International Women's Day Bios

Han Seung-soo | Ole Peter Kolby | Laura Bush | Angela E. V. King | Her Majesty Queen Noor
Sima Wali | Othman Jerandi | Thoraya Ahmed Obaid | Julia Taft


Han Seung-soo
Mr. Han Seung-soo, President of the General Assembly, is a Member of the Republic of Korea's National Assembly. From March 2001 to January 2002, he was Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and he was the principal minister who oversaw negotiations for the accession of the Republic of Korea to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1996.

From 1996 to 1997, Mr. Han Seung-soo was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economy. He served as Chief of Staff to the President of the Republic of Korea from 1994 to 1995, and from 1993 to 1994 he was Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States.

Ole Peter Kolby
H. E. Mr. Ole Peter Kolby has been the Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations since 1998. He is presently the President of the Security Council. Prior to his current appointment he was the Permanent Representative of Norway to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. From 1989 to 1992 he was both Political Director of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Norwegian Advisory Council on Disarmament Affairs.

H. E. Mr. Kolby has extensive experience dealing with human rights issues, having acted as Norway's Ambassador for Human Rights in 1988, and as head of the Norwegian Delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights from 1985 to 1987, in which capacity he served as head of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1986.

Laura Bush
Mrs. Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States, has been very involved in a campaign to improve the rights and education of Afghan women. On 17 November 2001, Mrs. Bush delivered the weekly Presidential address, taking advantage of the opportunity to highlight the plight of Afghan women and children and to give momentum to the campaign. Mrs. Bush has maintained a strong interest in education and women's issues ever since she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Education and her Master's degree in Library Science. She has been a long-time advocate for education and in particular for reading programmes, helping to organize various book festivals and promoting her Ready to Read, Ready to Learn initiative. Mrs. Bush has worked with various women's empowerment programmes, and is involved in promoting women's health issues, such as breast cancer awareness.

Angela E. V. King
Ms. Angela King has been the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women since March 1997. She chairs the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality and oversees the direction and management of the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). The Division is responsible for follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing (1995) and for managing the United Nations programme for the advancement of women.

Prior to her current appointment, Ms. King was Director of DAW. Ms. King brought to this position a wide experience in the economic, social and political work of the United Nations, as well as in administration and in advancement of women. She represented the Office of Human Resources Management at the Beijing Conference in 1995.

Her Majesty Queen Noor
Her Majesty Queen Noor (Jordan) is a strong advocate for the rights and protection of women around the world, particularly Muslim women. She has worked hard to address the problems of refugees in Jordan and elsewhere. In her capacity as a member of the board of Refugees International, she went to Pakistan last year to meet with Afghan women in refugee camps. Her goal is to make sure that they become full partners in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. H. M. Queen Noor has been very involved in development issues through the Noor AI Hussein Foundation, and has promoted individual and community self-reliance, grass-roots participation in decision-making and equal opportunity with special emphasis on the empowerment of women.

Sima Wall
Ms. Sima Wali is President and CEO of Refugee Women in Development, Inc., an international institution focusing on women in conflict and post-conflict reintegration issues. She served as a Delegate of the former King of Afghanistan to the United Nations Peace Talks on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany. She was also the Chief Organizer of the Women's Summit in Brussels, Belgium, in December 2001. Ms. Wali has served as an adviser to the United Nations on women's issues and human rights, and specifically on programs and policies for refugee and displaced women. She has received various awards in recognition of her work on Afghan women and human rights, including the 3rd Annual Ginetta Sagan Human Rights Fund Award of Amnesty International. She is also the author of a number of publications on refugee women.

Othman Jerandi
H. E. Mr. Othman Jerandi is current Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women and Deputy Permanent Representative of Tunisia to the United Nations. Prior to this, he served as Director for African Affairs and AOU in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tunisia (1998-2000); Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Tunisia to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone (1995-1998); and Minister Plenipotentiary (formerly First Counselor) at the Permanent Mission of Tunisia to the United Nations, in charge of disarmament and political affairs.

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid
Ms. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid is the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). She holds the rank of Under-Secretary-General. Previously she served for two years as the Director of the Division for Arab States and Europe at UNFPA. Prior to joining the Fund, she was Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) from 1993 to 1998.

Helping governments establish programmes to empower women has been a central focus of Ms. Obaid's work, both at ESCWA and UNFPA. At ESCWA, she was responsible for providing technical assistance aimed at countering gender inequality, as an integral part of social development programmes. In November 1997, she was part of an inter-agency mission to Afghanistan. Prior to that, in 1996, she chaired the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Gender in Amman, Jordan. In 1975 she established the first women's development programme in the Western Asia region, which provided technical assistance to governments to establish national organizational units for women. The programme was instrumental in building partnerships between the United Nations and regional non-governmental organizations.

Julia Taft
Ms. Julia Taft has been the Assistant Administrator and Director of the United Nations Development Programme's Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery since November 2001. The Bureau addresses the issues of prevention, post-conflict recovery and institution building. In January 2002 she was asked by the Administrator to lead the UNDP Afghan Task Force to integrate UNHQ activities into a single, coherent recovery effort for Afghanistan in support of the work of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan.

Before assuming her current post, Mrs. Taft served as Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration at the U.S. Department of State. Prior to that she was President and CEO of InterAction, a coalition of 156 U.S.-based private, voluntary organizations working on international development, refugee assistance, and humanitarian relief around the world.

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