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Everyone Matters


Mary Robinson: A Pillar of Justice and Human Rights

I first learned of Mary Robinson when I was involved in a project on Women World Leaders. I was to write a curriculum to accompany the documentary film by Laura Liswood, consisting of a compilation of interviews with women who were leaders in political office around the world.

The mid 1990s saw a significant number of women in high government positions, Margaret Thatcher in the UK, Cory Aquino in the Philippines, Gro Harlem Brundtland in Norway, Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan among others. Each of these women heads of state had a sizeable impact on the status of women in their own countries and paved the way for women political leaders to come. There is much to think about the situation of women leaders in politics today, but that would get us into a much different conversation. However, I remember Laura Liswood asking Mary Robinson about women being disenfranchised from the center of politics and her response. It has stayed with me for all these years and it struck me at the time like a bolt of lightning. She spoke about how we needed women in government, even if they weren't as prepared as they might like to be. After all, she implied, essentially men don't necessarily know what they are doing, and we have put up with them for a long time. Consider the gravity of those words. How they may not only apply to women, but to youth and others who are truly disenfranchised within the cultures in which they live. However, Mary Robinson came to her presidency, as well as to all the other positions she has held since, extremely well prepared. She is an individual who always knows what she is doing. She has proven it over and over and over again. She has taken a stand when it was not popular, she has been a spokesperson for those in need of bolstering, she has comforted those with minimal hope.

A few years ago, I found myself in the "green room" at a conference sitting on a sofa next to Mary Robinson. We talked, rather I talked after she spoke to me, and she listened so intently that I felt like she knew me and was interested in what I was saying. A few years ago, I read an article in which the journalist said, Mary Robinson's motto was "everyone mattered." As UN Commissioner of Human Rights, I watched her break down as she viewed the anguish of the Somalian people. Desmond Tutu, the first Chair of The Elders, a group Mary Robinson now chairs said of her: "She cares about poverty, justice, oppression and she has an incredible warmth." President Obama, in awarding her the U.S. Medal of Freedom said that "today as an advocate for the hungry and the hunted, the forgotten and ignored, Mary Robinson has not only shone a light on human suffering but illuminated a better future for our world." 

Mary Robinson is truly an "Architect of Justice," and the Charter for Compassion is honored beyond words to present to her one of our 2022 Humanitarian Awards. 

With warm regards,

Marilyn Turkovich

This message from Marilyn Turkovich, Executive Director of the Charter for Compassion, appears in our 10/8/2022 weekly newsletter. To sign up for our newsletter, scroll all the way down to the end of this page to get to the bottom menu; in the newsletter section, enter your email address and click on subscribe.  

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