Bios – Speakers – English

Ramona Africa is Minister of Communication for the MOVE Organization, former political prisoner and the sole adult survivor of the May 13, 1985 government bombing and massacre of MOVE in Philadelphia. She is a representative of The International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal (a Black journalist on death row in Pennsylvania). Most importantly, she is a revolutionary and a freedom fighter. She is 55 years old and has been in the MOVE Organization for over thirty years. She spent seven years in prison for surviving the 1985 bombing. She continued her fight for freedom in prison, and continues to this day, working especially for the release of her MOVE family, who have been in prison for thirty-two years.

Ana Maria Alvarado lives in a historic town in central Mexico, Cerro de San Pedro, where her parents and grandparents lived before her. She is a community leader opposing a mining project that will threaten their historic town, displace people and contaminate the water supply. The Mexican community of Cerro de San Pedro has been struggling for ten years to stop this open-pit cyanide-leach gold mine owned by Canadian company Metallica Resources Inc. Mexican courts have ruled in favour of this UNESCO World Heritage- nominated community, located in a fragile semi-desert. Yet the Mexican government refuses to enforce the court rulings and prohibit Metallica Inc. from going forward. The mining operation continues, and so community members have been forced to peacefully block mining equipment. However, they have been met with a violent response.

Parvin Ashrafi is an Iranian-Canadian woman activist dedicated to women’s rights and social issues. In Vancouver, she is active within the Iranian Centre for Peace, Freedom and Social Justice, and is a member of the International Women’s Day Organizing Committee there. She also works in the anti-war movement as a coordinating member of She is co-writer of the Sweden-based quarterly Journal of Negah Research Centre in the Farsi language. She has spoken and written widely on women’s rights and social issues on radio, TV, in articles and in local newspapers. She strongly believes that women’s rights are human rights and that human rights are universal and borderless.

Edith Ballantyne was born in into an active socialist family in 1922 in what is now the Czech Republic. She worked with the World Heath Organization for five years, raised four children, and took a leading role as Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in Geneva, She was later elected its international president, serving from 1992 to 1998. She has been serving WILPF as special advisor on UN matters since 1998. She has organized international conferences, was actively engaged in organizing civil society forums around UN World Conferences such as the Human Rights conference in 1993 and the four women’s conferences held in Mexico City, Copenhagen, Nairobi, and Beijing. She has organized and participated in many seminars and workshops on disarmament, elimination of apartheid and other forms of racism.

Fatima Burnad is an activist and president of SRED (Society for Rural Education and Development) who has been working among the Dalits, landless, and tribal women for the past twenty years. She is active in the landless labourers movement, the rural women’s liberation movement, the Tamilnadu Dali Movement, and the Tamilnadu Irula Munetra Sangam. She has also promoted a state level Forum, the Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum, for bringing together women’s groups and human rights groups. She is motivated by a passion to strengthen people’s movements in order to create a society in which all are treated equally, encouraging rural women to take up political power and uplift themselves economically through land struggles. She is a trainer and a resource person at various seminars/workshops conducted in and around the country.

Dr. Julie Caguiat is a graduate of University of the Philippines College of Medicine. She worked as a community doctor in a Community Based Health Program (CBHP) in Bukidnon, Mindanao for about 10 years. She is presently connected with Community Medicine Foundation (COMMED), a national organization supporting community health work. She has been a member of HEAD since 2004 and is active in various campaigns and advocacy work. As part of her work with COMMED,she is active in organizing medical students & doctors, encouraging them to work in the communities and in the process encouraging them to support people’s struggle for genuine change. She is also active in promoting women’s issues, especially women’s right to health. At present, Julie is an active spokesperson in the campaign to free the forty-three health workers abducted and detained by the Philippines since Februrary2010. Twenty-six of the forty-three health workers are women.

