FOUNDER, PIDA RIPLEY MA AKC FRSA
Widely traveled as a child, she saw at first hand the suffering caused by poverty and the consequences of war, and she remains driven by a rage for change and for justice.
'Those of us enjoying freedom and with our basic needs met, have a moral obligation to engage in compassionate activism on behalf of those who have no freedom, who have no voice, whose situation is precarious, whose lives are in crisis.'
For Pida Ripley, this is the meaning of humanitarian action.
A post-graduate of both LSE (International & Comparative Politics) and King’s College London (War Studies) she was awarded a Senior MacArthur Fellowship and was based in Washington where she studied national security issues. She is an Associate of King's College.
In her early twenties she founded an international art exhibition and modern art gallery business based in London in 1968. She launched the world’s first film poster gallery in 1974. Her art interests and entrepreneurial spirit led her to develop other business ventures including interior design, high value property development, fragrance creation, and leisure market products (gold medalist).
Among her many public appointments she was appointed a Vice-President of the United Nations Association, an organisation she was actively involved with for 25 years, being repeatedly elected to the national executive board. She also served for six years as a national board member of UNICEF-UK. She was on the Conservative Parliamentary Candidates lists for both UK and Europe.
The youngest candidate, she contested the Greater London Council elections in 1970 and became, for many years, an additional member of several main Council Committees (Arts, Housing). Appointed an Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) representative on the Board of Governors of St Martin's School of Art, one of Britain's most prestigious art colleges, she was elected vice-chairman (3 years) and then Chairman of the Board of Governors, serving in that role for almost a decade.
In 1989, she was appointed Director of Development at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, (Chatham House), one of the world's leading institutes for the research and analysis of international issues, where she developed the foundation for its future expansion. This was followed in 1993 by her appointments as Executive Director of the Association of Business Communicators, a hi-tech trade association representing the audio/visual industry, and thereafter the Director of a health promotion charity working in the former Soviet Union.
After fourteen years of voluntary fundraising for various UN agencies, in 1987 she founded WomenAid/Women of the World, also known as WomenAid International, a humanitarian aid and development agency to provide assistance to women and families in crisis caused by war, poverty, repression and abuse, to raise awareness of issues adversely affecting women and children, and, importantly, to act as a catalyst for international and national legislative and public policy change.
Launching the WOW Campaign at 10 Downing Street 1987, Prime Minister, Margaret
“The Women of the World campaign is brilliant and will raise desperately needed funds for projects involving women. WOW!”
Many fundraising initiatives were undertaken, enabling WomenAid to provide support for microcredit, health, environmental and other development related projects in Kenya, Uganda, Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, India, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. In 1997 ITN News at Ten filmed a Special Report on urgent food assistance provided by WomenAid International to the psychiatric hospital in Yaroslavl, Russia.
WomenAid’s humanitarian activities multiplied dramatically due to the war in former Yugoslavia. In 1993 Pida secured a contribution of over 8000 MT of food stocks, valued over £7 million, from MAFF together with £750,000 transportation costs from ODA enabling WomenAid to implement major convoy operations throughout the war-torn conflict zone.
Operating as a logistic partner with the USAF, WomenAid provided 3350 MT food supplies for the Central Bosnia Airdrop and the Sarajevo Airlift,(Operation Provide Promise) food aid programme -simultaneously supplying over 5000 MT food aid in the region as an implementing partnership with the UN World Food Programme, UNHCR, and WHO. The UN World Food Programme stated ‘WomenAid undoubtedly saved lives’.
The seventh British charity to be invited into a Framework Partnership with the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) WomenAid International thereafter was invited by several governments to implement major humanitarian emergency programmes in Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Pida Ripley’s voluntary initiatives enabled WomenAid International to deliver over 30,000 MT of food, medicines, medical supplies and equipment, valued over £12 million to more than 1.5 million people in countries ravaged by war and political instability.
Pida also created the high profile Women of the World (WOW) Awards, given in recognition of outstanding achievement or commitment by an individual or organisation in all fields of endeavour.
WOW recipients include Mother Teresa, Sadako Ogata, High Commissioner for Refugees, Professor Wangari Maathai, Founder of the Green Belt Movement and the WOW awards have been presented by HRH Princess of Wales, HRH Princess Michael of Kent, and the Duchess of York.
Many celebrities have supported the organisation, as have WomenAid Ambassadors, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Petula Clark, Dame Zandra Rhodes, Sandie Shaw, the late Maya Angelou - and many other of our Ambassadors.
Pida with WomenAid Ambassadors Susan Hampshire and Petula Clark at a
A lifelong belief in the peacebuilding role of the United Nations and ‘We, the people…’ directed her to support and promote the activities of the United Nations. In a unique initiative in 1993, noting CNN was not promoting the UN Special Days on its global notice board, she arranged for CNN to provide continuous global promotion of such UN activities.
Twenty-five years later this initiative continues promoting the UN. Two years later in 1995, the UN launched its first official website!
For over 15 years Pida created and chaired many high profile national and royal gala events and conferences, including the 30th and 40th Gala celebrations of the founding of the UN, UNICEF Royal Gala premiere, as well as the Annual UN Dinner and Ambassadorial Ball.
Pida Ripley, Founder and Chair, Ambassadorial Ball
In 1996, in recognition of her high profile promotion of the UN and 20 years service on committees, UNA-UK appointed her a Vice-President. n 1975 she received an IWY Award at the UN for her promotional activities of the first UN International Women’s Year (IWY). In 1999 she was a finalist in the 9th Annual European Women of Achievement Awards (Humanitarian’ category).
She has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the principle of voluntary service and community engagement. In 1983 she became an active member of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, FANY (PVRC), the world’s longest established women’s uniformed ‘military’ voluntary organisation. Founded in 1907 the Corps has an illustrious history of service in both war and peace.
A committed human rights campaigner Pida launched several high profile global and regional human rights awareness campaigns focused on ending violence against women. In 1992 Bosnian women survivors of the notorious ‘rape’ camps asked her to ‘Tell the World’ and she launched a global campaign of that name and WomenAid was acknowledged as having taken ‘the lead’ on the issue. Implementing a psycho-social support programme for traumatised refugees WomenAid was the only agency paying small cash grants directly to survivors and refugee women who had been stripped of all cash and valuables.
"Your efforts in the field of human rights, particularly in furthering the rights of women, are impressive and deserve all the support available. Reiterating our congratulations for your outstanding work in the humanitarian field and wishing you and your organisation every success."
Early support was given to the Afghan Group, The Revolutionary Women of Afghanistan, RAWA, followed and WomenAid launched an international solidarity campaign, Living Shadows, increasing awareness of the Taliban’s inhumane treatment of women and girls.
Pida was an early pioneer of anti-trafficking awareness in the UK, launching ‘Shattered Lives -Stop Trafficking’ in 1998 to act as a catalyst for legislative and policy change. In 1998/9, during the Kosovo conflict she witnessed aggressive kidnapping of young female refugees who were then trafficked into Italy. Very little could be done to oppose these brutal acts of traffickers.
In 2000, in partnership with IOM, WomenAid created the Be Smart! Be Safe! multimedia campaign in Georgia. To support the ‘broadening and deepening’ of regional civil society activities, WomenAid International-Caucasus established Caucasus 16 Days National Coordination Committees in Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as in Georgia, thus substantially developing regional collaboration and cooperation.
This initiative developed into a 5-year multimedia campaign ‘Caucasus 16 Days’ involving hundreds of INGO/NGOs, government departments, UN agencies press and media in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, all collaborating on an agreed joint annual theme. Over 500 organizations in the Caucasus region participated in the 2001 multi-media campaign, organising over 200 events and meetings as well as securing press articles and media programs within the three countries of the South Caucasus, and this successful annual campaign increased in size and impact year on year.
In Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia,in 2002 Pida organised and chaired the official country presentations of the WHO first Global Report on Violence.
In the same year, supported by UK’s most senior police personnel, she organised the first international anti-trafficking conference in the UK, the pioneering activities of WomenAid at many levels being recognised in the House of Lords debate on trafficking of humans.
The Commonwealth Secretariat invited her to collaborate with other Commonwealth experts on trafficking to produce the first ‘Expert Guide on Trafficking’ which proposed policy recommendations for Commonwealth governments. The report was published in 2003.
Believing that ‘only men and women working together will stop violence against women’ she introduced the Canadian male initiated White Ribbon Campaign to the Caucasus by engaging the interest and voluntary participation of many of the most famous male celebrities from the region as White Ribbon Ambassadors.
She drew the two campaigns, CAUCASUS 16 DAYS and the White Ribbon Ambassadors together in a twin-track strategy creating an opportunity for men and women to work together on addressing violence against women. This highly successful initiative attracted much attention and is now being replicated elsewhere, including by UN agencies.
Building on WomenAid’s early campaigning on the importance of involving women in environmental activities and the 1987 UNEP Global 500 Award to the WomenAid/Green Belt partnership, Pida devised another 5-year month long multimedia campaign, Caucasus Zone Green. To introduce greater environmental awareness, engage civil society and ‘seed’ voluntary community action in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, a Caucasus wide health and environment network platform of government departments, UN agencies, INGO/NGOs, together with multimedia partners was developed by WomenAid International-Caucasus. Over 450 members promoted environmental issues by organising hundreds of events of all types, at all levels. This laid the foundation for continuing environmental community action.
