Taleya Rehman was born on 9th September 1934 in Bangladesh. She graduated from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, with an MA in Economics. She went on to undertake a research fellowship at the London School of Economics in London and qualified as a teacher in London.
She later moved to England and worked for the BBC for thirty years. Taleya was involved in the BBC World Service in Bengali, qualifying as a newscaster and producing women’s programmes. Through her work with the BBC, she became interested in the politics of language and in human rights issues.
In 1995, Taleya founded Democracywatch in Bangladesh, which campaigns for popular education and female empowerment. Democracywatch also advocates studies on democracy and good governance, and it is linked with a training institute to discover and train future leaders. Democracywatch has run projects in several areas including election monitoring and awareness programmes.
Taleya is the governing body member of a governance coalition which includes ActionAid Bangladesh, Democracywatch, Transparency International Bangladesh, FEMA, PPRC, BELA, BLAST and others, working to promote democracy and good governance in Bangladesh. She has been an official observer of general elections in Bangladesh and Denmark, and has been invited to observe Sri Lankan elections.
Prior to her work at Democracywatch and the BBC, Taleya was the deputy head of a secondary school, and director of Spectrum Radio in London.
Since August 2000, Baroness Usha Prashar, CBE has been the first civil service commissioner. In this role she leads the work of the civil service commissioners who are responsible for contributing to the development of an effective and impartial civil service and supporting its core values by giving an assurance that appointments into the civil service are made on merit on the basis of fair and open competition and by promoting the civil service code and hearing appeals.
Usha was made a Life Peer in 1999. From October 1997 to October 2000 she was the executive chairman of the Parole Board of England and Wales.
From 1991 to 1997, Usha had a portfolio of activities which included membership of the royal commission on criminal justice, the Lord Chancellor's advisory committee on legal education and conduct, and the Arts Council, where she chaired the Arts Council committee on combined arts and the cultural diversity panel. For eight years she was a non-executive director of Channel 4 and a non-executive director of the Energy Saving Trust for six years. From 1993 to 1996 she was a member of the Ealing Hounslow and Hammersmith HA.
Usha was the director of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations from 1986 to 1991, an umbrella body for voluntary organisations in England. Between 1984 and 1986, Usha was a fellow with the Policy Studies Institute, where her research included enquiry into primary health care in London funded by the King's Fund, which resulted in a report: Acheson and After - Primary Health Care in the Inner City.
As the director of Runnymede Trust from 1976 to 1984, Usha had enormous influence in the development of social and public policy affecting minorities. From 1971 to 1976, she was a conciliation officer with the former Race Relations Board.
Valerie Mulcare-Tivey began her medical career in 1981, with a mixture of nursing and first aid. Some of her work was in a voluntary capacity, the rest agency and freelance.
Several years in the Ambulance Service proved to be vital in the scheme of things and air ambulance repatriation was a natural progression from that. With further experience gained abroad in America, Valerie realised that achievement is within with hard work.
In 1995 it seemed logical for Valerie to add First Aid Instructor to her steadily growing list of qualifications, motivated by the need to nurture and share.
A planned trip to Mumbai in 1998 and events during that trip gave birth to the idea of further helping vulnerable children and youths, facilitated through her particular skill areas. Hence she qualified as an advanced instructor in 1998, seeking more ways in which to help the children.
It became a mission to learn as much medically and holistically as possible, so Valerie attended college during 2000 and 2001 to gain an initial qualification for therapeutic body massage. By 2004 she had completed courses in Indian head massage, healing, sports massage, reflexology, ear candling and cardio care. In autumn 2005 Valerie completed her final exams in clinical hypnotherapy which also covers in depth psychoanalysis.
For personal growth, she is involved with the Essex Ambulance Service First Response scheme on a voluntary basis. Not only keeping her skills updated but allows those particular skills to help in the training and assessment of other members. Their joint skills can be called upon for emergency situations like cardiac arrest.
This long path of constant studying and exams has enabled Valerie to fulfil her dream of teaching the thousands of Mumbai children in her care. Skills like first aid and aseptic techniques for wound dressings plus basic hygiene, to help each other when I am not around and for them to pass on to others. Those skills have allowed her to complete traumatic amputations at the side of the railway lines where people have fallen from crowded trains, and deliver babies into abject poverty under plastic sheet roof covering in roadside slums under diabolical conditions.
Valerie knows that by educating children we can shape the world in a more positive way and that children who do not grow up in an environment where education is assured have a thirst for knowledge, therefore are a joy to teach.
After a successful career as a solicitor in central London where she was recognised as a leading advertising lawyer, Vanessa Hall-Smith’s dream of one day moving to Italy became a reality when she took up the position of the British Institute of Florence in January 2004. “I had reached a point in my professional life when I was ready to make changes and embrace new challenges and I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity.”
