Talk about inspiring! Empowered women came together last night in Beverly Hills for the 20th International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Awards. The honorees-Claudia Duque, an investigative reporter from Colombia; Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan blogger based in Beijing; Tanzanian freelance reporter Vicky Ntetema, and Lifetime Achievement Award winner and Mexican journalist Alma Guillermoprieto-have all risked their lives for the pursuit of freedom of speech and truth in reporting.
Some of the stories took my breath away. In fact, Duque has been kidnapped twice for investigating the death of a colleague and the subsequent cover up by the Colombian government, and Woeser wasn’t even granted a Visa by the Chinese government to come to the US to accept her awards, so she sent a video acceptance speech. All have been threatened by authorities for speaking out against human rights violations and giving a voice to the voiceless, like Ntetema. This brave reporter blew the cover off of Tanzanian witch doctors (they hold enormous power) in her country who were sending followers out to mutilate and kill albinos (some only 5 years old) for their arms, legs, hair, blood in the name of creating magical potions thought to bring wealth to those who imbibed it. Truly horrific.
Nightline anchor Cynthia McFadden presided over the night, and First Lady of California Maria Shriver opened the evening with heartfelt welcome remarks, telling the audience how important this organization was for not only women, but also, for freedom of speech. And celebrity attendees like Kelly Rowland, freed journalist Euna Lee, Annette Bening (who was also a presenter), LaLa Vasquez, Tessa Thompson-one of the stars of the upcoming Tyler Perry movie For Colored Girls-and Anna Faris were all extremely humbled by the selfless and often life threatening feats that these courageous award winners endured in order to deliver the truth.
And with all of the feelings of female empowerment in the room, I had to know what woman in their lives had empowered them?
Journalist Euna Lee, who was jailed in North Korea for months with fellow reporter Laura Ling: The people who aren’t seeking fame, but who are working from the heart. Those women give me motivation to do better work.
Anna Faris: Lucille Ball broke so much ground (in comedy). But politically, I am a huge fan of Michelle Obama. She is inspiring in everything that she does. I would love to be able to meet her.
And, I think LaLa Vasquez summed it up best when stating the reason why, as women, we should empower one another: There is room for everyone. I think a lot of times with women you get caught up in this cattiness or trying to drag the other person down. (Kelly Rowland) and I are all about empowering and complementing and knowing that there is enough room for everybody.
Check back next week for my full interviews with many of these inspiring women.
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