Shadia Marhaban is an Acehnese journalist, activist, mediator, post-conflict development consultant, and proponent of female participation in peace and security efforts. During the 30-year-long war between the Indonesian government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement, she worked as a journalist and interpreter for various international news outlets.
Marhaban was a coordinator at the organization SIRA (Sentral Informasi Referendum Acheh), which supported a popular referendum on Acehnese independence through civil disobedience and nonviolent demonstration. In 1999, she organized a peaceful rally in Banda Aceh attended by one million protesters. Four years later, she fled to the United States as a political refugee, and continued to represent SIRA as its international relations chief. In 2005, she was the only female negotiator at the Helsinki Peace Talks, which ended the war.
Upon returning to Aceh, Marhaban served as special anti-corruption adviser to the governor. She was a founding board member and trainer for the Aceh School of Peace and Democracy, which introduced more than 3,000 former combatants to democratic government. She was also president and founder of the Acehnese Women's League, which provided training in peace-building and political empowerment for more than 1,000 women affected by the conflict.
From 2011 to 2012, Marhaban was a fellow at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, researching post-conflict management, gender, and political transformation. She currently works as a consultant and trainer for international organizations such as U.N. Women, having led seminars and trainings on women’s peace-building efforts in Afghanistan, Burma, Thailand, Nepal, the Philippines, and West Papua.