Champion of Change: Shazia Rafi

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Shazia Rafi, managing director of Global Parliamentary Service and the UN representative for the All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA), has spent more than 25 years working to build a more representative, accountable and effective international political system. But her passion for activism was instilled much earlier by the females in her family. “My grandmother was one of the early members of APWA,” Shazia says. "And my mother an active member in the local chapters.”

In fact, it was her mother who first introduced her to the president of the APWA, where she became a volunteer UN Representative. Her work led her to her eventually joining Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), a non-profit, non-partisan organization with legislators from more 100 countries that promotes peace, international law, gender equality and reproductive health.

It was there that Shazia pushed through a number of gender and racial barriers, becoming PGA’s first female secretary-general, the first secretary-general from the developing world and from an Islamic country, and the organization’s longest-serving chief executive. “I am extremely gratified by my 18 years as secretary-general of PGA,” she says. “I was able to combine my idealism with power politics to bring into force two international treaties, the International Criminal Court and the Arms Trade Treaty, as well as two UN Conference platforms of action – the Beijing Conference on Women and the International Conference on Population and Development.”

In this role, as well as in the numerous other positions she’s held as an activist, Shazia has served as inspiration for many women, both young and old – the most important being her daughters. “I am very proud of my career,” she says. “But I’m most proud of being the mother of two talented, dedicated and caring daughters.”

Shazia 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 or globally.

Mikki Brammer