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Heroine of the Week

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Maria Corazon Aquino was the first female Philippines’ President. Originally, she was just a housewife, more interested in caring for her family and supporting her husband, Senator Benigno S. Aquino, in his political pursuit. Nevertheless, when Benigno was assassinated at the Manila Airport on his return from exile by Marcos’ men, she could no longer stay adamant. Soon after the death of her husband, she became the anchor point for the democratic movement in the Philippines and the most sacrosanct personality in People’s Power Revolution (PPR), also known as Yellow Revolution. This movement toppled the twenty year old regime of President Ferdinand Marcos. Owing to her resilience, she ended up becoming a leader in so many fronts in her country and was later became the President of Philippine.

Her Early Life Story

This lioness, Maria Corazon “Cory” Sumulong Cojuangco Aquino was born in 25th of January 1933. In 1955 she got married to her husband, Benigno Aquino (Ninoy) after graduating from Mount St. Vincent College in New York City, a young politician. She supported her husband’s dreams a politician who later elected as a senator of the country. Corazon Aquino had five (5) children.

As an elected senator of the country, Ninoy Aquino her husband became a popular and persistent opposition to Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator who was on the seat of the presidency since 1965. In 1972, Ninoy was imprisoned owing to his activism and support for a fair democracy in the country for eight long years and then exiled to the United States. When her husband Benigno Aquino was due to return to Philippine after serving his jail time in 1983, he was assassinated immediately he stepped into Philippine.

Her husband’s imprisonment, exile, and assassination caused outrage among his supporters and spurred Ferdinand’s opposition. The economic state of the country experienced further deterioration, and the government went into more debt.

After Benigno Aquino’s assassination, Corazon took his place as the leader of the opposition. There was a twist 1985 when Ferdinand suddenly announced an election to legitimize his hold on the country. Corazon as the leader of the opposition party was reluctant to run at initially, but after much persuasion by the supporters of her husband, she changed her mind and decided to run for the position of the president in her country.

In the course of her running for the presidential position, Ferdinand Marcos tried to tarnish her image with sexist statements, saying she was ‘just a common woman’ whose only expertise was just in the kitchen and the bedroom. Corazon in response to Ferdinand’s statement stated “May the better woman win in this election.” He further attacked her stating her inexperience in politics and public service. She also replied by admitting that she had “no experience in cheating, lying to the public, stealing government money, and killing political opponents.”

Ferdinand Marcos was declared the winner of the election after it was held in February 1986. Owing to the anomalies that marred the conduct of the election, lots of issues and agitations were raised about the outcome of the election. It was also condemned by the Catholic Bishops’ in their Conference in the Philippines and also by the United States Senate. The then President of America, Ronald Reagan called condemned the irregularities of the election and tagged the act ‘disturbing’.

Corazon Aquino solicited for support from her sympathizer and immediately organized peaceful civil disobedience protests and strikes and for mass boycotts of the media and businesses owned by Marcos. Her supporters and other Filipinos were very supportive. These popular, peaceful demonstrations came to be known as the People Power Revolution (PPR). As a result of the protests, Marcos ordered troops against the thousands of protesters (including whole families and nuns and priests) but not a shot were fired and the troops withdrew and many defected.

The political restiveness in the country made Ferdinand Marcos to flee the country to Hawaii in the United States in February 1986 thereby making Mary Corazon Aquino the first female President of Philippines.

Her taking over the number position as the President of her country marked a new civilization in the Philippines. Her few months in office as the President of the country ushered in great developments and changes both in the political and economic sector of the country. She immediately set up a Constitutional Commission that will be in charge of drafting a new constitution that ushered in the bicameral congress which limited the powers of the Presidency.

She also set up the Presidential Commission on Good Governance that initiated a process of trying and recovering all the ill-gotten wealth of Ferdinand Marcos. Her stay in office was not devoid of obstacles but one filled with lots of coup attempts from the opposition and sympathizers of Ferdinand Marcos. But this did not deter her from being persistent and resilient in her work for her country.

Corazon Aquino’s new Administration maintained a strong emphasis and concern for civil liberties and human rights, and peace talks with communist insurgents and Muslim secessionists. Madam President (Corazon) also focused on bringing back economic health and confidence of the country. The new Philippines administration succeeded in paying off about $4 billion of the country’s outstanding debts.

Corazon Aquino apart from being an advocate of good governance was also a lifelong member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international organization of former and current female heads of state and government that helps to mobilize women world leaders to intervene or take action on issues critical to the leadership, empowerment and development of women.

Corazon who was still the President of her country in 1992 decided to decline the requests for her to seek re-election. She wanted to be a pacesetter to both citizens and politicians, against the view of Ferdinand Marcos, that the presidency is not a lifetime position.

