2004 International Women’s Rights Prize Honors Work in Afghanistan and Pakistan
The Peter Gruber Foundation Celebrates Courageous Efforts to Help Women and Children
St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., December, 2004 – Visionary educator Sakena Yacoobi and the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) have been selected by an international panel of experts to receive the 2004 Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation. Professor Yacoobi is President of AIL, which she founded and leads and which serves more than 350,000 Afghan women and children annually.
Each year the Foundation presents a gold medal and a $200,000 unrestricted cash award to individuals and/or 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. This year’s prize, which is shared by the Institute and its founder, was presented on December 10, International Human Rights Day, at the United Nations in New York City. Photos of ceremony and dinner.
Understanding the tremendous power of education, Sakena Yacoobi’s parents sent her from her home in war-torn Afghanistan in the early 1970s to attend the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. Once there, she worked feverishly to improve her reading and writing from the fourth-grade level and catch up with her classmates. After earning her degree in Biological Sciences, she went on to earn a Masters in Public Health from Loma Linda University in 1981. Since 1990 she has devoted her life to bringing education and health care to Afghan women and girls in both Afghanistan and the overflowing refugee camps of Pakistan.
After more than a quarter century of war and instability, the literacy rate of Afghans, particularly women, was among the lowest in the world. When many schools closed in 1995 and the foundations of education throughout the country were in danger of collapse, Sakena Yacoobi and two other concerned Afghan women founded the Afghan Institute of Learning to help address the lack of access to education for women and girls, their subsequent inability to support their lives, and the resulting impact on society and culture. They committed AIL, a non-governmental organization (NGO), to bringing peace and dignity to the Afghan people as they struggle to overcome oppression, devastation, and injustice.
During the Taliban years, AIL ran 80 underground schools as well as mobile libraries in four Afghan cities. By the end of 2003 the organization served more than 350,000 Afghan women and girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s refugee camps through its girls schools and programs in teacher training, health education, human rights education, women’s leadership training, and literacy. With its 470 employees, 83% of whom are women, it is a model and a leader in rebuilding Afghan civil society.
The official citations reads: “The Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation is hereby proudly presented to Sakena Yacoobi, President of the Afghan Institute of Learning, for her courageous vision and leadership in implementing quality education, human rights training, and safe healthcare for Afghan women and children. Despite significant personal risk during the time of the Taliban and in the aftermath of violence and war, she has worked tirelessly to improve the life, opportunities, and social infrastructure of Afghanistan’s neediest residents and its refugees in Pakistan.”
“The Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation is hereby proudly presented to the Afghan Institute of Learning for expanding health and education opportunities for women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The unwavering commitment of its dedicated teachers, doctors, and health care providers under the repressive Taliban regime and during post-war reconstruction has truly empowered hundreds of thousands of Afghan women and children, citizens and refugees alike.”
Peter Gruber, founder of the foundation that bears his name, said, “It is a great disadvantage that women, who represent half the world’s population, are restricted by laws or customs that hinder not only their basic human rights, but their contributions to the welfare of all. The work of Sakena Yacoobi and the Afghan Institute of Learning gives new life and hope to the women and children of Afghanistan and thereby to Afghan men and society as a whole. For the liberation of a person is the liberation of all persons, regardless of gender.”
The 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 are: Dr. Linda Basch, Executive Director, National Council for Research on Women, New York City; The Honorable Bernice Bouie Donald, U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee; The Honorable Claire L’Heureux Dubé, retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada; Professor Shadrack Gutto, Director, Centre for African Renaissance Studies, University of South Africa; The Honorable Navanethem Pillay, Judge, International Criminal Court, The Hague, and Women’s Rights Prize laureate 2003; Kavita Ramdas, President, Global Fund for Women; and Zainab Salbi, President, Women for Women International.
The Women’s Rights Prize was established in 2003 and is recognized as the leading international prize in the field. The co-recipients in 2003 were The Honorable Navanethem Pillay, the South African judge noted for her leadership of the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe (Women Together for Women), an umbrella organization of Rwandan grassroots women’s groups.
The Peter Gruber Foundation was founded in 1993 and established a record of charitable giving principally in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it is located. In 2000 the Foundation expanded its focus to a series of international awards recognizing discoveries and achievements that produce fundamental shifts in human knowledge and culture. In addition to the Women’s Rights Prize, the Foundation presents awards in the fields of Cosmology, Genetics, Neuroscience, and Justice.
South African Judge, Rwandan Women’s Confederation Win Women’s Rights Prize for Courageous Efforts to Help Rwandan Women
St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., December 10, 2003 – A South African judge noted for her leadership of the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and an umbrella organization of Rwandan grassroots women’s groups have been chosen the joint recipients of the inaugural Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation. The Foundation is honoring them for their leadership in advancing the cause of human rights for women and for working to assist women who survived a genocidal war.
The Honorable Navanethem Pillay and Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe (Women Together for Women) share the cash award of $200,000. Each also received a gold medal recognizing their leadership in affirming women’s rights. The awards were presented in a ceremony December 10 in New York City at the United Nations.
The winners were chosen by the Foundation’s Women’s Rights Advisory Board, an eminent group of six individuals known for their commitment to women’s rights. The members of the Advisory Board are: Dr. Linda Basch, executive director of the National Council for Research on Women, New York; the Honorable Bernice Bouie Donald, U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee; the Honorable Claire L’Heureux Dubé, retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada; Professor Shadrack Gutto, Centre for African Renaissance Studies, Pretoria; Kavita Ramdas, president, Global Fund for Women, San Francisco; and Zainab Salbi, president, Women for Women International, Washington, D.C.