WomenAid sponsored the development and consultations on the Georgian National Environmental Health Action Plan, (NEHAP). Using WomenAid's network platform concept, specialist platforms were created to develop each section of the draft plan. The draft was then circulated widely at all levels of civil society for consultation and feedback. The NEHAP was adopted by the Georgian parliament in decree number 326 on 23 March 2003.
To conclude the two 5-year campaigns in the Caucasus and thank participants, in 2005 Pida organised the first Caucasus Contemporary Music Festival, Tbilisi Live! A series of concerts were presented by famous jazz, rock, classical and Yo Yo Ma Silk Road artists and musicians, all of whom performed voluntary in support of WomenAid multi-year activities in the region.
AND THEN CAME THE HEALTH COLLAPSE…
Despite being diagnosed with disabling rheumatoid arthritis at 19, undergoing over twenty major operations, surviving a subarachnoid brain haemorrhage and sustaining major multiple trauma when escaping a kidnap attempt, Pida worked 365/24/7 in a voluntary role for several decades in highly stressful environments.
Unsurprisingly, she finally suffered a major health collapse in 2006 and was unable to continue her highly pressured and exhausting work. Needing time to recover, she maintained her active interest in national security and defence issues and slowly regaining limited health, she renewed her personal involvement in UK based health issues.
She had previously served 4 years as a Department of Health appointed Governor of the Royal Marsden Hospital and has worked in several countries promoting public health issues. In 2008 and 2013 she was elected a Patient Governor of King’s College London Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, where she served for over 7 years. Concerned about patient safety, in 2010/11 she served on the PSSQ-NIHR KCL/KCH Research Centre for Patient Safety & Service Quality Steering Group, and has contributed to various high level patient experience and safety related groups focused on infection control, antibiotic resistance and improving patient pathways.
Currently a member of the Orthopaedic Association Patient Liaison Group and the BARTS Centre for Trauma Sciences Advisory Group creating an After Trauma Recovery App, in 2017 she was appointed by NIHR as the Public Contributor re an HTA Project, York Clinical Trials Unit.
In 2018 she was appointed a Steering Group member of NHS London ‘Choosing Wisely’ - a Healthy London Partnership Programme and is a co-applicant of a successful £5 million, funding bid to establish a 5-year research programme, Health and Social Care Workforce Research Unit, (HSCWRU), one of UK's 15 policy research units, based at King’s College London.
...AND NOW PIDA RETURNS TO HER PASSION ...
FULFILLING THE MISSION OF WOMENAID.
Many have called Pida Ripley a visionary and she has given decades of her life to voluntary causes and providing assistance to those in crisis and need. WomenAid volunteers, interns and staff have found her inspirational and have shared her vision, freely offering their time, talent, skills and support to contribute to the work of WomenAid International.
Perhaps that is the greatest of tributes to Pida Ripley.
NB: Pida has authored multiple articles, book reviews, press advisory notes and releases etc on diverse subjects and has participated in numerous radio/TV interviews in UK and abroad.
Address: Kemp House, 152-160 City Road, London EC1V 2NX
Sadako Ogata, United Nations
Pida Ripley in conversation with
HRH Princess of Wales with Pida Ripley, presenting a Woman of the World Award to
May I take this opportunity to congratulate you on founding an esteemed organisation"
Mamo Desta, Country Director, UN World Food Programme, Armenia.
“La qualite de son travail sur le terrain fait de WomenAid une de meilleure ONG qui travaillent en Armenie.” (The quality of its work in the field make WomenAid one of the best NGOs working in Armenia.)
J. Pinto-Texeira, Desk Officer, European Community Humanitarian Office
"It is our privilege to thank you for raising public awareness about the tragedy befalling our people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We appreciate your time and expertise in this matter. We also want to acknowledge the contribution made by your organisation, Womenaid, as humanitarian of medical supplies and food."
Sekib Sokolovic M.D., Department Humanitarian Aid, Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina
"...Just as love begins at home, so also Peace and the woman being the heart of the family - let us pray that we women realise the reason of existence is to love and be loved and through this love become instruments of peace.
Mother Teresa's message to Pida Ripley and
The Rt. Hon. Paddy Ashdown, M.P., Leader of the Liberal Democrats presenting the 1993 Award to Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of York, who The accepted on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata.
“ I congratulate you on getting the UN special days onto the CNN Events Notice Board. I would not have thought it possible to do that from London, even if I had been aware of this CNN feature.”