Dr. Dolores Chew is a longtime activist and community organizer with the South Asian Women’s Community Centre in Montreal of which she is also a founding member. She is an historian and teacher and Research Associate at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute as well as the Chair of the Liberal & Creative Arts Department at Marianopolis College in Montreal. Dr. Chew combines academic expertise with grassroots activism and is one of the founding members of Women of Diverse Origins. She has been an inspiration to young women both as her students and as activists involved in fighting for women’s rights. She has been actively involved in campaigns against racial profiling and patriarchal violence against women. She is a founding member of CERAS (the South Asia Centre) in Montreal. She has written and presented extensively on issues such as racial discrimination in Canada, violence against women in India, and the oppression and injustice of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Rajashri Dasgupta is an independent journalist based in Calcutta, specializing in issues related to gender, health, human rights, and social movements. For over 25 years, she wrote and edited for The Telegraph, The Hindu, The Times of India, Economic Times, Women’s Feature Service, and Economic & Political Weekly. She has written extensively on social, political, economic, gender, health, violence, and environmental issues. She is on the editorial board of the Kathmandu-based Himal Southasian. Actively involved in the peace and women’s rights movements, she is a member of several organizations working for social change, including Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy, Network of Women in Media (NWIM), Maitree (a network of NGOs and women’s rights groups), Swayam (a women’s crisis centre), Sachetana (a women’s rights organization) and Aman (violence mitigation and conflict resolution). She is president of Ebong Alaap, which explores innovative ways of disseminating knowledge and information in the vernacular. Awarded the Panos Fellowship, she exposed the unethical drug trials with quinacrine to sterilise women in West Bengal.

Representative Emerenciana “Emmi” de Jesus of the Gabriela Women’s Party has been an advocate for women’s rights and the genuine emancipation of the Filipino people from exploitation and oppression by imperialist neocolonial control for over two decades now. She was among the 10,000 women who, in April 1984, participated in the demonstration in Manila to defy then Filipino dictator president Marcos’ decree against the people’s exercise of their civil and political rights. She previously served as the Secretary General of the Gabriela women’s sectoral organization with around 250 organizations nationwide from 2003 to 2009. To date, she is the concurrent vice-chair of the Gabriela sectoral organization of women and child rights advocates, as well as the Gabriela Women’s Party list. In the recently concluded 2010 national elections, the Gabriela Women’s Party ranked among the top 5 party list groups with the most number of votes among the over 150 party list groups that fielded candidates. As its elected second nominee, Rep. Emmi de Jesus, together with standard-bearer Rep. Luz Ilagan, brings the collective voice of marginalized women, children, overseas Filipino workers, and other oppressed sectors to the 15th Congress of the House of Representatives of the Republic of the Philippines.

Sylvie Deschênes is a nurse by training and became a farmer when she married a dairy producer from Saint-Valentin, Québec. She went back to school at the end of the 90’s and studied agricultural management. The Women’s Farmers Association named her Farmer of the year in education. She participated in setting up the second farmers’ union, the Union paysanne in 2001. She focusses on ecological agriculture in permaculture. Her main areas of responsibility at Union paysanne are the legalization of raw milk, food sovereignty and women in agriculture. She worked at the international level when she attended a meeting in Mexico among the Zapatistas. Each year, Sylvie and her family receive a teenager from a different country to live with them and do French-immersion for the last year of high school. It is a great way for the teen to learn French and a wonderful experience for Sylvie’s four children.

Elena María Díaz holds a Bachelor of Arts and a PhD in Economics. She is a professor at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) and the University of Havana and is a member of the Cuban Academy of Sciences. She specializes in gender and social development and has taught in different countries and participated in numerous conferences in America and Europe. Her articles have been published in Argentina, Brazil, the United States, Spain, and France, among other countries. She has received different honours in her country and was the program director of FLACSO Cuba and an Independent Consultant of the Upper Council of FLASCO (1983-91).

