Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center, Vital Voices hosted its 13th annual Global Leadership Awards, in honor of women leaders from around the world working to strengthen democracy, increase economic opportunity, and protect human rights. The evening’s honorees included Priti Patkar of India with the Human Rights Award; Claudia Paz y Paz of Guatemala with the Leadership in Public Life Award; Suaad Allami of Iraq with the Fern Holland Award, in honor of Fern Holland, an American lawyer killed in Iraq; Dr. Victoria Kisyombe of Tanzania with the Economic Empowerment Award; and Razan Zaitounch of Syria, with the Global Trailblazer Award.
Zaitounch’s award was presented by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and accepted by Zaitounch’s sister, as the award recipient was kidnapped in Syria during December 2013 along with her husband and two colleagues.
“From a prosecutor who battled corruption and violence against women in Guatemala…who empowers other women to lift themselves out of poverty in Tanzania. The women you have honored here tonight have faced hard choices in their own lives,” said Clinton, in her introduction of the Global Trailblazer Award. “There were certainly easier things, but they chose to devote themselves to helping others and righting wrongs. They stared down obsticles to smash through every ceiling of the world that has been thrown in front of them. These are the kinds of stories we need to hear, and repeat, again and again.”
During the conversation, Muscatine recalled going over the last draft of a speech with the former First Lady in flight to Beijing in 1995. “I gave you the speech, and you didn’t really say anything for a moment. And then you said, ‘I just want to push the envelope as far as I can on human rights and women’s rights’.”
The Vital Voices Democracy Initiative was established in 1997 by then-First Lady and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing to promote the advancement of women as a U.S. foreign policy goal.