Women Who Inspire Inclusion

“We have heard enough about a paradise behind the moon. We want something now. We are tired of hearing about the golden streets of the hereafter. What we want is good paved and drained streets in this world.”

Although it is over a century since Lucy Parsons uttered the above words in 1889 Chicago, women humanists have contributed to the fight to shape the modern world with a commitment to reason, compassion, and social change.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we aim to #InspireInclusion, and work towards a world that’s free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination, and where difference is valued and celebrated. We do this by highlighting a diverse range of women who have made recent strides in the promotion of Humanism and advancement of human rights in the Humanist community.

Sonja Albertine Jeannine Eggerickx (born 8 February 1947) is a Belgian secular Humanist who was president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), now Humanists International, a position she held for nine years until stepping down in 2015. In 2016 she was awarded the Distinguished Services to Humanism Award 2016 for her ground-breaking work in secular education and ethics.

(Video: PATASCON2015: Sonja Eggerickx, IHEU President (Opening Remarks) (youtube.com)

Marissa Torres Langseth is a Board Member of Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI), having founded the organisation in 2013, after previously founding the Philippine Atheist and Agnostic Society (or PATAS, which stands for “equality” in Tagalog) in 2011.

(Video: Marissa Torres Langseth – Openly Secular – YouTube)

Lola Tinubu is of Nigerian descent and is one of the organisers of Association of Black Humanists formerly known as London Black Atheists. She has a story of losing faith and having to confront the fear and stigma associated with leaving religion. It was only on coming to the UK that she found the freedom to leave religion behind. She muses: “When I became an atheist I discovered science, theatre, music, literature, going to museums, appreciating nature. I’m sure I don’t understand nature like a university professor, but I have a new appreciation of it: landscapes, earthquakes, continental drift, all of that. I’m like a little girl in a candy shop.”

(Video: Celebrating black humanism and freethought – Black History Month | CLH Talks (youtube.com)

Anne-France Ketelaer (Belgium), General Manager of deMens.nu (the umbrella network of Dutch-speaking liberal humanist associations in Flanders and Brussels), former Vice President of Humanists International (2016 to 2023). She has stated: “Humanists disagree on many things. We embrace that diversity, because it is such a big part of freedom of expression.” Upon her retirement from the Board in 2023, she was awarded the 2023 Distinguished Service to Humanism Award, and thanked by Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International: “Through her visionary leadership and unwavering dedication, she has elevated the cause of humanism to new heights.”

Anne-France Ketelaer (photo from Humanists International and demens.nu)

Roslyn Mould (Ghana) is the first African to be elected Vice President of Humanists International. She was Secretary and Chair of the Young Humanists International African Working Group from 2014 to 2019 and a Board Member for Humanists International from 2019 to 2023. She was a member of the Humanist Association of Ghana since it was founded in 2012 and held several positions, including President of the group from 2015 to 2019. She is the Coordinator for the West African Humanist Network, an Advisory Board member of the FoRB Leadership Network (UK), a Board member for LGBT+ Rights Ghana, and President of Accra Atheists. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and Modern Languages. She has once said, “Humanism teaches me to be free from dogma and religious/cultural misogynistic beliefs. Humanism informs my liberation as a person”.

(Video: Roslyn Mould: Pioneer of Freethought (youtube.com)

Nicole Carr (USA) is the Interim Executive Director of the American Humanist Association, Editor of the Humanist magazine, and Senior Editor of TheHumanist.com. She recalls: “It wasn’t until I left home for college that I started questioning religion. Slowly, I moved from considering myself religious to “spiritual but not religious,” to an understanding that this life on earth is what we have and we should make the most of it. I came to believe that each person must find ways to make their own lives meaningful and fulfilling and that being and doing good in the world was a big part of instilling that meaning.”

(Video: What’s New at the AHA with Nicole Carr (youtube.com)

Maachelle Farley, President of Humanists Barbados, who in 2023 called upon Barbados to improve its human rights record in a number of areas, including improving the rights of women and LGBTI+ persons, eradicating corporal punishment, and working for the abolition of the death penalty.

(Video: Barbados Challenged to be More Inclusive (youtube.com)

Inga Auðbjörg Straumland (photo from her website)

Inga Auðbjörg K. Straumland (Iceland) is a Humanist Celebrant, (former) President of Icelandic Humanists / Siðmennt. She states that since her deconversion from Christianity as a teenager: “I have been burned for secular society. A society where there is full freedom of religion and people have full personal freedom to choose the path that suits them in life, without having to be constantly in the shadow of state religion, discrimination and facilities.”

(Video: Nordic humanism – its challenges and future (youtube.com)

Eva Quiñones, President of the Secular Humanists de Puerto Rico / Humanists of Puerto Rico. She co-founded the Humanists of Puerto Rico team in 2011, and is one of the few Hispanic women activists who internationally represents the Puerto Rican lay community before various forums and organizations, including Humanists International. Eva states: “Humanism, compassion, rationalism, science, are the proven best ways for nation building”.

(Video: Humanism in Puerto Rico » Understanding Humanism (YouTube)

Kirstine Kærn, Vice-President of the Danish Humanist Society (Humanistisk Samfund) and recently travelled the world to meet and network fellow humanists, and runs a podcast on Babelfish. She speaks of her increased involvement in humanism: “11 years ago I heard about the founding of Humanistisk Samfund and decided to join. I’ve never been religious nor a member of the Danish state church (75% of Danes are members of the protestant state church). Human rights and humanism have always been important to me, but besides sponsoring Amnesty I’d never considered being part of a humanist organization. I was a member for several years before I became active.”

Kirstine Kærn (photo from Humanistisk Samfund)

We aim to make every day a commemoration of a world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We thank these women for their commitment to this same cause.

©2024 by Roslyn Mould (Ghana) and Geoff Allshorn (Australia).