Olga Djanaeva is one of the initiators of the Rural Women’s Association, Alga, which was founded in January 1995 to provide moral, psychological, social, material and educational support to rural women in Chui region of Kyrgyzstan. She has a Master’s degree in Sociology and is participating in a Doctoral program at the University of Kyrgyzstan. Based on her own rural experience and aware of the crisis situation in which many rural women face as well as her research activities on domestic violence, Olga became interested in addressing village women’s needs and problems. Over time, Olga’s interest and commitment to the struggle of rural women increased and she organized a group of active women in her village, particularly those who suffered from the new land reform. Since those early days Alga has grown and expanded its activity both thematically and geographically and it is widely known, accepted and appreciated.

Sara Román Esquivel graduated from the Faculty of Economics at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico and holds a master’s degree in Sociology with a focus on gender in the economy and public policy from the Michoacan University and the UNAM. She has done case study research on the dynamics and perspectives of the female workforce in the maquila export industry. Sara is a collaborator with the Red Mexicana Frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC) and the founder of Red Nacional Género y Economía (REDGE) in 1997. She initiated the Red Latinoamericana Mujeres Transformando la Economía (REMTE) and is currently part of REDGE coordination. Sara participated in the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995. She is an analyst of issues related to the labour market and female workforce and has organized regional and national forums on the subject. She is currently a member of United Working Women and of the Mujeres Trabajadoras Unidas and for several years has participated in the training of women trade unionists in seminars and workshops with the vice president of gender of the Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT). Sara is a contributor to various feminist and women’s spaces such as the Marcha Mundial de las Mujeres in Mexico and the Encuentro Nacional Feminista 2010.

Andrea Figueroa is a community activist in Montreal, she’s been working for the last two years in migrant justice struggles and against police brutality and impunity. She’s the external coordinator for QPIRG-McGill and a member of No One Is Illegal, a collective in Montreal that organizes to be part of the resistance movement within the walls of Fortress North America. They recognize that struggles for self-determination, and for the free movement of people against colonial exploitation, are led by the communities who fight on the frontlines. The No One Is Illegal campaign lends tangible support to these struggles in our capacity as both participants and allies. In doing so, they seek to contribute to building a global movement for justice and dignity, while building links between communities of resistance locally and worldwide.

Ellen Gabriel is president of Quebec Native Women’s Association. In 1990, Gabriel received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University, and joined her Kanehsatà community on the barricades to protect The Pines from the expansion of a municipal golf course. She was chosen by the People of the Longhouse, and by her community, as their spokesperson during the 1990 Oka Crisis. She travelled across Canada, to Holland, France and Japan. For 10 years, Gabriel worked as an Illustrator/Curriculum developer in Kanehsatà:Ke and as an art teacher for the Mohawk Immersion School. Within a team of researchers and illustrators to preserve the Mohawk language, Gabriel worked on videos illustrating Iroquois legends and Kanehsatà:ke stories. She is executive director for Kontinón: stats – a local organization to preserve the Kanien’keha language. Because she believes education is key for Aboriginal people to overcome oppression and the effects of colonization while maintaining language, culture, and traditions, Gabriel was Coordinator of the McGill University’s Peoples’ House.

Damilvany (Vany) Gnanakumar was born in Jaffna in the Tamil-dominated north of Sri Lanka in 1984 and moved with her family to Britain in 1994. After graduating as a biomedical scientist in 2007, she went to Sri Lanka in February 2008. She was teaching English in a youth center when the Sri-Lankan government launched an all-out offensive, trapping as many as 300,000 people inside a shrinking enclave of land held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Vany volunteered in a makeshift hospital, dressing wounds and administering first aid, but was then detained in Menik Farm detention camp with other survivors after the region fell to government troops. Despite diplomatic efforts to have her released she was held for months and interrogated five times. She finally returned to England in September 2009.

Nenita Gonzaga is a life-long trade unionist, occupying positions within the National Federation of Labour Unions in the Philippines, particularly in women’s affairs. She has served as the Vice-Chairperson for Women’s Affairs in the million-strong KMU national trade union centre. Kilusang Mayo Uno, or May First Labour Movement (KMU), is an alliance with hundreds of progressive labour organizations under its umbrella. It was created on May 1, 1980 during the Marcos dictatorship to represent the progressive worker’s organizations in the Philippines advocating for the National Democratic struggle in particular the removal of  US imperialism. The organization also advances the need for National Industrialization where the economy develops agricultural production to serve as the base for light and heavy industries.