She was still very active in the public service and very often voices her views and opinions on the pressing political issues which earned her a lot of accolades. Corazon Aquino in 1992 was cited as one of ‘100 Women Who Shaped World History’ in a reference book written by Gail Meyer Rolka.  She received the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding in 1996 from the Fulbright Association. This award has also been received by Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela. She was chosen by ‘Time Magazine’ as one of the 20 Most Influential Asians of the 20th century.  Corazon Aquino in 2002 became the first woman to be named in the Board of Governors of the Asian Institute of Management.

Corazon Aquino was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2008 and in 1st of August 2009; Mary Corazon Aquino was announced dead as a result of her ailment. Corazon Aquino’s death spurred a worldwide reaction and a lot of sympathizers attended her wake and funeral. Sequel to her great works, the Catholic Church in the Philippines felt there was a need to canonize and declare her a saint.

The United States’ former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that Corazon Aquino was “loved and admired by the world for her extraordinary courage” in leading the fight against dictatorship and tyranny. Also, Pope Benedict XVI commended her “courageous commitment to the freedom of the Filipino people, her strong rejection of violence, oppression, and intolerance”

Mary Corazon Aquino was a great and amazing woman who had a terrific impact on the freedom and welfare of millions of Filipinos and the rest of the world. She achieved so much in her life and was loved and cherished by many.

By Emekpo Charles

Zhou Qunfei was born in 1970 and has established herself in the manufacturing industry after founding Lens Technology, one of the world’s major manufacturers of touchscreens. She is known as one of China’s richest self-made women.

While attending Shenzhen University where she took part-time courses, she worked for companies that were close to the university. During her studies, she earned certifications in accounting, computer operations, customs processing and even learned how to drive commercial vehicles.

Growing up, she had dreamed of becoming a fashion designer but found herself working for a small firm run by a family which specialized in making watch parts. With an earning of 180 Yuan per month, she was not satisfied with the working conditions and tendered her resignation just after three months with reasons why she could no longer continue with the firm. Impressed with her resignation letter, the factory chief offered her a promotion instead.

After some time, the factory folded and with the encouragement of her cousin, she went on to start up her own company in 1993 at the age of 22. The business started off as a family business with her brother, sister, their spouses and two cousins all working out of a three-bedroom apartment.

The new company worked towards providing customers with high-quality lenses for their watches with her looking into more advanced designs for the factory’s machinery.

Her growing company was then put on the map when in 2001 it gained a contract from Chinese electronics company, TCL Corporation to make screens for mobile phones. Now, she has started almost 11 new companies.

Business was beginning to pick up for her while she still produced watch lenses as she was approached by Motorola to design and develop glass screens for the Razr V3 mobile editions. This was during the transition in mobile phone technology from plastic to glass display screens.

Following this huge milestone, she decided to establish Lens Technology in 2003. She had chosen the name “lens” for the company so that it would easily turn up on searches when anyone was looking for where to get quality lenses.

Soon after, orders from HTC, Nokia, and Samsung started to come in and Zhou was on her way to becoming one of the outstanding game changers in touchscreen production. This feat was cemented after the company produced the touch screens for Apple’s iPhone during its entry into the market making it a dominant player in the industry. Till date, Apple watches still use lenses from Lens Technology.

Zhou Qunfei has risen to become one of the richest women in the technology sector who is still making cutting-edge advances. With her being also listed in many award listings like Forbes as #61 in 2016 Power Women, #205 in 2016 Billionaires (#9 in Hong Kong Billionaires for that year, #18 in 2015 China Rich List, and #30 in 2015 Richest in Tech. Fortune ranked her #18 on their 2016 Most Powerful Women of Asia-Pacific list, and she is a newcomer to the list. Bloomberg has ranked her as #211 out of the World’s Billionaires.

When asked what her hobby is, Zhou Qunfei has said that she considers her work to be her hobby but will sometimes make time to play ping pong and probably break a sweat while mountain climbing.

Her success story is one that has motivated a lot of migrant workers in China as she continues to leave her mark and make more strides in the world of technology.

HE Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi is a member of the ruling family of Sharjah and the niece to His Highness, Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammed Al-Qasimi.

She is the first woman to hold a ministerial post in the United Arab Emirates, respectively holding the positions of Minister of State for International Cooperation and Development, Minister of Foreign Trade, and Minister of Economic and Planning of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). HE Sheikha Lubna currently holds the position of Minister of State for Tolerance.

She received her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the California State University and acquired an Executive MBA from the American University of Sharjah. In March 2014, HE Sheikha Lubna received an honorary doctorate of science, from California State University, Chico; she also has an honorary doctorate in law and economics from the University of Exeter and the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies respectively.

