I have never met a woman who is not strong; she does not exist. Sometimes women are not allowed to show their strength. Sometimes they don't even know they have it, but then tragedy happens and suddenly the strength surfaces. I learned this lesson very early in life from my mother, Lily Nahmias, a Holocaust survivor who refused to see herself as a victim.
On April 4, Tina Brown and I will host the fifth annual DVF Awards. The recipients of these awards are extraordinary women. They are courageous. They are survivors. They are leaders. They are the definition of strength. Each honoree is given a $50,000 grant from my family's foundation to further her work, and the difference they make is immeasurable.
Take tiny Sunitha Krishnan from India. You barely see her -- she is 4'6" tall -- but you feel her strength, and you know she feels it too. When Sunitha was 15-years-old, she was gang raped by eight men, but, like my mother, Sunitha refused to see herself as a victim. Instead, she dedicated her life to breaking the violent cycle of sex trafficking, slavery and the spread of HIV/AIDS in India. Sunitha's anti-trafficking shelters are now the largest in the world and 70% of the staff members are survivors. Her organization, Prajwala, has rescued, rehabilitated or served 8,211 survivors of sex trafficking, and Sunitha has personally liberated 2,000 of them. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry, and traffickers see Sunitha as a threat to their work. She has been beaten up over a dozen times, and she regularly receives death threats. But, she has never given up.
Each year, one DVF Award honoree is chosen by popular vote. Last year's People's Voice Award went to Tammy Tibbets, who founded She's the First. The organization empowers young women in the US to raise funds to educate girls worldwide. The girls get the chance to become the first in their families to graduate from secondary school, and the young women who raise the funds see their own potential to make change. Since receiving her grant one year ago, the number of girls whose education She's the First sponsored rose 61%. Additionally, Tammy's staff grew 50%, her social media reach grew 56%, and she is partnering with 25% more countries to keep girls in school -- all of this growth in just one year!
Every year, I am truly humbled by the women we honor at the DVF Awards, and this year will be no different, but women's empowerment is not a once-a-year issue. It is proven that women empower other women. If you help just one woman in your community, through volunteering, mentoring, financial support or even just providing encouragement to a woman you know -- she can turn around and do the same. Every woman has the strength to help someone else, even in the moments when she does not know if she can help herself. If we put this practice into action, just like my mother, just like Sunitha and just like Tammy, we can empower women to achieve their potential, which will change the course of history and change the world.