IFES Announces 2012 Democracy Award Winners

Publication Date: 
27 Jul 2012

News Type:

Two U.S. legislators, women's rights advocate to receive awards in September

WASHINGTON — The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) will honor an international women’s rights advocate and two United States lawmakers with its 2012 Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards. 

Women's advocate Maimuna Mwidau of Kenya, Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) will receive the awards Sept. 11 at a gala dinner in Washington. The annual awards recognize men and women who demonstrate a commitment to advancing freedom and democratic values.

"As IFES celebrates 25 years of building a legacy of elections assistance worldwide, we are proud to honor three individuals who, through the course of their careers, have created democratic legacies of their own," said IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney. "Each of these leaders has endeavored to bring the kind of democratic values IFES promotes to the world."

A prominent voice for women's empowerment and democratic rights, Mwidau has lent her expertise to the constitution-making process in Kenya, where she is an advocate for implementing a gender quota in the National Assembly. She recently worked with UN Women to develop a comprehensive training program for women leaders in Kenya and helped launch the Center for Women in Democracy to promote women’s participation in the country's upcoming elections. She is part of numerous organizations promoting women’s interests, including Kenya Women Steering Committee, the Women Political Alliance and the League of Muslim Women of Kenya, which she co-founded.

"The women of Kenya, irrespective of our political affiliations, religion or ethnic background, have been able to enhance the participation of women through the new constitution," Mwidau said. "The IFES Democracy Award is a recognition of the women who have struggled to create a space for themselves in leadership positions in Kenya."

"Ms. Mwidau is an inspiration for anyone looking to effect positive change in their societies and the world through public service," said Sweeney. "She brought women’s issues to forefront of constitutional and social reform in her native Kenya, and her efforts to guarantee fundamental human rights for women continue to transcend national boundaries."

Dreier has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 30 years and currently chairs the House Committee on Rules. In addition to serving on the board of the International Republican Institute and as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he works to promote democratic institutions in new and developing democracies as founding chairman of the House Democracy Partnership.

"I am honored to receive this award and I have been privileged to work with IFES for many years, most recently in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and have seen firsthand the great work that they do," said Dreier. "I congratulate them on their 25th anniversary and applaud them on their unwavering commitment to giving people a say in how they are governed.  I look forward to continuing to work with them in our quest to ensure that peaceful, stable and prosperous democracies have the opportunity to flourish throughout the globe."

"Representative Dreier’s commitment to helping nations around the world achieve stability, prosperity and freedom through democracy make him a powerful ally for democratic development," said Judy Black, a member of IFES' Board of Directors and co-chair of the 2012 dinner committee. "His passion for helping young democracies is especially evident in his connections to Egypt and the fledgling democracies in the Middle East."

Lowey is currently the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations and a member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. In this role she works to incorporate diplomacy, economic and social development efforts into U.S. foreign policy and national security strategies.

"I am honored to receive the Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award," said Lowey. "As the ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, I share IFES' dedication to empowering the underrepresented and promoting political participation internationally. We must ensure that women, youth, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups are not ignored as we forge ahead on the path toward sustainable democracy worldwide."

"Representative Lowey is a passionate advocate for human rights abroad, particularly when it comes to empowering women and advancing diplomatic priorities such as peaceful conflict resolution, good governance, and access to economic opportunity and basic education," said Ambassador James Jones, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and co-chair of the 2012 dinner committee. "Her efforts and advocacy are truly admirable."

The awards are presented to a Democrat, a Republican and a member of the international community who demonstrate the dedication to democracy and human rights embodied by the award’s namesake, former IFES Board of Directors Chairman Charles T. Manatt. Past recipients include Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Judge Johann Kriegler of South Africa, Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), former United States Agency for International Development Administrator M. Peter McPherson and Lebanese Minister of Interior and Municipalities Ziad Baroud.

For more information about the awards, please visit www.IFES.org/DemocracyAwards.   

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As the global leader in democracy promotion, IFES advances good governance and democratic rights by providing technical assistance to election officials; empowering the underrepresented to participate in the political process; and applying field-based research to improve the electoral cycle. Since 1987, IFES has worked in over 135 countries, from developing democracies, to mature democracies. For more information, visit www.IFES.org.