Early in her career, Judge Pillay distinguished herself as a legal advocate for human rights, representing opponents of apartheid and political prisoners, and helping to establish the family violence syndrome as a defense. She served with numerous groups aimed at protecting and advancing the rights of women. She was appointed acting judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa in 1995, the first black woman attorney to serve in that capacity. She gained international admiration as a member, later president, of ICTR, and is widely credited with influencing the tribunal’s precedent-setting decision which established that under certain circumstances rape can be an act of genocide.
Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe represents more than 35 women’s groups that joined together after the April 1994 massacres in Rwanda that drew worldwide attention and slaughtered as many as one million people. Member groups in the organization support rural development programs, aid for widows and orphans, health initiatives, and training projects. With a focus on economic empowerment, Pro-Femmes encourages tolerance and peace.
The official citations for the Women’s Rights Prize for 2003 reads:
“The Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation is hereby proudly presented to the Honorable Navanethem Pillay, former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for her courageous leadership in advancing women’s human rights. The landmark decision of the ICTR defining rape as an institutionalized weapon of war and a crime of genocide was a breakthrough for the international women’s movement and validated the organizing efforts by Rwandan women.”
“The Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation is hereby proudly presented to the Network Pro Femmes Twese Hamwe, a national network of women’s groups that represents the courageous women of Rwanda, who constitute 70% of the survivors of genocide and sexual violence. The prize particularly celebrates the leadership of grassroots women’s organizations for their resilience and commitment to peace, reconciliation, and nation building.”
Peter Gruber, founder of the foundation that bears his name, said, “Women represent half the world’s population. We established the Women’s Rights Prize to redress restrictive laws and customs that deprive women not only of their human rights, but also of their ability to enrich the human condition. Judge Pillay and Pro Femmes Twese Hamwe have advanced the welfare of all through their dedicated work, and embody the principles we affirm with this prize.”
The Peter Gruber Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in the U.S. Virgin Islands, began its international prize program in the year 2000. In addition of the Women’s Rights Prize, the Foundation presents awards annually in the fields of cosmology, genetics, and justice.
Peter Gruber Foundation to Give Annual Prize for Women’s Rights
ST. THOMAS, U.S.V.I., May 6, 2003 – The Peter Gruber Foundation announces the establishment of an annual prize in women’s rights beginning this year. The first winner will be chosen by an international panel of experts in the field, and the Foundation will present the inaugural award in late 2003.
The Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation will be awarded annually to 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. In recognition of the diversity of women and the field of women’s rights, the Prize may honor achievement in any area including, but not limited to, human rights, social welfare, education and the arts.
The Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation, a gold medal and $150,000 in cash, is an international award that will be presented without respect to nationality, race, gender, ethnicity, or religious creed.
The Peter Gruber Foundation is dedicated to encouraging and rewarding those who have made fundamental discoveries or have taken courageous stands to further the quality of life and the knowledge of people around the world. Its other annual international prizes are in the fields of cosmology, genetics, and justice.
Peter Gruber, founder of the foundation that bears his name, said, “It is a great disadvantage that women, who represent half the world’s population, are restricted by laws or customs that hinder not only their basic human rights, but their contributions to the welfare of all. The Foundation’s prize for women’s rights will honor those whose achievements spotlight the importance to society of the contributions of women enriching the human condition.”
Members of Foundation’s Board of Advisors for the Women’s Rights Prize are:
Linda Basch, executive director of the National Council for Research on Women. Dr. Basch holds a doctorate in anthropology from New York University. She was a professor at Wagner College and Manhattan College and director of special programs for New York University before taking over as the executive director for NCRW. She has served in United Nations forums and has worked in Kenya and Iran and conducted studies in the Caribbean.
The Honorable Bernice Bouie Donald, U.S. District Court judge, Western District of Tennessee. Judge Donald was the first African-American female bankruptcy judge appointed in the United States and the first African American female elected as a judge in Tennessee. She has received numerous awards for her work in and out of the courtroom, including the Martin Luther King Community Service Award, the Community Services Award for Youth from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and Judge of the Year from the Memphis Bar Association.
The Honorable Claire L’Heureux Dubé, retired justice, Supreme Court of Canada, is known for her outspoken support for women and for human rights. She was in private practice for 21 years before taking the oath of office as a judge in 1973. She was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1987. She was president of the International Commission of Jurists and has served on many boards and commissions, including the delegation on the Status of Women, Canada to China, and the National Council of the Canadian Human Rights Foundation. She lectures throughout the world.
Professor Shadrack B.O. Gutto, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, is a teacher and human rights activist. A native of Kenya, he holds South African citizenship and has studied and worked in many countries, including France, the US, Austria, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Zimbabwe. He has designed and presented numerous courses and conferences on various aspects of the law including human rights and women and the law and development. He holds a doctorate in the sociology of law from Lund University, Sweden.
Kavita Ramdas, president, Global Fund for Women, is a native of India. She was educated at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She worked for several years with the MacArthur Foundation and then became president of the Global Fund for Women in 1996. She is a voice for empowering women throughout the world. Through the efforts of her organization, women in 160 countries have received financial assistance to establish their economic independence.
Zainab Salbi, president, Women for Women International, has established herself internationally as a leader in efforts to support and empower women. Having grown up in war-torn Baghdad, she took a keen interest in reports of the horrors facing female refugees from Bosnia a decade ago. She left her job with the Arab Ambassadors in Washington, D.C. to establish Women for Women in Bosnia (now Women for Women International) and has spent the last ten years helping women survive the aftermath of armed conflict in several countries.
In addition to its international prize program, the Peter Gruber Foundation has established a record of charitable giving, principally in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it is located.