International Women’s Day makes us think about what it is to be a woman today and the ongoing challenges women face while trying to  to carve out careers in a male-oriented world.  Among the successful professional women I admire today are those who risk life and limb and liberty to witness first-hand the atrocities, injustices and revolutions occurring in war-torn and turbulent areas around the globe. I’m talking about the foreign correspondents who witness first-hand what is happening as it is happening while it is happening. Through their written and oral accounts they have given us an invaluable insight into the evils of war, the cancerous side of drug-trafficking, and of the silent revolutions taking place in once totalitarian countries. These women have bravely stood where no women have stood before and fostered a brave new generation who dare to make their voices heard alongside the men who have been doing these sometimes behind the scene jobs for decades.

My “Quick Picks”: Five names stand out in my mind…five women who are “leveling the playing field” in the media domain:

  • Marie Colvin: An American journalist, winner of the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) 2000 Courage in Journalism Award and working for the London Sunday Times, did whatever it took to report on the globe’s killing fields. From Sri Lanka where she lost an eye, to Egypt’s Tahrir Square where female journalists were assaulted by marauding policemen, then to Libya where she participated in the fight for Misrata. She liked to be referred to as a “Fire Fighter for the World“. Finally her courageous journey came to an abrupt end in the martyred city of Homs, Syria when the building where she was hiding out in was bombarded by government troops hell-bent on wiping out any revolutionary ideas that the people might have to retain their own power.   Go to Debby’s Corner to listen to an interview with Marie Colvin.

Adela Navarro Bello: A Tijuana-based journalist writing for the Mexican newspaper Zeta who won the IWMF 2011 Courage in Journalism Award for her articles on the escalating violence occurring in Northern Mexico.  Despite her life being threatened by Mexican drug cartels she continues to report on the corruption in Mexico: “I don’t understand self-censorship in Mexico. I don’t understand why reporters are afraid. If you’re not reporting on what is happening you are an accomplice to these people,” said Navarro Bello, whose 60-person staff is 60 percent women. “We have the right to freedom of speech in a democratic country like Mexico.” She says she feels “as free as the wind”.

  •  Abigail Disney: The neice of Walt Disney born in Hollywood, California could have led a peaceful life but decided to put her intelligence and creative force into making journalistic documentaries which educate people about the women who are helping change the world. She won the Jury Prize for Best Documentary in the TriBeCa Film Festival for her documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell. It tells the story of a movement of local women who helped bring peace to Liberia by pressuring the warlord Charles Taylor to end the war against the rebels who were challenging his power. They eventually succeeded in getting Ellen Johnson Sirleaf elected. She has just finished a series of films that depict the unique horrors faced by women in Afghanistan, Colombia, Bosnia, Congo and Liberia for the American Public Broadcasting System (PBS) called Women, War and Peace.

Caroline Puel journalist who has reported on the changes in China for over 25 years and who last year published a book entitled The 30 Years That Have Changed China. She gained experience as a war correspondent for Radio France International in India, Pakistan, first war in the gulf, then Yugoslavia before settling in China as press attaché then as an Asian correspondent for the French Le Point news magazine. She received the Albert Londres Prize (equivalent to the American Pulitzer Prize) in 1997 for her coverage of China. As a member of the Steering Committee of the Women’s Forum Asia since 2006, she is a tireless champion of women’s issues and women’s rights abroad and in her country of France.

  • Lara Logan: a CBS News’ Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent survived a vicious sexual assault while covering the celebrations following Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. She explains: ‘The very nature of what we do – communicating information – is what’s undoing these regimes. It makes us the enemy, whether we like it or not.’ She continues to report regularly for CBS Evening news and on Face The Nation vowing that this incident will not define her identity. She goes on to say in a 60 Minutes Interview: “The notion…That women never complain about incidents of sexual violence because you don’t want someone to say, “Well women shouldn’t be out there.” But I think there are a lot of women who experience these kinds of things as journalists and they don’t want it to stop their job because they do it for the same reasons as me – they are committed to what they do. They are not adrenaline junkies you know, they’re not glory hounds, they do it because they believe in being journalists.”

I’ll let Lara have the last word….


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