Female Humanitarian Heroes: Creating a Better World


SEATTLE — Despite an interdependent global environment, many remain incognizant of the struggles of millions around the world. Fortunately, strong men and women have stepped up to empower the vulnerable with their voices and support. Here are three such intrepid and empathetic female examples of humanitarian heroes:

1. Angelina Jolie

Jolie is an award-winning actor, director and a humanitarian hero who has been supporting the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) since 2001. She was appointed as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2010 and a UNHCR Special Envoy in 2012 and has traveled to more than 30 countries in these capacities. Jolie has also lobbied the U.S. Congress for increased U.S. global engagement for more than 15 years.

Jolie has been a persistent ally of women and refugees during the ongoing refugee crisis. She visited the Syrian Refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Greece to promote the UNHCR mission through collaborations with local governments. Meeting with vulnerable populations to understand and expose their struggles to the world is one of her primary objectives while traveling on behalf of the UNHCR.

Jolie actively supports at least 29 other organizations including the Afghanistan Relief Organization, Care to Learn and the Women in the World Foundation. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and aids Young Attorneys in Haiti to implement government child protection efforts. Jolie is also a primary supporter of the Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan initiative, which provides education, school supplies and medical care for the vulnerable children of Sudan.

The International Rescue Committee has honored Jolie with the Freedom Award for her steadfast support of refugees and for promoting principles of humanity and freedom. She was also the first person to be awarded the Global Citizen of the World Award in 2003, and in 2005 the U.N. honored her with the Global Humanitarian Award.

2. Christiane Amanpour

Amanpour is a world-renowned journalist honored by multiple awards including 11 Emmys, two Peabody Awards and the Courage in Journalism Award. Since 1983, she has exposed the brutalities in war-torn areas including Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Somalia, Rwanda and the Balkans.

Amanpour has covered critical events in history including the Gulf War in 1991, the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the trial of Saddam Hussein in 2004. She exposed the atrocities of the Bosnian War, and in 2014, she reported evidence of the Assad Regime torturing prisoners in Syria. She has also reported on catastrophes such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Japanese tsunami in 2011 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 from ground zero.

Besides being a brave journalist, Amanpour is also a humanitarian hero, constantly supporting women’s and human rights. She advocated for the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram and has highlighted Malala Yousafzai’s campaign for women’s right to education multiple times.

‘Amanpour,’ her interview program that launched in 2009, has been instrumental in raising awareness of critical issues around the world. She has covered the Syrian war and exposed the plight of refugees for seven years. In February 2017, she visited Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan.

Named one of the world’s 100 most powerful women by Forbes Magazine in 2011, her interviews are bold, thought-provoking and informative. Her unique insight and experience make her an influential commentator of events and their resonating effects on the world.

3. Mia Farrow

Farrow, an internationally acclaimed actress, is also one of the world’s most notable examples of humanitarian heroes. A U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador since 2000, Farrow has been devoted to protecting children in conflict regions. She has worked tirelessly to raise awareness regarding vulnerable children harmed by violence and destruction in Haiti and many African nations.

In 2007, Farrow played a critical role in highlighting the suffering in Darfur, Sudan. In response to the Chinese protection of the Sudanese government against U.N. sanctions, she initiated the campaign “Genocide Olympics” as China was preparing to host the 2008 Olympics. The campaign even impelled director Steven Spielberg to withdraw his commitment to the role of Olympics artistic adviser and instead condemn the Chinese president and government for ignoring the genocides in Darfur in the interest of profit.

Farrow has been a frequent visitor to the war-torn region and has exposed its shocking reality of violence and impact on women and children. She has also been actively involved in protecting vulnerable children against polio and helped launch National Immunization Day campaign along with UNICEF in Nigeria and Chad.

In 2008, Time magazine named Farrow one of the most influential people in the world for her influence in affecting positive change. Her humanitarian work and contributions towards protecting children in regions under protracted crisis have been honored by the Central African Republic with the Presidential Medal of Honor in 2006, by Refugees International with McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award in 2008 and the 2011 Marion Anderson Award.

These three humanitarian heroes have unique perspectives and experiences but share the conviction that it is the moral imperative of those with power and privilege to help the less fortunate. The remarkable characteristics that set these humanitarian heroes apart are their courage and compassion to show up and get involved in the causes they support, producing tangible results and creating a better world.

Preeti Yadav

Photo: Flickr


About Author

Preeti Yadav

Preeti writes for The Borgen Project from Portland, OR. She has a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering and has worked as a biomedical engineer for 6 years. Preeti recently transitioned out of this role to pursue her passion for writing and utilize her skills towards affecting positive change. Preeti's dream is to live in a bamboo cottage on a beautiful beach in Asia with her husband, pursue local humanitarian work and continue writing.

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