Amigas Award Winners
Jagoda Gajic – Croatia: This dedicated activist has volunteered with the women’s human rights group “Losinj” in Croatia since it was established in 1996. She has been committed and courageous in her efforts to help women from Croatia to become politically active even though this has placed her in a dangerous position. She has also lobbied for better domestic violence laws for women in a country that has only 5% of its political positions held by women. Through her efforts to educate women about politics she hopes to encourage them to become involved in the political system and decision-making process that can be the only way to accomplish change.
Girl Scout Troop 47, under the leadership of Linda Bratcher, Shawnee Girl Scout Council, Keyser, West Virginia: This Girl Scout Troop developed a Domestic Violence Awareness Patch Program for their council that is now being used Nationwide. Requirements to earn the patch include: the troop must invite an advocate from a local domestic violence program to come speak to them about domestic violence and learn what to do if someone they know is being abused. Scouts must also complete several other activities to be eligible for the patch, such as learning about domestic violence laws in their state, developing a safety plan for themselves in case they face a violent situation; or completing a service project that will benefit victims of domestic violence or a local shelter. The troop voted to use the award money to promote the patch. They will purchase the patches for troops who have limited funds. In choosing this option they will encourage other girls to learn about domestic violence and to help to break the silence.
Vianca Burger, Youth As Resources, Tampa, Florida: Vianca got involved with the National Conference YAR program when she was a 16-year-old student at Tampa Bay Technical High School. She serves as a board member to Youth as Resources, a community service grant program for young people, and reviews all grant applications and attends interviews with each applicant group. She also meets with other youth leaders in Hillsborough County to identify community concerns and to brainstorm on potential solutions. She applied for a grant to present a multi-cultural fair to the preschool children in the school’s childcare program. She surveyed the student body and determined the top 25 nationalities represented. She then set up booths featuring each culture.
Dr. Virginia Irving – Happy Workers Day School, St. Petersburg, Florida: Dr. Irving recognized that very young child commit violent acts and instituted an innovative peace education program. She and her staff cataloged the violence committed at their school and then developed and implemented a “Children are Peacemakers” program. This program includes peaceful songs and activities for the children in her program. The program also includes “homework” activities for the children to take home to share with their parents and siblings.
Roberta Longfellow and Michele Carpenter – Haven of Hope, Cambridge, Ohio: These two gracious and compassionate women are totally dedicated to serving the victims of domestic violence in their community. They are a true team and their enthusiasm is contagious. In addition to working as victims advocates, they also work as group facilitators and have expanded the children’s program to include preschoolers. They are constantly thinking of ways to expand services to domestic violence victims.
Serene Chakma – Kapo Seba Sangha, Rangamati Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: Serene has been a volunteer since 1993 when she completed her education in Women, Development, and Advocacy. She is involved in conflict resolution, prevention of domestic violence and violations of women’s human rights in her community. She works to improve the lives of battered women and children by organizing workshops, seminars, meetings and encouraging other women to help in raising awareness by forming groups in various villages. She also works tirelessly to prevent the trafficking of women from her village. Her efforts are paying off since the trafficking rate has dropped considerably since she started her awareness campaign.
Jan Arnow, Institute for Intercultural Understanding, Louisville, Kentucky: Jan is the founder, director and one-woman staff of this organization doing incredible projects to teach peace to children and adults. She believes adults need to develop a keener awareness of the influences in their children’s lives. She has several uncanny methods of raising awareness of violence in communities. One method she uses is to take adults on a bus tour of their own neighborhood and show them all the violent influences in the neighborhood and in every home. She points out potential problems in each place. Contrary to what most people think it happens in every socio-economic neighborhood as the tour points out. Jan has also worked closely with educators to develop the criteria for a high school credited course aimed at teaching peace and conflict resolution. One unique aspect of the criteria is the high school student is teamed with an adult from a community service group. The pair must attend the classes together for the duration of the course. The mentor must then take the course back to teach to their sponsoring community service group. Although still in it’s early stages the program is successful.
Margueritte Midodzi – CIRCUIT, B. P. Togo (West Africa): Forced to drop out of college in her last year due to financial hardships Margueritte began farming pepper with her parents. Being conscious of their poverty, she organized a group of 30 women involved in pepper farming and started a co-op. As a result, the idea continued to broaden and created sensitizing and strengthening of women for their economic self-promotion. The process has helped emancipate the rural women and girls. The program she started has 3 main objectives: self-promotion of the woman for her integral financial and personal development, rural women’s use of the same legitimate right as men in society and to bring peace in the family and home.
