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“I have seen time and time again how women are often at the forefront of seeking solutions and advancing collective progress.” – Secretary Hillary ClintonVital Voices Co-Founder

Thank you to all who joined us in-person and virtually for the 2022 Global Leadership Awards!

Our 2022 honorees are taking a stand against injustice, raising their voice to speak out for others. They lead with vision, empathy, inclusion, and a driving purpose — to improve their communities and the world around them.

Meet our 2022 Honorees:

Valdelice Valderon

Valdelice Veron is an indigenous leader, the spokesperson of the Guarani Kaiowa people from Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, and is an activist dedicated to conservation of nature.

The Guarani Kaiowa people have historically fought to protect their rights, territory, and their indigenous lands from the government and other actors, facing evictions, fighting deforestation, and experiencing high levels of violence as a result. In 2003, Valdelice’s father and then-leader Marco Veron was beaten to death, and since then Valdelice stepped into his role and led her people. Valdelice has spoken at several conferences in front of world leaders, including the Summit of Conscience on Climate in Paris. She participates in human rights reporting at the European Parliament in Brussels every six months and is an executive member of CCNAGUA Continental Council of the Guarani and Kaiowa Nation representing Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay. Currently, she faces death threats because of her work dedicated to conservation of indigenous land and the rights of her people.
Valdelice graduated in Intercultural Indigenous Education – Teko Arandu at the Federal University of Grande Dourados (UFGD), Dourados, Brazil. She has a Master’s in Sustainability with Traditional Peoples and Lands from the University of Brasília (UnB), Brazil, and a PhD in Anthropology from the same institution.

Valdelice has been leading her people since her father was brutally murdered, and has an unwavering sense of conviction to lead her tribe and protect their lands. For decades she and her tribe have been targeted with violence because of their activism, and with limited legal protections given their indigenous identity, her activism grows dangerous every day. As a woman leader, and as an indigenous leader, Valdelice and her family, including her daughters, face death threats and other forms of violence because of her identity. However, it is exactly her indigenous identity that fuels her efforts despite the challenges she faces on a daily basis. Valdelice is committed to speaking out and holding governments and institutions accountable to the destruction of the lands her tribe has lived on. She is an indigenous climate leader whose voice and story deserves global recognition, particularly as world leaders take steps towards climate action.

Phumzile Van Damme

Phumzile Van Damme is a Member of Parliament in South Africa. She is also the Shadow Communications Minister and a member of the Democratic Alliance party. She has dedicated her career to fighting corruption and protecting public interests.
Phumzile’s previous positions include being national spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance, the Head of Parliamentary Research and Communications, and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development & Tourism. She has been named to Forbes’ Top 20 Young Power Women, Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 South Africans, and has participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program by U.S. Department of State on Political Campaigns.

Phumzile holds a bachelor’s degree from Rhodes University and is currently pursuing a master’s in global diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London.

She was selected as a Fellow for the 2019-2020 VV Engage Cohort.

Women's Coalition Ukraine

Lyubov Maksymovych, Head of Centre Women’s Perspective, Lviv, Ukraine
Halyna Kravets, Head of Ternopil City Women’s Club (TCWC)“Revival of the Nation”, Ternopil, Ukraine
Inna Sabadosh, Head of Zakarpattia Civic Women’s Organization “Vesta”, Uzhgorod, Ukraine
Olena Morgun, Chair of the Board of NGO “Promin Dnipro”,Dnipro, Ukraine
Antonina Shostak, Chair of the Board of NGO “Ehida-Zaporizhzhia”, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine

In just a few months, the war in Ukraine has forced over 15 million people from their homes and that number includes 7.5 million children. Already, 4.8 million refugees, primarily women and children, have crossed international borders in search of safety. Those who remain, including Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 (who are not permitted to leave), are subjected to daily bombings and air attacks that have reduced some cities to dust. Some are trapped in urban areas that lack running water and electricity, braving the exposed streets only to make the pilgrimage to empty grocery stores, picking their way past sandbagged municipal statues, navigating through streets strewn with metal anti-tank devices, which volunteers assemble at meetups in neighborhood playgrounds. Seeing these urgent needs in Ukraine, Vital Voices are supporting local women-led NGOs through direct grants to help establish safe accommodations, extensive social services programming, medical support, childrens education, onward transportation and psychosocial support for internally displaced persons.

