Each year, Vital Voices the Global Leadership Awards, honoring women leaders at 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.
Meet the 2020 Honorees
An economic policy expert and daring advocate who’ s led pioneering initiatives that challenge extremism, corruption and gender-based violence. Born and raised in Nigeria, Oby is an economic expert, who pursued a distinguished career within private sector and later became a public servant in Nigeria and internationally. She led Nigeria’ s ministry of education and also served as vice president for Africa at the World Bank, using both positions to advocate for society’ s most vulnerable. She is also a fierce pro-democracy activist and co-founder of Transparency International, the world’ s foremost anti-corruption institution.
When Boko Haram abducted 300 Chibok girls in 2014, Oby was one of the first to speak out. She co-founded the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, taking to the streets and galvanizing global calls for action. Even in the face of threats and intimidation from extremists, Oby refuses to remain silent.
“We need a collaborative disruption of the present acceptance of extremism, especially targeting women,” says Oby. “Wherever women are being attacked by extremist ideas – whether it’ s our Chibok girls or women in Syria – it’ s the same underlying philosophy and the world cannot afford to stay in this state of complacency.”
Oby is unapologetic about her bold vision for Nigeria and her continent, Africa. She recently ran for president – as the only female candidate – and is currently working to transform broken systems of public leadership. She is mobilizing citizens to lead the change of political culture, build democratic values which will ensure equality of opportunity to everyone in order that marginalized groups have a chance to thrive.
Oby was selected as a 2020 Global Leadership Awards Honoree.
Nadia Murad is a Yazidi human rights activist who mobilizes awareness and support for survivors of genocide and sexual violence. Born into a farming community in Sinjar, Iraq, Nadia was 21 when ISIS attacked her homeland as part of a genocidal campaign to ethnically cleanse Iraq of all Yazidis. Several of her family members were killed before Nadia was taken to Mosul, where she and thousands of other Yazidi women were tortured and forced into sexual slavery.
Nadia managed to escape. She was offered asylum in Germany and began advocating on behalf of her community and the thousands of women and children who to this day remain captive. In pursuit of justice, she meets with global leaders to lobby for action and has initiated a historic suit against ISIS for crimes against humanity.
“The perpetrators of sexual violence against Yazidi and other women and girls are yet to be prosecuted for these crimes,” said Nadia. “If justice is not done, this genocide will be repeated against us and other vulnerable communities. Justice is the only way to achieve peace and co-existence among the various components of Iraq.”
In 2018, she established Nadia’ s Initiative, which provides urgent assistance to survivors of sexual violence and works towards the sustainable redevelopment of the Yazidi homeland in Sinjar. Survivor-centric and locally led projects focus on health, livelihoods, education, and women’ s rights – reviving hope for a persecuted minority that continues to be under attack.
Nadia was selected as a 2020 Global Leadership Awards Honoree.
Dolls Clan: Suam Fonseca & Mayki Graff
Together, Suam Fonseca and Mayki Graff are Dolls Clan – Honduras’ first group of feminist graffiti artists. Their evocative public murals are a direct challenge to taboo issues like reproductive rights and femicide, which has become a leading cause of death for Honduran women. Based in Tegucigalpa, Dolls Clan chose their name by reclaiming a popular catcall, muñeca (‘doll’ in English), and combining it with a reference to ancient tribes led by women, clan.
“Being women graffiti artists is like a blow to the system in a society permeated by machismo,” says Mayki. “Since we were girls, we were raised with stereotypes of how women should be, what we should and should not do. We break those schemes and we want women around us to empower themselves and achieve the same personal freedom through art.”
Both in their early 20s, Mayki and Suam are determined to transform the culture of fear that they grew up with. They organize awareness-raising programs and graffiti workshops for women and young people throughout Honduras. They’ ve also formed an artist’ s collective to encourage and support other female artists.
In a country where rates of gender-based violence are among the highest in the world, Dolls Clan is leading an unprecedented shift in public consciousness about women’ s rights. Through proudly feminist messages, Suam and Mayki are bringing once-radical positions into the mainstream, boldly advocating for a new era of women’ s empowerment and gender equality.
Dolls Clan were selected as 2020 Global Leadership Awards Honorees.
Joy Buolamwini is a computer scientist, poet, and digital activist at the vanguard of a movement to make artificial intelligence ethical, inclusive and accountable. She’ s the founder of Algorithmic Justice League, an organization that uses art and research to expose algorithmic bias and harms while advocating for industry and policy changes.
A Ghanaian-American born in Canada and raised in Mississippi, Joy’ s fascination with technology began in her father’ s computer aided drug discovery lab. While working on an engineering project as a graduate student, she discovered that she had to use a white mask to be detected by facial analysis technology. The experience was jarring, and sparked Joy’ s curiosity. She started looking into the many ways that AI not only excludes entire groups of people but also causes harm, affecting areas of criminal justice, employment, healthcare and access to finance.
“I’ m on a mission to stop an unseen force that’ s rising – a force that I call ‘the coded gaze’ , my term for algorithmic bias,” said Joy. “Algorithmic bias, like human bias, results in unfairness. However, algorithms, like viruses, can spread bias on a massive scale, at a rapid pace.”
Based at the MIT Media Lab, Joy leads groundbreaking research that has exposed racial and gender bias in technologies developed by several Silicon Valley giants. While some have responded by making improvements, others are pushing back. Because she knows what’ s at stake, Joy is unfazed by resistance. She’ s sounding the alarm on a global scale, urging a cultural shift toward more equitable and accountable technologies. Her transformation from graduate student to digital activist is captured in the documentary Coded Bias which premiered at the Sundance film festival.
Joy was selected as a 2020 Global Leadership Awards Honoree.
