WGF Hosts International Women of Courage Luncheon

Thanks to our collegues at GlobalPittsburgh, the Women and Girls Foundation (WGF) hosted an intimate luncheon with nine recipients of the International Women of Courage Award on Monday, March 5th. This group of women illustrates the strength and ingenuity needed to make systemic change in one’s region. Ranging from areas across the world including Afghanistan, Burma, Libya, and South Sudan, these women have made immense strides in the Women’s Rights movement. WGF is fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn about these women and the work they have done for their regions, and subsequently, the world.
Also present at the luncheon were WGF staff members along with Board Vice President Bernadette Smith, Board Member Phyllis Silverman, and key leaders in our community. Among these key women leaders were LaVerene Baker-Hotep of The Center for Victims of Violence and Crime, WGF Leadership Circle member Nancy Bernstein, Lois Mufuka Martin of Bethlehem Haven, Marge Petruska of The Heinz Endowments, and WGF founding member Judy Ruszkowski. 
WGF Board Chair Emeritus, Mildred Morrison, facilitated the luncheon and welcomed these incredibly strong women to Pittsburgh. Offering a brief – but elegant – introduction of Pittsburgh HERstory, Mildred emphasized that the growth of women’s philanthropy in our region began with groups of women putting their hands together in order to reach new heights in equality and gender equity.
Tara Simmons, Director of Operations & Programs at WGF, provided the IWC Awardees with a summary of the Foundation’s work. In turn, the awardees were given the opportunity to share their individual stories of hardship, triumph, and hope. With the help of their interpreters, these women began dialogues that were enlightening and empowering, centered on the importance of Women’s Rights. Some asked specific questions about how they can make their organizations stronger and more impactful in their communities. Others decided to express their enthusiasm toward creating change and the struggles they have overcome in the pursuit of a safe and equal life for all women – where their rights are not only acknowledged but fought for enthusiastically by members of their legislatures.
Hearing these dialogues was a truly humbling and uplifting experience, as we had the chance to collectively address the issues in our community and how they intersect with areas all around the world. This exchange of encouragement, appreciation, and ideas is a testament to how systemic change is achieved – through the gathering in the spirit of philanthropy and putting your hands, voices, and heads, together in a united effort to see that change become reality.
In honor of International Women’s Day, The Women and Girls Foundation would like to thank everyone who attended the luncheon. We especially thank the recipients of the International Women of Courage Award for taking the time to share their stories with us. It was an afternoon where we were reminded WHY the work we do is so important, as well as what still needs to be done in order to achieve the change necessary for the future of women across the world.