ICRW Honors Three Global Leaders With Champions for Change Award

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By Ibadet Reller

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Anne McPherson

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In celebration of International Women’s Day, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) held a special event in London to honor three global leaders with its Champions for Change Awards: The Rt Hon William Hague MP, Leader of the House of Commons and Former Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, for his global leadership to end sexual violence in conflict; Mabel van Oranje, Chair of Girls Not Brides, for her innovative and far-reaching work on the prevention of child marriage; and Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, for her vision and tireless advocacy on halting human trafficking and modern day slavery.

William Hague delivered a powerful keynote address on ending sexual violence in conflict. “The use of rape as a weapon of war, as a tool of oppression, of ethnic cleansing and of intimidation, it is a significant factor in perpetuating conflict and insecurity in many countries across the world, as well as one of the greatest injustices across history,” he said.

“The great strategic prize for the 21st century, in my view, is the full political economic and social empowerment of women everywhere and sexual violence in conflict is a fundamental impediment and danger to achieving that goal.”

Hague talked about the great progress that has been made through the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative, which he launched in 2012 along with UN Special Envoy for Refugees, Angelina Jolie. Some of the key progress to date includes the formation of teams of experts who are deployed to conflict areas to gather evidence; the design of the first international protocol on how to document and investigate cases of sexual violence in conflict, the training of peacekeepers and activists, and working on the ground in Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Columbia, and Iraq, among others. Further, since its launch, over three quarters of the world’s nations have endorsed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, Hague explained.

We have made great progress in raising awareness about the vital need to end sexual violence in conflict, expressed Hague, but now the challenge is to prove that change is possible and this requires a shift in attitudes around the globe about these crimes. “And some people say that this is simply too difficult but it is precisely in situations where change seems to be impossible that we need to champion change.”

Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, advocate on gender equality, health and rights, Founder and Chair Mary Foundation, and former House of Lords Speaker, Baroness Hayman, GBE, served as co-patrons of the awards.

“Giving women the freedom, the ability to determine their own life stories through freedom from poverty, illiteracy, ill health and sexual tyranny, is not just a matter of human rights, it is the way that societies and the world progresses,” said Baroness Hayman.



Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark spoke about the importance of 2015, a milestone year with the international community adopting new Sustainable Development Goals to build on the progress achieved through the Millennium Development Goals and address persistent inequalities. “I strongly believe that gender equality is the single most important thing that can be done to improve the world. It is a fundamental human right, and the foundation for building a sustainable, healthy, and prosperous societies and communities,” she said.

More than 200 guests gathered to celebrate the awardees for their achievements in advancing the rights of women and girls worldwide. The audience was comprised of members of government, parliament, media, and civil society. Actress Kristin Scott Thomas also made a special appearance to honor the awardees.

“As we work together to craft promising pathways forward, we must ground strategy in research evidence, monitor progress and measure impact. For nearly 40 years, the International Center for Research on Women has conducted rigorous social sciences research to identify effective policy and program solutions that will dismantle obstacles confronting women and girls and support them in leading healthier, safer, more productive lives,” said ICRW president Sarah Degnan Kambou.

Kambou shared an inspiring story of her mother-in-law, Ordjonon, who built a life for her and her nine children in Burkina Faso despite the extreme challenges of being married at age 16. Ordjonon brewed beer and sold vegetables to pay school fees so that her nine children could complete their secondary education. Despite scarce resources, Ordjonon ensured that each of her children escaped poverty and developed the skills they needed to secure a bright future ahead. “It is because of my mother-in-law and her story that I am committed to ending child marriage,” she said.

“I accept this award thinking of the survivors of sexual violence that I’ve had the privilege of meeting – in Sudan, in DRC, in Bosnia, Somalia and Columbia. They have inspired me with their courage, and their dignity. They deserve every effort we can make on their behalf. We will only have succeeded when our work makes a difference to them. And this award is a great encouragement to continue with that work and it is work that we are certainly going to continue,” said Hague.       

The Champions for Change Award celebrates the possibilities of a gender equitable world and honors the leaders and visionaries who are helping to make that world a reality. Past Champions for Change celebrations have featured awardees of the highest caliber, including: Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Georgetown University (2013); Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, US State Department (2012); and Bobbi Silten, Gap Foundation (2011).

Photos courtesy of Mike Kemp/In Pictures.

Generous support for Champions for Change Awards Dinner provided by:

Media Coverage:

ICRW in the London Evening Standard- UK Former Foreign Secretary William Hague’s recent Champions for Change Award for leadership by ICRW is mentioned in this piece about his dedication to the cause of ending violence against women in conflict zones. Read more »

ICRW’s event is also highlighted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and by the Daily Mail.