Event: Voices of Courage Awards, May 1, 2014, Cipriani 42nd Street

Women's Refugee Commission to mark 25th anniversary with Voices of Courage Awards for Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee and former refugees from Sierra Leone and Cameroon

Meryl Streep and WRC co-founder Liv Ullmann to speak, Malala Yousafzai to present via video

New York, NY, March 17, 2014 – The Women's Refugee Commission (WRC) will honor three exemplary former refugees and celebrate its 25th anniversary at the Voices of Courage Awards Luncheon on May 1 in New York City.

Three-time Oscar winning actress Meryl Streep and Oscar-nominated actress and director Liv Ullmann, who is the WRC co-founder and honorary chair, will speak at the event, together with Dr. Sima Samar, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai, who will appear via video.

The Voices of Courage honorees for 2014 are the Liberian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee, Chernor Bah from Sierra Leone and Mary Tal from Cameroon.

Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace and women's rights activist. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her role in ending the second civil war in Liberia, by bringing together Christian and Muslim women to demonstrate, launch protests and organize a sex strike. Her story is told in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell and her memoir Mighty Be Our Powers. Gbowee is the executive director of the Ghana-based Women Peace and Security Network Africa. She is a Distinguished Fellow in Social Justice at Barnard College of Columbia University.

Chernor Bah is a passionate advocate for youth, peace-building and the rights of women and girls. After his family was displaced by the war in Sierra Leone, he became a renowned peace activist, setting up the Children's Forum Network to advocate for children's rights and participation. Having worked for the UN Population Fund and Nike Foundation, among others, Bah now leads the youth engagement work of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown.

Mary Tal is deeply committed to improving the lives of refugee women and children. She grew up in Cameroon and worked as a lawyer for a human rights organization, until she was forced to flee her homeland and granted asylum in South Africa. Tal is the founder and director of Whole World Women Association (WWWA), which works to empower refugee women and children from across the African continent.

Malala Yousafzai will present a Voices of Courage award to Chernor Bah. Yousafzai, 16 years old, is an outspoken advocate for girls' right to education. When she was 15, the Taliban shot her in the head in an attempt to silence her. She is a co-founder and ambassador for the Malala Fund, and the author of I Am Malala. She will appear at the luncheon via video.

Dr. Sima Samar of Afghanistan will present a Voices of Courage Award to Mary Tal. Dr. Samar, who received the accolade herself in 2001, has devoted her life to improving education, health and equality for women and girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She was the first Minister for Women's Affairs in the interim government of Afghanistan, and is currently the head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

"We are delighted to be celebrating our landmark anniversary year with such an impressive range of voices," said Sarah Costa, Executive Director of WRC. "Leymah, Mary and Chernor will speak powerfully of the strength of displaced women, children and youth, who are often viewed as victims, but who have incredible resilience and potential to transform their communities when given the chance."

The 25th anniversary Voices of Courage Awards Luncheon will take place on Thursday, May 1 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. For more information and to buy tickets, please visit www.25yearsleadingchange.org.


CONTACT at WRC: Diana Quick at (212) 551-3087 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Note to Editors

The Women's Refugee Commission is a research and advocacy organization that works to improve the lives and protect the rights of women, children and youth displaced by war, persecution and natural disaster.



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