Atlas Corps Fellows at the 17th Annual Global Leadership Awards at Kennedy’s Center in Washington, DC.

“What we need right now isn’t one big gesture. It’s a million small ones.” With these words Alyse Nelson, Vital Voices President and CEO initiated the evening of the 17th Annual Global Leadership Awards at Kennedy’s Center in Washington, DC.

On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. On April 4, 2018 -50 years later- I joined 40 Atlas Corps leaders from all around the world at Kennedy’s Center to celebrate women change makers.

From left: Aida (Algeria), Mounia (Morocco), and I

The 17th Annual Global Leadership Awards honored a group of troublemakers, women who plant the initial seeds of change to tip their communities. The positive energy at the Kennedy Center was very contagious and knowing more about the honored women stories and ideas made me realize the importance of standing for a cause despite circumstances, despite oppression and despite fear.

The evening started with a key note speech from Vital Voices President & CEO, Alyse Nelson who acknowledged the million small gestures and the power of one.

“The world needs a change. It cannot change itself. How are we going to move from the turning point, to the tipping point?” – Vital Voices President & CEO, Alyse Nelson.

Her empowering talk was followed by a talk from the 2008 Global Leadership Awards Honoree Kakenya Ntaiya, who paid a touching tribute to the late Bobbi Greene-McCarthy. Now I’m happy to share with you the names of 5 extraordinary women and honorees hoping that their stories can inspire you the way they inspired me:

1. Kiran Bir Sethi – India

Actress and director Sally Field took the stage to introduce the first honoree of the evening Kiran Bir Sethi. Kiran is an educator who’s revolutionizing the school system in India by encouraging children to solve real-life challenges. Listening to Kiran’s story made me realize the power of adapting education to suit different age groups. Kids at Kiran’s school followed the ‘design for change’ module which unleashed the I-Can superpower in every child. The I-Can module is simply “Feel-Imagine-Do-Share” which is called in the business world nowadays ‘the design thinking methodology’ and is taught in business schools around the world. What impact do you think we can have if we started educating kids to have an entrepreneurial mindset since kindergarten?

“This is what the world needs today. Children with hope.” – Kiran Bir Sethi

Take a look at Kiran’s story in India:

  1. Esra’a Al Shafei – Bahrain 

Esra’a isn’t just a tech-savvy who started a disruptive model of media and journalism platforms in the Middle-East, she’s also a Bahraini civil rights activist who stands for social justice advocacy. With a hilarious and absolutely moving speech Esra’a shared her story, and I’m happy to share it with you.

“At home we were told not to speak up. That our voices don’t matter. We stayed, and we fought.” – Esra’a Al Shafei

3. Lina Khalifeh – Jordan

Lina Khalifeh literally gave a self defense lesson on stage and it was great to know more about her business. Lina is the founder of She Fighter and an entrepreneur in the Middle East pioneering a movement for women to reclaim their power through self-defense.

“When life punches you, and knocks you down, you have to pick yourself up and say “you punch like a baby.” – Lina Khalifeh

4. Wirawan “Boom” Mosby – Thailand

Vital Voices co-founder, Melanne Verveer introduced Wirawan “Boom” Mosby, a child rights advocate who’s advancing a new model of care for human trafficking survivors in Thailand.
“My message to you, is that everyone in the world has something to overcome. But anyone can rise up, out of brokenness and contribute to the world. You can be an agent of change, don’t underestimate your ability.” – Boom Mosby

5. Jamira Burley – USA

Jamira’s talk about her brother rocked me to the core. VVLead Ambassador Jamira Burley is an example of the power of community leaders who gain their strength from their vulnerability. Jamira is an American youth activist who engages millennials in social reform that transforms communities. A true leader with a sincerely moving story and a strong message.

“There is no age requirement to change the world, and to the young people: you are valid. Your ideas are valid, your experiences are valid and relevant. Every single movement in our history has been moved by the energy and inspiration of young people. I dedicate this award to you. The young people.” – Jamira Burley

At the end of the event actress zoey Deutch presented secretary Hilary Clinton who gave a critical speech and wrapped up a great evening by saying that women voices have never been more vital than they are right now.

“Women’s participation makes entire nations more peaceful, prosperous, and secure.” – Hillary Clinton

Finally, I’m congratulating Vital Voices for a successful evening and for always acknowledging women leadership and activism. For all the women who are creating Million small gestures out there, thank you!