AAI alumnae Dr. Thelma Awori was honored at Women’s eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century 2016 Gala on May 2 in New York City.
This Women’s eNews gala celebrated the achievements of 20 women and one man who are working to “change the rules that constrict the lives of women and girls” in the United States and across the globe.
Dr. Awori, who received a scholarship from The Africa-America Institute, has held several leadership positions at the United Nations, including the U.N. Fund For Women and prior to retiring as assistant secretary-general and director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme. She previously was the U.N. resident coordinator and resident representative for the UNDP in Zimbabwe.
Dr. Awori was recognized for her commitment to expanding women’s leadership in Africa through her work in Uganda to strengthen women’s leadership, and, in Liberia, to increase services to women entrepreneurs.
With a small group of friends, Dr. Thelma Awori established the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund, which helps to build dry and safe workplaces for more than 13,000 rural women. The fund is named after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the granddaughter of a market woman who became the president of Liberia and the African continent’s first female president.
During the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, the fund rushed supplies such as bleach and buckets to the market women.
Under Dr. Awori’s leadership, the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund is expanding to other countries.
“Market women are a category whose power needs to be made more visible,” Dr. Awori explained. “Our leaders need to recognize them as a powerful economic force.”
Dr. Awori received the AAI Distinguished Alumna Award in 2012. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Republic of Liberia received the AAI African National Achievement Award for Literacy to Support Life Skills that year, in recognition of her leadership to rebuild Liberia’s national education system following years of a brutal civil war by emphasizing literacy as a catalyst for expanding opportunity for all Liberians.