Teresa Gutierrez was born and raised in Texas, and was active there on issues of immigrant rights, the infamous death penalty, as well as Chicana/o and women’s rights. She was a member of the Raza Unida Party and a founder of the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) chapter at the University of Texas San Antonio. She has been National Co-Director of the International Action Center since its founding in 1992. The International Action Center is an anti-racist, anti-war and anti-imperialist center that organizes national and international opposition to U.S. government policies. It also organizes support and solidarity for struggles abroad as well as in the U.S. In June 2008, Teresa attended the founding conference of the International Migrant Alliance in Hong Kong where she was elected Deputy Secretary General of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA). She is a Co-Editor of the groundbreaking publication War In Colombia: Made in the U.S.A., and the Producer of the People’s Video Network Plan Colombia: We Say No!

Hsiao-Chuan Hsia is Professor at the Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies, Shih Hsin University, Taipei. As the first scholar studying marriage migration issues in Taiwan, her first book is titled “Drifting Shoal (流離尋岸): the ‘Foreign Brides’ Phenomenon in Capitalist Globalization” (in Chinese). Her recent academic publications include issues on citizenship and the development of grassroots immigrant and migrant workers movements.  Hsia is also an activist striving for the empowerment of immigrant women and the making of im/migrant movement in Taiwan. She initiated the Chinese literacy programs for the “foreign brides” in 1995, leading to the establishment of TransAsia Sisters Association, Taiwan (TASAT). She is the co-founder of the Alliance for the Human Rights Legislation for Immigrants and Migrants in Taiwan and the Action Network for the Marriage Migrants Rights and Empowerment, an international network for marriage migrant issues. She also serves as the board member of Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, and a member of the International Coordinating Body of the International Migrants Alliance.

Gabriela Representive Luz Ilagan is an activist, educator, feminist, and public official. Born and raised in Davao City, in the Philippines, Luz Ilagan first became a women’s rights advocate and leader through her involvement with the WOMEN’S ALLIANCE FOR TRUE CHANGE- MINDANAO, which would eventually join the national coalition called GABRIELA. In 1984, Luz became the Chairperson of GABRIELA-Mindanao, while her husband, a human rights lawyer, was also Chair of the BAYAN-Mindanao. She continued her service as head of the GABRIELA-Mindanao up to 1988, even when her husband became a political detainee in 1985, and she was left all alone to raise their four sons. She has also been involved in other NGOs such as the Solidarity Action Group for Indigenous Peoples (SAGIP), TALIKALA Foundation, Purple Rose Committee, Media Mindanao News Service, and Development Educational Media Services and maintains membership in other civic organizations, like the Mindanao Interfaith Peoples Coalition (MIPC), Kanlungan Crisis Center, Women Studies Association of the Philippines, Women Network Group, Women’s Studies and Resource Center, Ateneo Task Force on Reproductive Health, Gender, and Sexuality, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines, to name just a few.

Natalie Kouri-Towe is a PhD student in the department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, OISE and the Collaborative Program in Women and Gender Studies. Her research examines transnational queer activism and the politics of solidarity, and she is a member of the group, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

Eni Lestari Andayani has been working as migrant domestic worker in Hong Kong since 1999. She was victim of labour exploitation by her first employer and forced her to run away and sought assistance from the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge. Her experience as victim encouraged her and her fellow Indonesian domestic workers to form the Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in HK (ATKI-HK) in 2000 in which she was elected as president. In 2007, the growing movement of Indonesian migrant workers in HK led to the formation of United Indonesians in HK Against Overcharging (PILAR) whom she has been coordinating. At the same time, she is one of the Coordinator for Asian Migrant’s Coordinating Body (AMCB) in HK, an alliance of migrant’s organizations from Indonesia, Filipina, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Nepal, and in 2008, she was elected as Chairperson for the International Migrant’s Alliance (IMA), the first global alliance of grassroots migrants and refugees.