The British Institute of Florence was established in the closing stages of the First World War with the aim of promoting cultural exchange between Italy and the UK. Registered as a UK charity, the Institute maintains an archive and library containing the largest collections of English books in Italy, organises cultural events and runs courses in Italian and English language and culture, history of art, drawing and painting.
“Living in a city which was at the heart of one of the most creative periods in Western history provides a constant reminder of what can be achieved through artistic and intellectual endeavour. One of the most satisfying aspects of my job is when students experience a sense of enrichment through exposure to great works of art”.
Vanessa believes strongly in the importance of lifelong learning and realising individual potential “We need to know what we are, or could be, good at and how to develop our strengths rather than worry about our weaknesses” she maintains. Her plans for developing the Institute’s educational role include the extension of links with universities and other institutions and the establishment of more scholarships and bursaries for those wishing to study History of Art in Florence.
She also has plans to broaden the Institute’s archival and research work through a number of projects, including the creation of a database of individuals from outside Italy who visited Tuscany from 1700 onwards and whose visit left a mark in some way, through their own writing or painting, through diplomatic work or in the business field. “This is an ambitious project but once realised will be an invaluable tool for scholars and all those with an interest in Italy and the legacy of foreign visitors to Tuscany”.
Vanessa has two daughters and four cats.
Vanessa Shields was born in Summit, New Jersey and is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA and the University of Bradford, UK. Ms Shields is the founder and director of the Wroxton Centre for Global Dialogue which promotes citizen empowerment worldwide by: facilitating intercultural and interfaith understanding within and between communities; encouraging discussion about current events and issues of importance; and, developing information, advice and training about the political structures and processes through which citizens can make their voices heard. Ms Shields became actively involved in community work while at Bradford University, working for groups such as, Bradford Action for Refugees and the Centre for Conflict Resolution, University of Bradford.
Ms Shields has worked with a variety of international non-governmental organizations in the UK and USA including the Oxford Research Group where she conducted research on the upgrade of the UK Trident nuclear weapons programme and assisted with the organization of consultations with senior Government and military officials, diplomats, academics, scientists and journalists. In 2004, Ms Shields was contracted by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research to write a report for the European Commission on how to develop a monitoring mechanism for EU arms embargoes. In 2005, Ms Shields was contracted to initiate, organize and host a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Advanced Research Workshop in Jordan. In preparation for these meetings Ms Shields was involved in high-level talks with leaders of political Islam in Beirut, Lebanon and senior American officials in Washington, DC. She has also conducted extensive research trips to Northern Ireland to meet with: the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Northern Ireland Office, and representatives of all major political parties at Stormont.
Ms Shields is currently writing a series of books on post-conflict reconstruction entitled Beyond Settlement Volume I: Consolidating Democratic Institutions in Conflict States and Beyond Settlement Volume II: Coping with Security in Conflict States. Ms Shields is an ongoing guest lecturer on conflict resolution skills, terrorism studies and post-conflict reconstruction at Wroxton College and also guest lectures at Fairleigh Dickinson University, USA. She is a member of the International Association of University Presidents United Nations Commission on Disarmament Education, Conflict Resolution and Peace as well as being a member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House.
Ms Shields lives in Oxfordshire, UK with her partner - who is Dean of Wroxton College, Fairleigh Dickinson University - as well as a sassy old cat and a fat Labrador.
Vivienne Faull was the first woman appointed by the Church of England to lead a cathedral as Provost in 2000. She is now a Dean. She has been at the forefront of the changes in the role of women in the church, beginning as a Deaconess in 1982, and then working as a chaplain at Cambridge University, before moving into the world of cathedrals. She is also a member of the General Synod, the Church of England's governing body.
Wendy Beere (formerly Fortescue-Hubbard), NESTA fellow, teacher, author, poet and inventor was awarded a NESTA fellowship in 2001 to enable her to “reach, teach and inspire the unsuspecting audience through the national media”. Wendy now has a weekly column in the Times Educational Supplement called ‘Mathagony Aunt®’ and presents ‘Mathagony Aunt®’ on Teacher’s TV (www.mathagonyaunt.co.uk) and was the maths expert on living TV’s ‘ESP Challenge’. She is a member of the Royal Institution’s advisory group for mathematics.
Originally trained as a primary school teacher, but taught mathematics in the secondary school and supported dyslexic students in their mathematics whilst she was researching at the University of Plymouth. She ran a maths centre on the high street, which ran maths clubs and maths holidays. Wendy has been a head of mathematics in Devon where she was awarded 5/5 ‘excellents’ for her teaching by OfSTED. Her fellowship has enabled her to develop her skills in the national media, helping to popularise mathematics and make it more accessible to people of all ages.
Wendy writes poems, which often appear in her column to illustrate various mathematics concepts, eight of which are part of an interactive exhibition in the @Bristol science centre and are to be published shortly as a coffee-table book. She toured with the BBC Tomorrow’s World Roadshow for a month with her show ‘Algebra for Science’. Her invention - a game for teaching and assessing multiplication tables, called ‘Perfect Times®’ - also toured with BBC Tomorrow’s World Roadshow as an international Live Lab experiment, which can still be played at www.perfect-times.co.uk (CD-Rom published by Cambridge University Press). The game is also available on Fingabox® (created by Johnnie Doyle), which is a touch screen unit for 3-9 year olds, this is a unit to engage children in public places. She has also written mathematics materials for Nelsonthornes and Philip and Tacey.
She created a set of Action Mats for the RAF maths challenge to illustrate the mathematics used in various careers in the RAF. The Action Mats have toured the country for the past three years, so far reaching over 5000 children.
Wendy runs Mathagony Aunt® maths workshops in Knowle West, Bristol as part of delivering Mathagony Aunt® in Bristol. She also took maths to the coffee area at The Mall in Cribbs Causeway, Bristol as ‘Maths on the Menu’, which had shoppers joining in maths quizzes via voting units in the middle of the shopping mall. She helped people with percentages through to algebra!
All is achieved with the patience and support of her four children, Judy, Emie, James and Tilly and her partner Dr Hugh Beere.
People magazine called her "the most famous woman in China." Time magazine proclaimed her "the Queen of the Middle Kingdom." Money magazine described her as a "Modern Day Marco Polo." The Congressional Record deemed her "The De Facto Citizen Ambassador!"
They all accurately, if not completely, describe Chinese American Yue-Sai Kan, whose life straddles the East and West as a best-selling author, Emmy-winning television producer, humanitarian and entrepreneur.
Yue-Sai Kan was born in Guilin, China. Her father was a widely respected painter in the traditional Lingnan Style. Her family settled in Hong Kong and Yue-Sai's artistic ability and love for beauty began to be manifested when she started taking up ballet and piano at the age of four. Her musical talents impressed everyone but herself. After years of eight-hour practice days and a degree in music from the Brigham Young University in Hawaii, Yue-Sai Kan made a watershed decision: "I felt that I could never be another Rubenstein. And if you can't be the best at something, why do it?" With that, she turned her attention to her other great love: promoting a connection between Asia and the West.
In 1972 she moved to New York City and with her sister Vickie began a successful import/export trading business with China. Concurrently, she volunteered to host a TV show in English and Chinese on a local Manhattan cable station. There, she quickly grasped the power of television as a means of bridging the enormous gap in understanding between Asia and the West.
She formed Yue-Sai Kan Productions and created her first major TV production, a weekly series called Looking East, introducing Asian cultures and customs to a growing and receptive American audience. Rich in content, made vivid with Yue-Sai's personality, the series garnered critical acclaim, won dozens of awards and reviews such as this one from the New York Times: "Few people are able to bridge the East and West, but Yue-Sai Kan can, and does it with beauty, intelligence and grace." She was credited as the first TV journalist to connect the East and West. Looking East stayed on the air for 12 years, the last 2 years on the national cable network, the Discovery Channel.
Yue-Sai Kan's hard work paid off in 1984 when PBS invited her to host the first live broadcast from China on the occasion of the 35th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Soon after, in 1985, the Chinese government asked her to produce One World, the first television series ever produced and hosted by an American on China's only national network, CCTV. Her broadcast captivated the entire nation and made her a household name. Both the script and video form of the series were used as teaching materials in schools across China. Besides being trusted and loved by millions of Chinese for being the first to bring the "world" to them, her easy television style has also influenced a generation of TV journalists in China. After that, Yue-Sai Kan continued to produce sophisticated series aimed at raising the Chinese consciousness about the latest international lifestyle trends, and she contributed segments for the popular TV program Half of the Sky on CCTV.
In the United States, Yue-Sai Kan's other TV credits include the ABC documentary China Walls and Bridges, which earned her a coveted Emmy Award. Journey Through a Changing China, which was syndicated across the country, was so powerful that it was publicly lauded in The Congressional Record. And the popular series Mini Dragons and Doing Business in Asia, broadcast on PBS, fed the West's growing hunger for information on the East. A corporate version of the series was created and thousands of copies were sold to corporations and university business schools around the globe. Throughout her TV career, Yue-Sai Kan has filmed in over 25 counties and has created thousands of programs, some of which have been aired all over the world.
