Politics of Poverty

Sisters on the Planet celebrate Champions of Equality

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SOP IWD 2023
Celebrating Champions of Equality for International Women's Day: Oxfam America Vice President of Advocacy, Alliances & Policy Gina Cummings, Filmmaker Rachel Lears, Honorable Kiah Morris, Honorable Jo Ann Hardesty. Photo: Becky Davis / Oxfam

As a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice, Oxfam envisions a future that is equal. We also believe that ordinary people can drive extraordinary change, and we honor their courage, urgency and conviction. We recently honored some remarkable women who are leading the way to transformational change.

Last year, during Women’s History Month, our Oxfam Sisters on the Planet Ambassadors launched the Champions of Equality Award, where we honored five incredible women who go above and beyond to drive the extraordinary change that we need.

Those women show tremendous leadership by bringing resources, opportunities, and access to people and communities in need. They produce inclusive platforms by challenging racial and/or gender inequities; promote equality of opportunity through leadership and leadership development; and create safe, welcoming, and supportive spaces for impacted people.

This year, on International Women’s Day, Oxfam Sisters honored women who speak truth to power. Women who share untold stories. Women who use their voices to fight for what is right, defend themselves and others, and stay strong when faced with challenges or threats.

The award luncheon was held in Washington, DC on March 14, and was the first time our Ambassadors have been in person together since December of 2019. During the luncheon, Sisters were able to recognize two of the inaugural recipients of the award, A’shanti Gholar and Uyen Nguyen.

Oxfam America President and CEO Abby Maxman with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota at the Sisters on the Planet Champions of Equality Award ceremony in Washington, DC March 2023. Photo: Becky Davis / Oxfam

2023 Champions of Equality

The Honorable Kiah Morris

Through her art and activism, Kiah Morris transforms the stories she has heard, the experiences of women she has met, and the places she has gone into works that move decisionmakers to take action. Her piece “I Saw the Places They Died” was read into the Congressional record, and helped amplify the experiences of directly impacted people. In the documentary film Backlash: Misogyny in the Digital Age, Kiah tells her story about the vitriol and threats she endured as the only Black woman in the Vermont state legislature. Through her courage and willingness to speak out, Kiah creates movements and moments that are the sparks of change.

Rachel Lears

Rachel Lears first captivated us with her Emmy-nominated 2014 film The Hand That Feeds, which deals with immigration, labor, and food systems; then she stunned us with her powerful account of grassroots democracy and Congressional history in the Netflix hit Knock Down the House. In her most recent film, To the End, Rachel lifts up the stories, advocacy, fight, and determination of people fighting climate change, who may not be heard or seen otherwise. The protagonists of her films–usually women and young people–bear witness to some of the most grave, sobering, and urgent issues of our time, while also giving us many reasons to hope. Through human, dignified stories she reminds us (when we need it most) that change is possible and inspires us (through the example of others) to never give up.

Mikhiela Sherrod, Director of Oxfam's US Domestic Program, presents the award to Colette Pichon Battle, who wasn't able to attend the ceremony.

Colette Pichon Battle

Colette Pichon Battle has been admired for her leadership for over 15 years, as she has lifted up and fought for her community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She shows up in community, local, state, national, and global spaces demanding that her neighbors be seen and heard. She fights with passion and enduring love for equality and justice for all, and has created safe spaces for folks to grieve, heal, build, fight, and lead. Colette has always spoken to the heart of our climate crisis-the injustice, the inequality, and the imbalance of power. Everywhere she goes, and in everything she has done, she brings community along with her. She is a leader among leaders and truly a champion of equality.

The Honorable Jo Ann Hardesty

Jo Ann Hardesty is the embodiment of service. Not only did she serve in the US Navy, serve in the Oregon legislature, and serve as the first Black woman on the Portland City Council, she has served in numerous leadership roles as a community organizer and as a Sister on the Planet Ambassador. In the fight for justice, she stood up for her community and demanded police accountability and police reforms. She called out direct attacks, lies, and threats to herself and her community. She has never wavered in her fight to see a future that is equal for all, and remains a champion for her community with an innate dedication to service.

The Honorable Ilhan Omar

Despite constant attacks on her faith and her person, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has continued to stand strong and speak truth to power on behalf of directly impacted people in her community and around the globe. She has shown a commitment to holding those in power accountable, ensuring that leaders both inside and outside of US government own their contributions to inequity. She has stood with Oxfam and the global community on humanitarian issues, aid, climate change, and all fights against inequality. Her work is changing our world for the better.

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