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About the 23rd Annual Global Leadership Awards

The 23rd Annual Global Leadership Awards at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on May 30 will honor and pay tribute to five women and one organization whose leadership is helping move the world forward: Nobel Laureate and Rappler Co-founder and CEO Maria Ressa (Global Trailblazer Award) for her unwavering commitment to fight for press freedom in the Philippines, President of the Marshall Islands Hilda Heine (Lifetime of Leadership Award) for her work on the front lines of climate change, Diplomat and Pan-African Feminist Aya Chebbi, whose blogging and voice for democracy rose to prominence during the Tunisian Revolution, Activist Nika Kovač for building coalitions to transform legal precedent on gender and economic inequalities in Slovenia, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia Susana Muhamad for her sustainability and environmental conservation work, and non-profit SafeCity Global (Collective Action Award).

Secretary Hillary Rodham ClintonDiane von Furstenberg, Donna Langley of NBC Universal, Amna Nawaz of PBS NewsHour and more will present live on stage at the the Kennedy Center Global Leadership Awards.

Stay tuned for a link to watch the livestream of the awards on Thursday, May 30 starting at 7:30pm ET.

About the Program

Each year, the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards honors women leaders on the frontlines of change at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

Our investment in the Honorees does not begin and end with one night; it extends beyond, to an innovative and unparalleled initiative, the Global Leadership Awards Honoree Program.

The Honoree Program includes an intensive, week-long initiative – tailor-made for each Honoree – in which we provide the women leaders we honor with targeted training and capacity building to support their leadership and professional development.

We continue to partner with the Honorees to provide individualized investments, visibility opportunities, and connections to bolster their platform, strengthen their goals, and bring further credibility to their work.

The light that you've shined on me tonight, let me turn it around, let me redirect it to the women who are yearning for change. When you see me, please see them.

Kakenya Ntaiya 2008 Honoree Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya

2024 Global Leadership Awards Honorees

Aya Chebbi

Honoree, 2024

Aya Chebbi is a Pan-African feminist who is committed to  the liberation of African women and girls. She rose to prominence as a leading voice for democracy during the Tunisian Revolution of 2010-2011.  

Chebbi served as the first-ever African Union Special Envoy on Youth and the youngest diplomat at the Chairperson’s Cabinet (2018-2021), impacting over one million young people during her tenure. In this role, Chebbi pioneered the concept of intergenerational co-leadership to empower young people in politics. She met with more than 30 heads of state and governments and over 190 global leaders to advocate for the youth agenda in Africa, which resulted in policy changes and an increase in youth appointments. 

Chebbi is currently the Founder and President of the Nala Feminist Collective (Nalafem), Africa’s largest multigenerational platform of women politicians and activists committed toward  transformative feminist leadership.

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aya chebbi 2024 global leadership awards honoree

Hilda Heine

Honoree, 2024

President Hilda C. Heine, Ed.D., was the first woman to be selected as president of the Marshall Islands, serving in this capacity from 2016-2020 and re-elected as Head of State following the November 2023 general election.She is also the first Marshallese to earn a doctorate degree and the first to be re-elected as President of the Marshall Islands.

In addition to being a crusader for gender equality and women empowerment, she’s also a strong advocate for education, climate justice and human rights.

She previously served as Minister of Education from 2012-2015. Prior to entering politics, President Heine worked as a classroom teacher, school counselor, college president, and Secretary of Education.  

She has also served as an advisor to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and under her leadership, the Marshall Islands became the first country to submit new, binding climate targets in line with the Paris Agreement. “Although vulnerable countries like mine will be hit first and hit hardest by the impacts of rising global temperatures, we do not see ourselves as victims. We believe in leading from the front.”  

President Heine is a crusader for women’s rights and currently serves as an advisor to the Women United Together Marshall Islands, a non-governmental organization that she co-founded in 1987.

Climate Action
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president of the republic of the marshall islands hilda heine 2024 global leadership awards honoree
Republic of the Marshall Islands

Nika Kovač

Honoree, 2024

Nika Kovač is the founding director of The Research Institute of 8th March, a movement-building organization that uses storytelling and advocacy to confront gender and economic inequalities across Slovenia. 