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
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Diane von Furstenberg, United States
- LEADERSHIP IN PUBLIC LIFE AWARD: Saskia Niño de Rivera, Mexico
- ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AWARD: Habiba Ali, Nigeria
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Rouba Mhaissen, Syria, Lebanon
- LIGHT OF FREEDOM AWARD: Amanda Nguyen, United States
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Esra’a al Shafei, Bahrain
- LEADERSHIP IN PUBLIC LIFE AWARD: Jamira Burley, United States
- ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AWARD: Lina Khalifeh, Jordan
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Wirawan “Boom” Mosby, Thailand
- LIGHT OF FREEDOM AWARD: Kiran Bir Sethi, India
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan
- LEADERSHIP IN PUBLIC LIFE AWARD: Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, Malawi
- ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AWARD: Ariela Suster, El Salvador
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Nadia Bushnaq, Jordan
- LIGHT OF FREEDOM AWARD: ElsaMarie D’Silva, India
- LEADERSHIP IN PUBLIC LIFE AWARD: Hafsat Abiola, Nigeria
- ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AWARD: Akanksha Hazari, India
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Khanim Latif, Iraq
- LIGHT OF FREEDOM AWARD: Yoani Sánchez, Cuba
SPECIAL EDITION VANGUARD AWARD HONOREES
- Karla Ruiz Cofiño, Guatemala
- Samar Minallah Khan, Pakistan
- Yin Myo Su, Myanmar
- Kah Walla, Cameroon
- Amira Yahyaoui, Tunisia
- LEADERSHIP IN PUBLIC LIFE AWARD: Claudia Paz y Paz, Guatemala
- ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AWARD: Dr. Victoria Kisyombe, Tanzania
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Priti Patkar, India
- FERN HOLLAND AWARD: Suaad Allami, Iraq
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Razan Zaitouneh, Syria
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Sandra Gomes Melo, Brazil
- LEADERSHIP IN PUBLIC LIFE AWARD: Tep Vanny, Cambodia
- ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AWARD: Manal Yaish Zraiq, Palestine
- FERN HOLLAND AWARD: Dr. Hawa Abdi, Somalia
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Malala Yousafzai, Pakistan
- SOLIDARITY AWARD: The Kant Brothers, India
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Rosana Schaack, Liberia
- LEADERSHIP IN PUBLIC LIFE AWARD: Ruth Zavaleta Salgado, Mexico
- ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AWARD: Adimaimalaga (Adi) Tafuna’I, Samoa
- FERN HOLLAND AWARD: Samar Minallah Khan, Pakistan
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Women Transforming the Middle East and North Africa: Shatha Al-Harazi, Yemen; Manal Alsharif, Saudi Arabia Salwa Bugaighis, Libya; Marianne Ibrahim, Egypt Amira Yahyaoui, Tunisia
- 10,000 WOMEN ENTREPRENEURIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Fatema Akbari, Afghanistan
- FERN HOLLAND AWARD: Liron Peleg-Hadomi and Noha Khatieb, Israel
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Sunitha Krishnan, India
- LEADERSHIP IN PUBLIC LIFE AWARD: Kah Walla, Cameroon
- 10,000 WOMEN ENTREPRENEURIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Andeisha Farid, Afghanistan
- ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT AWARD: Roshaneh Zafar, Pakistan
- FERN HOLLAND AWARD: Rebecca Lolosoli, Kenya
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Melinda French Gates, USA
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Panmela Castro, Brazil
- LEADERSHIP IN PUBLIC LIFE AWARD: Afnan Al Zayani, Bahrain
- 10,000 WOMEN ENTREPRENEURIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Temituokpe Esisi, Nigeria
- FERN HOLLAND AWARD: Chouchou Namegabe Nabintu and Marceline Kongolo-Bice, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, USA
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Somaly Mam, Cambodia
- RISING VOICES AWARD, Sadiqa Basiri Saleem, Afghanistan
- FERN HOLLAND AWARD: Mariane Pearl, France
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, United Arab Emirates
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Khin Ohmar and Charm Tong, Burma
- POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AWARD: Laura Alonso, Argentina
- RISING VOICES AWARD: Kakenya Ntaiya, Kenya
- ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AWARD: Maria Pacheco, Guatemala
- FERN HOLLAND AWARD: Awut Deng Acuil, Sudan
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Muhammad Yunus, Bangladesh
- POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AWARD: Margaret Alva, IndiaSPECIAL RECOGNITION: The Women of China
- ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AWARD: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria
- FERN HOLLAND AWARD: Mukhtaran Mai, Pakistan
- GLOBAL TRAILBLAZER AWARD: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Rita Chaikin, Israel
- SPECIAL RECOGNITION: The Women of Kuwait
- ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AWARD: Jaya Arunachalam, India
- FERN HOLLAND AWARD: The Women of Ukraine
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Mu Sochua, Cambodia
- POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AWARD: Dr. Latifa Jbabdi, Morocco
- ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AWARD: Reyna McPeck, Venezuela
- FERN HOLLAND AWARD: Fatima Hassan Mohammed Al-Migdadi, Iraq
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Marina Pisklakova, Russia
- POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AWARD: Amat Al Aleem Ali Alsoswa, Yemen
- SPECIAL RECOGNITION: The Women of Haiti; Danielle Saint-Lôt and Marie Lucie Bonhomme
- ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AWARD: Arije Al-Amad, Jordan
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Dr. Saisuree Chutikul, Thailand
- POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AWARD: Anabella De Leon, Guatemala
- SPECIAL RECOGNITION: The Women of Israel and The Palestinian Territories
- ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AWARD: Dawn Marole, South Africa
- HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD: Oksana Horbunova, Ukraine
- POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AWARD: Inez McCormack, Northern Ireland
- SPECIAL RECOGNITION: The Women of Afghanistan