Champion of Change: Sheila Katzman

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Sheila Katzman is a multi-talented broadcast and theater professional focused on empowering and giving voice to local communities by developing participatory forms of media. As an applied theater practitioner, she has facilitated leadership workshops around the world using theatrical arts, socio-dramatic techniques and radio as tools of social and political change.

Sheila was never one to shy away from a challenge. In her home country of Jamaica, she worked actively to free theater from its elitist roots and bring performances and involvement into communities that were historically ignored by traditional theater. Her accomplishments came to the attention of the Jamaican Ministry of Culture where she was assigned Cultural Attaché.

Upon moving to New York, Sheila worked as a procurement officer at United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and as a journalist at WBAI/Pacifica Radio, where she cultivated a strong following with programming highlighting issues impacting the lives of women.

In 1999, Sheila was recruited by the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping to develop a radio station for the peacekeeping mission in war-ravaged Sierra Leone. UN Radio/UNAMSIL was noted for its high level of listener participation and for bringing key players from the fighting factions together for peace talks. Radio UNAMSIL, credited for promoting peace in Sierra Leone, became a model for the United Nations to replicate in other peacekeeping missions.

Looking back on her career, Sheila muses, “I am both humbled and proud to be able to use drama-based processes and radio as tools to break through social barriers and personal biases and help women to understand and empower their communities.”

With her unflagging passion for women’s rights, especially those affected by armed conflict, Sheila continues to serve as president of the US chapter of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) and as chair of the NYC for CEDAW (UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) coalition, advocating for a New York City Women’s Bill of Rights based on CEDAW.

Sheila is one of the many inspiring people selected as part of our Champions of Change campaign, which honors individuals who have made a difference in the lives of women and girls in the Metro New York area and globally.

Mikki Brammer