Plenary line-up

Yalitza Aparicio / Mexico

Oscar nominated leading actress - Roma

Born in 1993 in Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, Mexico. Trained as a primary school teacher, Yalitza Aparicio auditioned for Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma almost by chance. Since the day she was cast for the role of Cleo, she has intentionally used her new platform to advocate for gender equality, indigenous rights, and the rights of domestic workers. Her work has challenged the power structures present in the media and the film industry. She was the first indigenous woman to appear on the cover of Vogue Mexico, the first indigenous woman nominated for an Academy Award and the second Mexican woman ever nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress. Since her work in Roma, Yalitza has attended numerous conferences for the promotion of human rights and of Mexican culture, often as a speaker.
In March, 2019 she spoke at the International Labor Organization (ILO) of the United Nations as the keynote speaker for International Women’s Day, discussing the need to treat domestic work with dignity and respect in the talk “A Quantum Leap for Gender Equality: For A Better Future of Work for All,” in partnership with the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance (NDWA) in the U.S., the Centro de Apoyo y Capacitación para Empleadas del Hogar (CACEH) and Semillas in Mexico. She is also the face of the ILO’s Fight Racism campaign, launched March 2019. Furthermore, Yalitza’s and Roma’s campaign helped pass a Labor and Social Security law in Mexico protecting the rights of domestic workers.
She participated in the One Billion on Foot campaign, which took place in over 200 countries and aimed to personify the collective opposition against gender violence. Only those who actively oppose gender violence and who are among the more than a billion women affected by gendered violence participated in the march. In addition, As a representative of the “Zero Violence Against Women” campaign at the International Film Festival of Guanajuato, she has advocated against the pervasive violence experienced by women in Mexico.

In May 2019, she was presented with a Changemaker Award by the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST). She was also presented with a Pride of My City Award from the LGBTI community in Mexico City in December 2018, who she thanked on her Instagram, writing, “I know we are living in difficult times as a society, but we must keep working to change things. We may be black, white, tall, short, straight, gay, or whatever else, but we all deserve to be treated with respect.”
That year, Yalitza worked with the Mexican Comission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights to narrate the animated short “Arbitrary Executions.” Yalitza works to make her messages of equality inclusive, especially to children: she has appeared on Sesame Street (Mexico) with messages of empowerment, and has worked with schoolchildren from Oaxaca to raise money for schools in her hometown of Tlaxiaco.
Finally, Yalitza has positioned herself as a cultural advocate for the communities of Tlaxiaco, of Oaxaca, and of Mexico itself. She is the ambassador of the annual Oaxacan cultural festival La Guelaguetza, which is strongly rooted in the indigenous traditions of the region. In her short career, she has overcome virulent responses of racism, classism and misogyny that erupted in response to her sudden fame, and above all has used her new platform to tirelessly promote tolerance, respect, and dignity for all peoples.

Yalitza Aparicio / Mexico

Rashida Manjoo / South Africa

Rashida Manjoo is a Professor and convenor of the Human Rights Program in the Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa. She is also a Visiting Professor at Queen Mary University, London.

Until July 2015, she held the position of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, a post she was appointed to in 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council. Her UN work over six years has included monitoring and reporting on States' compliance in responding to and preventing violence against women, its causes and consequences, both generally and in different country contexts. Her research and teaching has focused on the intersectional nature of discrimination, including on the basis of sex, gender, race, class, location, (dis)ability, socio-economic conditions, and historical and cultural contexts. She has particularly highlighted the interaction of interpersonal, communal, institutional and structural factors that negatively impact the interdependence and indivisibility of the human rights of women.

Prof Manjoo is the former Parliamentary Commissioner of the Commission on Gender Equality, an institution created by the Constitution of South Africa, with a mandate to oversee the promotion and protection of gender equality and women's rights. She has also been involved in social context training for judges and lawyers, where she has designed both content and methodology.

Prof Manjoo has over four decades of experience in social justice and human rights work both in South Africa and abroad. Her research interests include human rights broadly with a particular focus on women’s human rights. She has authored a number of journal articles, book chapters and reports on women’s human rights, violence against women, transitional justice, and state responsibility to act with due diligence in the quest to promote and protect the human rights of women. Her book publications include 'Women's Charters and Declarations -Building Another World'; 'Due Diligence in Addressing Violence Against Women in Sub-Saharan Africa'; and the recent co-edited book 'The Legal Protection of women from violence - normative gaps in international law'.