These local women-led NGOs have worked in countering trafficking in persons, especially women and children, eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence in society, promoting human rights and gender equality, and promoting the development and reform of education in Ukraine. After February 24, 2022, these women have courageously led their NGOs to focus on supporting people affected by the war. They have been working with local governments and international organizations to provide basic services to refugees and internally displaced people such as the organization of accommodation, food, social services, education for children and psychological services. They have been running the National Toll-Free Hotline for migration counseling and combating trafficking in persons. Finally, they have also been documenting and recording the stories of refugees and internally displaced people as witnesses of war criminal behaviors of Russian army, soldiers and all Putin’s regime.

Girls and Women of Iran
Since the death of Mahsa Amini after she was arrested and detained by the Islamic Republic’s morality police for improper hijab, the people of Iran have taken to the streets in mass protest, chanting Zan. Zendegi. Azadi or Woman. Life. Freedom.

Now in their eighth week, nationwide protests and strikes show no sign of slowing down. Iranians are telling the world that they want an end to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

They want freedom.

Last week, Vital Voices and a coalition of Iranian women and world leaders published an open letter in the New York Times demanding that the regime be removed from the U.N. Commission on the Status for Women.

On November 8, the letter was delivered to Ambassador Lachezara Stoeva, the president of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). ECOSOC is the 54-member U.N. body that will need to vote the regime off the CSW, and our Iran coalition made the concerns of Iran’s women known to the Ambassador.

Monica Simpson
Monica Raye Simpson, a queer, black, NC native, has organized extensively against human rights abuse, the prison industry, racism, and systemic violence against Southern black women and LBGTQ people.

A proud graduate of the historically black Johnson C. Smith University, she earned a bachelor’s in Communications and organized for LGBTQ rights on and off campus. She then became the Operations Director and the first person of color at the Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Community Center. Next, she trained black youth in activism, philanthropy, and fundraising as the Ujamaa Coordinator for Grassroots Leadership. In 2010, she moved to GA to be our Development Coordinator; she was promoted to Deputy Coordinator in 2011, Interim Executive Director in 2012, and Executive Director in 2013.

Monica is a nationally sought-after facilitator, speaker, and organizer, constantly called upon to travel the country for appearances. She is the only woman among the 4 founders of Charlotte, NC’s Black Gay Pride Celebration, the first in the Bible Belt, which received awards from the National Black Justice Coalition and the Human Rights Coalition for its incredible launch with 7,000 participants. She has been featured in many publications for her activism, and has written many articles on LGBTQ issues, RJ, over-policing of black/brown communities, philanthropy, and Southern activism. In 2014 she was named a New Civil Rights Leader by Essence Magazine, and in 2015 was chosen as a panelist for the Women of the World Summit. Also a full circle doula certified through the International Center for Traditional Childbirth, she serves on the boards of the Fund for Southern Communities and the legendary Highlander Center.

A singer and spoken word artist who infuses art into her activism, Monica has appeared in theatrical productions such as For the Love of Harlem, Words the Isms, Walk Like a Man, The Vagina Monologues, and For Colored Girls. She released her first solo album, Revolutionary Love, in 2015, and she has performed at events across the country, including singing the National Anthem and the National Black Anthem for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. march and rally in Atlanta, GA. Monica created Artists United for Reproductive Justice as a project of SisterSong in order to create a platform for artists to collaborate on replicable artwork that furthers the Reproductive Justice movement. Monica is based in Atlanta.

This year’s honorees are at the forefront of a global movement, building momentum as we charge boldly toward a more just, equitable, and sustainable future.

Vital Voices invests in women leaders who, like our Global Leadership Awards Honorees, are rejecting yesterday’s status quo, reshaping today’s world, and reimagining tomorrow’s future. Over the last 25 years, we have witnessed the creativity and courage of women leaders taking on the world’s greatest challenges.

Watch the full award ceremony: