Among the ten outstanding women selected as Ms Women of the Year are several who are working for women's rights and health globally. These include Dr. Sima Samar, chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, whose "dedication to women's rights in the face of danger inspires us to do more," writes Elaine Lafferty, editor-in-chief of Ms., in her introduction to the Women of the Year in the Winter issue of the magazine. Dr. Samar, a former Minister of Women's Affairs and deputy prime minister in Afghanistan, was unable to attend the awards breakfast on Monday because of her participation in the loya jirga (grand assembly) that will debate Afghanistan's constitution. Accepting on her behalf was a young Afghan refugee, Feroza Yari, who has been able to continue her education in the United States through the Feminist Majority Foundation's scholarship program.
Ms. also celebrated the "compassion of Loune Viaud in empowering women's health care" in Haiti, Lafferty writes. Putting her belief that free healthcare is a human right, Viaud started a network of hospitals and clinics, including Haiti's first women's health clinic, that provide free healthcare to some of Haiti's poorest citizens.
Also among the 2003 Women of the Year is Niki Caro, writer and director of the feminist New Zealand film "Whale Rider." The film follows a young girl from a Maori tribe as she rises against sexism to become the leader of her people. "Niki Caro's creativity in showing a young girl's leadership makes us whoop out loud," writes Lafferty.
"The 2003 Ms. Women of the Year come together from across the spectrum to further women's struggle for equality," said Peg Yorkin, chair of the board of the feminist Majority Foundation, which publishes Ms. magazine. "They are women who demand justice in everything they do and look forward to make sure that the future generations of women are not left behind." One of the women honored for her commitment to justice globally was Jessica Neuwirth, founder and president of Equality Now, a social justice organization dedicated to ending sex trafficking and violence against women worldwide. Equality Now achieved a victory this year when the New York Supreme Court filed a temporary restraining order against Big Apple Oriental Tours, a company that provided men traveling to the Philippines, Cambodia, and Thailand with prostitutes.