21 Leaders for the 21st Century

21 Leaders 2012 - Seven Who Leverage Power

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Profiles of seven outstanding leaders dedicated to improving lives of women and girls: Susan Blount, Nancy Duff Campbell-- Marcia D. Greenberger, Joe Keefe, Yousriya Loza-Sawiris, Natalia Oberti Noguera, Sue Osthoff, Juhu Thukral

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Natalia Oberti Noguera: Trainer of Angels

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Growing up in Latin America had a major impact on Natalia Oberti Noguera's views on gender. Witnessing the injustices of what she describes as a "more explicitly chauvinistic society" inspired her work on behalf of women and girls.

"I'm half-Italian, half-Colombian and moved around a lot while growing up. I felt and was perceived as the other," she says. "Much of my work has focused on building communities and bringing people together to create a sense of 'us.'"

Oberti Noguera is the founder and CEO of the Pipeline Fellowship, a six-month intensive training program for female philanthropists to become angel investors. Pipeline Fellows commit to invest in a woman-led startup. The Pipeline Fellowship's goals are to diversify the world of angel investing and channel more capital into women's hands.

In 2008, she launched New York Women Social Entrepreneurs (NYWSE), a professional network for female social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. The network began with six women and Oberti Noguera grew it to over 1,200 members in just two years. NYWSE has provided her with what she describes as "accidental market research" for the Pipeline Fellowship, which has revealed the need for more capital directed at for-profit social ventures.

Oberti Noguera holds a bachelor's degree from Yale and graduate degrees in international health care management from SDA Bocconi, based in Milan, Italy, and in organizational psychology from Teachers College at Columbia University. Her diverse educational background has allowed her to apply her knowledge across multiple areas, but it was a book from her childhood that informed her focus on gender.

At a young age, she read "Princess" by Jean P. Sasson, which "made me a feminist," she says. The book follows the life story of a young Saudi Arabian princess, Sultana. She and her brother were close growing up, but as they reached puberty, everything suddenly changed.

Sultana's story resonated with Oberti Noguera: "I remember it had such a major impact on me. From that moment on, I wanted to make sure that girls had all the same opportunities as guys."

Oberti Noguera hopes to make this happen on a global level through the Pipeline Fellowship.

"Diversity in the angel investment community will create more capital for more women worldwide," she says. "Creating access will ensure that people are connected to funding opportunities. Having the female perspective will release a lot of knowledge and capital that have been untapped."

--By Stephanie Yacenda

Sue Osthoff: Defender of Defendants

Sue Osthoff

Sue Osthoff is passionate about justice; for over 30 years she has made it her mission to provide multiple forms of support to victims of battering.

Osthoff is the co-founder and director the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, the first and only national organization to work with women who have been arrested and are facing trial due to charges related to their battering. Often, the cases involve women who have defended themselves against life-threatening violence and have been charged with assault or homicide.

Her aim is to help victims of battering charged with crimes get fair trials. In these cases, she says, information about the defendant's experiences of violence at the hands of her abuser is "essential for the judge and jury to have in order to understand the level of threat the accused experienced."

"There are a huge number of women in prison who are victims of abuse. Many never had a chance to present evidence about their experiences of abuse at their trials. We try to get lawyers to think about getting that information in," she adds.

After her many years of working in the field, Osthoff remains a creative advocate for victims of battering, developing new resources to assist them in putting their lives back together.

"We're embarking on a new project looking at the issue of re-entry. Thus far, our focus has been to keep women out of the system, but we realized we need to do more to assist the increasing numbers of women leaving jails and prisons," she says.

In 1984, Osthoff began working with victims of battering charged with crimes as the coordinator of the Self-Defense Program at Women Against Abuse in Philadelphia. During the next three years, people from around the country started contacting her for information and resources. Barbara Hart, an attorney, "one of the grandmothers of the movement," Osthoff says, suggested they start an organization and, in 1987, they co-founded the National Clearinghouse.

Osthoff began to see the reality of women's experiences and the strength of women organizing for rights when she was 17 and living and working in Europe. But it was when she returned to the U.S. two years later, while volunteering for a battered women's hotline, that she started to understand how many forces collude to support and maintain violence against women. She knew then that she wanted to do work to end violence against women and to increase options for women.

She continues to volunteer at other organizations, serving on the advisory boards of several national domestic violence organizations. Osthoff says she's not quite done yet.

"I get paid to do work that I love. How lucky am I? I get to wake up in the morning and work for justice," she says.

--Stephanie Yacenda

Juhu Thukral: Think-Tanker for Justice

Juhu Thukral

For over 20 years, attorney Juhu Thukral has championed the rights of low-income immigrant women and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) persons.

Thukral's career includes groundbreaking legal and advocacy work across a wide range of the vital issues of the day: reproductive justice, domestic violence, economic security, sexual rights and bias in the criminal justice system.

Born in India, Thukral and her family moved to the United States when she was a child. Her parents served as her role models, immigrants who established a family and successful lives in the United States. Thukral obtained her undergraduate degree from Rice University in Houston and her law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she was awarded the Elaine Osborne Jacobson Award for Women in Health Care Law.

While issues of gender had always been personal and important to her, Thukral's pivotal career-shaping moment came during a college internship at the Houston Area Women's Center, which provides services to sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. She describes her time there as "fascinating and awakening." It was here that the activist inside her emerged.

In 2001, she founded the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center in New York City, which she established to protect the human rights of sex workers. Thukral's goal was to provide legal advocacy to an often voiceless segment of the underground economy, one that she says experiences abuse from police, traffickers and clients. She represented numerous victim-witnesses in the groundbreaking anti-trafficking case U.S. v. Carreto. With colleagues from the NY Anti-Trafficking Network, Thukral worked to establish New York State's anti-trafficking law and the first state law allowing trafficked persons to essentially erase their criminal convictions.

Currently, Thukral serves as the director of law and advocacy at The Opportunity Agenda, a national communications think tank focused on social justice issues, including economic opportunity, immigration and reproductive justice. Additionally, she recently co-founded the Women's 21st Century Salon, which provides mentoring and networking for women in the social justice movement.

"I will continue to be a strong legal advocate, pushing for policy change that better serves immigrant women, the LGBTQ community and other underserved groups. I will never stop working to amplify the voices of those who have the hardest time breaking into the public discourse," says Thukral.

--By Victoria Fitzgerald


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21 Leaders for the 21st Century

21 Leaders 2012 - Seven Who Engender Ballots

21 Leaders for the 21st Century

21 Leaders 2012 - Seven Who Catalyze Culture

21 Leaders for the 21st Century

Women's eNews Announces 21 Leaders for the 21st Century 2012