When you think back on your life, and reflect upon all those that have had a positive influence on you, is it not the voice of one that impact us most? While writing this story we pondered this and an interesting fact came to light. What influenced us most significantly were their voices, voices that began as one, yet did not remain that way for long. When those voices impacted the lives of many it is then they resounded loudly, becoming big voices, influencing the people of their nation… the world. We recognize these people, honoring their voices, for what they shared with us, taught us in the smallest ways, and the lasting impact they have on our own being. It is with this in mind that we remember honorees of the Annual Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards and how we have been touched by their lives.
“Her vital voice is silent now, even as her country continues to burn,” an emotional Hillary Clinton said. “So tonight, let us all speak for her. Let us raise our voices as one and demand the safe and immediate release of Razan Zaitouneh and all of the political prisoners in Syria as this conflict continues. We will not forget her.” Clinton continued, “Even now, Razan’s voice will not be silenced.” Her sister, Rana Zaitouneh, accepted the award on her behalf. [-Source-] Other honorees included Victoria Kisyombe of Tanzania (Economic Empowerment Award), Priti Patkar of India (Human Rights Award), Claudia Paz y Paz of Guatemala (Leadership in Public Life Award), and Suaad Allami from Iraq (Fern Holland Award). What all these women have in common is that they are dedicating their life and voice to improving the lives for people, especially women, in their respective countries.
I have been working with Vital Voices since 2012 and assisted with developing and executing leadership and business skills training programs for female entrepreneurs from developing countries. During my involvement in Accra, Ghana for the African launch of Vital Voices’ VVGROW Fellowship, I had the privilege of working alongside Kah Walla, recipient of the 2011 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award for Leadership in Public Life.
It was within my first few weeks working with Vital Voices that I heard of the infamous, “Kah Walla.” Her almost life size photo is on the wall of Vital Voices’ DC office and she is well-known in the office because of her bold leadership, charisma, authenticity and passion for helping others, particularly women.
When I met her in person, I was immediately struck by her keen awareness of her life’s purpose and her deep personal commitment to make her country a better place by giving voice to those that did not have one.
I was inspired by her strong courage and bold action as a true trailblazer. Since Cameroon’s independence in 1960, they have only had two presidents. What I found so remarkable was not only that she had the boldness to run for office, but being the first female presidential candidate meant enduring significant personal sacrifice, violence, intimidation and threats.
In the first few days of the training in Accra, Kah had a malaria relapse. While the rest of us tried to stay cool in the scorching temperatures outside, she was covered in layers of shawls and eating soup and drinking hot tea. Despite her physical suffering, her desire to empower women to effective leaders and businesswomen did not wane. Her voice remained strong. I am thrilled to have the privilege to work with her again in developing the 2014 VVGROW program for African entrepreneurs.
– Our Founder Colleen Dyble –
Vital Voices is a non-profit organization formed in 1997 by the then First Lady Hillary Clinton to not only share the stories of these women, and others like them, but also to give them all a global voice. Its mission is “to identify, invest in and bring visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities.”
The VVGROW Fellowship helps women small-and-medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) owners grow their businesses through a combination of online learning, in-person training, tailored technical assistance, and follow-on services.
UPDATE: This week we were honored to be invited to the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington D.C. where we had the great pleasure of listening to the empowering and inspiring African Union Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma. Below is our infographic highlighting some of her encouraging words from the Summit. Enjoy!!