On July 6, the IWA First General Assembly honored four women who selflessly dedicated their lives for the advancement of human rights, justice, freedom and peace in the world. These women were recognized as Women of Valor for their decades-long service to the people and for their indispensible contribution to the struggle for women’s liberation and in moving forward the people’s struggles for national and social liberation, sovereignty and self-determination.
Edith Ballantyne (Geneva) is a veteran of the international women and peace movement. For her unwavering commitment to her advocacies, she was awarded the Gandhi Peace Award – an annual award named after Mahatma Gandhi and bestowed by the organization Promoting Enduring Peace – in 1995 for her “contributions made in the promotion of international peace and good will.”
She served as the Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) for 23 years and as its President for six years, actively working for the empowerment of women and the advancement of their rights. She continues her activities in WILPF as its representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ballantype also works against racism and colonialism in Africa, against discrimination against migrant workers in Europe, and for peace in Palestine and other countries in the Middle East.
Leila Khaled (Palestine) is one of the most legendary figures in the Palestinian struggle for national liberation and self-determination and a key figure in the promotion of women’s rights and freedom in Palestine. She is a high-ranking leader of the General Union of Palestinian Women and a delegate to the Palestinian National Council (Palestinian Parliament), where she has introduced a platform focusing on the recognition and protection of the human rights of women.
She was among those who brought the Palestine struggle for self-determination to international attention when she and a fellow freedom fighter took over a passenger plane in 1969. She has then become an icon of Palestinian resistance.
Leila remains to be a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and continues to conduct and join international actions to free her motherland. She also serves as a member of the PFLP-affiliated Palestinian Popular Women’s Committees.
Nanay Mameng Diuneda (Philippines) is an EDSA People Power 1 and EDSA People Power 2 veteran. The face of poverty in the Philippines, Nanay Mameng started her involvement in the people’s movement at the age of 50 as the oldest member of the youth groupKabataan Para sa Demokrasya at Nasyunalismo (KADENA) during the dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos. In 1983, she became a founding member of the women’s group Samahan ng Maralitang Kababaihang Nagkakaisa (SAMAKANA) and later became its chairperson for 11 years. She became the first chairperson of the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY). She is now Chairperson Emeritus of KADAMAY and Vice President of party-list group Anakpawis.
Despite her old age and frail body, Nanay Mameng never fails to be the voice of the toiling Filipino women and men. Her courage and strength in fighting for the people’s rights and against exploitation and oppression has inspired generations of progressive activists in the country.
Clelia Iscaro (Argentina) is an icon of women’s struggle in Argentina. Her dedication to the women’s cause has inspired generations of Argentinian revolutionaries to continue fighting for social and national liberation.
Born to a working class family and forced to take on a job at a young age, Clelia has always been supportive of the working class movement, especially of the women workers’ plight. During the first two terms of Juan Peron’s presidency, she worked towards the protection of the rights and ensuring the welfare of working mothers. She organized and worked with women in impoverished communities.
After the founding of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Argentina, Clelia was appointed to lead the work among the women, a task which she carried on during the time of military dictatorship in Argentina. After the dictatorship was defeated, Clelia continued to play a very significant role in the women’s struggle for rights, justice and freedom. She had been very active in the National Encounters of Women, a forum for women’s issues and struggles in Argentina, since its foundation in 1986. From 1,000 members more than two decades ago, the National Encounters of Women is now being attended by around 25,000 women.