Rashida Manjoo / South Africa

Eve Ensler / USA

Image source: Paula Allen

Eve Ensler is an American playwright, author of best-selling books, a feminist and an activist who revolutionized how the world perceived a vagina with her play "The Vagina Monologues". Eve has been at the forefront of fighting gender-based violence, having pioneered the One Billion Rising, a global protest campaign to end violence and promote gender equality for women. She is a force to be reckoned with, earning her the Isabelle Stevenson Award at the 65th TONY Awards for her non- profit V-Day movement and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in 2018 to among others.

Eve has dedicated her life to the fight against women violence, and travels the world to educate the public on it and how we can combat it. In 2011, she traveled to the Democratic Republic Of Congo (DRC) to establish "The City of Joy", an establishment she created with the Panzi Foundation, with support from UNICEF. The city of Joy houses women survivors of gender violence in Bukavu, DRC and equips them with leadership skills and counseling from their trauma. She has also co-signed a letter to Ban Ki-Moon, calling for more humane drug policy and wrote an opinion piece for "The Guardian" condemning the behavior of President Donald Trump towards women.

Her recent book, “The Apology” highlights the sexual abuse she was subjected to at the hands of her father. She describes the book as an apology she never had from her father.

Eve Ensler / USA

Aleid van den Brink / Netherlands

Over the past 40 years I have dedicated my professional life to governing various institutions committed to combatting domestic violence against women, children – and also men. My retirement as CEO of ‘Blijf Groep’ in 2018, has not ended my deeply rooted connection to the causes I have been supporting. As an independent expert new possibilities are arisen. My recent publication on current attitudes towards partner violence in the Netherlands is an example. The honorable membership of GREVIO since September 2018 allows me to employ many aspects of my expertise for the greater good. I’m involved in the Global Network of Women’s Shelters since 2008, currently as a board member of the GNWS Foundation in the Hague.

University skilled in social sciences, I have always tried to continue staying in direct contact with the victims of domestic violence seeking shelter and support, predominantly women and children. Listening to what they had to tell has kept me alert, and open to the real problems. Whether or not explicitly presented. The women and children I met during the past decades are my true inspiration. Their problems must be solved, in the most effective way. To me creating the most effective way means creating high quality, innovative and sustainable organisational frameworks.

Aleid van den Brink / Netherlands

Mizuho FUKUSHIMA / Japan

  • 2000~ Secretary of Public Relations Department, SDP
  • 2001~ 2003 General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party
  • 2003~ 2013 Leader of the Social Democratic Party
  • 2009~2010 Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety,
  • Social Affairs and Gender Equality
  • 2011 Selected as one of “Global Thinker 100 by Foreign Policy”
  • Current Responsibilities:
  • Member, Committee on Budget
  • Member, Committee on Health, Welfare and Labor
  • Member, Research Commission on the Constitution
  • Member, Special Committee on Consumer Affairs
  • Member, Committee on Oversight of Administration
  • Publications:
  • Over 30 books; 'How to use Domestic Violence Law' 'Diversity of the Contemporary Family' 'Marriage and Family' 'Woman's Studies in the Court' 'the Needless Wiretapping Law' etc.
Mizuho FUKUSHIMA / Japan

Micah Spangler / USA

As the UN Foundation's Director of Advocacy and Humanitarian Affairs, Micah engages with the U.S. Congress, the administration, NGOs, businesses, and grassroots advocates to build support for a strong U.S.-UN partnership across an array of humanitarian, refugee, migration, development, and peace and security issues.

In addition to his advocacy work in Washington and New York, Micah has extensive field experience, helping organize and lead independent fact-finding missions to observe UN peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, the Central African Republic, Lebanon, Jordan, Bangladesh, and more.

Micah joined the UN Foundation in early 2013 after serving as a Field Director on Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. During the course of the campaign, Micah built relationships with grassroots organizations and partnered with party and state officials to synchronize voter outreach operations in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Florida. Prior to Romney for President, Micah worked as a Government Relations Manager for a DC-based non-profit management firm for four years and served on various congressional campaigns throughout the Midwest, including Kinzinger for Congress 2010.

