First published on Transparency International/Voices for Transparency
Women’s History Month – marked each year throughout March – celebrates and highlights women’s contributions to society. From individual acts of courage to community organising, women around the world are courageously fighting corruption and promoting transparency, integrity, and accountability in their workplaces, communities, and beyond. Their work, while it comes with high risks and extreme sacrifices, often goes unrecognised.
As Women’s History Month in 2023 wraps up, let’s celebrate four fearless women who are fighting corruption on behalf of those at a heightened risk of exclusion and mistreatment.
1. Ketakandriana Rafitoson, Madagascar
Ketakandriana Rafitoson is the executive director of Transparency International Initiative Madagascar. For the past decade, she has championed ground-breaking initiatives to promote transparency and integrity in various sectors. These include natural resources (mining, land, forestry, and environment), as well as social services (health and education). She has also worked to improve the judicial system, local governance, and public procurement.
Corruption disproportionately impacts the poorest members of the community. This is why Ketakandriana believes that only a multi-stakeholder approach can mobilise political will to address it. To do this, she has closely collaborated with investigative journalists to expose grand corruption and provide the private sector with practical tools to incorporate ethics and anti-corruption practices in their business.
Additionally, she works to empower young people and women to break the taboos that prevent victims from speaking out against issues such as sextortion or corruption in basic service delivery.
Ketakandriana’s work challenging entrenched systems and calling for accountability has not been without reprisals. In 2022, she and another colleague faced criminal charges for their work demanding judicial investigations around suspicions of transnational corruption in the lychee trade between Madagascar and France.
These challenges notwithstanding, Ketakandriana remains resilient, upbeat, and steadfast in working towards a better Madagascar where social equity and fair development are a reality. She envisions a future where state capture is broken by an “integrity revolution” led by responsible and fearless citizens. This dream, she is keen to add, can only be attained through a that includes applying political will, civic engagement and grassroots mobilisation.
Not a single Sustainable Development Goal will be attained, and development will remain a utopia, as long as corruption prevails. Corruption kills and destroys lives daily. It is a curse which will only be curbed by our human determination to promote and protect the common good.Ketakandriana Rafitoson, executive director of Transparency Inte, enational Initiative Madagascar
2. Karina Kalpschtrej, Argentina
Karina Kalpschtrej is a sociologist and passionate anti-corruption activist from Argentina. She has been on the anti-corruption frontline for more than 20 years, mainly working to address the gendered dimensions of corruption.
She is known for seeking justice and breaking the silence surrounding the impact of corruption on women, the LGBTQIA community, and other groups at risk of discrimination in Latin America. She also advocates for comprehensive victim and whistle-blower protection legislation and mechanisms, especially in cases involving state agents.
Karina has worked to generate empirical evidence on the violation of legal rights that women face when subjected to gender-specific forms of corruption, such as sextortion, which remains a largely ignored crime. In her experience, the lack of comprehensive legislation on sextortion remains a big barrier to access information and justice for victims in Latin America.
Her belief is that it is essential to build bridges with women and gender organisations to raise awareness about the unique impact that corruption has on the lives of diverse women, girls, and young people.
Corruption is a form of gender violence. And one of its most invisible faces, because it is structural and because there are no specific protection systems for us when corruption attacks us in everyday life.Karina Kalpschtrej, sociologist and anti-corruption activist
3. Asiphe Funda, South Africa
Asiphe Funda is a young and fearless lawyer working on highly sensitive corruption issues that perpetrate economic inequalities and undermine sustainable development in Africa, including illicit financial flows, tax evasion, and tax avoidance.
Asiphe’s passion for anti-corruption work comes from having grown up in an informal settlement where she lacked access to the basic economic and social rights. She explains South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world but believes its existence is; it; “meaningless without the realisation of socio-economic rights for millions of South Africans who have been and continue to be marginalised and excluded.”
This is why she tirelessly advocates for fair government policies in South Africa that benefit underserved communities. She aims to stop the misuse of resources and improve access to essential public services such as health and education. Asiphe will be happy the day there is transparent and accountable governance to guarantee quality service delivery to underserved communities.
Asiphe worked until very recently at Corruption Watch, and has now moved into the legal community where she hopes to continue her relationship with the organisation in a new light.
4. Sara Naseem, Maldives
Sara Naseem is a young activist working as the Communications and Advocacy Manager at Transparency Maldives. She strongly believes anti-corruption activism and advocacy should include, and be driven by, community members who are often excluded from decision making processes.
Sara does community outreach and promotes the political and civic participation of women and young people to address corruption. In the Maldives, she explains, corruption and destructive infrastructure development projects often go hand in hand. The design, development and implementation of such projects, however, often exclude the lived realities of local communities, especially those of women.
Through her continuous efforts, Sara aims to create space for these realities to be voiced and integrated in the policy development process at all levels. She believes women and young people should be at the centre of all anti-corruption discourse.
The impact of corruption is most greatly felt at the grassroots, and therefore our work to tackle corruption must involve communities at the grassroots level, and ensure their voices are at the centre of decision making.Sara Naseem, communications and advocacy manager at Transparency Maldives