BERN, SWITZERLAND – The second annual “Women and Children First” award given by the US Embassy in Bern to honour leaders “who make a difference for women and girls” was given to Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold Tuesday evening 6 March.
Vermot-Mangold is an expert in African development issues, a former member of the Swiss parliament (1995-2007) and of the Council of Europe, and she is currently the co-chair of 1000 PeaceWomen Across the Globe.
The organization was a driving force behind the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 to three women: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman, following its action in 2005 to collectively nominate 1,000 women for the Nobel Prize. The group pointed out that since the creation of the prize in 1909 only 12 women had received it.
“Recognition of women’s important role in conflict situations has long been overdue. The fact that three women won this year is a harvest for Ruth, who has been tireless in working for unsung women heroes for years,” noted Megan Beyer in handing over the award.
Beyer, a journalist, is wife of US Ambassador to Switzerland Donald Beyer. The award is named after his grandmother, Clara Mortensen Beyer, who worked for the first woman in the US cabinet, US Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. Grandmother Beyer in her later years studied child labour worldwide and helped create US child labour laws.
The award was given at a dinner in Bern that opened a 7 March bilateral women leaders conference, “Sister Republics: Building Bridges – an action plan for women’s leadership”.
Private sector and government leaders from the two countries will look at the situation of women in the workplace in particular, comparing the Swiss and US experiences to create an action plan for improvement.
The group includes several ambassadors, a number of women who have held top White House positions, the Swiss federal chancellor, women CEOs and women in top positions in non-governmental organizations.
Ertharin Cousin, who 17 January was named director of the World Food Programme, the largest humanitarian aid organization in the world, spoke at the awards ceremony, noting that 925 million people do not have enough to eat and 98 percent of them live in developing countries.
The figure is daunting, she said, but it can be reduced, if women create a movement to do it.