conducting focus group discussions with low-income women to gauge their interest in obtaining hormonal contraception over-the-counter and to assess the impact that health care reform in Massachusetts has had on contraceptive use patterns. Prior to joining Ibis, she worked as a counselor at an ambulatory surgery center specializing in second trimester abortion care and as a counselor at a domestic violence shelter. Ms. Dennis holds a Bachelor of Arts from Hampshire College and a Masters of Bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is presently pursuing her Doctorate in Public Health, specializing in social and behavioral aspects of health care, at Boston University.

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Maria Luisa Sanchez Fuentes

Maria Luisa is a prominent Mexican feminist and the executive director of the Mexico-City based GIRE . This amazing organization, Grupo de Informacion en Reproduccion Elegida/The Information Group on Reproductive Choice, has been advocating for reproductive justice and the decriminalization of abortion in Mexico since 1992. GIRE’s mission is to contribute to the recognition, respect, and defense of reproductive rights, in particular abortion rights, which upholds women’s free choice. Marcy Bloom has written on Rewire extensively about Maria Luisa and GIRE. Here is Maria Luisa in her own words,

“As is true in the U.S. in the tragic days before Roe vs. Wade, it is the young, the poor, the indigenous, and the marginalized women who suffer and die from the ravages of clandestine abortion. In both Mexico and the U.S., we see ignorance, prejudice, sexist public policies, backward thinking, increasing activism of the right-wing, and the power of corruption and theocracy, including the Catholic Church, attempting to rip away our rights. The Global Gag Rule reinstituted by President Bush on his first day in office has deprived Mexican and Latin American women of millions of dollars of funding that would typically help women with access to PAP smears, sexually transmitted disease testing, prenatal care, safe childbirth, and contraception. This destructive attitude and policy towards the lives of women in both the US and in other countries, including my own, has caused countless women to suffer and die from unsafe, unsanitary abortions. The relentless backlash in the U.S. on Roe vs. Wade has also been reflected in the violation of international agreements and national laws regarding women’s rights.”

Submitted by Marcy Bloom. Marcy is recipient of the 2006 William O. Douglas Award, the ACLU of Washington’s highest honor. The award is given for outstanding, consistent, and sustained contributions to civil liberties. A courageous advocate for civil liberties, Marcy Bloom has long been a leader in safeguarding the fundamental right to reproductive freedom. Bloom served for 18 years as the executive director and guiding force of the Aradia Women’s Health Center, Seattle’s first nonprofit abortion and gynecological health center, and a model for clinics nationwide.

She is now doing U.S. advocacy and capacity building for GIRE/El Grupo de Informacion en Reproduccion Elegida.

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Jennifer Gatsi

I would like to nominate Jennifer Gatsi from Namibia as a heroine for 2010 for speaking out about HIV-positive women’s reproductive rights. Jennifer is open about her status and presented an incredibly moving presentation at the International AIDS Conference 2010 in Vienna on positive women’s rights to safe abortion. This was the first time a panel on abortion was held at an HIV/AIDS Conference. Her personal story is inspirational and she consistently works tirelessly for the rights of women living with HIV.

Submitted by Susan Paxton, Advisor, Asia Pacific Network of People living with HIV

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Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a brilliant poet, organizer and activist based in Durham, NC. This year she started the Mobile Homecoming Project, where she has been traveling the US documenting the stories of women of color organizing, and also, through a project she launched called Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind she has been preserving and popularizing the history of feminist women of color. See more about her at her online press, BrokenBeautiful Press.

Submitted by Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, an editor of Left Turn Magazine, and a staffer with the Louisiana Justice Institute. He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a national audience and audiences around the world have seen the television reports he’s produced for Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, GritTV, and Democracy Now. Haymarket Press will release his new book, FLOODLINES: Stories of Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, in 2010.

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Nicole Haberland and Deborah Rogow

Nicole Haberland and Deborah Rogow of the Population Council for creating the “It’s all ONE Curriculum,” which provides schools with guidelines and activities for a unified approach to sexuality, gender and human rights education. Recognizing a need for a new perspective in sexuality education, the curriculum is unique in its ability to focus attention on the real world in which young people live their lives. According to the authors, “the ultimate goal of It’s All One Curriculum is to enable young people to enjoy—and advocate for their rights to—dignity, equality, and healthy, responsible and satisfying sexual lives.”

Submitted by Andrea Hagelgans.

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Deon Haywood

One of the main takeaways from Transforming the National AIDS Response: Advancing Women’s Leadership and Participation was that there is amazing work being led by women, yet so many of these women go unrecognized. Deon Haywood is one of those women. Haywood runs Women With a Vision, Inc., (WWAV) in New Orleans, La. WWAV was co-founded by Haywood’s mother and several other black women in 1991 as a social service organization “to promote wellness and disease prevention for women and their families living at or below the poverty line.” It was created as a response to the non-existence of HIV prevention resources for women who were the most at risk: poor women, sex workers, women with substance abuse issues and transgender women.

