LESLEY JULIA ABDELA
Lesly Abdela was born in London in 1945. In 1978 she worked as a researcher in the British House of Commons and in 1979 she ran for Parliament for the Liberal Party, equivalent to the US Democrats or European Free Democrats. In 1980 she formed an all-Party group called the 300 Group for Women in Politics, to help increase the number of women in the UK Parliament. At that point there were only 3% women, now there are around 20%.
When the Berlin Wall fell, Lesley was asked by the John F Kennedy School, Harvard, to go to all the new nations of Central Europe and the Ukraine to train future women leaders. She then expanded her work to the Middle East and Africa, sometimes training future women leaders in dangerous conditions such as in Nigeria under the Dictator Abacha and his guards. When wars broke out in the Balkans, Lesley turned her attention to training future women leaders in post-conflict situations, often having to confront particular hazards because her work was seen by some traditionalist men as "against the custom and tradition" of the region, meaning women should stay back in the home and not take part in public life or the workplace.
She spent months in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Iraq, training future women leaders, despite several near-misses on her life, until her three main co-workers were murdered near Hillah, Iraq, by armed men in police uniforms. Lesley now continues her post-conflict work in Aceh, and has recently spent 3 months in Suriname, sponsored by the European Commission. In the Spring of this year she was nominated one of the top 50 heroes of our time in a poll conducted by the international current affairs magazine New Statesman alongside such better-know "greats" as Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Bob Geldof.
Lesley has spent many years of her life working for the equality of women and men, and there is the chance this may become a fairer and more peaceable world as a result of her life.
by Tim Symonds
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