Every year, the Vital Voices Global Partnership awards African female activists with leadership awards for outstanding work within their communities. At the 11th annual Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards in Washington D.C. earlier this month, the NGO honored women from Liberia, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt for empowering women within their communities in Africa, along with other award winners from Pakistan, Mexico, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
Vital Voices Global Partnership grew from the Vital Voices Global Initiative, which was developed 15 years ago by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, into a worldwide network connecting women in 144 countries and mentoring over 12,000 future female leaders since 1997.
This year, Vital Voices recognized women who have made extraordinary transformations within their communities while advancing women’s empowerment in their country.
In Liberia, Rosana Schaack has transformed the lives of former girl soldiers that fought in that country’s civil war, which ended in 2003. As a nurse, “Rosie” opened rehabilitation homes for the young girls after founding a non-profit organization, Touching Humanity in Need of Kindness (THINK, Inc.) in 2003. She works with Samaritan’s Purse International Relief in Liberia to educate and reintegrate girls that were former rebels back into society. She encourages the girls to rebuild their lives through education and recognize that being part of the war does not define them. Vital Voices awarded Rosana Schaack with its 2012 Human Rights Award.
Female leaders also played important roles in the Arab Spring, the movement that saw thousands of women take to the streets in North Africa last year. Vital Voices honored women from Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt for standing up, speaking out and refusing to wait for their time to come. As the sentiment of revolution spread along horizontal tripwires across North Africa, these women had the courage to lead. “We have a group of women throughout the Middle East and North Africa and they talk about how they have never met each other but by watching each others’ actions online, through social media, and on television, it gave them greater courage to step out as well. The more women step forward, act out, speak out, the more others will follow,” Vital Voices CEO Alyse Nelson said at the event.
In Tunisia, 27-year-old Amira Yahyaoui, a blogger and political activist advocates freedom of expression and seeks to engage Tunisia’s youth to transform the country that sparked revolutions across North Africa.
In Egypt, Marianne Ibrahim is redefining the role of women in the Middle East. After spending day and night in Tahrir Square during Egypt’s revolution last year, Marianne alongside other Egyptian women tore down the stereotypes associated with women in the Middle East. Marianne is an advocate of interfaith dialogue and works with Vital Voices within Egypt to ensure women’s voices are heard in the new Egyptian government.
In Libya, Salwa Bugaighis, a human rights lawyer and former member of Libya’s National Transitional Council organized demonstrations in Benghazi during Libya’s revolution and fights to ensure women will have a place in Libya’s new government. Salwa now works to mobilize women for Libya’s national assembly elections next month.
Vital Voices awarded these three women from North Africa with the Global Trailblazer Award for their roles in transforming the region throughout the Arab Spring.
Tomorrow, Africa.com will feature an interview with Kah Walla, a Cameroonian political activist, and the CEO of Vital Voices, Alyse Nelson.