Over the years, WWAV has helped hundreds of women — mostly women of color — by doing outreach, distributing condoms and referring women to other services they may need, such as legal assistance and housing. This type of work is crucial, especially given that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that New Orleans and Baton Rouge are among the three cities with the highest HIV rates in the country (only Miami, Fla., ranked higher). Also, in New Orleans, women make up 39 percent of new infections, and 79 percent of new infections are among African Americans.  While WWAV will turn 20 years old next year, it just started garnering national attention in the past few years. This is in part due to the increased organizing and advocacy needs in a post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.  In 2006, Haywood found that sex workers in particular were in tremendous need. In order to appear as though New Orleans had its “criminals” under control, the city resurrected a 203-year-old crimes against humanity law that had originally been created to prohibit gay sex. This law now requires women who have ever been arrested for prostitution to register as sex offenders for a maximum of 10 years, to have the words “sex offender” printed on their photo identification cards and endure a number of other penalties.

“There are even some women who had been charged 10 or 20 years ago, who have lost their jobs and homes because they were now registered sex offenders,” noted Haywood.

How is this related to HIV? Those charged with and sentenced under this law are disproportionately poor women of color who are at elevated risk of HIV or who are already HIV positive. Economic instability and homelessness affect these women’s ability to adhere to their medications or afford their basic needs, and it places them right back into the cycle of sex work and drug use.

To address this unfair law, WWAV created the NO Justice Coalition, which is comprised of several local organizations. The coalition has lobbied city officials and garnered media attention to try to get the law overturned. This December, it had its first success: Lawmakers decided to change the first arrest for prostitution from being prosecuted as a felony to a misdemeanor, which is a lesser charge and does not carry the sex offender status. This win is small and a long time coming. The NO Justice Coalition is currently working to have prostitution cases moved out of criminal court to municipal court. Haywood is hopeful. She told us, “Though it’s been a hard road and we’ve got a long way to go, things are looking up.”

Submitted by Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, an editor of Left Turn Magazine, and a staffer with the Louisiana Justice Institute. He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a national audience and audiences around the world have seen the television reports he’s produced for Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, GritTV, and Democracy Now. Haymarket Press will release his new book, FLOODLINES: Stories of Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, in 2010.

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Silvia Henriquez

Silvia Henriquez, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, who has led the only national organization dedicated to Latina reproductive health for the past eight years (she just announced she is stepping down in mid-2011). During her tenure she took NLIRH from a small office in Brooklyn to an organization that is routinely called upon to provide the Latina perspective on reproductive health and justice. On the impact of NLIRH, Silvia writes,

“When we walk the halls of Congress, attend meetings in the White House, speak to an audience of donors or host a briefing for colleagues we not only speak for NLIRH but we bring with us the hundreds of women and families that have written letters to elected officials, organized marches, community forums, cafecitos and become spokes people in their communities. Knowing that NLIRH has played a role in building a Latina movement for reproductive justice is rewarding. We have changed the conversation. I can feel proud that this organization has been relentless in fighting for the needs of our communities and despite a difficult political climate we have not compromised our values. We have developed strength both as a Washington DC inside voice and a voice of protest.” You can read her full letter here.

Submitted by Andrea Hagelgans

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Professor Eddie Mhlanga

Professor Eddie Mhlanga is the Chief Director of Maternal Child and Women’s Health within the National Department of Health in South Africa. He has a background as an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist (O&G) and has worked in both rural and urban areas for numbers of years. In the eighties and nineties he was based in Tintswalo Hospital in the former areas of the Northern and Eastern Transvaal.

His reputation proceeded him as a man who listens to clients – and in particular women clients who would consult him and it was usual for clients to queue outside the clinic to see him from 2am in the morning. He has also been the Head of O and G at the University of KwaZulu Natal. He has worked tirelessly in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights and for people’s access to quality health services, and has been loyal to supporting abortion rights which are currently under threat in South Africa with numerous legal challenges. He is also a deeply spiritual person who is also a Baptist Minister. He is currently leading the development of the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Implementation Framework for the National Department of Health. This is possibly the first African and South African government document which includes abortion rights and LGBTI persons rights.

Submitted by Marion Stevens. Marion has a background as a midwife, in medical anthropology and in public development. She has worked in the area of sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS for some 20 years. Her work has included conducting participatory research, policy analysis and development and advocacy. She has worked with a range of stakeholders both locally and internationally. Currently she is directing the Women and HIV/AIDS Gauge at the Health Systems Trust (South Africa) to engage with the continuum of HIV/AIDS care through a sexual and reproductive health and rights lens.