Coni Ledesma is a member of the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), member of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and International Spokesperson of MAKIBAKA, revolutionary women’s organization, an allied organization in the NDFP. She began her activism as a student in the 70s and was assigned as a nun in Cebu City where she became active in the Social Action Office, later moving to the island of Negros where she became involved in the struggles of sugar workers and peasants. Coni helped form the Christian for National Liberation (CNL) in the central Philippines and was elected a member of the CNL National Executive Board in 1972. She went underground with the declaration of martial law in July 1972 and was arrested and imprisoned from September 1973 to July 1974. She applied for political asylum in the Netherlands in December 1976, receiving asylum in 1978, together with her husband Luis Jalandoni.

Amira Ali Lidasan is a Moro activist (indigenous Muslim people of southern Philippines) and vocal opponent of the U.S. military presence in the Philippines. She grew up in Manila where she received her elementary through college education.  Amira studied journalism and Islamic Studies at the University of the Philippines, and became president of the College of Mass Communications (CMC) Student Council in 1994. She became chair of the National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP), a nationwide alliance of student councils, in 1995 and was elected as its secretary general in 1996. She is also deputy secretary-general of BAYAN Philippines. Amira has served as the spokesperson for the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance, an inter-faith organization composed of Muslim and Christian individuals and organizations, since its establishment. The MCPA asserts the rights of the Moro people and helps in their quest for genuine freedom and lasting peace.

Maru Chavez Maesa has worked as a Live-In Caregiver in Canada since November 2008 after working in Hong Kong as a domestic worker from 1998 to 2008. She is presently a member of the Secretariat of Migrante Ontario, which represents Filipino migrants in Canada’s most populous province. She is on the organizing committee of the Independent Workers Association, formed with assistance from the Canadian labour movement to defend the rights of live-in caregivers in Ontario. In Hong Kong she helped to set up and was Chairperson of the Chater Garden Chapter of the Filipino Migrant Workers Union (FMWU) as well as Deputy Secretary of the national organization of the FMWU.

Hon. Flor Marcelino was elected as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Wellington in 2007. In 2009, she was appointed Minister of Culture, Heritage, Tourism and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism. Born in Manila, Philippines, Flor immigrated to Canada in 1982 where she and her family made Winnipeg their home. Flor worked as support staff at Red River College for 17 years before becoming a small business owner and editor of The Philippine Times, dedicated to political and human rights issues affecting the Philippines and the Filipino Diaspora. As an active community leader, she served on the board of Project Peacemakers, St. Stephen’s-Broadway Foundation, Broadway Disciples United Church and its international affiliate, Global Ministries. In 2007, she was the first woman of color elected to the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. In November 2009, Flor became the first visible minority included in the Manitoba provincial cabinet.

Estrelita Mariano is a farmer from the Philippines; she is active in issues of sustainable agriculture and food security, genuine land reform, human rights, freedom and democracy. She was one of the founding members of AMIHAN-National Federation of Peasant Women, and was elected as Deputy Secretary General during the founding congress in 1986. She was elected Secretary General of AMIHAN in 1992, and served for ten years. From 2003 to 2009 she served as Vice Chairperson of the Farmers Alliance in Central Luzon. She currently acts as spokesperson for AMIHAN, as well as for Bantay-Bigas (Rice Watch).

Liza Maza is an activist and parliamentarian representing the Gabriela Women’s Party in the 13th Congress of the Philippines. In the 12th Congress, she served as the sole woman representative of Bayan Muna. She was an author and a sponsor of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 and co-authored the Anti-Violence in Women and Children Act (Anti-VAWC). Passionate about public service and activism since her days as a student leader at the University of the Philippines, Liza worked as a researcher and taught for St. Scholastica College. She worked with GABRIELA Philippines, the largest and most militant alliance of women’s organizations in the Philippines. She became part of the editors collective for LAYA magazine. Liza was  Secretary General of GABRIELA for fourteen years. She was a founding member of the Asia section of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a member of the executive committee of the Women’s International Democratic Federation.

