|2011 Gala Remarks by Chair Marlene Hess|
Summary: On February 8, 2011, the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) held its annual gala at 583 park Avenue in New York City. More than 300 friends and supporters joined us in honoring Partners in Health co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer, who has provided quality health care to those most in need for more than 20 years. Below are remarks made by Gala Chair Marlene Hess at the event.
MARLENE HESS (opening remarks): Good evening and thank you for coming. I'm Marlene Hess, IWHC Board member. Many others are here tonight too, and we're thrilled to have you-we can't do any of this without your support, your help, and your interest. We would especially like to recognize our visionary sponsor, Anglo American, and thank them for their very, very generous support.
Tonight we honor the outstanding work of an outstanding man, Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health. For two decades, Dr. Farmer has provided health care for the poorest villagers in the poorest countries. He was one of the very first to identify the special burdens HIV/AIDS places on women and children. And I don't know how long it would have taken people to figure out how very, very serious that is had it not been for his outstanding, exceptional work. We're very proud to pay tribute to him here tonight.
We also are here to celebrate the important work of the International Women's Health Coalition. IWHC works with women and girls to promote and protect their health and human rights from childhood on. These women and girls need and deserve multiple health services, including help with pregnancy, help with childbirth, help with birth control, and help with AIDS treatment. And as you probably know, sadly the face of AIDS today in a great deal of the developing world is a young woman or a young girl. These women and girls need basic health services so that they can go to school, go to work, and live to grow up and take care of their families.
IWHC is working with these women and girls to help them exercise very basic human rights, to control and protect their own bodies, live free of violence, grow up healthy, and be able to reach their own potential. In fact, we're supporting some amazing programs right now with teenagers in Pakistan, Nigeria, and Brazil. We work with top leaders in the United Nations, in the United States government, and in European donor nations to help shape policies and influence billions of dollars in funding for healthcare for the poorest of countries.
We partner with local organizations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to help them run effective programs in their countries and advocate within their own governments. We train and mentor leaders and help them build capacity and infrastructure within their own organizations. And this past year, IWHC worked with 50 partner organizations and we reached 6 million women and teenagers to help them-which is just absolutely amazing-with education, HIV prevention programs, and health services. It is, it's great.
IWHC has nurtured scores of leaders for women's health and human rights for over 26 years. None of these efforts would have been possible without all of you in this room and many more like you. Today we are investing in the next generation, and later you will hear from one of them, Ishita Chaudhry, who has joined us tonight from India.
Now it's my great pleasure to introduce our next speaker. Unfortunately George Soros could not be here with us tonight. Fortunately, however, Mr. Aryeh Neier has stepped in. As President of the Open Society Foundations, Mr. Neier oversees programs that support human rights, freedom of expression, and access to healthcare and education in 70 countries. Open Society Foundations has supported IWHC since 1989, for which we are very grateful and very proud. So thank you very much.
A frequent lecturer and media contributor, Mr. Neier has led investigations of human rights abuses across the world, including creation of the International Criminal Tribunal, which was at the request of the former Yugoslavia. Please join us in welcoming him here.
MARLENE HESS (closing remarks): Thank you so much. Earlier tonight we talked about how IWHC works with scores of local leaders for women's health, women's education, and women's ability to exercise basic rights to protect and control their own bodies. And earlier tonight I also told you that we work with local organizations all over the world to help them to develop new leadership, build capacity and build infrastructure. And you just saw it.
We need everybody here tonight to have us on your mind. We need you to be thinking about what we're doing. We need you to think about the girls and teenagers and young women we have all forgotten, who have sometimes really desperate lives. By talking about these issues and bringing them to life, we can do something.
We thank you again for being here tonight. Please talk about us, the reality for women and girls, and these young leaders. Have your friends talk about them because it's only going to work if we bring the fate of women and girls to the front of our brains instead of the back. Thank you so much for being here.