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Thoraya Obaid

The world’s women and girls have had no better advocate than Thoraya Obaid – the outgoing Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  In her 10 years at the helm of UNFPA, she has served as an outspoken global leader and advocate on human rights, reproductive health and the empowerment of women.

Thoraya has had great success in the midst of politically challenging times.  She has raised the profile of maternal health, elevated adolescent girls on the global agenda, demanded action and accountability for the commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, and mobilized resources for rights-based population activities. When the US government cut off UNFPA’s funding, she raised that money and more.  These successes can be attributed to her sustained commitment, thoughtful engagement, effective advocacy, and innovative approach over the past decade. 

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described Thoraya as “a leader who rushes to the frontlines of battle.” We are proud that we have been able to work alongside this gentle warrior to advance the rights of women and girls from around the globe, and look forward to continuing to move her incredible legacy forward. 

Submitted by Tamara Kreinin, executive director of women and population at the United Nations Foundation. Her experience in health and human services spans more than 25 years, and she has traveled the globe as an advocate and public policy advisor on sexual and reproductive health and rights. For several years, Ms. Kreinin served as president/CEO of SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, where she was a leader in the national dialogue on sexual health and rights. Ms. Kreinin is also the co-author of Girls’ Night Out, a book about women’s groups across America, published in August 2002 by Crown, Random House.

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Cheryl Overs

I would like to nominate Cheryl Overs of the Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights at Monash University as my heroine. What to highlight in such a busy career? She co-founded the

Cheryl Overs

Cheryl Overs

Global Network of Sex Work Projects with the wonderful and sadly missed Paulo Longo in 1992 and has supported many networks and nascent organisations in a whole host of developing countries. Throughout her career Cheryl has been at the forefront of critical analysis in health, HIV and human rights. She is a passionate activist and academic who is able to cut through woolly and contradictory thinking with wit and charm. Her analysis of sexuality, gender and power issues is always enlightening and fresh – often in the face of intense and vitriolic opposition. So many people credit her with revolutionizing for the better the way that they think about HIV – I am one of them.

Submitted by Kate Hawkins.

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Samita Pradhan

Samita Pradhan is the Executive Director of the Women’s Reproductive Rights Program (WRRP) and has been working for 10 years to publicize the scourge of uterine prolapse which condemns over 600,000 women tin Nepal to a life of pain, stigma, and ostracization. The problem occurs when a woman’s uterus falls out of her body, and often it is caused by poverty and discrimination. Poor women are denied access to health services. In some parts of Nepal, particularly in the west, women are considered unclean after they give birth and forced to return to work in the fields while their muscles are still soft. Women with the condition are ostracized and often divorced – some even end up working as servants for their former husband. Many live with a fallen uterus for the rest of their lives.

Samita has been a visionary and articulate advocate who has put this often ignored reproductive issue on the international agenda.   She is a true heroine and an agent of change.   Under her leadership, WRRP  has worked for years to curb prolapse, and developed an innovative model for treating and preventing the condition. WRRP is seeking to expand its model to the far West, and lobby the Nepali government for more resources.

Submitted by Sarah Craven. Sarah Craven is a policy advocate and attorney with expertise in women’s reproductive health and rights. She currently serves as the Chief of the Washington Office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Ms. Craven’s work advocating for rights-based population policies has included positions at the U.S. Department of State and the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA). Prior to her work at CEDPA, Ms. Craven was a staff attorney at the National Women’s Law Center and served on the legislative staff to Senator Timothy E. Wirth (D-CO) and Senator Spark Matsunaga (D-HI).

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Tiffany Reed and Alexia Zepeda

place holder

Pictured left to right are Elisabeth Sowecke, Kate Vlach, Alexis Zepeda, Raina Aronowitz, and Tiffany Reed, DC Abortion Fund lead volunteers at the Fund’s Holiday Fundraiser.

Tiffany Reed and Alexia Zepeda of the DC Abortion Fund and their colleagues throughout the country who give thousands of volunteer hours talking to women who need abortions and finding the money to support them. Five years ago a group of five abortion rights activists took the DC Abortion Fund from near extinction to providing 400 women in the DC Metropolitan area with the funds they needed to get the abortion that would change their lives. Tiffany Reed who works for the DNC all day committed five years ago to never having to say no to a woman who calls and so far she has kept that promise. Alexia who works at the National Abortion Federation during the day told me about the year when too few volunteers were available and she almost single handedly answered all the calls, stressed out by the unrelentingly hard lives of women who had no one to talk to; no one to lend or give them the money they needed and faced what often felt like the humiliation of turning to strangers for not only money but solidarity and support. Without these volunteers tens of thousands of women would be completely alone at one of the most critical moments in their lives.