To make Asian Women feel confident in their own unique beauty, frustrated by years of needing to look her best before the camera without being able to find appropriate cosmetics for her Asian skin tones, coloring and facial features, Yue-Sai Kan founded Yue-Sai Kan Cosmetics Ltd. "I wanted to create, produce and sell the very best beauty and skincare products that we can offer to Asian women and to the world, and become the first global cosmetics brand from China." The products were launched in Shanghai in 1992 and were a huge success. The brand grew into China's leading cosmetics company, selling products in over 800 outlets through 18 regional offices in China's major markets. According to a survey by the official Statistical Bureau, the Yue-Sai brand has brand recognition of 95 percent! Forbes reported that Yue-Sai Kan has become "China's new role model and is changing the face of the Middle Kingdom, one lipstick at a time". In 2004, L'Oreal purchased Yue-Sai Kan Cosmetics Ltd. and the Yue-Sai brand name for its cosmetics line. Yue-Sai Kan is now the Honorary Vice Chairman of L'Oreal China.
In 2000, Yue-Sai Kan demonstrated her indigenous entrepreneurial skills again by creating a line of dolls with Asian features and costumes called Yue-Sai Wa Wa. It's the first authentic Asian doll brand on the international market.
In the educational and humanitarian areas, Yue-Sai Kan has established a fund that builds schools and awards scholarships to outstanding but poor students in high schools and universities in China. In 2002, UNICEF named her, alongside other international leaders and celebrities, as its first and only Global Chinese Say Yes ambassador. She is also involved with Orbis, a nonprofit organization dedicated to blindness prevention and treatment in developing countries and the Committee of 100, which is composed of outstanding Chinese Americans.
Yue-Sai Kan's uncanny understanding of China's needs are shown by the subjects chosen for her 5 best-selling books; On Television Production (when TV was just starting in China), Yue-Sai's Guide to Asian Beauty (when no Chinese were using makeup), Etiquette for the Modern Chinese (when the Chinese government needed to educate its massive public about good modern manners), How to Be a Beautiful, Healthy and Successful Modern Woman (the first comprehensive life style guide to career women in China) and The Chinese Gentleman (when Chinese men wanted to become the "new international gentlemen"). Her latest publication is The Complete Chinese Woman, which is due out in May, 2007 and is set to further solidify her role as an arbiter of style and taste in China.
In 2006, Yue-Sai Kan returned to television with a 52-part series called Yue-Sai's World, which featured some of the most interesting people and fascinating things in the world. This highly acclaimed series aired weekly primetime on over 30 major provincial and city stations throughout China and national satellite network CETV, which covered 85% of the Chinese viewing public. This gave Yue-Sai's World an estimated audience of 800 million each week. The series featured luminaries such as R&B singer Usher, legendary music producer Quincy Jones, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, international designers Valentino and Jean-Paul Gautier, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, actors Catherine Deneuve and Hugh Jackman, Oscar-winning producers Arnold Kopelson and Ismail Merchant, financial gurus Suze Orman and Robert Kiyosaki. The series has garnered raved reviews, including a phone call from the Chinese President Hu Jin Tao.
Yue-Sai Kan Productions Shanghai handles production and syndication of various TV projects. In addition, this company invests in movie production and in bringing outstanding artists, writers, sports figures, singers, exhibitions into China. Recent events include Dutch jazz singer Laura Fygi's Shanghai concert, Gold Medalist of Billiards Jeanette Lee's Shanghai Challenge and co-production of the feature film The White Countess by Merchant Ivory. Since 2006, Yue-Sai Kan has served as Chairman of the Invitation Committee of the Shanghai International Film Festival. Her work has uplifted the status of the festival to a true A-list level.
Yue-Sai Kan currently lives in Shanghai, Beijing and New York.
Zakia Hakki was born on 18th Nov 1939 in Baghdad, Iraq. She was from a Kurdish family and all her life faced discrimination. This led her to be determined to be a spokesperson for those marginalized and take her rightful place in society.
She became the first woman judge in the history of both Iraq and the Middle East. She is known for being a champion of human rights for the Kurdish people and any race that faces persecution. When the Kurdish revolution began on 11st September 1971, Zakia was one of the leaders working in the underground movement. She was the only woman in a leadership position in the Kurdishstan Democratic Party.
Zakia is in the forefront of the women’s movement and established the Kurdish women’s federation. She is the founder of the Iraqi high advisory committee for women and travels the world representing Iraqi women internationally.
Today Zakia has once again taken the forefront in political life by being elected as a Member of the Iraqi Parliament and is a leading member of the Women’s Alliance for Democratic Iraq.
She is married with children and her professor husband was murdered in Iraq under the old regime.
Born into the princely family of Burdwan, Usha Devi Rathore studied at the Walsingham House School for Girls in Bombay. After attaining a distinction in the Indian School Certificate exams, Usha did a BA honours in Philosophy at St. Xaviers College, Bombay.
