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Sec. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ava DuVernay, Diane von Furstenberg, Queen Latifah’s Queen Collective, Ashley Judd, Bozoma Saint John celebrated women’s leadership at this award-winning global event 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — October 26, 2023 — Last night Vital Voices Global Partnership proudly celebrated trailblazing women leaders from around the world at the 22nd Annual Global Leadership Awards at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 

Ava DuVernay received the Global Trailblazer Award for her work as a social impact filmmaker who celebrates and explores themes of human rights and racial equity. Climate activist and social entrepreneur Inna Braverman, Gender-based Violence Activist Hellen Lunkuse, Disability Rights Activist Sara Minkara and Peace and Women’s Rights Activist Enass Muzamel, received awards for their innovation and dedication to solving the world’s greatest challenges. 

“Power is not a door we need to knock on or a seat at the table that we have to gain, it is…a house we build for ourselves,’ said Ava DuVernay in her acceptance speech. “It’s not a mountain we have to climb, we are the mountain.”

The honorees all embody Vital Voices’ 2023 theme for the event, the Power of Possiblethrough their unwavering commitment to advancing gender equality and social justice. They are trailblazers on the frontlines of creating solutions that build a safer, more sustainable world.

“If I learned anything over the years from women leaders, it is that if you want to achieve great things, the kind of progress that changes everything, then you need champions and allies who believe that you can achieve the impossible,” said Vital Voices Co-founder, President & CEO Alyse Nelson. “That’s what Vital Voices means to me. It’s what our network represents for 20,000 women leaders around the world.”

The Global Leadership Awards also debuted Vital Voices’ new female filmmakers initiative, DirectHers Cut, which scales women’s empowerment globally by harnessing the talents of women producers and directors. Loretha Jones (The Equalizer, CBS) executive produced the Global Leadership Awards honoree films. The honoree films celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of the honorees. Under Jones’ guidance, three members of Queen Latifah’s Queen Collective, Luchina Fisher of Connecticut, Arielle Knight of New York, and Jenn Shaw of New Jersey, directed five captivating short films which premiered during the ceremony. Developed in partnership with Procter & Gamble, Queen Latifah and Flavor Unit Entertainment, the Queen Collective helps create more opportunities behind the camera for diverse creators in the storytelling industry.

The films (linked below) powerfully demonstrate how this illustrious and inspiring group of women leaders are providing tangible solutions for their communities: advocating for disability rights, reshaping industries and old ways of thinking, and providing lifesaving assistance to women and girls experiencing violence in extreme conflict areas. 

“It’s never been more clear to me that we need to invest in women as agents of change, because we need more women at any table where a decision is made,” said Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton during last night’s keynote address. Secretary Clinton is a co-founder of Vital Voices with the late Secretary Madeleine Albright.

Notable speakers, presenters and performers also included: 

  • Grammy and Emmy-winning composer, songwriter, producer, and pianist Emily Bear
  • Algorithmic Justice League Founder & Author of “Unmasking AI”  Dr. Joy Buolamwini
  • Philanthropist and Fashion Designer Diane von Furstenberg
  • Author, Actress & Social Justice Humanitarian Ashley Judd
  • Co-anchor of PBS NewsHour Amna Nawaz
  • Marketing Hall of Famer Bozoma Saint John

The 2023 honorees were:

Inna Braverman (Watch Inna’s film on YouTube)
Inna Braverman, founder and CEO of Eco Wave Power, is a technology entrepreneur who is harnessing ocean wave power to produce clean energy and fight climate change.

Ava DuVernay (Watch Ava’s tribute on YoutTube)

Ava DuVernay is a social impact filmmaker who celebrates and explores themes of human rights and racial equity through cinema, using her art as activism to advance American society–and the world.

Hellen Lunkuse (Watch Hellen’s film on YouTube)

Hellen Lunkuse is a fearless human rights defender who supports survivors of gender-based violence and advocates for marginalized communities in Uganda. She is founder of the Rape Hurts Foundation, a non-profit serving women, girls and marginalized people in Uganda.

Sara Minkara (Watch Sara’s film on YouTube)

Sara Minkara, who went blind at the age of 7, is a pioneering advocate for authentic inclusion and the rights of people with disabilities. She is our nation’s highest-ranking disabled diplomat as a presidential appointee serving in the role of Special Advisor on International Disability Rights, Human Rights and Labor at the US State Department.

Enass Muzamel (Watch Enass’ film on YouTube)
Enass Muzamel is a pro-democracy activist and women’s rights advocate who is leading critical relief efforts to support women and girls affected by gender-based violence and the ongoing war in Sudan where reports of genocide currently taking place have recently arisen.

Photos are available here


Markette Sheppard

Jacqueline Lara

Nicolla Hewitt,

About Vital Voices Global Partnership
Now celebrating 26 years, Vital Voices Global Partnership has directly invested in more than 20,000 women leaders across 185 countries and territories since its inception in 1997. Driven by the universal truth that women are the key to progress in their communities and nations cannot move forward without women in leadership positions, Vital Voices has provided early support for leaders who went on to become Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, U.S. Youth Poet Laureates, prime ministers, award-winning innovators, pioneering human rights defenders, and breakthrough social entrepreneurs, including Amanda Gorman and Malala Yousafzai. In an effort to advance and expand this work, in 2022 Vital Voices opened the doors to the world’s first global embassy for women, the Vital Voices Global Headquarters for Women’s Leadership. It is a first-of-its-kind space that allows for convening, innovation, planning, and action—all in the pursuit of serving women leaders who are taking on the world’s greatest challenges.

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