August 9, 2010 | 12:25 PM
Who She is: The daughter of Saddam Hussein's personal pilot, Zainab Salbi witnessed firsthand what oppressive dictatorial regimes, war and violence can do to women and girls. At 20, she found herself living thousands of miles from home, in the U.S., married to a man she didn't love. When the relationship turned abusive, she found the strength to get out and for the first time, was able to consider what she truly cared about. A chance reading of a report on the brutality of rape during the Bosnian-Serbian war led her to take up her cause: fighting for the rights of women and girls in war torn countries.
Why we love her: In 1993, Zainab transformed the early kernel of an ideal into a thriving organization that helps women and girls. Women for Women International is a grassroots development organization that helps women survivors of war gain social and economic opportunities. Women for Women operates in several current and former conflict-ridden zones, including Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and Sudan.
Since its inception, Women for Women has distributed close to $80 million in aid and - just as Grameen America does in the states - microcredit loans to nearly a million women in the developing world. One unique aspect of their programs: A letter sponsor initiative - in which women in conflicts zones are matched with women donors who provide not only financial but emotional support.
Quote: "In wars, trust is lost", she said in a 2008 Time Magazine interview. "Betrayal leads to silence. Rape victims do not talk. Women disappear just when their families and their societies need them most -- because you can't rebuild a strong economy without strong women"
Women for Women International: http://www.womenforwomen.org/