Ligaya Lindio McGovern received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Loyola University and is currently Associate Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Indiana University, USA. She is author of Filipino Peasant Women: Exploitation and Resistance published by University of Pennsylvania Press, co-editor of Globalization and Third World Women: Exploitation, Coping and Resistance published by Ashgate Publishing Company, and Gender and Globalization: Patterns of Resistance (Forthcoming, published by de Sitter Publishing Company of Ontario, Canada). She has also published various journal articles and book chapters based on her areas of research on labor export and migration, women and globalization/development, gender-race/ethnicity-class, and social movements. She is completing a fourth book, Globalization, Labor Export and Resistance: A Study of Filipino Migrant Domestic Workers in Global Cities, under contract with a publisher. Email address: and

Monica Moorehead is a Workers World Party secretariat member and a managing editor of Workers World newspaper, which fights for and promotes socialism. The editor of the 2007 compilation book, “Marxism, Reparations and the Black Freedom Struggle,” she co-authored “Mumia Speaks – an interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal”. She was a Workers World Party candidate for U.S. president in two national elections, 1996 and 2000, and a Peace & Freedom Party candidate for president in 1996. Moorehead is an activist with the Women’s Fightback Network, which organizes annual International Working Women’s Day events in NYC. Moorehead has represented Workers World Party on solidarity trips including South Africa, Iraq, Cuba, Nicaragua and North Korea. In the mid-80s, she was part of a women’s delegation that traveled to the Dominican Republic including the Haitian border.

Dr. Shree Mulay, Professor Emerita, Department of Medicine of McGill University, Montreal, is also Associate Dean and Professor of Community Health and Humanities Division, Memorial University, Newfoundland, St. John’s.  She served as Director of the McGill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women, and held office on the Executive Board of SAWCC, (South Asian Women’s Community Centre, Montreal). Dr. Mulay participated in NAC (National Action Committee for the Status of Women in Canada). Her academic and community work awards and honours include the endowed “Shree Mulay Graduate Student Award in Women’s Studies”, the Humanitarian of the Year Award, Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Woman of Distinction Award for the Advancement of Women, YWCA, Montreal. Expert in endocrinology and women’s health, her current research focus is women and children’s health in developing countries, particularly India. She aims to assist developing policies for equitable rural health services (particularly reproductive health) for underserved populations. Born in India, Dr. Mulay, travels to South Asia several times a year for research and community work.

Lina Solano Ortiz is dedicated to the defence of the environmental rights of indigenous and rural communities in resistance to mega projects of mining of transnational corporations in Ecuador, with emphasis in the rights of the women affected by this extractive industry. Co-founder and member of the Directory of la Coordinadora Campesina Popular de Morona Santiago (CCP), el Frente de Mujeres Defensoras de la Pachamama, el Frente de Mujeres Guardianas de la Amazonía, and la Coordinadora Nacional por la Defensa de la Vida y la Soberanía de Ecuador, a coalition of organizations and communities affected by the mining of different sites in this South American country. She is also a member of the Union Latinoamericana de Mujeres – ULAM, regrouping women affected by mining in Guatemala, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. She has been persecuted for the supposed invasion and destruction of a camp of Canadian mining company Corriente Resources, in Rosa de Oro region in 2006.

