Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine



Power Women

Females Changing Our World: Vital Voices 2007 Global Leadership Awards

March 14 · The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts


You didn't have to look up the meaning of Vital Voices if you attended the Global Leadership Awards; you just had to listen to the recipients from China, India, Guatemala, Sudan and Bangladesh. CNN's Zain Verjee and NBC's Andrea Mitchell were appropriate emcees in context with their worldwide travel. "We all share a simple belief that no country can prosper if half its population is left behind," Verjee said. For the fi rst time, a man, Muhammad Yunas, was an awardee.

THE SCENE: The call to action included Co-Chairs Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, recognized globally for championing the rights of women in Afghanistan, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who recognizes that by promoting women's rights we are promoting human rights. Via video, First Lady Laura Bush added: "Because of their work, women who were once abused and oppressed are now treated with dignity and justice." It was an extraordinary and tearful moment when Awut Deng Acuil took the stage. For 22 years she experienced civil war but traveled throughout Sudan mobilizing women to be included in the peace process. Admiring guests included sixteen Ambassadors and Wendy de Berger, The First Lady of Guatemala


Vicki Sant, Muhammad Yunas and Hillary Rodham Clinton David Tutera
Vicki Sant, Muhammad Yunas and Hillary Rodham Clinton Bitsey Folger and Susan Rappaport


David Tutera Nurda Ambagaonkur, Marcia Carlucci and Marlene Malek
First Lady of Guatelmala, Wendy de Berger Nurda Ambagaonkur, Marcia Carlucci and Marlene Malek



Awut Deng Acuil, Fern Holland Award
The Sudanese civil war inspired Acuil to organize the first People-to People Conference, a draft to national human rights act and help author the national constitution.

Margaret Alva, Political Participation Award
A former five-term member of India's Parliament. Alva spearheaded the requirement that women hold a percentage of seats in local governments, or "punchayats."

Dr. Gao Yaojie, Human Rights Award
Yaojie, fighting against a torrent of hostility from local officials, blew the whistle on the illegal sale and collection of HIV tainted blood in rural China.

Guo Jianmei, Human Rights Award
Founder of China's first legal aid clinic, The Center for Women's Law Studies and Legal Services of Peking University, which advances women's legal rights.

Wang Xingjuan, Human Rights Award
Xingjuan launched China's first women's hotline and counseling service, assisting millions of women coping with unemployment, domestic violence and new challenges brought about by the economic transformation sweeping China.

Xie Lihua, Human Rights Award
Lihua restored dignity and hope to rural Chinese women by founding the first magazine and center to provide millions with desperately sought relief from dislocation, depression, illiteracy and poverty.

Maria Pacheco, Economic Opportunity Award
The terrible famine which swept across Guatemala in 2001 inspired Pacheco to design a National Program for the economic development of rural communities, specifically targeted toward women-owned small businesses.

Muhammad Yunus, Clinton/Fiorina Tribute, Global Trailblazer Award
Microcredit is a new lending concept, invented by Yunus, which has lifted nearly 7 million Bangladeshi - in 73,000 villages - out of poverty. Women proved to be the vast majority of his responsible beneficiaries, making them the engines of local economy.


Wolf Blitzer, Kathy Hubbard, Lynn Blitzer and Al Hubbard Awut Deng Acuil and Isabel Fernandez
Wolf Blitzer, Kathy Hubbard, Lynn Blitzer and Al Hubbard Awut Deng Acuil and Isabel Fernandez


Jane and Tom Wilner Zain Verjee and Dina Habib Powell
Jane and Tom Wilner Zain Verjee and Dina Habib Powell


Melanne Verveer Hungarian Amb. Andras Simonyi, Nada Simonyi, Guillermo Castillo, Flor Costillo and Juan Carlos Paiz
Melanne Verveer Hungarian Amb. Andras Simonyi, Nada Simonyi, Guillermo Castillo, Flor Costillo and Juan Carlos Paiz


Phil Verveer, Madge Hennina and Warren Davis
Phil Verveer, Madge Hennina and Warren Davis


Luma Kawar and Shamin Jawad
Luma Kawar and Shamin Jawad




We know that educating women and including them in all aspects of society is the only way for a modern culture to fl ourish. This truth was confi rmed in the United Nation's 2003 Arab Human Development Report, which made the point that educating women and girls is necessary for freedom and tolerance to take hold within a society.

I'm inspired by the work of Melanne Verveer and Vital Voices, who are working with women from all countries to bring new voices and leadership to their communities. Through a new State Department partnership with Vital Voices launched last year, the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit/State Department International Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership, we are bringing young women business leaders from all regions of the world to mentor with some of the top female executives in the United States.

The CEOs of Xerox, Avon, Time, Inc., and Archer Daniels Midland Company are involved in this successful initiative - bringing women together to share their skills and talent, women such as Maria Pacheco from Guatemala. Pacheco exceeded our expectations and also touched our hearts.

When she arrived, she was nervous about her participation in the exchange. However, upon entering the hotel, she saw a picture of Martin Luther King that she thought was a good sign because she, too, arrived with a dream. Pacheco's dream was to assist poor, rural women in Guatemala to realize their own economic independence by helping them create small businesses and linking them to local and global markets. Vital Voices just honored her for making her dream a reality and building a better future for the people of her homeland.

I am more and more convinced that as we work to advance opportunity for people around the globe, it is the women of the world - mothers, sisters, wives, daughters - who are absolutely vital to our success.




The leadership of women in Africa is a driving force of social transformation. I've been enormously inspired by fearless and talented Kenyan women I grew up admiring : Wangari Maathai, an ardent environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner; Catherine Kasavuli, an eloquent newscaster on Kenyan television and Charity Ngilu a dynamic, charismatic politician. The leadership these women have shown in a society that is often chauvinistic and closed-off to women has been admirable. Each has been driven by personal ideals and ambition with no apologies. All have had the moral support of women leaders here in the West.

Most Kenyan women don't grab limelight like this, but they have my utmost respect. Kenyan women, and most African women, are the engines for economic growth. They have the drive, the passion, the dedication and the vision for a better life for their families and fi ght for survival each day. Here's what an ordinary day is like : wake up, gather fi rewood for fuel, cook food, pick produce in the fi elds, strap it on their heads, strap the babies around their bodies, walk to the market, sell their goods, use money earned to buy food, go home, cook and look after their family.

Women here in D.C. can help by recognizing that African women are determined and creative. Second, small income-generating projects go a long way in breaking a subsistence pattern. Supporting education for young girls in particular is vital because an entire family will benefi t. African women have great leadership potential. The greatest example today is perhaps President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Africa's fi rst democratically elected leader. When I interviewed her recently in New York, I asked her if her policies were any different because she was a woman. She said ‘yes' they were. While she was a tough leader, she said she approached her rivals, and her public with the compassion and sensitivity of her gender, which she said, made her leadership unique and more human.

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