Highlights from AWIU’s 2nd Annual International Women of Courage Celebration

Washington DC is often the host city of grand occasions and historical moments. March 11, 2008 at the National Press Club was a night to be remembered! This was an evening to proudly celebrate our history, our membership and women around the world. It was an event to build upon for the future of AWIU and the next generation of women who will make our world a better place.

2008 IWOC Celebration

The 2008 Internationalism Award was presented to eight remarkable and brave women who had come to the United States from around the globe to accept the U. S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Awards. Rita Braver, of CBS News and our moderator for the evening, led the program with Conversations with Women of Courage.

These are eight of the most remarkable and brave women in the world and those who were present were fortunate to meet them personally and talk to them about their work and accomplishments Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of State Dr. Eaman Al-Gobory (Iraq) Judith Hill (AWIU) Valdete Idrizi (Kosovo) Dr. Begum Jan (Pakistan) Suraya Pakzad (Afghanistan) Carole Lewis (President-AWIU) Cynthia Bendlin (Paraguay) Nibal Thawabteh (Palestinian Authority) Jane Mursener Wetzel (AWIU) Farhiyo Farah Ibrahim (Somalia) Condoleezza Rice Virisila Buadromo (Fiji) (U.S. Secretary of State) You will find these women’s stories on the following pages. Each of our honorees received a $1,000 grant from AWIU.

AWIU also honored one of our own, Martha Atherton, Past President, with the Bernice Behrens Founder’s Award. Martha’s own story is one of amazing initiatives to build bridges of understanding in our world.

Excerpts from a note from Andrea G. Bottner on the 40 Anniversary Gala: “Thank you for an absolutely beautiful and uplifting evening honoring the International Women of Courage. It was truly a remarkable night. American Women for International Understanding have been so generous with its support of the International Women of Courage. The grants given to each of the women will make such an impact on their efforts. Thank you. I want to commend Judith Hill for her tremendous commitment to forming this partnership and her tireless work in making it such a success. Judith was a pleasure to work with and is an impressive representative of your organization.”

AWIU Awards

Bernice Behrens Founder’s Award

Awarded to an AWIU member for outstanding service and leadership towards international understanding.

On this occasion of AWIU’s 40th Anniversary, we proudly recognized one of our own this evening. Martha Atherton of Palatine, Illinois is a Past President and the current Chairperson of the Grant Committee. Martha’s long and rich history with AWIU includes eighteen years of leadership in the Chicago chapter with Chairperson Patricia Hutar. Martha was the first woman President of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce and Industry and served on the economic development commission. Martha was a founder of the Des Plaines Chapter of Sister Cities International and was the first President of the Illinois State Chapter of Sister Cities International.

Martha has led three AWIU delegations ~ to Italy, China and Iceland. She has participated in delegations to Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Martha and her husband, Bob, have hosted delegates and grantees from India, Russia, China, Lithuania, Mongolia and Israel. The Atherton’s continue to maintain and nurture relationships with people around the globe. Bob is pictured with a plaque upon which a sacred (Tambua) Tabua, whale’s tooth, is mounted. The people of the Village of Naiuva, Fiji presented the Atherton’s with the gift in 1988. It was a thank you for facilitating the building of a school and providing educational and medical supplies for the village. Martha credits her friend, Pat McAlister, a Peace Corps nurse, for introducing her to the village.

Martha has observed and considered the issues of women’s rights and human rights for all decades. She continues to work toward a goal where all women will have the freedom of association and the opportunity to blend the role of wife, mother, co-worker and volunteer. She has truly been a leader for women’s rights for all generations.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to express my gratefulness for the shared experience many of us have had on this our journey with AWIU. We current members of American Women for International Understanding are deeply appreciative of those who have preceded us. We have heard the stories Bernice Behrens, our founder, and of the early visits to the U.S.S.R. and China. Scores of AWIU women labored for many years in building relationships that have been the hallmarks of our AWIU efforts.

I have been one of the lucky ones who have known Bernice Behrens, Bernice Hemphill, Pat Hutar, Marianne Alireza, Mary Ripley, Ethelda Singer and a host of others. They have opened the doors for many of us to gain an enhanced understanding and appreciation of the struggle for progress amongst women throughout the world. From them we have also inherited the spirit of doing what we can to contribute to this cause. It would be wonderful if they could be here with us this evening to enjoy another peak experience in the honoring of our eight guests, The Women of Courage Awardees.

