U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for the Office of Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer on May 23 praised the International Center for Research on Women’s (ICRW) research for paving the way for today’s microfinance programs, demonstrating technology’s role in fighting poverty and showing why men and boys have to be involved to address gender inequality.
“In so many ways, this organization has led the way for effective development policy based on cutting-edge research, evidence-based advocacy, measurable outcomes, aid effectiveness, innovative partnerships and a deep commitment and dedication to the empowerment of women and girls to create a better world for us all,” Verveer told an audience of nearly 500 at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C. “ICRW is a true champion of change in our world and we all owe it a deep debt of gratitude.”
Verveer was the keynote speaker at ICRW’s Champions for Change Awards Gala, which celebrated organizations investing in technologies that boost women’s access to energy – and, in turn, allow them a better chance of competing in the global economy. Actor and humanitarian Ashley Judd, a member of ICRW’s Leadership Council, presented the awards, often peppering her remarks with moving stories of resilient women and girls from Congo to Cambodia, she has met during her travels around the world.
“The girls and women have this remarkable desire to live, to improve their lives, to achieve their outcomes for themselves and certainly for their families. And so I really salute tonight’s recipients because they aren’t just benefactors of the girls and women I have met … they are partners with them,” Judd said. “And I think that the partnership is an indication of the dignity and respect and value that they naturally confer on girls and women, and see them as agents that have the capacity for self efficacy and to build themselves up from the grassroots level.”
That sentiment holds true for the ExxonMobil Foundation, which ICRW honored with its Champions for Change Award for Vision for its commitment to economically strengthening women around the world as well as their investments in evidence to show how.
“If you think about us we’re a company dominated by engineers and scientists and we respond to data,” said Ken Cohen, foundation chairman and vice president of public and government affairs for ExxonMobil Corporation. “And the research is compelling: every dollar invested in economic development is going to have bigger impact if in more cases it’s directed to programs that support women.”
Cohen said that despite such evidence, ExxonMobil believes more is needed to understand what programs work best and how they should be structured to make an optimal difference in women’s lives. That’s why, he explained, ExxonMobil decided years ago to increase its budget for research – not only to guide its own investments but also to serve as a resource to other funders and governments worldwide.
“And here is where our work with ICRW plays such an important role … beginning with their groundbreaking paper on women and technology and today with their ongoing evaluation of many of the programs we fund.”
ICRW honored the social enterprise Solar Sister and the Thunderbird School of Global Management with its Champions for Change Award for Innovation. Like Avon, Solar Sister uses a network of women in rural Africa to sell solar technology, such as solar lamps, mobile phone chargers and clean cookstoves. Founded by Katherine Lucey, the model allows women to create a business, earn an income and provide more for their families in Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda.
The Thunderbird School was recognized for helping Solar Sister in Uganda identify creative ways to strengthen the business to further benefit the women. The award was accepted by Charles Reeves, who directs the school’s Emerging Markets Lab (TEM Lab).
Finally, ICRW honored Secretary of State Hillary Clinton its Champions for Change Award for Leadership in recognition of her long-standing dedication to empowering women and girls worldwide and ensuring their human rights.
“I wanted to say how truly grateful I am to receive this honor and to thank you for the important work being carried out by the International Center for Research on Women,” Clinton said in pre-recorded remarks. “Thanks to many of you here tonight, the world is learning that women and girls are not just an issue to deal with on the periphery of more serious policy priorities.”
“They – we – are serious.”
Gillian Gaynair is ICRW’s senior writer and editor.