Highlights from AWIU’s 5th Annual International Women of Courage Celebration
First Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stand with the International Women of Courage Honorees
On March 7th, AWIU was again privileged to host an event at the National Press Club honoring the 10 women chosen by the U. S. Department of State from the 87 exceptional women nominated by U. S. Embassies worldwide.
2011 IWOC Celebration
This event gave AWIU members and guests the opportunity to learn more about the work done and the dangers faced as these courageous women advocate for human right, social justice and advancement of women and children in their respective countries. The awardees come from all walks of life, from 10 different countries and yet share the same deep felt commitment to promote the rights and freedoms of women and children. Several are leaders in their respective governments, one the first head of state and head of government in a traditional, majority Muslim country. Their lives are often at risk. None have been welcomed with open arms in their countries for the work they pursue. However, the commitment to help women improve their lives in the workplace and gain freedom of education and freedom against human trafficking and violence, particularly domestic violence, remains strong. These incredibly brave women are compassionate, smart, and role models for women worldwide.
In the United States, many take for granted human rights, freedom, safety and to be able to make choices that affect our lives. In listening to these women, the audience becomes more aware than ever of the fine line between rights and privileges. Nasta Palazhanka (Belarus) and Yoani Sanchez (Cuba) were unable to attend.
Leslie M. Schweitzer, a consultant and senior trade advisor for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for the past decade served as Mistress of Ceremonies.
A discussion about women’s role in building a better world was moderated by The Honorable Walter Cutleter, U.S. Ambassador, Ret. with guest panelists The Honorable Carolina Barco, The Honorable Renee Jones-Bos, and Her Excellency Meera Shankar. The Honorable Melanne Verveer introduced the U.S. Secretary of State’s 2011 International Women of Courage.
Agnes Osztolykan (Hungary), representing the International Women of Courage Honorees, spoke on the importance of the work done and thanked AWIU for the monetary award given to each awardee. Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, Founder and CEO of Pace Communications and currently the Chairman of the Board of the American Red Cross received the AWIU’s 2011 Internationalism Award presented by Charlie Ponticelli.
Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, recipient of the AWIU 2011 Internationalism Award. is the founder and CEO of Pace Communications, the nation’s largest custom publishing company serving Fortune 500 companies. In 2001, she was appointed to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Finland. A philanthropist and charitable cause activist and initiator of Stop Child Trafficking: End Modern-Day Slavery and Children of Karelia, Ms. McElveen-Hunter was awarded the Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Lion–one of Finland’s highest honors. She also founded the Women Business Leaders Summit, a model for business entrepreneurship Ms. McElveen-Hunter is currently. Chairman of the Board of American Red Cross. She is also a member of numerous boards including Malaria No More, Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts.
Bette Miriam Rothstein, 2011 recipient of the Bernice Behrens Founder’s Award, is a professor emeritus of Comparative Literature and Composition. She has served as a consultant in the area of Correctional Education Funding and published on topics relating to educational television in the United States, Africa, China, England and Israel. She has served as an Oral History Interviewer interviewing survivors for the Shoah Oral History Foundation. She is also a former President of the Ethel and Erwin Fast Foundation for Native Americans, focusing on post-secondary education.
Mrs. Rothstein has been an active member of American Women for International Understanding since its earliest days. She has participated in three delegations ) China, Syria and Israel). She led the 2000 delegation to Israel with her daughter, AWIU member Audrey Rothstein. Along with her late husband, Ralph Rothstein, Mrs. Rothstein has been a major supporter of the Tel Aviv University School of Dental Medicine. Their support has advanced research and dental care of Arabs and Israelis.
Comments by Bette Rothstein upon receiving the Bernice Behrens Founder’s Award. “Thank you Jane and AWIU for this opportunity to express my appreciation for the important difference AWIU makes in the lives of our members and others touched by the relationships we have made. My participation in AWIU has been and continues to be an extremely enriching part of my life. The exchanges AWIU fosters with women around the world broaden our understanding and appreciation for their struggles for progress.
When we open our newspapers, or go online, we can read about their challenges, but nothing means more than meeting them and hearing their personal stories. Only then can we truly appreciate the difficult road they have taken. AWIU’s founder; Bernice Behrens, left this organization as her legacy. It was her passion that gave AWIU roots and her commitment that enabled us to soar. I am extremely grateful for the leadership Bernice provided. She would have loved this evening, especially the opportunity to meet these Women of Courage.
Thank you again, members of AWIU, for this wonderful and deeply meaningful tribute. I only wish my late husband, Ralph Rothstein, whom I lost just a few months ago, could be with me and my family tonight to share in this happy time.”
Public Forum Women of Courage… Women of Action
The International Women of Courage open forum was hosted and moderated by Ambassador-at-Large Office of Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer. In commemoration of the International Women’s Day, the forum met on Wednesday, 9 March, for a morning session. Seven awardees gave a brief introduction of what their missions, followed by a question and answer session. It is amazing to listen to these women’s stories and of the extraordinary risks they take to promote safety, human rights, freedom and women’s rights. They spoke of working to prevent violence against women, human trafficking and exploitation; they fight corruption and demand government transparency. Their dedication and willingness to put their lives at risk is awe inspiring.
The Honorable Carolina Barco, the Honorable Renee Jones-Bos, and Her Excellency Meera Shankar joined in a discussion moderated by The Honorable Walter Cutler, U.S. Ambassador, Ret.. Focusing on Women’s Role in Building a Better World, the panel addressed challenges, benefits and rewards of being a woman in a government position. They encouraged women worldwide to step forward and assume leadership roles.
At a lovely reception at the Slovenia Embassy hosted by Sterling International, Ambassador Roman Kirn welcomed AWIU. He spoke of the importance of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, the role of women in today’s world and of a village in Slovenia (Austria 100 years ago) one of the original villages to celebrate International Women’s Day.
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