Another woman with whom I walked about 58 ago was Eleanor Roosevelt. I was fortunate to be among a group of university students that took her on tour of our campus at Indiana University. I can’t recall what we all were talking about but the vision of our walk is still ingrained in me. We students had been considerably involved in learning about the United Nations and human rights during our formative teenage years, and to walk with her was unforgettable. I feel certain that our guests will cherish their visit to Washington, D.C., and I trust that they too, will have many decades in which to see their dreams come to fruition and to be able to enjoy the journey. Following them will be more generations of young women who will remember these women of courage for their inspiration and leadership.

Again, thank you, women of AWIU, for giving me this memorable recognition, and know that I enjoy walking the walk, and talking the talk with you, along with all the encounters I have had with well motivated women and men in many countries. And, Bernice Behrens, thanks for being so kind to me. I treasure remembering you.

Since our founding in 1968, AWIU has honored women who have contributed to international understanding by presenting them with the AWIU Award for Internationalism. AWIU has recognized outstanding women in diplomacy, politics, scientific achievement, academia, communications and other fields. Some of the eighteen previous awardees have been Caroline Leonetti Ahmanson, The Honorable Shirley Temple Black, the Honorable Jewel Iafontant-Mankarious, and the Honorable Clare Boothe Luce. AWIU is very pleased to add the Eight Women of Courage Awardees to this illustrious list. Andrea accepted our Internationalism Award on behalf of them. The award will be displayed in the State Department.

Other Highlights

The world premier of “What You Take From Me” by New York composer Tim Acito and sung by actress Eleasha Gamble was a highlight of the evening. This music was written especially for AWIU’s evening, the women we honored and in celebration of the 40th Anniversary. Perhaps we now have a theme song, which emphasizes our mission in a lyrical and dramatic way.

The celebration of our 40th Anniversary included a moment for cake, candles and a most memorable surprise gift. The Marianne Alireza 5th Decade Club: for the Next Generation was founded with a gift of $50,000 from Marianne’s family. This Special Edition includes the comments made that evening as AWIU accepted the gift and the names of AWIU members who join Marianne in becoming founding members in the 40th Anniversary year. This gift of $50,000 is the largest in the history of AWIU to date. It is intended to insure that AWIU’s mission of rich cultural exchanges should not be lost but insured for the next generation.

Marianne, who currently resides in Pasadena, London and Jeddah, is an outstanding example of a woman who has committed much of her life to “building bridges of understanding.” American Women for International Understanding’s mission statement does, in fact, beautifully describe Marianne’s philosophy and lifelong work: to contribute to international understanding through personal, professional and collegial relationships between American women and women in other countries. AWIU is committed to building goodwill among nations with attention to shared women’s issues worldwide.

Marianne Alireza’s life story reads like a novel. In fact, it is one. At the Drop of a Veil recounts the true story of Marianne’s life journeys, AWIU members and women throughout the world who have attended Marianne’s presentations have been entertained, educated and inspired by one woman who went where no other American woman had gone before. In the introduction to At the Drop of a Veil, Marianne comments on the culture she entered and the life lesson she took from that experience. “…This is a story of people who proved that even though we came from worlds apart, we could give respect, tolerance, understanding, love and sensitivity to one another and make a human bond.

In 2002, Marianne Alireza led an AWIU delegation to Saudi Arabia. Those members of the delegation remember it as a moment, in the shadow of 9/11, when women—and men—whose worlds had been unalterably changed, sat under the stars of the Arabian Desert together and imagined what the future might hold. As AWIU enters its Fifth Decade, the Marianne Alireza grant is established in the hope that AWIU members will look to the next generation of this organization as it continues to grow. That AWIU will, with “the spirit of the pioneer,” continue to close the gap between cultures, to encourage social understanding and religious tolerance, and to promote international understanding.

Founding Members of the Marianne Alireza 5th Decade Club: (gifts of $5,000 or more in the 40th Anniversary Year) are: Martha Atherton, Karen Bowden, Susan Chandler, Carole Lewis, Anne Tonks and Jane Mursener Wetzel. Please contact Development Vice- President, Jane Mursener Wetzel to make your pledge to the 5th Decade Club in this anniversary year.

In celebration of all women of great courage who dedicate themselves to doing good work in our world, AWIU members proudly gathered on March 11, 2008. What better place than our nation’s Capital to host this memorable night. AWIU heads into its fifth decade with grace and style. On that Washington night, members had a moment to pause– and smile–and then continue the good work of this organization.

2008 Sponsors

Davidoff Malito & Hutcher LLP