To commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the IWOC Award, the Celebration was moved this year from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, where the IWOCs reconvened after travelling throughout the United States. The evening began with a cocktail reception at the Jonathan Club for more than 300 guests, including State Department officials, foreign dignitaries, sponsors, and AWIU members.
Lesley Stahl, 2016 IWOC Celebration Honorary Chair
Award-winning broadcast journalist and TV personality Lesley Stahl chaired the Honorary Committee for the Celebration. In a personally videotaped message, Stahl praised these “fearless” and “dauntless” women. She added that, “They shine a light in the harshest conditions, in worlds of corruption and injustice. As I’ve listened to their stories over the years, I’ve been awed by their sacrifice and backbone, their stout hearts and indomitable spirits. Facing threats to their families, jail time, dealing with bodily harm, they carry on. They will not be stopped or silenced. It’s important that these women know we are listening.”
Leslie Schweitzer Mistress of Ceremonies
Leslie Schweitzer, an AWIU member and Chairman and President of the Friends of the American University in Afghanistan, served as the charismatic Mistress of Ceremonies. Schweitzer set the stage for a touching video prepared personally by Condoleezza Rice for the 2016 IWOCs, where the former Secretary of State commended their efforts:
“All of you have encountered injustice and responded with action. You live with integrity and stand up for your beliefs.” After the event, Schweitzer commented that, “AWIU truly does make a difference in addressing women’s issues worldwide. Holding [the IWOC Celebration] in LA this year was a wonderful change. There was so much energy in the room and the support for the incredible awardees was extraordinary.”
During the dinner program, Catherine Russell, the US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, introduced each of the awardees by highlighting their bravery and contribution to the global struggle for women’s rights. Ambassador Russell’s introduction of these extraordinary women inspired a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd.
IWOC Vicki Ntetema of Tanzania
Speaking on behalf of all the honorees, Vicky Ntetema, a Tanzanian journalist- turned- human rights advocate and 2016 IWOC Award recipient, captivated her fellow honorees and the audience, concluding with the challenge: “I call on you, my Sisters of Courage, to find five girls to mentor and through these girls, we will build a better world.” The inspired crowd rose to its feet after Ms. Ntetema spoke, underscoring the warm, supportive and electric atmosphere of the evening.