Melanne Verveer is the Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. She most recently served as the first U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, a position to which she was nominated by President Obama in 2009. She coordinated foreign policy issues and activities relating to the political, economic and social advancement of women. She worked to ensure that women’s participation and rights are fully integrated into U.S. foreign policy, and she played a leadership role in the Administration’s development of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. President Obama also appointed her to serve as the U.S. Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
From 2000-2008, she was the Chair and Co-CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, an international NGO that she co-founded to invest in emerging women leaders. During the Clinton administration, she served as Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady. She also led the effort to establish the President’s Interagency Council on Women, and was instrumental in the adoption of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. She is the co-author of Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose (2015).
Samar Minallah Khan, a Pakistani Pashtun documentary filmmaker, journalist, human rights activist, and anthropologist uses advocacy, documentaries, and other forms of media to open the eyes of civil society, policymakers, and human rights activists to culturally-sanctioned forms of violence. In 2003, Samar created a documentary on Swara, to raise awareness around the horrific practice of compensation marriage in Pakistan and to move policy makers to abolish it. Thanks in part to Samar’s film, swara was made illegal in 2004. Through her media initiative, Ethnomedia, Samar continues to shed light on issues of human trafficking, dowry and acid crimes, child domestic labor and forced marriage. To date, she has reached more than 150,000 people through her work. In 2016, Samar was appointed as one of the ten Child Rights Commissioners in Pakistan, a committee presided over by the President of Pakistan.
Globally minded, yet rooted in her community, visionary entrepreneur Adimaimalaga (Adi) Tafuna'i works to build sustainable economic opportunities for Samoan women and families. Adi is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Women in Business Development Inc. (WIBDI), which encourages women to take on business roles, with a focus on village-based economic development. Determined to enable women to earn an income in their local community in order to educate, feed and care for their families, Adi worked to leverage local resources to connect Samoan women with global markets. In 2008, Adi negotiated a contract with The Body Shop to buy organically certified virgin coconut oil from Samoa. Since then, WIBDI has expanded its scope to run projects in five other Pacific Islands countries. With the support of the DVF Award grant funds, WIBDI’s 2016 project in the Solomon Islands enabled 2,000 people to secure stronger livelihoods. Adi also sits on the Global Agenda Council for New Growth Models for the World Economic Forum.
For more than 15 years, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has dedicated herself to public service. As the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, she represented her community in the Arizona Legislature from 2000-2005, and then in Congress from 2006-2012. Her success was credited to her reliance on kindness, candor and hard, grueling work. On January 8, 2011, at a “Congress On Your Corner” event in Tucson with her constituents, Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the head from near point-blank range. In stepping down from Congress in January 2012, Congresswoman Giffords said, “I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country.” In 2013, Congresswoman Giffords and her husband, Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, founded Americans for Responsible Solutions as a way to encourage elected officials to stand up for safer communities.
Focusing on the environment, health, hunger and water, Becky Straw and Jody Landers created The Adventure Project. This non-profit works with local organizations to empower people with the tools and education to become profitable entrepreneurs, so they can go on to serve their own communities and improve local economies.
The Adventure Project believes that people want the opportunity to thrive, not with a handout, but through dignified work. In just six years, the organization has employed over 1,000 entrepreneurs in India, Haiti, Kenya, and Uganda, which include well mechanics, healthcare workers, farmers and stove masons. Together, these entrepreneurs serve over one million people each day.
Last November, The Adventure Project launched a new goal of moving a million people out of poverty by 2030.