Great leaders come in many guises. A Pakistani schoolgirl fighting for the right to an education, whose near-martyrdom inspired a country to stand up to the Taliban. A Somali doctor whose modest medical camp has swelled into one of the few safe havens in her war-torn land. A Brazilian attorney fighting to ensure that domestic abusers face justice. Three brothers who founded a group—named after an Indian goddess—that wages war on the scourge of human trafficking.
On Tuesday night, eight such pioneers are being honored for their moral courage and their dedication to women’s rights at the 12th annual Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Each year, the awards celebrate heroines (and the occasional heroes) around the globe who have dedicated their lives to strengthening democracy, increasing economic opportunity, and protecting human rights. For the 2013 ceremony, Vital Voices will recognize Malala Yousafzai, the young student shot by the Taliban for her belief that all girls should be allowed an education; Dr. Hawa Abdi, the Somali ob-gyn whose displaced-persons camp outside Mogadishu houses close to 90,000 refugees and who is constantly struggling to keep Islamist militants at bay; Sandra Gomes Melo, a path-breaking Brazilian prosecutor who has fought against domestic violence and who has implemented the “Angels Project” to provide female inmates with education and job training; businesswoman Manal Yaish Zraiq, who is a tireless promoter of economic development for her Palestinian homeland; Rishi, Nishi, and Ravi Kant, whose Shakti Vahini organization combats sexual violence and the trafficking of women and girls in India; and Cambodia’s Tep Vanny, a young woman fighting to save a local lake from environmental degradation and overdevelopment. Each of them is an inspiration in their own right. The evening will also include a special tribute to the former ambassador-at-large for global women's issues and Vital Voices co-founder, Melanne Verveer. Together, they form a vision of hope for the women of tomorrow—and today.