Unity in Diversity Global Mayor’s Conference Featured speakers

By Palak Mistry, NYU Florence student

Shirin Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi, named by Forbes Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world in 2004, is an Iranian lawyer, a former judge and human rights activist and founder of Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran. She was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to promote human rights, in particular, the rights of women, children, and political prisoners in Iran. She is the first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and only the fifth Muslim to receive a Nobel Prize in any field.

Dr. Ebadi was one of the first female judges in Iran. She served as president of the city court of Tehran from 1975 to 1979 and was the first Iranian woman to achieve Chief Justice status. She, along with other women judges, was dismissed from that position after the Islamic Revolution in February 1979.  As a lawyer, she is known for taking up pro bono cases of dissident figures who have fallen foul of the judiciary. She has represented the family of Dariush Forouhar, a dissident intellectual and politician who was found stabbed to death at his home. His wife, Parvaneh Eskandari, was also killed at the same time. In addition to being an internationally-recognized advocate of human rights, she has also established many non-governmental organizations in Iran, including the Million Signatures Campaign, a campaign demanding an end to legal discrimination against women in Iranian law. She will be a guest speaker at the Unity in Diversity Conference Palazzo Vecchio on November 6th, and will address the topic of cultural policies and education for a deeper awareness and understanding of ‘differences’. Don’t miss the chance to hear this inspiring woman speak!

Tawakkol Karman

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 14.20.53Tawakkol Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 in recognition of her work in nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work in Yemen. Upon being awarded the prize, Tawakkol became the first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, and the second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate to date, at the age of 32. In 2005, she founded the organization Women Journalists Without Chains, (WJWC) which advocates for rights and freedoms and provides media skills to journalists. In addition, the organization produces regular reports on human rights abuses in Yemen, documenting more than 50 cases of attacks and unfair sentences against newspapers and writers to date. Come hear her inspirational words at the Unity in Diversity Conference at Palazzo Vecchio at 10 am on November 6th during which she will talk about media and democracy and how to give voice to the unheard.
Sam Okello, The Hope North Organization

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 14.21.36The Hope North Organization helps educate and heal the young victims of Uganda’s civil war, including orphans and former child soldiers, empowering them to become voices for peace and development.

Founded in 1998 by artist and former child soldier Okello Sam, Hope North is an accredited secondary school located on a 40-acre campus with an international arts center, vocational training, and a working farm, staffed by 26 dedicated Ugandan educators. Thousands of vulnerable youth have lived at Hope North, and today hundreds of students are working towards their degrees and planning careers. These youth in turn are contributing to peace-building by organizing educational theater and soccer tournaments throughout the north, an area destroyed by years of war, reaching thousands more. Okello Sam found Hope North in 1998 after his brother’s death. When Okello was asked why, after all he had been through, he didn’t just give up, he replied: “I will not even think of falling. I will not even think of stopping. Because if we all had a challenge and stopped, then what would happen?” Hear more at the Unity in Diversity Conference at Palazzo Vecchio at 9 30 am on November 8th as he talks about the meaning of maintaining peace and world unity in the context of globalisation and current international climate in politics.



  1. Around the world with LPD: Pakistan

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 14.23.03Salima Hashmi is an acclaimed Pakistani artist, cultural writer, painter and an anti-nuclear weapon activist. As part of an artistic vanguard in Pakistan, she believes art is an effective form of social critique. Daughter of the renowned poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz who was imprisoned for his political views, and Alys Faiz, a human rights activist in Pakistan, she has a fine-tuned awareness of the political tensions and sensibilities that characterize day-to-day life. For Hashmi, the idea that political activism goes hand in hand with art is relatively new in the West.  In Pakistan, however, art, politics and education have always been closely associated.  ‘Art is always political’, Hashmi reflects, ‘it cannot be dissociated from the circumstances in which it is made. Even when not professing to be political, it borrows from the political.’ In 1999 she received Pakistan’s Pride of Performance award. The picture is one of the her most famous paintings, “Poem For Zainab’, 1994;  ‘a response to a horrifying incident in which the wife of a cleric was brutalised by her husband and hospitalised’ She will be talking at the The West and Global Muslim Communities conference on November 12th at 11 pm at Villa Sassetti. This conference examines cultural connections in a specific contemporary context – the pressing need of Western societies and global Muslim communities to comprehend each other and communicate to each other.

  1. Around the World: United Kingdom

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 14.23.09David Francis: As an interpretation officer at the British Museum, David Francis acts as the audience advocate – representing visitors’ views and needs throughout the exhibition planning process. The process begins with front-end and formative evaluation to establish visitors’ relationship with the exhibition’s subject matter; this information is used to craft the exhibition narrative, select objects and write label text; and end with researching visitors’ engagement with the exhibition through observations and questionnaires. One of David’s recent assignments included the exhibition: Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam. Come listen to him the The West and Global Muslim Communities conference on November 12th at Villa Sassetti. This conference examines cultural connections in a specific contemporary context – the pressing need of Western societies and global Muslim communities to comprehend each other and communicate to each other.

  1. Around the World with LPD: Indonesia

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 14.23.16Restu is the producer of, among other things, the Indonesian Pavilion at the recent International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in Italy and the co-producer of the South Sulawesi epic I La Galigo, which has been staged in several countries over the last eight years. Renowned for her South Sulawesi epic, I La Galigo, which toured across the globe, she has taken up another challenge – presenting the face of Indonesia in the 56th Venice Biennale, one of the world’s oldest contemporary art exhibitions. “When I was little, I was introduced to arts as a way to spend time after school. And I’ve stuck to it until now, because arts enlightens our lives,” Restu, who also paints and sings, said.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *