“A few years ago, because we have a limited budget and want our funds to go as far as possible, we began encouraging micro-grants for concrete projects, those with a beginning, middle, and end, and with specific goals clearly defined,” says Marsha Niazmand, co-chair of the Grants Committee. “We’ve found that this is the most efficient model for AWIU.”

The grant-awarding process is fairly clear-cut. The 2022 application period opened on January 5th, and the committee was immediately flooded with more applications than they’d ever received. By January 22nd , when the application period closed, AWIU had received almost 600 applications. Explaining this year’s surge, Stelle Feuers, co-chair with Marsha, says “We later learned an announcement of the AWIU grant application period had appeared on an international site,” which accounted for the abundance.

Meg Huebner, former chair of the committee, winnowed out the applications which didn’t meet the committee’s basic standards. Applications were then distributed among committee members to be screened for the following organizational and project criteria: women-oriented, concrete, time-limited, quantifiable outcome, with education, medical, or entrepreneurial goals, the highest number of female beneficiaries, preferably grassroots, and located in developing countries. The grants traditionally serve poorly educated, marginalized women and girls who would benefit from a project designed to meet their needs now and into the future. Added Stelle, “We are always looking for projects where the impact will translate beyond providing for the immediate need, where the benefits are sustainable beyond the project’s life with AWIU.”

In the past, AWIU has awarded grants to train midwives in fistula repair; for uterinecancer testing; to fund school supplies and Internet service; to provide bicycles to girls who live in remote areas to ride to school; to fund the purchase of goats so women can feed their families and sell the excess milk in small business ventures, and to produce briquettes from trash to provide low-cost heat for cooking while safeguarding the environment.

By February, the committee’s ten members, who live all over the U.S. and gather in meetings on Zoom, had identified thirty applications that met the criteria. Then began the most time-consuming part of the process: the vetting, with committee members researching the applicant, contacting their two references, and learning as much as possible about the proposed project.

“We are looking to award the 2022 project grants in late April or May,” said Marsha.

Read about the 2022 grant recipients in the June issue of Connections.

Thanks to the Grants Committee for their hard work: Mary Pat Garr, Janice Colom, Stelle Feuers, Meg Huebner, Judith Jakaitis, Sharon Kolby, Linda Kukler, Marsha Niazmand, Eunice Reddick, Laura Schuldt

The AWIU community is deeply saddened by the loss of Secretary Madeleine Albright, who died on March 23, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

An American diplomat who served as the 64th United States secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton, she was the first woman appointed to this position.

Albright immigrated with her family to the United States in 1948 from Communist Czechoslovakia and became a U.S. citizen in 1957. Albright graduated from Wellesley College in 1959 and earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1975, writing her thesis on the Prague Spring. She worked as an aide to Senator Edmund Muskie before taking a position under Zbigniew Brzezinski on the National Security Council until 1981, when President Jimmy Carter left office. After leaving the National Security Council, Albright joined the academic faculty of Georgetown University and advised Democratic candidates regarding foreign policy. After Clinton’s victory in the 1992 presidential election, Albright helped assemble his National Security Council. Clinton appointed her to the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1993, a position she held until appointed secretary of state.

Later, Albright served as chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a consulting firm, and was the Michael and Virginia Mortara Endowed Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. president Barack Obama in May 2012.

AWIU Members Share their Thoughts and Memories

“Madeleine K. Albright was a pioneer who I admired and served with honor. She broke through the glass ceiling for women in American diplomacy with an unequivocal commitment to democracy and human rights. As a diplomat, I modeled my support for women’s empowerment on Secretary Albright’s advocacy for the crucial role women play in global peace, human development and prosperity. A caring leader, Secretary Albright was outspoken about American women having a seat at the table in U.S. domestic and foreign policy. I am among the many women who mentor because of Secretary Albright’s lasting legacy of women helping each other.”

– Ambassador Eunice Reddick, Vice-President, AWIU and Co-chair, COIR Committee

 

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

– Laura Li Pollard’s favorite Madeleine Albright quote

 

“We’ve interviewed a lot of accomplished women on Satellite Sisters. It’s a humbling experience to talk to Nobel laureates or astronauts or great writers. Secretary Madeleine Albright was one such guest. I will never forget the photo of her being sworn in as the first female Secretary of State with her three daughters at her side. That representation of a woman, a refugee, a single mother ascending to the top spot at State changed the lives and paths of a lot of women to come. She was a delightful guest, explaining her Pin Diplomacy or laughing about the time she was at high level meetings with all men and had to request a window be opened because of hot flashes! But she was an even better role model. Her personal story is inspiring. If you haven’t read her memoir, now would be a great time. Thank you, Madam Secretary.”

– Lian Dolan, Producer, International Women of Courage Celebration

 

“I was in seminars with her at Columbia. She was such a modest woman, comfortable among the greats at a young age but never seeking to upstage them. She once said ‘There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!'”

– Ellen Hurwitz

 

“I only wish I had known or worked with Madeleine Albright. Of the many wonderful things I’ve read about her since her death, I think one of the most pertinent to our present situation is that she was a refugee…a reminder that one of America’s basic strengths has been in its immigrants.”

– Marsha Niazmand, Co-chair, Grants Committee, AWIU board member

 

“She was the superwoman of the political world who had the courage to represent all women and voice our freedom in a time when we were still invisible. She dedicated her life to bridging cultures and the gender gap, achieving numerous feats and breakthroughs that will go down in history.”

– Chun-Chieh Lin, AWIU board member

 

“Madeleine Albright was one of the greats and her voice will be missed. She understood that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights. Deeply committed to the power of democracy, Albright was a tough and gracious force for good in the world: a model ‘American Woman for International Understanding’ if there ever was one.”

– Maggie Sabbag, President, AWIU

 

“What a role model for women in the world! Madeline Albright’s global influence paved the way to encourage women to stand up for what they believe in.”

– Pamela Hillings Tegtmeyer

 

“The reason I made women’s issues central to American foreign policy was not because I was a feminist, but because we know that societies are more stable if women are politically and economically empowered.”

– A favorite Albright quote of Gayle Morin’s, Chair, Delegations Committee

 

“At the recommendation of Julie Pantiskas, I had the pleasure of attending an ‘Evening with Madeleine Albright’- a conversation and book signing event hosted by the Live Talks Los Angeles speaker series on February 6, 2018. Upon the signing of her book, Fascism: A Warning, I stood before a woman with keen global insight, a giant presence, and an admirable disposition. It was absolutely remarkable.”

– Diane Mitchell Henry, AWIU board member

 

“I had the pleasure of sharing time with Madeline Albright during a domestic flight. I was struck by her humor, candor, intensity, intelligence and her eagerness to truly listen. Described by Condoleeza Rice as a ‘true American giant,’ her diminutive stature in no way represented the fierce and formidable force she was – a champion for good, forhumanity and for women, advocating that societies are more stable if women are politically and economically empowered. As women leaders, we should be well aware of the responsibility we hold to best honor her legacy through our persistence in uplifting other women through our work. Her own words best summarize my respect and admiration for Ms. Albright: ‘Once you have climbed the ladder of success, you don’t push it away from the building—you are only strengthened if there are more women.’ Her impact will forever ring true, standing clear and strong as a reminder to what we must strive to be and to do as leaders, as women and as people.”

– Pooja Chandra Pama, board member and Co-chair, COIR Committee

At the start of the new year, Barbara Rubio and Ann Diederich took a fresh look at the Passport to the Future program. Ann, an educator who joined AWIU in October 2021,works with middle and high school students to help them define their passions and find their voices as volunteers to support many school and outreach activities. Who better to co-chair the Passport Committee?

The new Passport Committee has three Passports on board, and big plans ahead to enlarge and enliven the program. AWIU consultant Miranda Cohen has produced a draft plan to steward the development of a defined Passport program, with a set application period, a service period, and projects each Passport will complete in the course of one year.

Passports also have more social opportunities now. A new monthly Passport Networking Forum takes place on the second Saturday of each month. The March forum, the third this year, featured immediate past president Tatiana Gfoeller who talked about the practicalities of foreign service with an audience of young women who aspire to a career like hers.

The committee has already introduced ways in which Passports can work with AWIU members and be mentored by them while building skills for their future careers. For Be a Reporter for AWIU, Passport Sophie McNally wrote an article on Hope Revival Children’s Organization’s grant history with AWIU for this issue of Connections; Passports Leah Rullman, Michaela Sabbag, and Kati Vera produced a video on Frida Kahlo for International Women’s Day, and Passport Mary Apollo saluted Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao in her video for this project. Meanwhile, Chun-Chieh Lin is heading a Teach English to Nepali Schoolchildren project, currently working with Passport Catie Sabbag. Eunice Reddick is co-chairing a Career Opportunities in International Relations (COIR) Symposium organizational effort and will be looking to Passports to provide valuable outreach at their respective high schools and universities. Eunice will soon issue a timeline to illustrate project phases and help Passports plan their involvement accordingly for this fall, 2022 event in Washington, D.C.

There’s also an opportunity for Passports to research past International Women of Courage, assemble a contact database for them, and assist AWIU with bringing these undaunted women into the spotlight.

Ann Diederich works with her students on a blog where they share their school projects and ideas with other students. The committee will draw on her expertise to develop a Passport blog on the AWIU website. “The idea is the same,” says Ann. “Passports will be able to share their projects and causes with other Passports, connect with AWIU mentors, and participate in an online community where they interact with others in AWIU and display visuals, text, and video in an appealing and easy to access manner. The blog becomes a portfolio piece for each Passport, and demonstrates ongoing work, which is extremely helpful when applying for scholarships, internships and jobs.”

At American Women for International Understanding (AWIU), we’re always looking for ways to stretch our mission – and our dollars – to new and truly global heights.

Early in 2021, we launched AWIU Conversations, a Zoomcast series designed to circumvent an inability for our members to gather in person due to Covid-19. These Conversations draw not only our members but also the heads of NGOs that are working on AWIU grant-funded projects and are looking for ways to leverage their work to exponential effect.

In a June 2021 Conversation with Rwanda Children, a 2021 AWIU micro-grant recipient, the non-profit organization talked about the launch of its fifth iteration of Fighting against Malnutrition and Stunting (FAMSP), funded by AWIU. The 38 children and their mothers who attend are benefitting from various lessons that include learning about preparing a balanced diet, hygiene and sanitation, communicable and non-communicable diseases, environmental protection, parenting skills, conflict resolution, and gender equality.

Also participating in the June Conversation was Teri Tan, founder of Sustainable Health Empowerment (SHE) Cambodia, another AWIU 2021 grant recipient. SHE and RwandaChildren have similar healthcare missions, and Teri voiced the desire to share SHE’s many educational programs about life-saving health services and practices with Rwanda Children. Serge and Espey Gasore, founders of Rwanda Children, jumped on the opportunity.

By October 2021, new health education posters and presentations (in Khmer, Kinyarwanda and English) were on display and in use at Rwanda Children Health Center. Now that’s leveraging!

It is with great sadness that AWIU reports the recent news of the death of Stephen Marwa, a wonderful man many of you knew through his work as executive director of Hope Revival Children’s Organization in Tanzania. AWIU supported the compelling work Stephen was doing in the Musoma and Mara communities of Tanzania with six grants over a period of four years, from 2017 to 2021, all of which had a discernable and most positive effect on the women and children he worked with. AWIU members past and present who worked with him had this to say:

“Stephen was an incredibly gentle soul. He was passionate beyond words and gave everything he had to those around him, his spirit will live on in all through his life-changing work and all of the hearts he has touched, including mine.”
– Sophie McNally, Passport, who interviewed Stephen in February 2022

“Stephen was an extraordinary guy, always brimming over with plans to expand the impact of Hope Revival. His last big dream was to create a training center, spacious and equipped enough to accommodate the many training projects he developed since starting from scratch in 2014. His energy, warmth and hope were infectious – I always came away from talking with him with an upbeat, hopeful feeling. I know that in spite of losing his physical presence, he will continue to be an ongoing source of inspiration and love for his entire community.”
– Barbara Rubio

“My heart breaks for the loss of Stephen Marwa. For the past six years, Stephen has been my constant collaborator, but so much more. Over time, his vision for the women and girls of Tanzania, his dreams and work have somehow permeated my own. Despite the daunting challenges in communities and villages around the world, there are inherent assets and strengths that can be cultivated and nurtured. Stephen has shown us that empowerment is more than a concept or an idea.”
– Mara Huber, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Research and Experiential
Learning at the University at Buffalo, former AWIU member and current
partner of HRCO.

American Women for International Understanding (AWIU) is honored to announce that it will receive the prestigious Gender Champion Award from the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at AWIU’s 2022 International Women of Courage Celebration, to be held May 24th in Los Angeles. Past recipients of the award include the Albanian Government for its historic role providing safe shelter for Afghans in need.

“Being selected for the Gender Champion Award is a tremendous honor for AWIU,” said Maggie Sabbag, the president of AWIU. “It is a testament to years of dedication from every AWIU member who has been involved in or supported the IWOC Celebration, and a testament to what we stand for and who we are as AWIU in general.”

Founded in 1968, AWIU is a community of women who care deeply about improving international understanding. The heart of our mission is to build bridges of understanding, goodwill and cooperation between women leaders throughout the world. Katrina Fotovat, Senior Official for the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, will present the award to AWIU at its May 24th International Women of Courage Celebration.

 

AWIU’s 22 Passports bring fresh perspectives, new and evolving skills, and an eagerness to learn about the world to AWIU, and that’s why we love them!

The Passport Committee, with coordinators Barbara Rubio and Ann Diederich, are launching a new initiative on Saturday, January 15, 2022, the monthly, virtual Passport Networking Forum. “The forum will provide an ongoing way for Passports to share resources, goals, and ideas, and will also help them to keep in touch with their mentors and other Passports on AWIU projects,” said Ann.

The first forum will focus on Passports getting to know each other. There are also plans for the group to split into three break-out “rooms” to discuss participation in key AWIU projects:  Career Opportunities in International Relations (COIR) Symposium, to be held in Washington, D.C., mid to late September 2022; Become a Reporter for AWIU, where Passports can perfect their journalism skills as they update our audiences on AWIU programs; and the Nepal Teaching Project, where Passports will engage with young students and work with a team to develop the curriculum for a school in Nepal supported through our grant program.

Down the road are plans for a Passport Blog to be featured on the AWIU website and the creation of a Passport Timeline, which will delineate various stages of the Passport experience, from recruitment to submitting an application to mentorship to participation in the IWOC Celebration and the COIR Symposium.

The forum will be Passport-facilitated, with Jessie Sobieski as the first facilitator, and Aloana Hal and Michaela Sabbag as Passport representatives on the committee.