Kovač and her team initiated the Slovenian #metoo campaign (#jaztudi) and have gone beyond raising awareness by articulating positive demands for concrete change.  Under her leadership, the Institute’s advocacy successfully initiated the legal redefinition of rape and sexual violence in Slovenia, enforcing a new legal definition in line with the affirmative consent model, “Yes means yes.”  

Kovač coordinated two winning national referendum campaigns: one against the privatization of water in 2021 and the other against political influence on public media in 2022. She also led the most extensive “Get-Out-The-Vote” campaign in Slovenian history ahead of the 2022 Parliamentary election, which contributed to a 71 percent voter turnout. She is currently coordinating the “My Voice, My Choice” campaign across Europe.  

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Nika Kovač 2024 gla honoree

Susana Muhamad

Honoree, 2024

María Susana Muhamad González is a Colombian politician with Palestinian roots. She has served as Colombia’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development since August 7, 2022. 

Muhamad studied Political Science at the Universidad de los Andes and earned a master’s in planning & management of Sustainable Development from the University of Stellenbosch. Following her education, she worked as a Sustainable Development Consultant for Shell Global Solutions International in The Hague, the Netherlands.  

In 2012, Muhamad was appointed Bogotá’s Secretary of the Environment. A year later, she became Secretary General of the Mayor’s Office. In 2019, she was elected Councilor of Bogotá. 

Muhamad is a renowned environmentalist in Colombia and abroad. Her efforts are directed at positioning Colombia as a world power of life. Her advocacy centers around establishing compliance with international agreements on climate change and biodiversity loss, protecting environmental defenders, and fighting against deforestation in the Amazon region. 

Climate Action
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susana muhamed 2024 global leadership awards honoree

Maria Ressa

Honoree, 2024

Maria Ressa co-founded Rappler, a digital news site leading the fight for press freedom in the Philippines. As Rappler’s CEO, Maria has endured political harassment and arrests by the Duterte government. Rappler’s battle for truth and democracy is the subject of the 2020 documentary, “A Thousand Cuts.”  

In October 2021, she was one of two journalists awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”  

In 2022, Ressa was appointed to the United Nations Panel of the Internet Governance Forum. She is an inaugural Carnegie Distinguished Fellow at Columbia University’s Institute of Global Politics, and this fall, she will join Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs as a professor of professional practice.  

Maria focuses critical attention on the breakdown of our global information ecosystem and how communities of action can hold the line to protect democracy.

Access to Justice
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maria ressa 2024 global leadership awards honoree
The Philippines

Safecity – Collective Action Award

Honoree, 2024

In response to the Delhi Gang Rape and Murder case in 2012, ElsaMarie D’Silva (2017 Global Leadership Award Honoree) created Red Dot Foundation, working at the intersection of gender, technology, communications, data, and urban planning. Safecity is its flagship program. 

Safecity is a mobile app and platform that crowdsources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. Its data, which can be anonymous, gets aggregated as hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level. The strategy is to make this data useful for individuals, communities, and local governments to identify factors that lead to violence and to improve public safety. 

Safecity technology and best practices have been made available to leaders throughout the Vital Voices Global Network who have implemented local Safecity initiatives of their own in the following countries so far: 

  • India – Supreet K Singh and Tania Echaporia
  • Kenya – Jane Anyango
  • Trinidad & Tobago – Nicole Joseph Chin
  • The Philippines – Maya Tamayo
  • Croatia – Dunja Bonacci
  • Guatemala – Maria Lidia
  • Nicaragua – Xiomara Diaz
  • Romania – Cristina Horia
  • Nigeria – Tessie Nkechi Udegboka
  • Brazil – Samara Castro
  • Malaysia – Radziah Radzi
  • United States – Sophie Sandberg

Representing all global partners, the Collective Action Award will be accepted by Elsa Marie D’Silva and Jane Anyango. 

Gender-Based Violence
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