Pay it forward. It’s a message that echoed throughout the fourth annual Women in the World Summit this year, from panels on the importance of mentoring female leaders to safeguarding the gains by women in Afghanistan. And it was the message that Toyota’s Julie Hamp, and The Women in the World Foundation’s Kim Azzarelli and Newsweek/Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown, celebrated while announcing this year’s Mothers of Invention and the new winners of the Women of Impact Awards.
“There is a special place in heaven for women who help other women,” said Hamp while paying tribute to the Mothers of Invention: Kavita Shukla, who invented a paper to keep produce fresh; Caitria and Morgan O’Neill, whose Recovers group works to find innovative ways to coordinate disaster aid; and girltank founders Sejal Hathi and Tara Roberts. The girls, who received $50,000 to strengthen their organizations, experienced an emotional moment on stage when Hamp surprised them with news that the girls would also receive a $15,000 grant to “pay it forward” to a person and cause of their choice.
The Women in the World Foundation also honored five women, who have paid it forward to change repressive traditions and safeguard the rights of women and girls around the world, with this year’s Women of Impact Awards. Last year, the recipients of the $25,000 award included such luminaries as Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee; Somalia’s Dr. Hawa Abdi; Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya, who runs an all-girls school in Kenya; and three Brazilians—Raquel Barros Da Silva, who works with mothers and pregnant women at risk; Maria da Penha, a survivor of horrific domestic violence whose activism prompted the Brazilian government to enact a law toughening penalties for domestic abuse; and Dona Anna Marcondes Faria, a leader and educator in Brazil’s violent, impoverished favelas.
Added to that list of impressive alumnae this year were Molly Melching, for her work teaching African communities to change cultural practices such as female genital mutilation that harm women; Susana Trimarco, for her fight against human trafficking and her personal rescue of hundreds of young girls from brothels; and Ugandan chess champ Phiona Mutesi, who “triumphed over daunting circumstances in Kampala” and who hopes of becoming a doctor one day.
Also joining the awardees, in a last-minute surprise announcement, were the summit’s breakout stars, Humaira Bachal and Khalida Brohi, two young Pakistani activist who are risking their lives every day to educate girls in their homeland. A visibly overwhelmed Bachal and Brohi were called out on stage as winners “by popular demand,” as Brown told them, for being “fearless girls …facing down repressive, backward-looking cultural practices, doing it by themselves, doing it without recognition. We are recognizing you tonight. You are two women of impact.”