Dr. Roberta Baer – HALT, Tampa, Florida: Dr. Baer has given tirelessly of her time and expertise for over four years to an effort to create a systematic approach to hunger in the Tampa Bay area. Since 85% of the hungry population is women she considers this a women’s issue. She participates week after week in meetings, writing and editing proposals, planning ways to help generate the political will to enact the recommendations and being vocal in her efforts to promote awareness of the issues of hunger in Tampa Bay.
S. D. Uma Maheswari, Yerrupalem – Khammam District, Andhra Pradesh, India: Growing up in poverty in a rural village Uma was able to attend an urban college. From her own experience with the vulnerability she faced moving to an urban area she has since dedicated her life to helping women from rural areas that relocate to urban areas from being sexually exploited. She has formed support groups for these women and works closely with police in securing their safety. She continues her work despite the dangers she faces daily.
A.Vaidehi Lalitha – Raghavarajapuram, Cuddapah Dist. India: This social worker has single-handedly waged a campaign to promote equality of women in India. In a culture that believes women are second class, she tirelessly continues her education of women to their rights, promotes awareness of the atrocities against women and finds rescue homes for some of the victims to go to for safety. The danger she faces daily in her work never stops her from helping other women and children. She continues to organize immunization clinics and education classes for children, self-help and career opportunity groups for women as well as distributing much-needed supplies to fire victims.
Eunice Justice, Tampa, Florida: “Mother Justice” as she is lovingly referred to by many is 77 years old, but that doesn’t stop her from feeding and sheltering women in her Tampa home. She calls her shelter Dorcas House after the Biblical woman who made clothes for the poor. Every Tuesday she feeds the homeless and sets out extra food for the taking all week. Donated clothes in bins are also placed out on her porch for the taking. She struggles to keep the taxes paid and the door open but has somehow managed that for over 20 years now.
Mary Corina, Anbu Illam, Tamilnadu, India: Mary has worked silently for over 10 years in various groups working to bring peace and power to women in distress either from abuse, financial issues or from being homeless. She helps organize conferences and conventions for women to promote awareness of problems such as rape, dowry harassment, wife beating, rehabilitation of deserted women and working women in the unorganized sector.
Wilma Green, St. Petersburg, Florida, St. Petersburg, Florida: Wilma at 77 spends her afternoons teaching some of the children that show up at her after school program basics they’ve missed at home and school, and doling out tough love in a storefront in the city of St. Petersburg’s oldest housing project. This safe haven for neighborhood children who have fallen through the educational cracks has artwork decorating the walls, computer stations and a reading room in the back. She calls it Agape House as a memorial to her daughter who was slain. She runs the program completely on donations and anything she can contribute herself and volunteers she can find to help her teach the children. “I’m planting seeds for the future, and I’m trying to keep those kids out of harm’s way. Those are mean streets out there”, Green explains.
Celestine Njaka, Human Dignity Promotion Program, ACCRA – Ghana: Celestine has been a volunteer for the women’s reproductive health and women’s rights project since 1996. She helps to educate rural women about HIV, AID’s STD’s and how to prevent them through meetings and a targeted education campaign. She also is a campaigner of the eradication of early marriage among these rural illiterate communities. Through one of her campaign activities, the village head of one of the rural communities known as Attiogun in Togo was able to denounce female genital cutting among new female births in the area.
A. Vijaya Lakshmi – Balagangadhara Youth Organization, Cuddapah, India: She was raised in a poor family and became a social worker who immediately set her goals for helping other disadvantaged women to better themselves. She has played a pivotal role in tackling cases of atrocities against women and in the process brought credit to her work and peace to the women involved. She has the reputation of improving the lives of battered women and children in the villages she serves.
United States Grants
Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center, Dade City, Florida: Sunrise Alumni received a grant to help fund the second annual Women’s Information Fair to be held in conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This event serves to inform, educate and empower formerly battered women with self-help information covering a very wide range of topics.
Jessie Mag, Eastlake, Colorado: Jessie Mag is a new online publication for young girls. It offers girl’s aged 12 – 19 input into the magazine’s content through their submission of stories they think are important to other teens. Jessie will give girls a more serious alternative to the magazines on the market. It discusses and asks for involvement in solutions to issues such as family violence.
Institute for Intercultural Understanding, Louisville, Kentucky: The founder, director and one woman staff of this organization uses many methods of teaching peace in the community. One of her methods is to take adults on a bus tour through their own neighborhood pointing out all the places that are potential problems to children. Another program partners adults with school students in a yearlong class and mentoring program aimed at teaching peace.
