Leticia Ramos Shahani, a diplomat, international civil servant, and advocate of women’s rights, graduated from Wellesley College in 1951 with a degree in English literature. She also achieved an M.A. in comparative literature from Columbia University and a doctorate with highest honors from the University of Paris.
In 1964, Shahani joined the United Nations Secretariat, and she is currently considered to be one of the top ranking women of the United Nations. She became an alternate representative of the Philippines for the Commission on the Status of Women (currently the Division on the Status of Women) in 1969 and chaired the UN Commission on the Status of Women in 1974. From 1981 to 1986, she was the UN assistant secretary-general for social development and humanitarian affairs. She served as the Philippine delegate to the United Nations World Conferences on Women in Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980), and Beijing (1995), and in 1985, she was appointed as the secretary-general of the Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya.
In addition to serving on the international scale, Shahani has served the Philippine government in numerous capacities. She became the first female ambassador of her country and the first ambassador to Eastern Europe when she served as Philippine Ambassador to Romania in 1975. She also served as ambassador to Hungary, to the German Democratic Republic, and to Australia. Shahani was elected as a senator from 1987 to 1998 and as an undersecretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. She was president pro tempore of the Philippine Senate from 1992 to 1996. Until 2004, she served as the presidential advisor on culture and as the chairperson of the Committee on Culture of the UNESCO National Commission.
Shahani has been an advocate of the advancement of women and she has received numerous awards in recognition of her international achievements, including the French Legion of Honor, the United Nations Population Award, the Rafael Salas Population and Development Award, and the Mother of the Year Award from the National Federation of Women’s Clubs in the Philippines. She is also the founding chairperson of the BUDHI Foundation and serves as the chairperson for the Foundation of Youth Development in the Philippines. She is the widow of the late Ranjee Shahani, a distinguished Indian writer and professor, and the mother of three children.
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