Marylynn Poucachiche,  a 32-year old Algonquin mother of five, grew up on the barricades trying to stop developers from encroaching on their native land at Barriere Lake. The government has reneged on its agreement for a sustainable land management deal and the move has sparked a new battle in a generations-long fight. The torch is being passed from the elders to the youth, and Marylynn is part of a new generation of community leaders on the front lines. Barriere Lake is located at the headwaters of the Ottawa River, and the community of 450 caught international attention in the 1980s, camping out on Parliament Hill and blockading the logging roads creeping into their territory at the time. The campaign won them a groundbreaking sustainable land management deal, known as the Trilateral Agreement – praised by the UN for the exciting precedents it sets for Indigenous Rights. It turns out negotiating the agreement was the easy part; getting Canada to honour its word is proving a much harder fight.
Here is the link to some video footage of the barricades which was shown at the UN:

Gabriela Alejandra Quinto was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1963. She has a diploma in administration, specialising in naval administration and worked in this field in Argentina for several years, doing accounting work on commercial ships. From 1993-1999, Gabriela worked as an administrative assistant at the Argentine National Library and from 1999-2003 as secretary and consultant to the Chamber of Deputies in Argentina. She says, “When I came to Québec I did not speak French and did volunteer work at the Montreal Women’s Centre. Later I went to work for Distinction, a public buildings maintenance firm. Since then, I learned French by taking courses offered by the Service Employees International Union, Local 800 in collaboration with the company where I work.”

France Robertson is Innu and grew up in Mashteuiatsh (Lac St-Jean). She has been living in Montreal for the past ten years, and has two sons, 11 and 6. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Culural research and facilitation, and a certificate in management and has been working for indigenous organizations since she came to Montreal. From 1993 to 1996, she was researcher for a project aimed at educating young non-Natives about the culture of Quebec’s First Nations peoples. From 1996 to 2001, she facilitated workshops about Indigenous people’s history in various non-indigenous schools and community organizations. These workshops were aimed at encouraging closer relations and understanding between Natives and non-Natives. From 2001 to 2002, she went back to her community to work for a family business. She was in charge of a project aimed at improving public awareness about Native people’s traditional fur trade. Since 2002, she has devoted her work to Quebec Native Women as the coordinator of the women’s shelter and to promote non-violence. She is proud to be working in this organization as Native women serving their community

Dr. Azra Talat Sayeed is the founder of Roots for Equity, a development NGO in Pakistan. She is also a member of the International Coordinating Committee of the International League of People’s Struggles. She has written and presented extensively on the impact of imperialism and neo-liberal globalization on the masses in Pakistan.

Mariame Sidibe holds a Master’s degree in Global Security from Bordeaux IX France and a Master’s degree in Political Science and international mutations from Bordeaux IV (France). She is a professor in the Philosophy Department at the Universitdu Mali. She teaches Research Methods at the Management and Technology Institute (IMATEC). Concerned with the economic, social, cultural and environmental issues linked to globalisation, she became involved in the work of the Centre Amadou Hampâté BA (CAHBA) and in the Forum pour un autre Mali (Forum for another Mali) FORAM, set up by Aminata D. Traoré work for a better world. She is responsible for analysing the legal dimensions of male/female relations and in following up the process of mobilization of women and youth.

Amy Sim is a Cultural Anthropologist in the Department of Sociology, University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include gender and sexuality, women in migration, issues of identity and cultural change in women’s empowerment and leadership, social movements, social transformations and governance. Prior to her postgraduate studies, Amy worked in a regional NGO in Asia on issues of sustainable development. Her master’s degree was in Development Management and her thesis was on the subject of the development of migrant-related NGOs in Hong Kong while her doctoral dissertation was about Indonesian migrant women workers in Hong Kong.

Anik Sioui is a member of the Huron-Wendat nation and is part of the Anishnabe Abitibiwinni band from Pikogan. She is currently completing her MA in clinical and community psychology at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM). She worked for several years at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal and currently works at the Women’s Centre of Montreal on a project for Aboriginal women in urban areas. She also accompanies former residential school students through the steps necessary to gain compensation for the sexual and physical abuse they have suffered.

