Nobel Womens Initiative leaders profoundly shaken as seven staff step down

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Five women Nobel laureates have voiced shock after seven staff resigned from their international organisation which strives to achieve justice, equality and peace.

The seven members of staff, who stepped down collectively, argued the Nobel Women’s Initiative is in need of major changes to become more transparent, fair and inclusive.

They said the decision to resign came after several attempts to raise their concerns about the organisation, which is based in the Canadian capital of Ottawa.

Their resignation, which was submitted last month, said: “Nobel Women’s Initiative, in our view, requires profound organisational reforms – based on transparency, equity, inclusivity and a commitment to uproot embedded patriarchal practices – in order to fully uphold its values.”

They added: “Failure to prioritise and address our concerns in a transparent and inclusive manner, and attempts to devalue and diminish our voices, led to our collective resignation. We speak out today to protect future staff and women activists.”

The Nobel Women’s Initiative was set up in 2006 by six female winners of the Nobel Peace Prize to champion women’s groups around the world.

Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman and Jody Williams, five women Nobel laureates who now lead the initiative, have set up an external review since the women stepped down.

“We are profoundly shaken and saddened by this enormous loss to the organisation and to all of us who have worked side by side with them,” they said in a joint statement.

“As an organisation committed to peace, justice and equality, this is a moment for deep soul searching and change. For us, a healthy, healing and forward-looking outcome is fundamental for those involved in or touched by these recent events.

“While we were aware of organisational challenges, we deeply regret not recognising the depth of their broader impact on staff. We are committed to taking all necessary steps to strengthen the organisation, improve its workplace and support a healing process. The process of overall organisational change will begin with a deep examination of the structures and practices that impact wellbeing of all staff both in and outside the workplace.”

The laureates, who form the Board of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, committed to overhauling “leadership, governance and human resource practices to ensure that what we do and how we do it is structured to accomplish our work in line with our feminist vision of peace and nonviolence, socio-economic justice and equality.”

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