Women PeaceMakers
Institute for Peace and Justice

Contact: Jennifer Freeman
Phone: (619) 260-7569
Fax: (619) 260-7570

Location: KIPJ Room 121
Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110

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Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice

Selected PeaceMakers

2015 Women PeaceMakers

The 2015 Women PeaceMakers will be in residence at the institute from September 12 to November 21.

Najla AyoubiJudge Najla Ayoubi of Afghanistan is a firm believer that there can be no peace without justice. She first took the bench in the late 80s in her native Parwan Province, before being forced out of her profession and public life during the rule of the Taliban. Unwilling to accept her fate, Ayoubi was soon organizing clandestine schools and sewing classes in bunkers, hidden from the Taliban’s religious police that forbade work for women or education for girls older than 8 years old. Raised in a family that prized education for both boys and girls, Ayoubi herself has two MA degrees: one in law and politics from the State University of Tajikistan and another on post-war recovery and development studies from the University of York in the United Kingdom.

With the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Ayoubi returned to work as senior state attorney, but saw that more was needed in the tumultuous period of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the country’s transition. Not one to sit idly by, Ayoubi took increasing leadership roles promoting civic education, women’s empowerment, human rights and transparency as the country sought to write a new constitution and hold its first elections after decades of conflict. She served as a legal advisor for the State Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs of Afghanistan, commissioner at the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan and commissioner of the Joint Electoral Management Body.

An outspoken proponent of women’s rights frequently tasked with advising on gender mainstreaming, Judge Ayoubi has not hesitated to critique post-conflict transition processes that have excluded women. This has not made her popular with the Taliban or certain tribal leaders who continue to hold positions of power. Undeterred, she continues to advocate for women’s rights in Islamic contexts and a society that values education and justice for women and men, as her family did in Parwan.

Ayoubi served as a board member of Open Society Afghanistan and as country director of Open Society Afghanistan. She sits on a number of boards including as a global advisory board member of Women’s Regional Network, and a steering committee member of Tawanmandi. She recently served as deputy country representative of The Asia Foundation’s Afghanistan office.

Pauline DempersPauline Dempers
is a human rights activist from Namibia and co-founder and national coordinator of Breaking the Wall of Silence (BWS), a grassroots group that advocates for the rights of those affected by imprisonment, torture and enforced disappearances during the Namibian war of independence.

Dempers grew up in the country formerly known as South West Africa when it was ruled by South Africa’s apartheid regime. Encouraged at an early age by her father’s personal resistance to white-minority apartheid rule, she developed a powerful yet painful awareness of the injustices in her community. Dempers became involved with student and community political protests, eventually joining South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), the leading voice of the liberation movement, which would dramatically alter the course of her life.

When the political tension in her country intensified, Dempers fled to Angola in 1983 to receive military training with SWAPO. Along with many hundreds of young SWAPO recruits, she was later arrested by her fellow comrades, tortured and held underground in the “dungeons” of Lubango on suspicion of spying for the South African government. Dempers writes, “I experienced political violence at the hands of my own comrades. I was betrayed in the cause for justice and self-determination.” The personal losses and human rights abuses took a devastating toll on her life. She was separated from her daughter for three years and lost her fiancé, the father of her two children, who was one of the many Namibians whose fates and whereabouts are still unknown.

After independence finally came to Namibia in 1990, Dempers was determined to continue her fight for peace, justice and freedom. She made it her mission to raise awareness about what transpired in exile, and co-founded BWS.

Under her dedicated stewardship, BWS has forged links with the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). Her work with the national and international movement against gun violence is greatly influenced by her imprisonment and torture. She says, “That was done by the power of the gun. It made me realize the power that lies in a gun. I feel that there are people out there who are vulnerable, especially women. And I feel that I have the chance to make a difference.”

Dempers is also a former politician with the Congress of Democrats and was chairperson with NANGOF Trust, an umbrella organization of Namibian NGOs that promote and protect human rights and strengthen democracy.


Galia GolanGalia Golan of Israel knows well the subjects of Israeli-Palestinian politics. She is a professor emerita who lectures internationally and is a recognized expert in international affairs and foreign policy. That Golan is also a grassroots activist with several decades of experience focused on advancing women’s roles in peacebuilding and a key strategist in parliamentary activism, speaks volumes about her considerable and multilayered contributions to peace and justice in Israel.

Golan has been an instrumental figure in leading the Israeli peace movement, beginning with her role as a founder and leader of Peace Now, Israel’s prominent mass peace movement. She was an organizer of the unprecedented demonstration of 400,000 Israelis during the war with Lebanon, and the movement's representative on stage at the fateful peace rally at which former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995.

Golan co-founded and led two joint Israeli-Palestinian women’s peace organizations: the Jerusalem Link (Bat Shalom) and the International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace. She was also a founding member and deputy chair of the Israel Women’s Network, a feminist lobby group that played a critical role in advancing women’s rights in Israel over the last quarter of a century. She has been in the leadership of the Meretz (social democratic) Party since its inception. As a colleague of hers observed, “She has been a role model for many of the young people, especially women, in the peace movement.”

Golan has become deeply convinced that joint Israeli-Palestinian activity is the key to resolution of the long-standing conflict. She is active in the leadership of the joint Israeli and Palestinian Forum of Peace NGOs, and the more recent Palestinian/Israeli peace movement Combatants for Peace, which consists of former combatants working together in grassroots groups and public activities.

As the first woman political scientist in Israel, Golan has bridged the worlds of academia and activism. Currently a sought-after advisor, she is a member of the board of the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Studies, and she founded both Israel’s first women’s studies program and the first master’s program in conflict resolution (in English) in Israel. Now retired, she is the academic advisor for a new international master’s program in conflict resolution to be held at the Arab-Jewish village of Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam (Oasis of Peace) in Israel (under the auspices of the University of Massachusetts) with Arab, Jewish and international faculty and students.


Glenda WildschutGlenda Wildschut is a South African human rights activist and peacebuilder whose work dates back to the early 1980s, when she began working with political prisoners, their families, exiles and orphaned returnee children in South Africa and Namibia. Since then she has dedicated herself to human rights activism, torture rehabilitation and healing and reconciliation.

Wildschut was born into the violence and human rights abuses of South Africa. At an early age she felt the injustice of growing up in a system designed to disadvantage and oppress people of color. On this part of her life, she reflects, “It was determined where I should attend school, which university I should study at and which professions I will not be able to even consider pursuing.” Wildschut was also arrested and harassed by police. Determined to transcend these experiences of oppression, she obtained academic qualifications both in South Africa and the U.S., and made it her life focus to advocate for reconciliation and healing of the country’s fractured past.

A registered nurse, midwife and psychiatric nurse (specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry), Wildschut is recognized as someone who combines her professional training as a psychiatric nurse and her activism to produce meaningful effects. Early in her activism career, she collaborated with a group of health workers to establish a trauma center for survivors of violence and torture - the first center of its kind in South Africa. She is the first South African to be awarded the Health and Human Rights Award by the International Institute for Nursing Ethics.

In 1995, Wildschut was appointed by former president Nelson Mandela to serve as a commissioner on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She has since shared her expertise in peacebuilding and reconciliation in many countries, including Sierra Leone and Rwanda.

For over a decade, Wildschut has been a board member for the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation, helping it develop a Community Healing program which encourages community-level reconciliation. She continues to use her considerable skills, experience, passion and commitment in the journey of reconciliation and peace in South Africa.