Thanks to everyone at TheWIFTS for creating an award that reminds us that our work – all of our work – has value. That it matters.
It is an honor to receive this award, and it is an honor to be among so many inspiring women of all generations doing amazing work in your fields.
I would like to receive this award, with deep gratitude, respect and love, in the name of all the human rights defenders and activists who are making our world a better place, and in particular to those who are fighting for the rights of women and LGBTIQ people.
These are women, men and transgender defenders you may never have heard of, but they are out there in the thousands, fighting for all of our rights, in every country in the world.
I started out on this journey as a young, naïve aid worker, with no understanding of what war, violence or disaster meant. What it meant to lose everything – your home, your family, dignity. To be hungry – to see your children hungry.
I spent years in conflicts and emergencies – in places like Tajikistan, Georgia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Bosnia. And honestly, I struggled with staying human, staying compassionate, with understanding why this was happening – why such violence, such suffering.
But over the years, I also witnessed the greatest hope we have in our world -- the capacity of ordinary human beings to do the most extraordinary things. To stand up in the midst of hate, discrimination, violence, oppression – and to act, quite simply with love.
I don't use the word lightly. This was the most fierce, beautiful, powerful love of all – the love that moves you to speak out, to protect others, to fight for peace, to rebuild homes, communities. To heal broken hearts. Jessica Horn calls it 'revolutionary love'.
Getting to know these human rights defenders and activists – from places like Chechnya, Afghanistan, Canada, Mexico, Columbia, Sri Lanka – I realized, though, that while they were dedicating their lives, their hearts and bodies, to fighting for the rights of others – they gave little to no thought of their own lives – to their own safety and well-being. If they were threatened, arrested, tired, hungry, worn down by the battle – they just considered that the price of their work.
And that is where I found my place, my passion.
Because my work is to fight for the security and well-being of these human rights defenders -- to help them to stay safe and well. To help them to be heard, recognized, valued and supported. This is part of a larger movement of groups around the world working to protect and support human rights defenders – including Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights, Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation and Frontline Defenders.
Receiving this award is an opportunity to continue to recognize the powerful work of these human rights defenders, the challenges they face, and the many ways that we can all show them our solidarity and appreciation.