Usha studied TV and Film in education at Hornsey College of Art, London and undertook work experience in film editing in Soho. She later returned to Bombay in 1974 to work on the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment for a year as an assistant producer.
From 1987 to 1995, Usha was the vice-president of the South Asia Council of the English Speaking Union. They initiated language projects in Sri Lanka and India, offering affordable English courses to the local people using the Callan method.
As a practitioner of yoga since the age of 13, Usha trained as a yoga teacher at the Bihar School of Yoga. She continued practicing Hatha Yoga and tried various meditation techniques, such as Vipassanna and TM Transcendental meditation, but settled for all the integrated practices of the Bihar School of Yoga. Usha first started teaching children at her son’s school and then the mothers. In the early days, Usha ran a weekly class at the Bhavan, and she taught at the Hale Clinic for 10 years.
Through the years, Usha has done quite a lot of yoga therapy and has worked with people with many stress-related ailments like asthma, blood pressure, Krohns disease, back problems etc. One of Usha’s students had breast cancer, and she has taught in the Haven, a holistic refuge for women with breast cancer. The holistic yoga she teaches is a process where one does yoga postures to get rid of physical tensions; the pranayama, or breathing practices, to regulate the brain; and yoga nidra, a tantric technique where the student is guided into a deep state of relaxation and various visualizations aid healing and unlocking one’s creative potential.
Usha has had her clients for many years, including Koo Stark and Bianca Jagger. Other celebrities who have been taught by Usha include Richard Gere and Stella McCartney. Usha has filmed a video on yoga for pregnancy with one of her students, the TV presenter, Clare Beckwith.
As a member of the International Yoga Fellowship founded by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Usha promotes yoga worldwide as she believes it to be essential in the fast-paced modern age. Usha maintains that “unless we evolve spiritually real progress cannot take place; as long as Man is selfish the best political and economic systems will fail as history has shown time and again. The practices of Yoga were devised to help man evolve spiritually and remove the ignorance that limits us and help our consciousness to expand.”
Nafis Sadik is a national of Pakistan. Born in Jaunpur, India, Nafis served as Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), with the rank of Under-Secretary-General, from 1987 to 2000. When she was appointed in 1987, she made history as first woman to head one of the United Nations' major voluntarily-funded programmes. She has consistently championed the needs of women, and of involving women directly in making and carrying out development policy.
In June 1990, the Secretary-General of the United Nations appointed Nafis as Secretary-General of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), 1994. Nafis’ outstanding contribution to improve the health of women and children internationally has brought her many awards and honours.
She is a member of the Board of Governors of the Foundation for Human Development, and a member of the South Asian Commission on the Asian Challenge. Nafis was the President of the Society for International Development (SID) for the period 1994-1997.
Nafis has written numerous articles for leading publications in the family planning, health, and population and development fields, and edited several books, among them: Population: The UNFPA Experience (New York University Press, 1984), Population Policies and Programmes: Lessons Learned from Two Decades of Experience, (New York University Press, 1991), and Making a Difference: Twenty-five Years of UNFPA Experience, (Banson, London, United Kingdom, 1994).
Nicole Rassmuson was born in Washington D.C. in 1970, later she had a cosmopolitan upbringing in Switzerland, Sweden and America.
Nicole studied at Hobart and William Smith College in New York and at the American College in London, where she earned her Bachelors Degree in Commercial Art in 1993. After working as a graphic designer in Hong Kong and London for three years, Nicole entered Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, where she obtained a Masters in Communication Design.
Rassmuson Design is a studio that offers provocative and innovative graphic design solutions and art direction. Nicole's clients range form public relations consultancies, architecture firms and fashion designers to restaurants, academic foundations and a university. The work includes everything from catalogs, books, press advertisments, posters and corporate identities to educational CD-ROMs.
Prior to forming Rassmuson Design, Nicole gained diverse professional experience. She worked as the Art Director for Clic Advertising in Hong Kong in 1993. In 1994, Nicole joined Rimmel International, a subsidiary of Unilever, as a senior designer in 1994. At Rimmel, Nicole produced and managed creative design solutions from concept stage to final art work for the company's leading international cosmetic brands. In 2005 Nicole moved back to Stockholm and formed the international design consultancy named after herself.
Nivedita Nathoo was born on the 8th December 1968. She has created the highly successful Ayurvedic Spa concept "Surya" in Mauritius.
Directed by a keen sense of determination and focus, Nivedita Nathoo has evolved her life long interests and aptitude for health and well being into a prestigious accolade of achievements, not only on a personal level but in the highly competitive and specialized area of beauty and health.
Having studied extensively the world of Ayurvedic Medicine, Nivedita Nathoo has combined her training in esthetics with the holistic arts of Herbalism, Reflexology, Aromatherapy and Reiki to offer a unique approach in achieving "well being".
