April 5th, 2013
10:29 PM ET

Diane von Furstenberg: My mission is to empower women

For many women outside of the U.S., danger lurks at every turn. One in three women in her lifetime will be beaten, raped, abused. It's a stunning statistic.

The women who dare defy the laws of their land to try to help other women are often targets of unimaginable violence.
Despite this, many continue to fight.

Diane von Furstenberg honors two women at the fourth annual DVF Awards and came OutFront with Erin Burnett.

Honoring women with the leadership to inspire
By Diane von Furstenberg, Special to CNN

Tomorrow night, at the Fourth Annual DVF Awards, it is my distinct privilege to honor five extraordinary women; women who have had the courage to fight, the power to survive and the leadership to inspire.

When I created The DVF Awards in 2010, I wanted to celebrate the strength inherent in all women—because I have never met a woman who is not strong. But they do not always know their own strength. Too often, it takes a tragedy for a woman to realize her own power.

But tomorrow night’s honorees know their own strength and they are wielding it in incredible ways.

Robin Roberts, who will receive the Lifetime Leadership Award, has won the hearts of America as an accomplished journalist and the Co-Anchor of Good Morning America. She showed tremendous strength and courage in the face of a breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, and again in 2012 when she was diagnosed with a rare blood disease known as MDS or myelodysplastic syndrome.

But rather than retreat into her struggle, Robin has had the courage to fight, the power to survive, and the leadership to inspire. She faced this obstacle head on and even brought cameras along on her journey to a bone marrow transplant, so that America could share in her story. And once again we were in awe of her humor, her smile, her faith and her fearlessness. Robin also joined forces with Be the Match to inform the public about the need for more donors, and since her diagnosis over 56,000 people have joined the registry.

Another honoree, Sunitha Krishnan is the fearless Co-founder of Prajwala, an anti-trafficking organization based in India that rescues women from brothels and educates their children with a focus on preventing second-generation prostitution. Prajwala runs 17 schools throughout Hyderabad for 5,000 children and has rescued more than 2,500 women and their children. Sunitha has invigorated India’s anti-trafficking movement by coordinating government, corporations and NGO’s. She has worked to define anti-trafficking policy and many of her recommendations for rehabilitating sex victims have been passed into legislation. As a victim of sexual violence herself, Sunitha has turned her pain into power and she is fighting on behalf of the women who need her most.

2012 GLAMOUR Women Of The Year AwardsAndeisha Farid of The Afghan Child Education and Caring Organization (AFCECO) spent her childhood living in refugee camps outside of Afghanistan. Her family settled in Iran, where they experienced harsh living conditions, and Andeisha was unable to attend school. When her parents managed to send her to Pakistan to study, Andeisha spent six years living in a hostel that was based at a refugee camp. While in the camp, Andeisha became determined to tutor other Afghani women and children who had no place to learn. Andeisha would go on to start The Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO). Today, AFCECO runs orphanages in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the goal of empowering young girls to become leaders in society.

Natalia Vodianova—whose success as a model, philanthropist and mother, has earned her the nickname, Supernova—is another incredible woman using her resources, commitment, and visibility to transform the lives of others. Natalia will receive the Inspiration Award for her work with her own Naked Heart Foundation, an organization that builds amazing play parks and playgrounds in cities all over Russia so that children can have a safe place to play. So far, Natalia has built over 90 play parks, some at orphanages, others in regions as remote as Siberia. Inspired by the Beslan school siege of 2004 and her own impoverished childhood, Natalia set out to make a difference with a goal of building 500 play parks in her home country through the Play with Purpose program. Her devotion, hard work and true commitment are what earned her the Inspiration Award.

Each year, we give a People’s Voice Award, which is voted on by the public. This year’s winner is Tammy Tibbetts, Founder and President of She’s the First, a non-profit organization that sponsors girls’ education in developing world countries, so that they can be the first in their families to graduate from high school. Inspired by her own experience of meeting girls in Liberia who were forced to depend on outside sponsors to receive a basic education, or who had been forced to drop-out all together, Tammy founded She’s the First in 2009 in hopes of raising awareness and inspiring action. Now 47 campus chapters strong, She’s the First has sponsored more than 200 girls and activated more than 420 sponsorships across 8 countries.

It is my distinct honor to shine a light on these incredible women, to share their stories with you in hopes that you are as inspired as I am. In honoring them, I also honor my mother, whose strength enabled her to survive the indignity of the Holocaust with grace and power and courage, and ultimately, to give me life.

To learn more about DVF and The DVF Awards, visit DVF.com.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Diane von Furstenberg.

Filed under: Neat Guest • Opinion
soundoff (One Response)
  1. J

    -I believe in the right of a woman to run anything in this world, but (honestly) have you ever seen a department store after a sale on upper end clothing, wherein the racks, the tables, the folded -ever so neatly- tables of clothes...are all on the floor, in piles (mixed up all together), in heaps and seriously...it makes you wonder, "Just how women would treat this old world, given carte blanche....?!" Now abuse is one thing -to be out-lawed everywhere- yet if I see one more woman drive through a parking at break neck speed (at the cost seeing someone's child get hit...almost, because they [children] only come up to the window in a lot full of parked cars), then and only then I will claim women care about the world ahead of them as much as the average person care about global concerns. If women claim great strides for women and still can't afford to be decent with your vehicular actions, so to speak, then, "Simply get off the road and take some lessons in being polite and courteous and safe....Thank you." -You can't have it both ways...

    April 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Reply

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