Wed, 01 Sep 2021, 17.00 Online (European International Women’s Leadership Award 2021) (Hesse EU Office)

As a focal point in the movement for women’s rights, the International Women’s Day has been celebrated since 1911 on 8 March. On the occasion of that special day, the “European International Women’s Leadership Award” ( is awarded to women, who at a certain moment of their live, have decided to follow their dream, to break with traditional obligations around them, to challenge male-dominated areas, to act in a respectful way in order to give an example to all those women, who do not (yet) dare to raise their voice and to develop their potential.


Two years ago, that award was handed over in March in the European Parliament to female leaders and activists from China, Djibouti, France, Morocco, Nigeria, Turkey, the UK and the US.


Last year, this award had been handed over in March (impossible, due to COVID-19 restrictions, to do it again in the European Parliament) in the Representation of the State of Hesse to the EU to female leaders and activists from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Belgium, Italy, Morocco and Taiwan. 


As the COVID-19 restrictions make a public event still impossible in the European Parliament, we are grateful to the Representation of the State of Hessen to the EU for hosting this year’s event another time in their premises – because of the pandemic not in March, but in September.


Therefore, you are cordially invited to this year’s ceremony, where MEP Corina Cretu (the former EU Regional Policy Commissioner) will hand over the awards to Oyunna Bold (Mongolia, Belgium), Monika Griefahn (Germany), Yasmine Hasnaoui (Morocco, United States), Gulnoza Ismailova (Uzbekistan), Irene Kamanzi (RdC, Belgium), Bissan Salman (Palestine, Israel), Shamim Shawl (Kashmir, UK) and Yangdutso Yangkartsang (Tibet, Belgium):

Wednesday, 01 September 2021


European International Women’s Leadership Award 2021

Please understand that – because of the COVID-19 restrictions – only the laureates and their personal guests will be able to participate physically (Representation of the State of Hessen to the EU, Rue Montoyer 21, 1000 Brussels).


In case you want to follow the ceremony virtually, please register via

The link for a virtual participation is the YouTube channel Hessen in Berlin und Europa.

With the friendly support of the Representation of the State of Hesse 


Oyunna Bold (Mongolia, Belgium)

Born as the daughter of the most famous female singer in Mongolia, Oyunna Bold studied engineering at the Moscow State University of Food Production Technologies, graduated and – when the Soviet Union disappeared – returned to her home country at a time when everything was changing: instead of one-party rule and planned economy, suddenly democracy and market economy – instead of a future, which seems to be determined in advance, she was now confronted with a panoply,a broad diversity of options of promising and/or threatening and/or fascinating and/or incredible ways in front of her.

Open to everything – and as well with the feeling of being a little bit lost – she decided to become a translator and interpreter and worked for the Czechoslovakia embassy – but that country disappeared as well and the embassy closed.

For a moment, she even developed the feeling to have a negative influence – as with whatever country she was linked to, that country broke up into pieces.

Remembering the artistic background of her family, she accepted to accompany a Mongolian music group to Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. Fascinated by the intellectual openness in Europe and by the directness of contacts, she decided to stay in Belgium. As an Asian woman she discovered with admiration a society in which women are emancipated. A society that offers them so many opportunities to develop, learn and flourish. She immediately wanted to reach out to others, to take an interest in Belgium’s culture, history, political and economic situation and to invest herself in it.

As the concept of the European Union “solidarity in diversity” seemed the model for the/her future, she decided to settle down in Brussels and sustained herself as a cleaning woman. When she discovered that her cyrillic-written university diploma was the equivalent of a Masters degree, she asked for a homologation – so new job opportunities opened-up (where she managed to develop certain skills – especially professional consciousness and sense of responsibility).

She worked at the British School in Tervuren, for an energy consulting company and finally (up to now) in the cabinets of six Belgian Ministers – by this becoming the first Asian-born person, having worked for such a long time in those inner circles of executive power in Belgium.

At the same time, she never forgot where she came from. So a few years ago, she created the Mongolian Cultural Center in Belgium. Within the framework of her diverse non-profit activities, she organised exhibitions of Mongolian painters, and looked after the internationally highly decorated Mongolian national archery team (one of the preferred Mongolian sports) during their stay in Belgium. Overall, she made it possible that we here have the possibility to learn more about Mongolian culture.

As her personal concept is to be grateful to one’s roots, she uses her diverse and broad contacts in Europe for years to organise humanitarian emergency campaigns for socially deprived people in her country of origin.

She receives this award especially for her determination to never give up and for her principle that the higher you move up in the social hierarchy, the more you have to be a – proud and humble – servant of your people.

Monika Griefahn (Germany).

Born in Mülheim-Ruhr in the central post war industrial region in Germany, Monika Griefahn experienced the negative effects of the coal industry already as a child, leaving its mark and being pivotal for her career as an activist and leader in environment, politics and business.

She became a founding member of Greenpeace Germany and was Co-CEO in the early eighties. Her successful campaigns against chemical production (agent orange) and pollution in rivers and the North Sea (stop thin acid dumping), convinced Greenpeace to offer her the very first female board membership of Greenpeace International, especially responsible for training and supporting new offices all around the world, including during Glasnost in the Sovietunion.

The Stockholm-based Right Livelihood Foundation asked her to become a member of the board and the jury to select up to now the laureates of the Alternative Nobel Prize, which is handed over in the Swedish Parliament the day before the official Nobel Prize ceremony. She is cosharing as well the Right Livelihood College Worldwide, active in ten countries.

Her NGO activities convinced politicians to aks her to become Environment Minister in the German state of Lower Saxony For eight years, she concentrated on shifting away from nuclear and coal to renewable energy and on clean industrial production and waste reduction.

Her successful work in that region with twice the size of Rwanda and 50% larger than Belgium and with a population of more than the double of Mongolia, contributed to her election for eleven years as member of the Bundestag, the German Parliament. During the chancellorship of Gerhard Schröder she was responsible for the legislative steps promoting renewables and ending nuclear energy in Germany (already before Fukushima).

She was asked to cover culture and media as well, especially new media and foreign cultural policy, pursuing the dialogue of cultures. As President of the Bundestag Cultural Committee she – among others – was opening the German cultural institute in North Korea and organised a seminar for Egyptian woman running for Parliament. As a member of the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU), the focussed on developing democracy and women’s participation all over the world.

After her political career in Berlin, she created the “Institute Media, Environment, Culture (IMUK)”, offering advisory services and educational training in sustainability, where she still serves as CEO. For ten years, she was as well involved in the shift towards more sustainability of cruise companies. As chief sustainability officer of AIDA Cruises, she accompanied their new alignment towards the use of LNG and synthetic fuel and assisted to develop the strategy and implementation of sustainability in all the areas of cruising; she advised as well the Costa Group (AIDA, Costa and Costa Asia).

To tackle the question of waste (avoidance and reduction), she became co-founder of the NGO “Cradle to Cradle”, in order to promote circular economy: towards the general public, politics and business. Since several years, she serves as well as treasurer of the Hamburg Environment Institute.

This summer, she highlighted her ideas on TEDx:

Yasmine Hasnaoui (Morocco, United States)

Dr. Yasmine Hasnaoui is a specialist in Conflict resolution/transformation and Maghreb Affairs.

She has worked in the field of education for more than 11 years both in Morocco and in the United States. She was a lecturer of Foreign Languages  and the Middle East and North Affairs in several universities in the United States; the Osgood Center for International Studies at John Hopkins University, Amherst College, Austin College and UMASS University (Five College Consortium).