Submitted by Frances Kissling

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Mona Reis

I want to recognize Mona Reis, director of Presidential Women’s Center
in W. Palm Beach, Fla and her extraordinary staff for as a heroine of 2010. Under Mona’s  incredible leadership, this clinic has managed to remain open and offer quality abortion care, in spite of the antiabortion movement’s relentless attempts to shut them down. This clinic has had aggressive picketing, stalking, butyric acid attacks, and most seriously, a firebombing  a few years ago that led to the clinic being closed for a time. But under Mona’s leadership, the clinic reopened, with no staff members quitting, and with renewed determination to keep providing care to women who need it. This is a jewel of an abortion facility, and deserves recognition for their unwavering commitment.

Submitted by Carol Joffe, Professor Emerita of Sociology, U.C. Davis, Professor, Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, UCSF

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Joyce Schorr

Joyce is the President and Founder of the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP). WRRAP is an all volunteer organization that raises money to help poor women in need of a safe and legal abortion at clinics all over the nation. The organization has been around for about 20 years, and 2010 has been a particularly hard year for women in need  because local funds around the country have been out of money most of the year. WRRAP acts as a safety net to pick up the balance of funding needed for desperate women in desperate straits.  Joyce single-handedly raises the funds that WRRAP grants, and her work is pretty much unrewarded. She is most deserving of recognition for her work in a time of great economic uncertainty.

Submitted by Judith Krain

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The Sex Workers Project

I am writing to nominate the amazing women at the Sex Worker’s Project for the reproductive justice heroine award. I want to nominate all three staff attorney’s to win the repro justice heroine award: Lynly Egyes, Melissa Broudo Sontag, and Sienna Baskin.

The Sex Workers Project (SWP) is a non profit organization that provides legal and social services to sex workers and trafficking victims. The SWP is  the only organization in the United States that provides legal services solely for sex workers. I think the amazing lawyers at the project should get the award because of all that they have done for sex workers rights this year, a community that is often marginalized within the reproductive rights movement.

This year, lawyers at the SWP worked with the New York legislator to pass the Trafficking Vacating Bill which was passed in June. The bill allows survivors of trafficking to remove past convictions of prostitution from their record. I have been interning at the SWP for only 2 weeks and seen what a HUGE difference this bill makes in the lives of of sex workers and trafficking victims. Through this bill they can get jobs they couldn’t get before and have education opportunities they didnt have before. I had one client tell me that although the social programs that other organizations offer are great and important, the legal help is what she really needed for her to be independent and get a job which is all she really wanted.  The SWP is also working on passing a “No Condoms As Evidence bill” which will prevent cops form using condoms found on people as evidence of prostitution.The SWP also works closely with the sex worker community in New York, in the U.S. and around the world. They do so many amazing things all of which are rooted in reproductive justice activism.   

Submitted by Lara Shkordoff.

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Alice Welbourn

Alice has been a tireless campaigner and advocate for women’s rights and in particular the sexual health and reproductive rights of women living with and affected by HIV globally.  In her quiet unassuming manner, Alice has stood up for and affected the lives of women living with HIV across the globe. She is an active member of the Wecare+ Network; is a founding member and director of the Sophia Forum and is director of the Salamander Trust. Networks and organizations committed to ensuring the needs of  this group of women are recognized and addressed at policy level; and also that the rights of women living with and affected with HIV are in place as well as ensuring that women have access to the tools they need to practice these rights. Alice also sits on countless High profile bodies working directly to achieve these goals.  Alice generously gives her expertise and indeed herself, without ever making a big deal of the admirable work she has done and continues to do over the years! In my book, Alice truly represents courage and resilience in standing up for our rights as women living with HV.

Submitted by Angelina Namiba, Project Manager, Positively UK.

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Angileece Williams

Angileece Williams of Cleveland Ohio who recently won the national Scenarios USA film contest for her script, Life’s Poison. Tackling gender issues and masculinity stereotypes head on,  her script tells the story of an African American teen that believes manhood is about suppressed feelings and bullying after witnessing domestic violence and experiencing parental abuse. The main character struggles to redefine what a real man is. The film was made into a movie by Hollywood director Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother).  According to the director,  he is “very proud” of the movie, and he says about young black men in this country, “To put up this persona of toughness and machismo, that that’s their definition of black masculinity, and that’s not how that has to be. There’s some real danger in that. And right now, if there’s not a change in attitude, from ignorance and being cool to valuing education, I think we’re gonna be in a lot of trouble. Writer Angileece Williams, age 16, Cleveland, Ohio says, “We’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, of exposing ourselves and sounding dumb. But the danger of indifference is far worse.”

Submitted by Andrea Hagelgans.


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