Micah graduated magna cum laude from Johns Hopkins University with an M.A. in government, received an honors B.A. in political science and philosophy from Roosevelt University, and studied Mandarin Chinese at National Taiwan University. His writing has appeared in CNN, Foreign Policy, The Daily Beast, The Mail and Guardian, The National Interest, Defense One, Roll Call, The Hill, and more. He lives with his wife Jill Nguyen in Washington, DC.

Micah Spangler / USA

Christine Schuler Deschryver / DR Congo

The Democratic Republic Of Congo has been named the rape capital of the world, and yet people like Christine Schuler Deschuryver have not lost hope in it, creating a transformational leadership community of women who have survived violence. Describing Buvaku as her home, Christine Schuler Deschuryver is a Congolese Activist who has dedicated her life to run and direct a community called City of Joy in Congo. She is an avid advocate for Congolese Women's rights.

Prior to her work in Congo, Christine has worked as a teacher and an administrator for CARE in Canada and the German Technical Cooperation for 13 years. That has given her enough experience to work as the Director of V-Day's work on the ground in the DRC, including the City of Joy and coordinating campaign activities on the local, provincial and national level. Under her leadership, City of Joy has graduated 1,204 women from its program and they do not plan to stop there. She works closely with the creator of V-day Eve Ensler and Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Dr. Denise Mukwege to bring solutions to challenges faced by Congolese women. She is revolutionizing the community of Bukavu one woman at a time!

Christine Schuler Deschryver / DR Congo

Nina Smart / USA

Dr. Nina Smart is a human rights activist, sociologist, and author who educates people about female genital mutilation (FGM) and works to eradicate the practice in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Dr. Smart’s passion for human rights, her academic expertise and unique biography, places her inside and outside of Sierra Leonean culture, allowing her to make important inroads in Sierra Leone. In 2004, Dr. Smart founded Servicing Wild Flowers –SWF International, a Los Angeles based non-profit NGO that raises awareness about FGM through lectures and presentations for students and socially conscious groups. She works directly in rural areas of Sierra Leone, together with SWF partners, who facilitate community meetings, operate the only safe house for FGM survivors and educate women and children about human rights. Her organization supports projects that protect girls and women from FGM. SWF also provided assistance during the Ebola crisis.

Women Empowerment Initiative at the University of California, Irvine, where she completed her doctoral studies, launched her memoir, Wild Flower – the True Story of a Romanian Girl in Africa, in November 2014. Dr. Smart’s book is used at numerous Universities across the US to teach courses in the social sciences, peace and conflict studies, literary composition, media, law and society, education and women’s studies.

Dr. Smart straddles many cultures—Romanian, American, West African, academia and activism. She has built bridges between these worlds and through her tireless efforts is educating people, unveiling the systemic causes of FGM in Sierra Leone, and is creating a safer space for women in the communities she works and lives in.

A proud Soroptimist and enthusiastic volunteer in both African and Romanian communities, Dr. Nina Smart was chosen as 2016 ‘Woman of the Year’ for her non-profit work by Senator Mendoza of California and honored by the United States Congress. In 2018, the City of Downey recognized Dr. Smart’s contributions by presenting her with the Coordinating Council Volunteer Award. Dr. Smart inspires and moves others to action by offering opportunities to collaborate on effective solutions to end FGM in a non-violent way.

Nina Smart / USA

Linda S. Y. Wong / Hong Kong

Ms. Linda S. Y. Wong is the Executive Director of the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women (ACSVAW). She has respectively obtained a Bachelor Degree in Social Work at Hong Kong Baptist University, a Master Degree in Women’s Studies at the University of Kent, UK, and a Master Degree in Counselling at HKU. Apart from being a co-founder of the Association in 1997, her frontline experience on working with victim-survivors of sexual and gender-based violence has prompted Ms. Wong and fellow professionals to set up ‘RainLily’ in 2000, the first sexual violence crisis centre in Hong Kong..

In February, 2007, Ms. Wong was appointed the Executive Director of the Association. At present, she is responsible for the overall direction and external liaison of the Association. Ms. Wong has worked in the women’s field for more than two decades. She has rich experiences in advocacy work in issues facing women.

Linda S. Y. Wong / Hong Kong

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