|White Knights and Women's Rights, New York on a Winter's Day|
White Knights and Women's Rights, New York on a Winter's DNew York Social Diary, February 13, 2008
The organization protects and promotes human rights and health of women and young people throughout the world. They “envision a world where women and girls are free from discrimination, sexual coercion, and violence; where they make free and informed choices about sexuality and childbearing; and where health information and services are accessible to all.”
IWHC carries out its charter by investing in community-based organizations with financial support and professional partnership with 75 organizations in Africa, Asia and Latin America that work with communities and governments to create lasting changes. It also lobbies for international policies and increased funding, and develop and mobilizes international coalitions.
Judy Woodruff opened the evening. Gala co-chair Maureen White was supposed to follow but could not attend last minute. Dr. Bernard Kouchner, a physician, diplomat and human rights activist and currently President Sarkozy’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, made a special trip to New York to pay tribute to Kati Marton, as did Samantha Power, professor at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Ms. Marton who is also married to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, is the bestselling author of six book including The Great Escape: Nine Jews who Fled Hitler and Changed the World. She’s also a print and broadcast journalist with her work appearing in The New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, the New York Times, Vanity Fair and Newsweek. She is a member of the Human Rights Watch, the International Rescue Committee and the Council on Foreign Relations and serves as Chair of the IWHC Board of Directors since 2003.
The night’s other honoree, Professor Muhammad Unus (a Nobel Peace Prize winner, 2006), is recognized for his work in poverty alleviation and the empowerment of women. He founded the Grameen Bank, a micro-credit institution created to provide tiny amounts of working capital to the poor, without collateral, for self-employment.
Dr. Yunus’ idea, which male central bankers thought either absurd or impossible has inspired a global micro-credit movement that reaches out to millions of poor women on all five continents, in poor countries as well as rich.
Both Marton and Yunus, in accepting their honors, spoke of their individual experiences helping those of us who are most severely hindered by the traditions of society and the men who rule the culture. Ms. Marton’s reports on the problems of health, early teenage marriage, vaginal circumcision and violence towards women and children in Africa is anguishing just to hear about. Dr. Yunus’ stories of how women prosper with just a bit of a financial assistance, conversely, is inspiring although daunting to consider.
Last night’s benefit raised a record amount for the IWHC programs. It was one of those evenings, non-black tie in which the people at the podium kept everyone at attention with stories of what is needed not just to make a better, healthier world, but to sustain the one we are living in. The matter of women’s health and women’s rights gets watered down by media and the silliness of American society where hyper-macho attitudes afflict everyone’s progress and prospects. Both men and women are responsible for this, however.
I'm always amazed that she remembers me although I'm not sure that she remembers my name; and I don't care because I myself after meeting so many don't remember almost anyone's name more than half the time.
But her greeting is lovely, and kind, and there is a glint of humor in her presence. I see her as a very substantial person who is, like the rest of us, vulnerable to making mistaken decisions, but nevertheless will prevail in one way or another. I know so many people who HATE her. Most of the women I know who hate her sit on the edge of being victims themselves, for a variety of reasons, usually having to do with a man who has let them down in one way or another.
Full article, including photographs from IWHC's Seventh Annual Gala, available here on the New York Social Diary website.