With persistent determination and vision, Nivedita Nathoo achievements in the Surya Spa concept won her the prestigious "Laurier D''Or from the French "International Federation of Tourism". Also, sensing a need for professional formation, this busy mother of 2 developed and instituted a complete curriculum for the Complexions Beauty Therapy School in the major city of Quatre Bornes, Mauritius, of which she is the owner and director.
Nivedita is a member of the Mauritian Association of Women Business Entrepreneurs and in January 2006, she was hand picked by Mr. Navin Ramgoolam, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, to chair the National Women's Entrepreneur Council. Her firm intention is to further contribute to the support and stimulation of business women internationally.
Oonagh Shanley-Toffolo was born and brought up in rural Ireland, County Leitrim, where she entered a convent at the age of 16 and was a nun for 20 years. During this time she trained as a nurse and was sent to India to look after the elderly, where she got to know Mother Teresa. However, her experiences in Calcutta made her believe it was young mothers who needed more care but that the only way to nurse them was to leave her order. Gaining a special Papal dispensation in 1965 to do so, she suddenly found herself in the outside world, with only a change of clothes and £100 in cash but with an enormous taste for freedom.
In 1969, she sought new adventures and moved to Paris. There, like so many others in Paris, she discovered new dimensions of living and loving. At the same time the American Hospital's Matron called her to nurse the Duke of Windsor, she cared for him up until he died. To this day her admiration for this remarkable man has not changed - he was a Prince who never lost the common touch.
After marrying in 1973, she and her husband, the architect, Joseph Toffolo, lived in Baghdad over a period of several months. To return home, Joseph sketched his map of the route from Iran and through Syria, Greece, Italy and France - All overland. He wanted to show her the delights and culture of other civilisations...it was their belated honeymoon.
Arriving home was tinged with sadness, and quickly, plans were made to find a studio in Paris, and the tale of two cities commenced!
Having long searched for an alternative to allopathetic medicine, she trained as an acupuncturist in 1979 and completed her studies in China in 1981. Eight years later, after having herself endured serious illness she was requested by Princess Diana to be her acupuncturist and spiritual mentor, a role she fulfilled until 1996.
Today, she continues her search for wholeness, and better ways to live and to love. Oonagh’s autobiography, The Voice of Silence, is published by Rider.
If ever there were living proof that you don’t need to settle for one career then that’s Parvin Ali, whose first degree was one in Education, as she planned on becoming a high school teacher but now heads the FATIMA Women’s Network which she set up. The Network, as a Social Enterprise, supports the personal development of all women from diverse backgrounds through dynamic initiatives in employment and self employment; its mission is to “Lift As We Go!”
As the UK delegate for the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation & Development) Conference in Istanbul on Women in Enterprise in the MENA Region and as a speaker at the Inaugural World Islamic Economic Forum in Malaysia, Parvin has promoted an innovative model for a women's centre that she has developed for FATIMA. Post the 7/7 attacks in London she was appointed to the Government Working Group for Muslim Women and also set up the first Regional Muslim Women's Forum. Parvin is a keen advocate for interfaith work and spearheaded the setting up of the first global interfaith centre for women with the Council for Parliament of World Religions.
Born in Malaysia and brought up in the UK, Parvin had been involved in a variety of businesses with first her father and then her husband before deciding to try it on her own. She successfully ran her own textile company supplying high quality elastics to the major lingerie designers in the UK, and exporting to South Africa, for almost ten years, during which time she also decided at the eleventh hour to embark on a part time Masters degree in Business Administration. Excellent entrepreneurial genes and the love and support of her parents and two daughters have helped her manage a busy portfolio of interests which include being an Executive Member of the Regional Assembly, the Regional Planning Board, the Regional Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Partnership and the Regional Community Action Network. Her interests include travelling and buying fabrics and books.
Pera Wells served for nine years as the Acting Secretary-General of the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA), which was set up in 1946 to be a people's movement in support of the UN. Pera is the first woman to hold this position at WFUNA. How did she arrive at this point in her career? Pera grew up in Melbourne and is a 1960’s Honors Arts Graduate in Political Science from Melbourne University. “The sixties shaped the political imagination of my generation….we felt deeply that the war in Vietnam was wrong and we felt alienated from the dominant political processes shaping our lives. We dreamt about creating bridges between intellectual and political circles so that truth could speak to power”.