She has also worked in various policy institutions at the national and

international levels. Ms.Hasnaoui is profiled in the media within the United

States and Morocco, and is a frequent guest speaker on  Maghreb Affairs  and the Moroccan Sahara at international and national  forums, US Universities( Notably Fordham University and Franklin University) as well as the Council of Europe and the United Nations Human Rights

Ms. Hasnaoui is a recipient of the US State Department FLTA scholarship. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Sciences with a research on ” The Evolution of the  Sahara Conflict in Algerian Foreign Policy ” from Mohamed V University. She holds an M.A. in Communication Studies and Media from the Faculty CaddiAyyad in Marrakech, Morocco. Ms. Hasnaoui was a former Chair of Council for International Members at Global Ties, a well-established NGO in the US.

Ms. Hasnaoui is a recipient of several Awards from the USAID for promoting the Moroccan Culture in US Universities, as well as from several national and

international educational institutions for sensitizing youths and the international community about the Sahara Conflict.

Gulnoza Ismailova (Uzbekistan)

Born in the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, Gulnoza Ismailova was always tolerated and even supported by her family, when she behaved differently: More curious and more ambitious than her classmates, she won a series of school competitions and set up exchange programs and managed to visit the UK at the age of 15 and to be an exchange student to the US a year later.

During her law studies in Tashkent, she volunteered at UNICEF and interned at a bank and in different government bodies. After graduation – with honours – she followed her inner voice. Being aware that Uzbekistan has a longstanding educational and scientific history with its Muslim universities (Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva), its geographic position as the centre piece of the Silk Road, its diversity in population, its agricultural potential (cotton and rice), its high-tech industry (automobiles from Daewoo and General Motors as well as production of high speed trains), Afghanistan as a volatile neighbour, with the steadily shrinking Aral Sea as an environmental challenge – she declined offers to become a part of the financial elite.

She – instead – decided to become an active part of the administrative elite of her newly independent state, which offers the possibility to influence and to shape the destiny of a whole nation (and to be an example in neighbouring countries). She therefore joined the “Academy of State and Social Construction” (recently renamed “Academy of Public Administration”) focussing on democratisation and decentralisation, gender and the need for scientific research especially for a country which is located at the equal distance of some 5,000 km to the North Pole, Shanghai, the Maldives and Brussels. She looked for synergetic effects (published in more than 80 strategy papers) and was open for critical remarks on her own ideas and had accepted training courses all over the world – from Singapore to the US and France.

Her motivation, energy, experience, expertise, multi-tasking reliability and diligence convinced her government to nominate her as Dean of the Faculty of International Law at the “University of World Economy and Diplomacy”, where she has now taken over as well the position as Vice-Rector for Science and Innovation.

These functions made it possible that she

– was assisting the Uzbek Parliament in drafting legislation on local governance and civic participation,

– led the HORIZON-2020 financed EU research project “Strengthening and Energizing EU-Central Asia relations,

– implemented and coordinated with UNDP the government project on the constitutional and legal framework for local government.

– improved the qualifications of employees of self-government bodies by developing teaching tools,

– set up with the EU programme ERASMUS+ the “Tashkent Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence for European studies”, the first think-tank on European studies in Uzbekistan.

Two reasons influenced her to accept being a member of the Central Election Commission:

– elections are a key element of public participation,

– a high number of female candidates and elected representatives is increasing the quality of decision-making.

She receives this award on behalf of all those women in Uzbekistan and the other Central Asian countries who share her vision that societies can only contribute to sustainability if the potential of the female part of the population is unlocked and able to become an element of the well-being of humanity globally.

Irene Kamanzi (RDC, Belgium)

Born in Bukavu in South Kivu in Zaire, which later became the Democratic Republic of the Congo (RdC), Irene Kamanzi moved to the capital Kinshasa, where she was not only studying law but was exercising water-skiing and yoga.

