NSB Logo Stephanie Nolen Stephanie Nolen

Stephanie Nolen


Halifax, NS, Canada

Foreign Correspondent & Current Events Expert

Stephanie Nolen is one of the most awarded journalists of her generation. She has reported from more than 80 countries, on wars, humanitarian disasters, inequality and social change. She traveled, often alone, to the frontlines of dozens of conflicts; she filed dispatches from the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, janjaweed camps in Darfur, the cartel wars in Mexico, famine in Ethiopia, Baghdad as Saddam Hussein was toppled, migrant caravans in Central America, and the Brazilian Amazon as it burned. Her years of reporting have given her unique insight into the forces behind global political trends including the election of populist outsiders; environmental degradation; and progress in the war on poverty. Stephanie has a rare ability to make connections between political movements and countries. She helps audiences understand what’s driving (or getting in the way of) change, how it will affect them, and what they can do to have an impact on issues they care about.

Keynote Speeches

The Change We Seek: Making Real Progress on Global Inequality

Stephanie has made a home in some of the world’s most unequal countries and made the topic of inequality a major focus in her reporting. She has seen some governments make progress in reducing the gulf between their richest and poorest citizens, and other governments fail miserably at it, even with sincere commitments and billion-dollar budgets. Inequality has emerged in the past five years as one of the single most important factors in elections, and as a key cause of civil strife, in both rich and poor countries, with repercussions that are global. In this presentation Stephanie helps audiences explore what have we learned about what works, what doesn’t, and why it matters to us. 

Key Takeaways:
• How to better understand inequality.
• The actionable steps we can take to address it.

Leadership | The Ability to Imagine a Better World

Having lived in the world’s most impoverished and troubled regions, Stephanie has witnessed the work of some extraordinary individuals who have led to a massive change in their societies. From the fight to stop deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon; to ending the forced marriage of girls in rural India; to getting affordable, life-saving drugs for people dying of AIDS in South Africa: all of those battles had leaders who stood up, alone at first, and at great personal risk, and convinced others who once believed they were powerless to join them in the fight. Drawing on her years of telling these stories, Stephanie shares the traits these leaders have in common to show audiences what we can learn from their courage and their experience.

Key Takeaways:
• How to effectively persuade others of the possibility of your vision.
• Why staking your own reputation, integrity or survival can lead to change that matters far beyond the individual. 

Current Events and International Affairs

Stephanie challenges audience members to consider new perspectives; she explains the structural forces at work behind situations that can seem immutable in typical news coverage, and she details real-world ways that your actions can have an impact on global issues. 

Social Inclusion

Race, gender, caste – there are many ways in which societies are structured to privilege some and exclude others; they tend to be overlaid together, in hierarchies of exclusion. Stephanie has studied these systems up close on five continents and seen firsthand the ways in which they damage people, and countries. The demand for more just and equal societies is motivating political change worldwide. In this presentation, she explores the ways in which individual activists and whole communities build successful strategies and alliances to fight back.

Key Takeaways: 
• Where the demand for change is coming from and how it impacts our organization and society.
• How successful leaders, businesses, communities, and countries respond.

Girls' Education

Getting and keeping girls into school has been a major development goal around the world for the past 15 years. There are troves of data to support how societies transform when girls have that opportunity. Stephanie has reported on the issue in dozens of countries and seen up close what works, and what doesn’t, for getting girls access to education. Some of the obstacles are predictable, but many are surprising – and so are the solutions that Stephanie shares in this presentation. She helps audiences better understand them by illuminating the structures that make societies unequal and how they can be challenged.

Audience reviews:

  • The students came up and thanked me rather than vice-versa, and were positively beaming. One young woman...said she had a new sense of the importance of what she was studying, and a new career objective.

    - Mount Saint Vincent University, Event Organizer
  • Thank you for your lucid and courageous reporting, which we depend on and treasure. It was a gift to have you with us.

    - Mount Saint Vincent University, President
  • Thank you for searching out and covering the problems of humanity at great personal cost...your sacrifice means the world to those you report on. Thank you.

    - Reddit user, AMA with Stephanie Nolen

Speaker Biography

Stephanie Nolen has worked as a foreign correspondent for over 25 years. She covered wars in the Middle East as a freelancer, and went on to report for the Globe and Mail for 21 years, in which she opened new bureaux on four continents. Today she is working with independent media organizations including the Global Reporting Centre on a series of reporting projects on global trade, the environment and economic justice.

In her years as a journalist, Stephanie Nolen has become known for a rare ability to spot stories that others miss – and to make connections others don’t see. She looks for underlying causes and seeks to understand the structures and institutions that make and keep societies the way they are. Stephanie embeds herself, not with military units, but with schoolgirls in rural India, nurses in AIDS clinics in South Africa, teenagers on the migrant trail in Central America and Indigenous people in the Amazon – spending time observing, earning trust and asking questions.

She is an entertaining speaker with a vast trove of stories from her years on the road – but also a wellspring of empathy and, often, anger, that she shares with audiences as she recounts the circumstances and fates of people she has met in war zones, refugee camps and destitute villages. When Stephanie speaks, she tells stories with the same empathy and vivid ability to transport a listener to far-off places that is a hallmark of her reporting. Stephanie challenges audience members to consider new perspectives; she explains the structural forces at work behind situations that can seem immutable in typical news coverage; and she details real-world ways that their actions can have an impact on global issues. 

Stephanie is committed to helping audiences in the global north understand how their actions and choices affect those in countries and conflicts on the other side of the world – and how they can help to effect change on issues they care about.

At key moments in her career, Stephanie has chosen to step off the obvious path, to zig when others zag. When she joined the Middle East press corps in the early 1990s, she passed up the typical correspondent life near the beach in Tel Aviv to live in the West Bank and Gaza, learning Arabic and developing specific and rare expertise on the Palestinian territories. After covering the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, she peeled off from the massive pack of journalists in Baghdad to head to sub-Saharan Africa, where she did ground-breaking reporting on the HIV/AIDS crisis, which she believed was a story with a far greater human impact, but almost no media attention.

She has won Canada’s top reporting prize, the National Newspaper Award, seven times. She has been recognized by human rights groups including Amnesty International (she’s won their media prize seven times, too) and PEN International, which gave her the Courage Prize for her work on HIV/AIDS. She turned her reporting into four non-fiction books, including 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa, which was nominated for the Governor-General’s Award, and published in 15 countries and seven languages.

Stephanie is a tenacious, constantly-questioning reporter, whose personal courage is matched by fierce intellectual curiosity. Often her reporting left her deeply angry about the things she saw – audiences ask her all the time ‘how you cope’ – but she believes that it is better to know than not, better to have a true reckoning of how the world works and how most people live – and that we can’t make change, toward a more just world, if we don’t have the facts.

In 2013 she was invited to chair a special session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, on HIV-AIDS. Stephanie has delivered presentations to a wide range of audiences including; humanitarian organizations (Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam and 60 Million Girls),  academic audiences (University of North Carolina School of Public Health and the Vancouver Institute at the University of British Colombia) civic associations (Canadian International Council and the Global Affairs Councils of Seattle and Chicago) and social groups (the Q Club in Oxford, England).