Pera’s career began as a research assistant to one of Australia’s leading public intellectuals, Bruce Grant, who in the early 70s was writing op-eds for The Age newspaper and went on to become Australia’s High Commissioner in India. Pera too went into the Australian Foreign Service – her first posting was to Ghana; she was the first female diplomat to be posted by the Australian Government to ‘black Africa’. On return to Canberra, she persuaded the Department of Foreign Affairs to let her create a new position in the UN Political Section focused on Human Rights. She was supernumerary but quickly demonstrated that Australia needed to engage in the UN debates on Human Rights; she worked closely with a network of people to define policy positions on the wide range of issues covered by the covenants on civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights.
For the next ten years Pera was devoted to her work on Human Rights. She served as a First Secretary at the UN in New York from 1979 – 81 working with others to open up the 1503 procedures to enable the UN Commission on Human Rights to consider appeals from people and groups all over the world whose human rights were being violated. She returned to Canberra and became the research assistant to the Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen, drafting all his speeches in 1983. The Foreign Affairs Department called her back in 1984 to set up the first Human Rights Section and then in 1985 she was recruited by Sonny Ramphal to set up the first Human Rights Unit in the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
1987 was a turning point in her life – the Australian Government wanted her to resume her diplomatic career but at the same time she saw enormous potential in strengthening international mechanisms for the promotion and protection of Human Rights. In the event she returned to Canberra and served for another ten years in the Australian Foreign Service, as Director of the Papua New Guinea and Torres Strait Island Section, Director of the first Environment Section (working with Sir Ninian Stephen as the Ambassador for the Environment) and Deputy High Commissioner in India from 1991 – 94. On return to Canberra she set up the first Cross-Cultural Program in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and was soon advising major Australian companies, such as BHP, on strategies for engaging with the Asian family-based businesses that were extending their operations across the Pacific.
Pera came to recognise that a core theme in her career was a creative commitment to breaking down communication barriers while at the same time opening up opportunities for people to engage with each other in support of the values espoused in the UN Charter and Human Rights Covenants.
It was while she was working as a Senior Fellow at Melbourne University and consultant on cultural diversity, that the senior advisor on Aboriginal Affairs, Lillian Holt, invited her to join a delegation to the UN “We the Peoples’ Millennium Forum” in May 2000. Pera took the opportunity to venture back into the multilateral world she had turned away from in 1987.
Pera stayed on in New York after the UN Millennium Forum as a volunteer, working to promote awareness of the Declaration that had been adopted (and which she helped to draft). The position at the World Federation of United Nations Associations came to her by surprise – and delight. She has devoted herself to building up a dynamic global network of United Nations Associations - www.wfuna.org.
And for the future?
Pera believes that the relevance and effectiveness of the United Nations depends mightily on finding a new balance between the Charter ordained sovereign independence of nation states and the Charter proclaimed statement that it is written in the name of “We the Peoples”. And it will be women, connecting with each other through the emerging global civil society who will make this happen in ways that will forever be most mysterious to men who rely on hierarchical forms of power.
Phyllis Krystal was born in London on May 11, 1914. She graduated from Bishop Otter College, Chichester and taught at high school for three years before moving to the U.S. in 1937. She married Sidney Krystal, a prominent attorney, and they had two daughters and two grandchildren, a grandson and a granddaughter. She has been a widow since 1993.
In the late 1950s she studied the work of Edgar Cayce. This led her to work with a friend and developing a method for contacting the inner source of wisdom which they called the Hi C for Higher Consciousness. Since that time, a visualisation method has evolved by working with the Hi C which she first used on herself and then with many others. As word of these techniques spread, she received numerous requests to write about her visualisation method. Her first book, Cutting the Ties That Bind, was published in 1982 shortly to be followed by Cutting More Ties That Bind and a Workbook to accompany the two Cutting the Ties books. Her other books are Sai Baba, The Ultimate Experience, an account of her experiences with Sri Sathya Sai Baba; Taming our Monkey Mind; Reconnecting the Love Energy; Cutting the Ties of Karma; and Let's Thank God.
All her books have been published by Samuel Weiser, now Redwheel/Weiser. They have also been translated into many languages, which has continued to spread her work even further and led to invitations to give seminars in many other countries, mainly in Europe, to teach the method and to give individual sessions. Now in her nineties, she continues to write and lecture around the world and is currently living in Munich, Germany where her work is in great demand.
Rachel Gilmour is Head of Strategic Communications for the Environment Agency where she is responsible for making sure that all their communications are coordinated and robust. Rachel is also formerly the Director of Communications at the NFU and the first woman to join the board of the UK's largest trade association, the UK’s leading and largest farming and food trade association with 55,000 members, 70,000 associate members: employing over 700 staff in an international, national and regional network with an annual income of £22 million. As Director of Communications specific duties include presenting UK farming as a modern British industry; promoting awareness of and confidence in UK food and farming on the world stage.
