AWIU’s annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Celebration was held on April 6th in Los Angeles at the Jonathan Town Club. This year marked the 10th Anniversary of the IWOC Celebration as well as the 50th Anniversary of AWIU’s founding. The event was made possible by the collaborative efforts of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, the International Visitor’s Council of Los Angeles and AWIU’s IWOC Celebration Committee.
Alison Moylan, Emily Brown and Betty Bernstein-Zabza from the US State Department
The evening began with a reception for over 250 guests, including State Department officials, foreign dignitaries, sponsors and AWIU members. As the guests entered the dining room, they were greeted by a slideshow of prior IWOC Awardees. Cynthy Moffatt, an AWIU member and former Chair of the IWOC Celebration Committee, welcomed the guests as the Mistress of Ceremonies. She introduced Maggie Sabbag, 2017 IWOC Celebration Chair, who thanked all for their vital support. In recognition of AWIU’s 50th Anniversary, the grants for the 2017 International Women of Courage were the largest ever, honoring the organization’s half-century commitment to improving the lives of women across the globe and supporting the mission to build bridges of international understanding.
Mellody Hobson 2017 Honorary Chair
Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments and Honorary Chair of the 2017 Celebration congratulated the IWOCs in an inspirational video: “Your stories of grit, determination, perseverance and courage are reminders to all women that with a measure of bravery, you can change the world.”
During the dinner program, Ms. Betty Bernstein-Zabza, Senior Advisor and Director of Operations in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, introduced the 2017 International Women of Courage Awardees. She prefaced her introductions with, “Each woman’s story is an inspiring reminder of how individuals can make a difference. Taken together, they provide a powerful message of courage and leadership.”
IWOC Fadia Najib Thabet of Yeman
A highlight of the evening was hearing directly from two of the IWOCs: Fadia Thabet of Yemen and Rebecca Kabugho of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ms. Thabet, an activist working to reintegrate former child soldiers of Al Qaeda and Houthi militias into society, brought the crowd to their collective feet when she declared, “The women sitting in front of you have all fought. We have chosen to tell our stories of compassion, resilience and bravery. To all the women here, you are part of our journey and fight… We will walk side by side. Holding each other’s hands. We are feminists, we are powerful, and we are intelligent and we are a movement!”
IWOC Rebecca Kabugho of Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ms. Kabugho from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the youngest prisoners of conscience in the world, was recognized for her key role in a series of peaceful protests demanding that the Congolese government hold credible elections. In her remarks, she spoke passionately of the strong bond the 2017 IWOCs shared and how their sisterhood was an invaluable resource, saying “We can change the world. Without us, it will not be done. Hand in hand, we will make the world a better place.”