More than 400 people came and showed their support for the Women’s Refugee Commission at the 2011 Voices of Courage Awards Luncheon. This year’s theme was urban refugees, and our refugee honorees, Zrinka Bralo and Stella Mkiliwane, moved the audience with stories of their own displacement, survival and great courage in the face of extremely difficult circumstances. The Thomson Reuters Foundation received our corporate award for its humanitarian news service, AlertNet, which provides critical news and information on natural disasters, political conflicts and other crises. Our award presenters were award-winning leaders in their own fields—including actor, director and co-founder of the Women’s Refugee Commission, Liv Ullmann, actress and WRC Ambassador Mamie Gummer and journalist Maria Hinojosa.
"Experience has taught me that improving the lives of women and girls—and unleashing their agency to act and advocate for themselves—is essential for achieving meaningful, sustainable change,” said Women’s Refugee Commission Executive Director Sarah Costa. “We hope you will partner with us to help refugee women and young people realize their talents and lead safe, healthy and productive lives."
We are happy to report that our luncheon raised $550,000, which will go toward supporting our work to help displaced and asylum-seeking women, children and youth.
Zrinka Bralo was a journalist for several years in Bosnia, spending five years at the National Radio in Sarajevo. After war broke out, she reported from Sarajevo, alongside some of the world’s leading war correspondents. As the conflict escalated, Zrinka sought asylum in the United Kingdom. She was at first refused and fought deportation for three years, finally winning the right to stay in the country. To this day, she is a fierce advocate for asylum-seekers, and set up the National Coalition of Anti-deportation Campaigns in London.
Since 2001, Zrinka has served as head of the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum in London, which reaches 5,000 people annually. She has led several successful campaigns in London on behalf of refugees.
In northern Bosnia, she helped found an organization called Most Mira (Bridge to Peace), which hosts an annual arts festival for children born into segregation and facing postwar trauma.
Stella Mkiliwane is of the minority Ndebele tribe in Zimbabwe and after being abducted, interrogated and threatened by security agents, she fled to South Africa in 2007. Soon after, she began volunteering with the Refugee Ministries Centre (RMC). A family therapist and social worker by training, she played a significant role in humanitarian relief and protection in response to the wave of violence against foreigners in South Africa in May 2008, when approximately 100,000 families were displaced. She mobilized relief and resources for those displaced and later carried out assessment work of those living in temporary shelters.
Now the director of operations of the RMC, she has instilled a “zero tolerance of corruption” policy for organizational and governmental staff alike. Not wanting to be restrained to a desk job, Stella also continues to offer one-on-one counseling to refugees and asylum seekers at a Walk-in Centre run by RMC in Johannesburg.
THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION is being honored for AlertNet, the world’s humanitarian news network. Established in 1997 in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, AlertNet provides news and information on natural disasters, conflicts, refugees, hunger, diseases and climate change to relief workers, donors, policy makers, researchers, students, journalists and the general public, aiding humanitarian efforts throughout the world.
AltertNet also deploys reporting teams to disaster zones to disseminate fast, reliable information to affected populations in local languages on everything from how to minimize disease risks to where to get medical help and how to trace missing relatives.
AlertNet represents Thomson Reuters’ commitment to the Knowledge Effect–the belief that the right information in the right hands leads to amazing things.