This week at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2,500 honored guests gathered at the 13th Annual Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards to recognize the impact of innovative social entrepreneurs, political representatives, human rights activists and civil society advocates who are creating sustainable change both globally and in their home countries.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the founder of Vital Voices, along with fashion designer and activist Diane von Furstenberg and CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell honored five women from Iraq, Guatemala, India, Tanzania and Syria who are working to strengthen democracy, increase economic opportunity and protect human rights.
Alyse Nelson, president and CEO of Vital Voices, said of the Global Leadership Awards honorees, â€œWe donâ€™t always get to see their faces or hear their voices,Â but they are there. Behind every crisis,Â beyond every story of triumph,Â there are women leaders who go out on a limb every day to create change and tonight we honor them.â€
Rana Zaitouneh accepted the Global Trailblazer Award from Hillary Rodham Clinton on behalf of her sister, Razan Zaitouneh, who was kidnapped six months ago while working in Syria as a result of her commitment to advocating for human rights and empowering women.
Clinton said: “Her vital voice is silent now, even as her country continues to burn. So tonight, let us all speak for her. Let us raise our voices as one and demand the safe and immediate release of Razan Zaitouneh and all of the political prisoners in Syria as this conflict continues. We will not forget her. We will not forget the work she did, we will not forget the abuses she exposed, or the hope she cherished, the hope for a more peaceful and eventually democratic Syria. So let us recommit ourselves to making sure that her voice is heard through the voices of all of us and so many more. To stand up for the imprisoned and the oppressed. To empower women around the world who are agents of change, makers of peace, drivers of progress, that is what Vital Voices is all about.”
Upon accepting the award on behalf of her sister, Rana Zaitouneh said: â€œThis award means so much to our family. It helps us to keep my sisterâ€™s life and work alive to the world. I watched the revolution from afar, guilty that I could do little to help, that I couldn’t be there for her, with her. Guilty that I had chosen flight, but proud that she had chosen to fight. She never stopped working, never stopped defending the people. She never lost hope, and even now, when she has been taken from us by monsters, I can see the changes she has made and continues to make from afar.â€
This is the 10th anniversary of the Fern Holland AwardÂ which has been given annually in tribute to the legacy of American lawyer and human rights activist Fern Holland, who was killed while working for womenâ€™s rights in Iraq. The award honors a leader who takes tremendous risk to promote peace and defend the human rights of a targeted or vulnerable community. This yearâ€™s recipient was Iraqi lawyer Suaad Allami. Past recipients include Nataliya Dmytruk, a leader in Ukraineâ€™s Orange Revolution, Mukhtaran Bibi, a Pakistani human rights activist, and Mariane Pearl, journalist and widow of David Pearl.
1.Hillary Clinton Presenting Global Trail Blazer Award to Razan Zaitouneh, a Syrian human rights activist who was kidnapped in Dec. 2013
2. Hillary again presenting the award.
3. Front row from left to right: Suaad Allami, Iraq; Claudia Paz y Paz, Guatemala; Priti Patkar, India; Dr. Victoria Kisyombe, Tanzania; and Rana Zaitouneh, Syria.
Back row from left to right: Laura Alonso, Kah Walla, Melanne Verveer, Alyse Nelson, Susan Ann Davis, Diane von Furstenberg, Vi Holland, Anne Finucane, and Norah Oâ€™Donnell.
4. Hillary Clinton with Priti Patkar
5. Hillary Clinton with Claudia Paz y Paz
6. Hillary Clinton with Dr. Victoria Kisyombe
The 2014 Global Leadership Awards honorees include: Iraqi lawyer Suaad Allami (Fern Holland Award); former Attorney General of Guatemala Claudia Paz y Paz (Leadership in Public Life Award); Indian social worker Priti Patkar (Human Rights Award); Tanzanian entrepreneur Dr. Victoria Kisyombe (Economic Empowerment Award); and Syrian lawyer and human rights activist Razan Zaitouneh (Global Trailblazer Award).
Now in its 13th year, the Global Leadership Awards honor women whose leadership has advanced economic, political and social progress in their communities and beyond.