While serving as the Minister of Foreign Trade, she had received commendations with her background in IT for developing a system that slashed the cargo turnaround times at the Dubai airport and also creating the first ever business-to-business online marketplace in the Middle East.

Besides from fulfilling her roles as a Minister, HE Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi also sits on the Board of various organizations, offering her knowledge when needed.

As a Minister of State for Tolerance, she is working towards creating and building a platform where there is a generally accepted and diversified living condition in the United Arab Emirates.

Some of her Awards and recognition include Datamatix IT Woman of the Year 2001; Commonwealth of Kentucky Honorary title — Kentucky Colonel, 2003; Business. Com Personal Contribution Award, 200,1 among others.

 

Born October 09, 1951, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Luiza Helena Trajano is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Magazine Luiza; one of the largest Brazilian retailers, headquartered in the city of Franca Sao Paulo.

Trojano studied at Faculdade de Direito de Franca, where she earned a degree in Law in 1972. A businesswoman, Trojana is responsible for the growth of one of Brazil’s largest retail outlets with more than 800 stores, located in 16 states of the country and a strong e-commerce operation.

Her journey to the top was not a smooth ail as she went through several sectors, such as collection and sales, before becoming Director-Superintendent of  Magazine Luiza in 1991, since then, she has served in various leadership positions before becoming Chairman of the Board of Directors of  Magazine Luiza.

Trojana has been recognized and honoured for her achievements in business, transforming a network of stores located in Franca, São Paulo, into a network strong enough to fight with the giants of retail business. Some of the honours she has received include the first woman and the only privately held retail company to receive this award in the “SUCCESSFUL 2000” promotion; Entrepreneur Award of the year awarded by Ernst & Young in the Commerce category year 2002; Entrepreneur of the Year Magazine É Magazine 2014 and numerous others.

Magazine Luiza was also been recognized for its people management policy was recognized with several awards. For 20 years, the network has been among the best companies to work on the Great Place to Work ranking its e-commerce operation won 12 times the Diamond trophy in the Excellence in Quality Award for Electronic Commerce – B2C. The company has been listed on the São Paulo Stock Exchange since May 2011.

Born in Chennai, India, to an Indian family and was raised in Indonesia and Singapore, Pramila Jayapal became the first Indian-American woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives in 2016.

In 1982 and at the age of 16, she immigrated to the United States to attend college. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and an MBA from Northwestern University.

Jayapal became a U.S. citizen in 2000. Before entering electoral politics she founded the Hate Free Zone (now known as OneAmerica), an advocacy group for immigrants, and campaigned for the rights of immigrants, women, and people of colour. The group successfully sued the Bush Administration’s Immigration and Naturalization Services to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somalis across the country.  Jayapal stepped down from her leadership position in May 2012, and in 2013 she was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change.”

She served on the Mayoral Advisory Committee that negotiated Seattle’s $15 minimum wage and co-chaired the Mayor’s police chief search committee, which resulted in the unanimous selection of the city’s first woman police chief.

After State Senator Adam Kline announced his retirement in early 2014, Jayapal entered the race to succeed him. She was endorsed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and won more than 51% of the vote in the August 5 primary, out of a field of six candidates. She went on to defeat fellow Democrat Louis Watanabe in November 2014.

In the Washington State Senate, Jayapal was the primary sponsor of SB 5863, which directs the Washington State Department of Transportation to administer a pre-apprenticeship program targeting women and people of color; the bill passed into law in July 2015. She co-sponsored a bill to test and track thousands of police department rape kits. Over her two-year tenure in Olympia, Jayapal was rated “in the bottom 98% of legislators in the WA Senate” by FiscalNote, which analyzes the ability of legislators to advance sponsored legislation. 

In January 2016, Jayapal declared her candidacy for Congress in Washington’s 7th congressional district, after Congressman Jim McDermott announced his retirement. In April, she received an endorsement from Bernie Sanders. On August 2, 2016, Jayapal finished first in the top-two primary, alongside state representative Brady Walkinshaw, also a Democrat. She advanced to the general election in November and defeated Walkinshaw with 56 percent of the vote.

Pramila Jayapal currently serves as the U.S. Representative for Washington’s 7th congressional district, which encompasses most of Seattle as well as outlying parts of King County. As a member of the Democratic Party, she represented the 37th legislative district in the Washington State Senate from 2015 to 2017. She is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first woman to represent the 7th District in Congress, and the first Asian-American to represent Washington in Congress.

She is the author of Pilgrimage: One Woman’s Return to a Changing India, published in March 2000, and currently lives in the West Seattle neighborhood of Seattle with her husband Steve.