Little Friends for Peace, Washington, DC: Mary Joan and Jerry Park founded Little Friends for Peace in 1981. The organization is dedicated to teaching skills of nonviolence to young children. They have started peace clubs in area schools in addition to peace education classes and a summer camp. They have requested a grant to help defray expenses for underprivileged children that can not afford to attend the summer Peace Camp.
Education & Social Service Association (ESSAN), Tamil Nadu, India: ESSAN works with women over 18 in 20 rural backward villages. Their goal is to identify women with leadership qualities who are willing to organize women in their own villages. They do this through conducting street theaters; forming village level women forums; holding monthly meetings; offering training on leadership, finance management, saving money, bio-intensive gardening, environmental sanitation, organic farming, and animal husbandry; providing health checkups for women and children and generally creating a self-help group in each village.
CITAL, Lome Togo: CITAL is aimed at generating additional revenues to improve the living conditions of women, their children, and families. By focusing on the women, the project is more likely to help the women solve their own elementary subsistence problems and those of their children. The program will enhance their self- esteem and strengthen their confidence within their communities and help them to cultivate democratic principles and become active against social and economic injustice.
Women Welfare Project (Ntanira Na Mugambo Tharaka), Meru, Kenya: This organization works to educate the community and create awareness on the harmful effects of traditional Female Genital Mutilation through workshops, seminars, and parties. They do this through using traditional practices and by convincing boys to consider marrying girls who have avoided mutilation. They train peer educators on domestic violence issues and will intervene on a victim’s behalf. They teach people how to “stand firm and talk against the practice (this includes mutilation and family violence) otherwise he/she becomes an outcast”.
Media Award Winners
In September of 1999, the first annual Peacepower Media Awards ceremony was held at a residential home in Palm Harbor, Florida. Winners in seven media categories were chosen by a Peacepower committee. Each winner was given $250 to donate to a non-profit project chosen from a pre-selected list of projects.
Arts and Entertainment Winner: John Jennings
John Jennings is a producer, folk artist and songwriter whose title track “I Belong to You” tells the story of a couple trapped in a physically abusive relationship. Best known as Mary Chapin Carpenter’s producer and guitarist, John has two solo albums with Vanguard Records.
Television News Feature Winner: Gayle Sierens, Steve DeGregorio, and Bob Hansen
Reporter and news anchor Gayle Sierens has been with the WFLA-TV Newschannel 8 station of Tampa Bay, Florida, for 22 years, and joined with producer Steve DeGregorio and photographer Bob Hansen to create the feature “Profile of a Rapist.” Sierens says the informative features sends an empowering message to women.
Television Public Service Announcement Winner: Erin Gray and Mara Purl
The actresses’ work with the oldest battered women’s shelter in the country, Haven House of Los Angeles, and their activism for women’s lives led them to create a PSA that they share with any domestic violence shelter in the country. They’ve also shared a good deal in their own lives, collaborating to create PurlGray Enterprises and, most recently, a book they co-authored called Act Right, which gives tips and anecdotes from their acting careers. Mara’s name and face are familiar from her stint on Days of Our Lives and from her award-winning radio soap opera, Milford-Haven. And Erin (top right) became a household name in the 70s and 80s with TV’s Buck Rogers and then Silver Spoons, and has since starred in many movie roles.
Print News Winner: Amy Ellis
Amy Ellis has been writing about family violence topics for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida for the past four years. She’s the social services and education reporter, and her numerous articles about domestic violence have educated her community and given the Times a focus on women’s lives.
Radio Public Service Announcement Winner: Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault
The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault is a small organization and, from what they’ve said, they were amazed that the message of the radio PSA they created on sexual abuse reached as far as Florida. Peacepower heard about the powerful PSA radio campaign and chose to award them for their efforts to educate radio listeners about the dangers and lasting effects of acquaintance rape.
Radio News Winner: Debra Latham
Debra Latham co-founded Radio for Peace International in 1987 and has been a voice for alternative media ever since. Radio for Peace International is a non-profit short-wave radio station on the campus of Costa Rica’s University for Peace, which was created by the United Nations. Debra moved there from Oregon, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oregon State University.
Internet Winner: Clare Warmke
Clare Warmke’s online magazine for teen girls, Jessie Mag – Where Girl Talk Gets Serious, was created because Clare felt there was more to girls’ lives than what to wear to prom. Her feminist magazine, which often focuses on issues of violence in girls’ lives, gives teens an outlet and a friendly network for both their writing and their activism.