August 19th marks World Humanitarian Day, which is dedicated to recognising the extraordinary people who have devoted their lives to working for humanitarian causes. We’re paying homage to some of the world’s most notable and inspiring women who have changed things for the better.
The Cork native, and most notably the first female President of Ireland, has gone above and beyond in her lifetime to ensure higher standards of human rights and equality around the world; giving a voice to those who would otherwise have none. Robinson ended her Presidential stint in 1997 in favour of becoming the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; during which she fought for immigrant rights and criticised the United States use of capital punishment, and was one of 29 signators of the Yogyakarta Principles, which is a set of fundamental principles that protects members of LGBT communities. Mary Robinson is also a key member of ‘The Elders’; a highly-respected group of world leaders who contribute their wisdom, profound knowledge and skills to tackle the world’s biggest problems. Other members have included Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and Kofi Anana. Right now, Robinson continues her work at home and abroad and has established The Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice which aims to empower the poorest people and countries to achieve sustainable growth and development.
Actress Jolie has arguably become more well known off-screen as a human rights campaigner and activist. Her experiencing filming her Lara Croft in Cambodia led her to become active with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, and donating one million dollars to the UNHCR appeal for refugees. Jolie was later appointed as Special Envoy to the High Commissioner of the UNHCR and focused her work on the refugee crises. She has successfully opened animal conservation parks in Cambodia and Asia, two special facilities in Cambodia and Ethiopia for children affected by HIV and tuberculosis. As well as this, Jolie has also fronted campaigns against sexual violence in military conflicted zones with the UK government. In 2013, for her continued efforts, Angelina Jolie received the prestigious Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her outstanding dedication to humanitarian causes.
Even though she has famous roots, Jordan Hewson – daughter of Bono – is laying the foundation for her own successful legacy. Hewson became sick of reading negative news stories of tragedy around the world, and felt helpless to the cause. With that, she established the Action Button, which “connects newsreaders to meaningful opportunities to take action”. Action Button is powered by Global Action, where Hewson is also a founding editor, and aims to deplete or end extreme poverty by 2030. Global Action already helped over 656 million people to take action to solve some of the worlds biggest problem since 2012. Watch this space.
Clonmel-born Adi Roche is perhaps the most recognised Irish face of humanitarian aid. After witnessing the devastating aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, Roche established the Chernobyl Children International in 1991 with the aim of relieving the pain and suffering of the effected children in and around the surrounding nuclear-hazardous areas of Ukraine. Since its birth the charity has helped to bring over 25,000 children to Ireland for rest and vital medical treatment. It is estimated that for each week that these children spend outside of the hostile environment of Ukraine that they add one year onto their life span. Roche holds a number of prestigious awards and titles for her work including the Health Award at the World of Children Awards in 2010, and the Princess Grace Humanitarian Award from Prince Albert of Monaco in 2015.
She may have made the major headlines for her marriage to George Clooney last year but Amal Clooney is a hugely successful lawyer, activist and author and a passionate advocate for human rights and justice. Her work includes serving as senior advisor to Special Envoy Kofi Annan on human rights in Syria and has fronted campaigns for human rights for the UN. She continues to be one of the most sought-after legal representatives for high-profile humanitarian legal cases.
Phan Thi Kim Phuc
Phan Thi Kim Phuc is a Vietnamese war survivor and founding member of the Kim Phuc foundation, which provides medical and psychological assistance to child victims of war. When Kim Phuc was nine years of age her village in Vietnam fell victim of a deadly napalm bomb attack – which is a searing hot substance that sticks to skin. The attack, which was caught on camera by Nick Ut who went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for the image, left Phuc with severe burns and deformities and doctors were sure that the young girl would not survive her injuries. With the help of two surgeons she made a miraculous recovery and now continues her work with her husband and two children in Canada. In may of this year, Phuc was awarded a Doctor of Civic Law by Saint Mary’s University of Halifax.