Graeme Warner, Director UN Information Centre, London. 1993.
Pida Ripley with Andrew Young, US Ambassador to the United Nations
Lt. Colonel Peter Gibbs, Private Secretary to HRH Princess Anne, 1988
The Mission which I led came to a formal end in February, when we reported our findings to the Council of Ministers…In the circumstances I thought the best thing to do would be to send a copy of your letter to Ms Pida Ripley, Director, WomenAid. This organisation has taken a lead in this country in coordinating support for Bosnian women.
Dame Anne Warburton, Head EC Investigative Mission into the Treatment of Muslim Women in F. Yugoslavia. 02.06.1993
“On Monday this week I addressed a UK Anti-Trafficking Network conference, which was organised by WomenAid International. Organisations such as WomenAid International, Anti-Slavery and the Jubilee Campaig are to be congratulated on the work that they have undertaken in drawing our attention to this most pressing and growing issue.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool, Parliamentary Debate, (Motion: Trafficking Children) House of Lords 13.03.2002.
“I am most impressed about your energetic engagement to address human trafficking in the UK and your commitment to enhance necessary counter-measures, in particular victim protection and assistance. I strongly support your endeavours and agree victim assistance programs need to be institutionalised within a respective legal framework. “
Dr Helga Konrad, Chair of Stability Pact Task Force on Trafficking in Human Beings. Vienna 11 June 2002
“The events carried out by your organization change significantly the life of IDP population relieving their psychosocial difficulties. Especially important for them is the information provided through your programmes on HIV/Aids, stopping violence against women and children and preventing the global spread of trafficking. Availing myself of this opportunity to express respect for your work and understanding, I thank you on behalf of IDP population and myself.”
2005 D Khorava, First Minister of Labour, Health & Social Affairs of Abkhaz Autonomous Republic
ONLY MEN & WOMEN WORKING
Pida Ripley believes all women
I am pleased to inform you that the Aarhus Clearinghouse for Environmental Democracy is featuring the Green Belt Movement and the WomenAid International EHNP on the home page this month. The Environment & Health Network Platform (EHNP) works to promote public awareness of environmental issues, increase public participation in environmental decision-making and strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations to advocate for and implement such programmes.”
Aarhus Convention Secretariat, UN Economic Commission of Europe, Geneva. 08.10.2004
“We have just been able to get the long-awaited Mammomat-B machine released from Customs. On behalf of Family Planning Association of Pakistan and particularly on my own behalf, I would like to express my deepest gratitude for this very generous donation. I also realise the immense effort that you have had to make to provide help to Pakistani women.”
Begum Tajwar Shaukat, Honorary General Secretary, Family Planning Association of Pakistan. 13.07.1994
The first public breast screening equipment in Pakistan
Once again, I would like to thank you and WomenAid on behalf of WHO for your kind donation to former Yugoslavia. WomenAid is to be commended for its valuable work and its further endeavours encouraged.” We are very grateful for your assistance to WHO and hope you will keep us in mind for future donations.”
Dr G.B. Forte, WHO Medical Supplies Officer, WHO Regional Office for Europe.
“Your gift to Trickle Up helped begin or expand 6,720 businesses: 2,295 of them in Africa; 2964 in Asia: 1440 in the Americas, including 108 in the United States and 21 in Eastern Europe. These figures, by our reckoning, mean that the lives of at least 35,000 people changed dramatically in 1996….I write to you, our generous donor, to say thank you.”
S Habachy, Executive Director, Trickle UP Program New York. 18.02.1996
“I write to express the willingness of the Ministry of Culture, Monument Preservation and Sports to support your latest initiative – the Caucasus Contemporary Music Festival. The launch and development of this major cultural event, dedicated to civil society development, peace-building within the region and the global promotion of the South Caucasus places a central spotlight on Georgia’s own commitment to encourage greater cooperation within the region. “
Giorgi Gabashvili, Minister of Culture, Monument Preservation & Sports of Georgia. 2005.
"To ignore suffering is
“Peacekeeper Films is a Canadian production company which is currently developing Peacekeepers, a 13 episode documentary television series focusing on the lives of courageous individuals helping others in devastated areas of the world.
We learned of WomenAid while researching…and believe that the work that has been done is extraordinary.”
Peacekeeper Films, Montreal,
Pida Ripley in her office at Chatham House.
"Your support and money you gave me, a 72 year old woman who has lost everything, made me start crying. I don't know if that was because of sadness that I became a refugee or happiness that I am not alone and there are good people and good women all over the world who think about me. Thank you very much for what you are doing for us and for the money which means a lot to me."
Sejida Lalic, Bosnian refugee