Brenda Stokely is a human rights activist dedicated to ending all forms of national oppression, racism, sexism and exploitation of workers. She co-found and built several key organizations, including The 2004 Million Worker March Movement (Co-NE Regional Organizer), NY Labor Against the War (Co-convener), Local 215 (former President), Social Service Employees and District Council 1707 (Former President), and AFSCME (American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, representing 25,000 human service workers) (former President). She is a rank and file member in both private and public sectors who has won union recognition, just contracts, and internal union democracy. She is also a founding member of Troops Out Now, Blacks in Solidarity Against the War, May 1st Coalition for Workers and Immigrant Rights, NY Solidarity Coalition with Katrina/Rita Survivors, and Coalition to Save Harlem.

Rev. Dr Ofelia Ortega Suárez, of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba, was the first Presbyterian woman to be ordained in Cuba. She served as the rector of the Evangelical Theological Seminary (SET) in Matanzas from 1996-2004, leading it to a multi-faceted ministry of social service and community involvement. Ortega worked at the World Council of Churches (WCC) from 1988 to 1996 as executive secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Programme on Theological Education, and before that, from 1985 to 1988, as professor at the Ecumenical Institute, Bossey. In Cuba, beyond her responsibilities with the seminary, she served as volunteer in the rural areas during the national literacy campaign, as well as for the Ministry of Public Health.

Tess Tesalona is Coordinator of the Conference Secretariat and spokesperson for Women of Diverse Origins. Tess came to Canada as a migrant worker under the Foreign Domestic Movement Program in 1988. An engineer by training, she went back to school after she got her landed status, and turned to social work as a new career. Eventually became a union organizer with UNITE and is a founding member of the Immigrant  Workers’ Centre. Tess has devoted herself to defending the rights and welfare of migrants and particularly women, and to international solidarity with the Philippines, and other causes. She sits on the International Coordinating Body of the International Migrants’ Alliance. A founding member of Women of Diverse Origins, Tess is the main spokesperson for the Montreal International Women’s Conference.

Lesvia Vela is a founding member of the Guatemala Support Committee and the Quebec-Guatemala Accompaniment Project. She is the representative of the Rigoberta Menchu Foundation in the field of indigeneous film and video and she has participated in organizing cultural, artistic and public education activities to build awareness about the human rights situation in Guatemala. She also helps organize tours for representatives of Mayan social movements and communities. She was a member of the Montreal 1992 Coalition marking 500 years of Indigenous Resistance and participated in the cross-Canada campaign supporting the candidacy of Rigoberta Menchu, a Maya-Quiche woman, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Lesvia is also a Aj’qu’ij maya, or spiritual guide.

Sarwat Viqar has been teaching in the Humanities/Philosophy/Religion Faculty of John Abbott College in Montreal for the past seven years. She is president of the board of the Mouvement contre le viol et l’inceste (MCVI – Movement against rape and incest) in Montreal. For the past several years she has been actively engaged in bringing debates and tensions around dealing with religious patriarchy and religious discrimination at the same time to the day-to-day work of the centre.

Vernie Yocogan-Diano is a member of the Kankanaey-Bontok tribe from northern Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines. She is a registered Medical Technologist, but opted to work full-time with the Cordillera peoples movement, particularly in her role as chairperson of Innabuyog, an alliance of indigenous women’s organizations in the Cordillera. Vernie also acts as treasurer of the Regional Executive Committee of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. She is also a member of the national coordinating committee of BAI, a national network of indigneous women’s organizations in the Philippines, and a member of the national council of GABRIELA Philippines.


3 Responses to Bios – Speakers – English

  1. Aras Rashid says:

    i would like to attend with my wife to the conference ,but i’m living in Ottawa-gatineau .
    can we get invitation from you.
    i’m with worker communist party of Kurdistan.i’m the spokes man for the party in canada,

    Aras Rashid

  2. christine tackley says:

    I am a member of the Canadians for Justice & Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and would very much like to attend this conference. However, I have another commitment on August 14-15. Could you please send me the schedule of events, in order that I could attend something on the 13th and 16th?

    Thank you,
    C. Tackley

    • malcguy says:

      Dear Christine,

      Please see the updated Conference Schedule. Thank you very much for your interest in our conference, hope to see you there.

      Marie Boti, for the MIWC organizers

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