All changed in the nineties, when the dictator Joseph-Désiré Mobutu had been overthrown and another rebellion threatened the new president Laurent-Désiré Kabila. Because of her ethnicity, Irene Kamanzi was considered a part of that new rebellion and the government forces tried to arrest her. She fled over the balcony to the nearby apartment belonging to the German embassy, where the diplomats handed over to her documents recognising her as a political refugee. After negotiations with the representatives of the Congolese government (“We only want to question her, next day she will be delivered back to the Germans”), she was handed over to the authorities and brought to a building in the premises of the residence of President Laurent-Désiré Kabila, where she was tortured for ten days. Having the impression that she would die and having in mind the promise to the German diplomats, she was transferred to a regular prison, where she succeeded to be smuggled out and was exfiltrated to the building of a German company and then in the trunk of a limousine to the main building of the German embassy.

After 45 days being hosted in the embassy, an EU convoy transported her, protected by the German Ambassador, to the banks of the Congo river, where a small boat waited for her and five other political refugees. Those 15 minutes of crossing the river without diplomatic protection would have been the last chance for the regime to get rid of them.

After their landing on the other side of the river in Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo, they were stripped of their valuables by the customs officers and handed over to the German consul. He brought them to the airport and kept them in his diplomatic car until the departure of the plane to Paris.

Having family members living in Belgium, she moved to Brussels, studied political science at the UCL (Catholic University of Louvain), and succeeded together with the EU to arrange the liberation of dozends of political refugees, especially from the prison in Lubumbashi.

She works now as the African representative for a US and a Belgian renewable energy company.

She receives this award because of three reasons:

  1. She has become one of the most outspoken human rights defenders in Belgium for those who are persecuted because of their ethnic origin (at the moment focusing on the situation of the Banyamulenge). She argues that she has not chosen this issue – but the issue has chosen her.
  1. She empowers other women to resist injustice, to never give up and to organise themselves in structures where no regime can break them.
  1. Despite sometimes being haunted by memories, she is considered by her environment as a joyful person, always prepared to assist those who need her.

Bissan Salman (Palestine, Israel)

Born in a politically active family of Greek orthodox, she grew up in Ramle, one of the so-called “mixed cities” in Israel, where Jews, Muslim and Christians are living together. As a 15-year old college pupil, she worked as volunteer for a Japanese NGO on children rights and presented the situation of Palestinian children by travelling in Europe, Asia and Africa.

To understand the mind-set of her political opponents, she studied political science, communication and media at the Bar-Ilan University, an academic institution with close links to Zionist thinking. For her master’s degree on human rights she moved to the UK, to the London School of Economics and was awarded a Chevening Scholarship, this international scheme for students with leadership qualities.

Parallel to her studies and before her current main job, she

– was Advocacy Intern at UNICEF (“Children in the media”),

– was Program Manager of Kshatot 360 (established a multicultural dialogue programme with people from different cultural backgrounds),

– was a Political Strategist at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament,

– was lecturer (“Musical Dialogue between Arabs and Jews”) at the Bar-Ilan University,

– was Assistant Program Manager at the New Israel Fund UK,

– gave gender-oriented media training at the SHE SPEAKS ACADEMY,

– served as Political Advisor at the Embassy of Japan in Israel.

She serves now as Director of Programming & External Relations for the initiative “Regional Organization for Peace, Economics & Security”, overseeing the diplomatic relations with government partners in Europe and across the Middle East, manage the development of the program’s various components and doing fundraising with donors from London, Paris and across the US.

She was recently based for a one year study visit in Brussels to evaluate how the EU can become a more determed honest broker in the Middle East.

A TEDx Talk might give more information:

Shamim Shawl (Kashmir, UK)

Born in Sopore (known as Suyyapur in antiquity), north-west of Srinagar in the Indian-admistered part of Kashmir, Shamim Shawl became a social activist already at college. She continued her political activities during the university (where she graduated in education; psychology, history and languages) and as a college teacher.