Given the predominance of child labour in Africa and most especially Cote d’Ivoire, several international conferences and committees have been set up to draw up plans that will assist in putting an end to these activities. These steps will not be complete without the touch of a mother who is directly affected by the negative conditions and wellbeing of children. It is based on this fact that the First Lady of Cote d’Ivoire Madame Dominique Ouattara, has exhibited the qualities of a true mother by spearheading the fight against child labour in her country.

 

Dominique Claudine Nouvian Ouattara was born on December 16th, 1953 in Constantine. Originally, she is from France and Côte d’Ivoire. Following her High School Diploma of from the Academy of Strasbourg, she holds a University Diploma (the equivalent of a Bachelor) of Languages specializing in Economics, from the University of Paris X. Her studies have successively been crowned with a Diploma in Property Management (Paris-1987) and a Real Estate Expert Diploma in Paris in 1989.

 

On the accession of her husband to the Presidency of Côte d’Ivoire, Mrs. Dominique Ouattara gave up her brilliant international career as a business operator to exclusively serve her adopted homeland. First Lady, Protector of Ivorian Childhood, Advocate for Women’s Rights, Dominique Ouattara shares since 1989 her brilliant international business operator career with humanitarian missions in Côte d’Ivoire and provides help and comfort to the underprivileged populations in the remote areas of the country.

 

Madame Ouattara created Children of Africa Foundation in 1998 to improve the living and health conditions of African children. With the support of Ivorian and international personalities, the foundation helps and supervises thousands of poor children and women in Africa and particularly in Côte d’Ivoire.

 

On September 12, 2017, Mrs. Dominique Ouattara received the Grand Cross of the Order of merit of the Republic of Portugal from President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa in recognition of her many charitable actions in Africa.

 

In Côte d’Ivoire, the foundation works hard to tackle challenges faced by women and children. The outcomes of its sponsorship in favor of Ivorian children and women include:

 

  • The fight against child labor – Appointed in November 2011,

President of the National Oversight Committee of Fight Actions against trafficking, exploitation, and Child Labor (CNS ) she has supported the development of the National Action Plan 2012-2014, which aims to eliminate child exploitation and which must reduce in Côte d’ Ivoire, the worst forms of child labor. In June 2012, the report of the U.S. State Department on the fight against trafficking in persons, reclassified Côte d’Ivoire in Tier 2, indicating the progress made in the fight against abusive child labor

 

  • An ongoing Support to women’s economic empowerment in rural areas.

The First Lady has created a Support Fund for the Women of Côte d’Ivoire ( FAFCI ), to finance the micro-projects. The objectives of this fund are to improve women’s income, facilitate their financial independence, and strengthen entrepreneurial skills while fighting against unemployment. 115 000 women have received this fund already.

 

  • Construction of a mother/child hospital: Against the difficulties of access to care endured by women and children in Côte d’ Ivoire, Children of Africa Foundation has built the Mother / Child Hospital of Bingerville. This hospital has 120 beds, and it is intended to contribute to the reduction of maternal, newborn and child mortality while at the same time introducing measures to reduce HIV infection rates from mother to child.

 

  • Management and Promotion of the Fight against mother to child transmission of AIDS: Mrs. Dominique Ouattara actively supports all local, regional and international initiatives, Programs for the Prevention of AIDS by participating personally in the activities of relating organizations including: membership to of First Ladies’ International associations: the Organization of African First Ladies against AIDS in 2011; the African Synergy Association, as well as the participation in a meeting of First Ladies in Deauville, France in May 2011. Her active participation in the meeting of the First Ladies of the sub-region in Mali, in October 2011, demonstrates her commitment to fighting against the scourge in Côte d’ Ivoire.

 

Before devoting herself solely to Côte d’ Ivoire, the brillant career of Dominique Ouattara as an in international business includes the following positions:

 

  • Creation of the Malesherbes Gestion, Cabinet Parisien of management consultancy of joint ownership.

 

  • CEO of the AICI international (international real estate group), (International Properties Marketing Agency) whwich she created in 1979 and which is located in several cities in Africa and Europe (Paris, Cannes, Abidjan, Yamoussoukro, Libreville, and Ouagadougou).

 

  • President & CEO of EJD Inc., Management company of the Jacques Dessange Institute and acquisition of a DESSANGE franchise in the United States followed by the election as CEO of the “French Beauty Services, Inc.” company.

 

  • Elected in 1989 Honorary President of the Chambre Syndicale (Union House) of Côte d’ Ivoire’s Realtors (CSDAIM)
  • Honorary President of the Chambre Syndicale (Union House) of the Realtors Côte d’Ivoire (CSDAIM) elected in 1989.