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2006 Gruber Women's Rights Prize Press Release

Women fight for rights in the Americas
Chilean, Guatemalan and US champions honored with Gruber Prize for Women's Rights

The winners of the 2006 Gruber Prize for Women's Rights are:

  • Luz Méndez for the Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas (UNAMG), a Guatemalan women's rights organization;
  • Julie Su for Sweatshop Watch, a California-based coalition fighting against exploitation of migrants in sweat shops; and
  • Chilean jurist Cecilia Medina Quiroga, the only woman judge on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The two organizations and Judge Medina each received a gold medal and a third of the $300,000 unrestricted cash award.


"In the United States it's easy to think that the fight for women's rights is won," says Peter Gruber, Chairman of the Peter Gruber Foundation. "In fact, in the US and across the Americas, the fight is far from over. This year we recognize women and organizations who are working at the front line - sometimes at great personal risk - to sustain and build women's rights in the Americas."

Founded in 1980, UNAMG is one of the oldest women's rights organizations in Guatemala and was forced to operate in exile overseas for many years due to political repression. It resumed working in Guatemala in 1996 under the guidance of Luz Méndez, but Amnesty International recently warned that it "fears for the safety" of individuals involved in women's rights organizations in Guatemala.

Sweatshop Watch is a California-based organization committed to eliminating exploitation of sweatshop workers. Julie Su, a co-founder of Sweatshop Watch, successfully defended 72 Thai garment workers who were discovered working behind barbed wire and under armed guard in 1995 following a raid on a California sweatshop. Since then, Sweatshop Watch, in collaboration with the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, has brought cases on behalf of hundreds of workers against major corporations who use sweatshops to manufacture the garments they sell.

Chilean jurist Cecilia Medina Quiroga, the only woman judge on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, is one of the most prominent human rights jurists in Latin America. She was author of the groundbreaking Comment 28 of the Human Rights Committee of the UN. The comment calls for nations to "not only adopt measures of protection for women's rights, but also to take positive measures so as to achieve the effective and equal empowerment of women." Quiroga is now working to integrate these principles in mainstream international law.

"The prize honors those who have made significant contributions, often at great risk, to furthering the rights of women and girls and advancing public awareness of the necessity of these rights in achieving a just world," says Peter Gruber.

The official citation reads:

In recognition of their important contributions in the ongoing struggle for women's rights in the Americas - South, Central and North -the 2006 Women's Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation is proudly presented to Luz Méndez for the Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas; to Julie Su for Sweatshop Watch; and to the Honorable Cecilia Medina Quiroga.

In awarding this prize, the Foundation celebrates:

Luz Méndez and the Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas, the organization of which she is a founder, for their tireless work in ensuring women's leadership in peace-building and equitable political participation in Guatemala;

Julie Su, a public interest lawyer, and Sweatshop Watch, the organization of which she is a founder, for giving visibility and voice to the economic and political rights of migrant and undocumented workers in the United States; and

The Honorable Cecilia Medina Quiroga of Chile, the only woman judge on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, for advancing the rights of women through the framework of international law.

The Peter Gruber Foundation was founded in 1993 and established the first of its international prizes in 2000. The Foundation now supports five international awards: Cosmology, Genetics, Neuroscience, Justice and Women's Rights.

The Peter Gruber Foundation's Women's Rights Advisory Board, a group of eminent individuals known for their expertise and commitment to women's rights, selects the annual winner or winners of the prize. Current members of the Board are:

  • Linda Basch, Executive Director, National Council for Research on Women, New York City;
  • Bernice Donald, US District Court, Western District of Tennessee; Claire L'Heureux Dubé, retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada;
  • Shadrack Gutto, Director, Centre for African Renaissance Studies, University of South Africa;
  • Navanethem Pillay, Judge, International Criminal Court, The Hague, and Gruber Women's Rights Prize laureate 2003;
  • Kavita Ramdas, President, Global Fund for Women; and
  • Zainab Salbi, President, Women for Women International.


Since 2003, the Women's Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation has recognized individuals and groups that have made significant contributions, often at great risk, to furthering the rights of women and girls and advancing public awareness of the necessity of these rights in achieving a just world. The Prize carries a gold medal and a $US300,000 cash prize.

The past winners of the Prize are:

  • The Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN) and the Women's League of Burma jointly won the 2005 prize. SWAN helps supply basic services to Shan women and girls along the Thai-Burma border and in Thailand and has published a ground breaking report on the systematic sexual abuse of Shan women. The Women's League of Burma is an umbrella group providing resources for small grassroots women's organizations in Burma.
  • Sakena Yacoobi and the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) received the 2004 prize. Yacoobi is President of the Afghan Institute of Learning, which provides education and health opportunities for women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Navanethem Pillay, former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe, an umbrella organization of women's groups focused on bringing peace and stability to Rwanda and to eradicating forms of discrimination against women, jointly won the inaugural Gruber Prize in 2003. The landmark decision of the ICTR, defining rape as an institutional weapon of war and a crime of genocide, was a breakthrough for the international women's movement.


About the Foundation
The Peter Gruber Foundation was founded in 1993 and established the first of its international prizes in 2000. The Foundation now supports five international awards: Cosmology; Genetics, Neuroscience; Justice and Women's Rights.

The 2006 Cosmology Prize was presented in August to NASA's John Mather and the COBE team. In October it was announced that he will share the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics. The Justice Prize was awarded in September to Aharon Barak, recently retired President of the Supreme Court of Israel. The Genetics and Neuroscience Prizes were awarded in October: Genetics to Elizabeth Blackburn for her work on cell aging and telomeres, and her science advocacy; Neuroscience to Masao Ito and Roger Nicoll for their contributions to revealing the biological bases of learning and memory.

Full media release, background information and photos at www.scienceinpublic.com or contact Niall Byrne: niall@scienceinpublic.com, +1 314 448 9909 (US cell), +61 417 131 977 (Australian cell) or Sarah Hrehra, +1 340 775 8039.