The state violence of 1990-91 influenced her political activism. During this period at least 47 people were arbitrarily killed in Srinagar on 21 May 1990 by members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) who opened fire on a funeral procession. Demonstrations that followed that incident became a turning point in her life. Confronted with human rights violations by government forces against especially the female part of the population and the killing of her neighbours siblings by the authorities pushed her to become one of the most determined voices against violence in the region. Her outspoken standing-up against rape by state gunmen resulted in harassment and murder threatenings against her and her family.

She decided therefore to leave the country and moved to the Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir. There she worked in refugee camps and understood that her future role had to be two fold:

– empowering women to stand-up for their rights,

– inform the international community about the situation in the Indian-admistered part of Kashmir, especially the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives all military an immunity for whatever they do in Kashmir while being in confrontation even with civilians;

Her contact to the international media, relief agencies and NGOs made her the most visible female voice for human rights in that conflict. This resulted in the decision of the Indian government to revoke her citizenship. She moved to the UK, where she is now the most vocal female Kashmiri voice:

– with women in the diaspora, especially widows and half widows (expression for a woman, where the husband had disappeared while being in state custody),

– in Parliament in London,

– with the UN human rights structures in Geneva (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,

– with the UN  Special Rapporteurs,

– organiser of international conferences on human rights in conflict zones,

– author of a number of research papers,

– author of the book “The Plight of Kashmir Women” together,

– lecturer at universities and roundtables on the relationship between law and politics,

Her engagement in human rights at a national and international level resulted in audiences with Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and with the Secretary Generals of the UN (Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan).

Yangdutso Yangkartsang (Tibet, Netherlands)

Born as the oldest child in a bilingual Tibetan/Chinese semi-nomad family residing near Labrang, the greatest monastery of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism in Eastern Tibet. Yangdutso Yangkartsang was always the best in her class, excelling especially in sports (basket, running) and music.

The timbre of her voice and her outstanding dancing talent won her a Training Program as Tibetan traditional opera singer. This program enjoyed the guardianship of the Tibetan scholar Gungthang Rinpoche. Due to her talent for leadership, she was selected to study Tibetan and Chinese literature in Lanzhou at one of China’s most prestigious universities. During those studies, she became the chief presenter of a singing and dancing cultural group performing all over China. She married, gave birth to a son and finished her studies as the best student from her province – resulting i a free scholarship at the National Beijing Broadcasting University, unabling her to travel regularly around the world as general presenter and singer with cultural troupes.

At 30, she had achieved all that was possible for her socially, professionally and financially in China – but she felt a special spiritual emptiness and a lack of overall freedom. She took the most important decision of her life: she left her group and chose to settle in the Netherlands. She learned Dutch and English and received the Dutch nationality. The reputation of the special timbre of her voice had reached the Brussels-based Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, which integrated her into the special program “Voices for Peace” and allowed her to perform yet again all over Europe and to decide to take up residence in Belgium.

When she attended for the first time teachings of the Dalai Lama – a most momentous event for a Tibetan Buddhist – she was overwhelmed with emotions, bursted even out in tears (thus having no memory of the details of his intervention). Since then, she met with the Dalai Lama and sang for him at various occasions.

The Belgian government offered her work as a freelance Chinese-Tibetan interpreter and translator – she accepted. The “Tibetan Community in Belgium”, an NGO assisting members of the Tibetan diaspora, elected her as Vice-President and finally President. She co-hosted visits of the Dalai Lama to Belgium and lobbied Belgian and European structures and convinced Belgian companies to offer more than 100 jobs to recently arrived Tibetans, convinced the other Tibetan diaspora organisations to create the Europe Tibetan Congress as a European-wide network and became one of the co-founders of the Tibetan Buddhist Centre.

To offer her new country the possibility to taste a distinctive cuisine, she founded the first Tibetan restaurant in Brussels, which she transformed into a cultural centre. Recently, she has opened a Sushi restaurant.

She receives this award to honour her success to build cultural bridges between Europe and Asia and for being the perfect example that you can – despite that you are always considered by your pairs to be the most gifted and outstanding personality – stay nevertheless modest and full of empathy.