She studied Law at SOAS and English Literature at King’s College in London. She has worked as Head of Public Affairs for Everychild (formerly The European Children’s Trust), Head of Campaigns for the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and Press and Parliamentary Liaison Officer for The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. She was also caseworker and policy advisor to Nick Harvey MP and public relations office for Taunton Deane Borough Council.
In 1997, Rachel stood for Parliament in Nottingham North, and in 2001 in Totnes for the Liberal Democrat Party. Rachel has been a Devon Country Council School Governor and Mid Devon District Councillor. She lives with her children, Henry, Tom, Sophia and Charles, and is married to Patrick Gilmour, a solicitor who specialises in commercial law.
She was appointed as Head of Strategic Communications at the UK Environment Agency in 2008 and was promoted to Head of Strategy, Planning and Resources in 2010.
Born on 25th November 1924 in Patiala, Ramma Bans is the fitness guru and weight-loss pioneer, credited with introducing aerobics to India. She is responsible for setting up five-star ambience health clubs for the Taj Group, Welcome Group and Oberoi Hotels.
Ramma trained in London in beauty therapy in the 1960s and returned to Delhi in 1967 to start her own beauty salon, which was patronised by the diplomatic corp. She has worked with Sathya Saran, the magazine editor, to put Miss India on the world map, by training the competitors to keep fit. She has been Indira Gandhi’s beautician and her aerobic classes have been attended by Bollywood’s glitterati, from Dimple Kapadia to Rani Mukerji. Ramma and Rekha, the Bollywood legend, produced a documentary on the mind and body temple, with profits going to children with disabilities.
Ramma believes that “we have a body that serves us 24 hours a day, and we should serve this God given infrastructure for at least one hour a day and keep ourselves fit.” Her maxim in life is, “if you want to see what your thoughts were like yesterday look at your body today. It you want to see what your body will be like tomorrow look at your thoughts today.”
Regretfully Ramma passed away on 4th December 2010.
Thought of the day
"If only the women of the world would come together they could display such heroic non-violence as to kick away the atom bomb like a mere ball" M.K. Gandhi
Born in 1955 into the illustrious industrialist family of Modis, in Modinagar in Uttar Pradesh, Rekha Mody is in her own right, a woman who wears more than one hat. She is a connoisseur of art, a well-known publisher, a social worker and a woman campaigner. She started her education at a labourers school in Modinagar, which brought her close to the plight and the pain of the less privileged people. She did her high school in Gwalior, where she studied with tribal girls. This interaction imbued in her a value system with social responsibility. She got her Bachelor in Arts degree from the Meerut University in first division. Her college education at Modi Nagar exposed her directly to the dignity of labour.
Her Masters in literature was interrupted after one year due to her marriage to Padam Mody in 1974. She has two daughters Aditi and Isha who have both received higher education in England. She settled at Kolkata at the age of twenty-nine in 1984, she answered her inner call and set out for a cultural revolution, with a strong emphasis on social development. She started her work journey by founding four prestigious institutions working in different fields. She is the founder of Divya Chaya Trust- a public charity which along with an associate UK trust, Save A Child, works to restore hope and is providing opportunities to the deprived children. She is the CEO of the publishing house, Garutman Pvt Ltd, which promotes quality Indian literature translated from Indian regional languages to English and promotes them internationally.
To campaign for the cause close to her heart to fight for women’s issues she founded of Stree Shakti – The parallel force networking women’s forum with few eminent women.
More challenges are ahead of her as she is driven by the urge for nation building. Her forte lies in developing strategies and implementing them with international standard.
With the objective to providing visibility for women and their issues Rekha founded Stree Shakti – The Parallel Force, a dynamic forum aiming at ‘Networking for Action’. This forum aims to provide a platform for joint actions as well as for collection, systematic processing and distribution of information related to women’s issues in particular and general networking. The movement is a catalyst for fundamental social changes and to awake and activate women of every class. Women from different walks of life have responded and joined this networking forum. Parliamentarians, Writers, Intellectuals, Artists, Scientist, Entrepreneurs, Scholars and grass root rural workers are a part of the campaign.
Stree Shakti is committed to provide strategies for empowering women, one such is to mobilise support for an Equal Opportunity Commission in India. Past decades has witnessed an improvement in women’s participation in power sharing world wide. According to the latest findings the percentage at women’s representation in Single or in Lower House is: Nordic countries 39%, America 15%, Asia 15%, Europe, excluding Nordic countries, 14%, sub-Saharan Africa 12%, Pacific 12% and Arab states 5%. Yet India has lingered around 8%.
To encourage Indian women achievers all over the world, Stree Shakti Awards have been established. Prior to this only one or two awards were given. Since Stree Shakti awards were set up, many prestigious women awards have been introduce to recognise the efforts of woman achievers in the India, a feather in the cap of Stree shakti, the Parallel Force.