Laying the Groundwork for Victory: IWHC Honors Women’s Rights Visionaries

Joined by more than 350 guests, the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) hosted its 2019 Annual Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental in New York on April 10 to honor fierce leaders championing the rights of women and girls. The event raised over $1.5 million dollars to support IWHC’s vital work to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people around the world, making it the most successful dinner in IWHC’s 35-year history.

IWHC Board Chair Marlene Hess received the Visionary Leadership Award for her unwavering commitment to the health and rights of women and girls, as well as her service to the organization during a period of important growth. IWHC also bestowed its Joan B. Dunlop Award—named after the organization’s founder and first president—to Marta Alanis for her groundbreaking and inspiring mobilization to advance abortion rights in Argentina. Alanis is the founder of Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir-Argentina (CDD-Argentina), an IWHC grantee partner that works to expand sexual and reproductive rights for Argentine women.

Director of the Museum of Modern Art Glenn Lowry introduced Marlene Hess and recognized her stalwart support of IWHC’s work in the face of increasing opposition: “She believes passionately in the importance of reproductive rights and health of girls and women, and at a time when these rights are being challenged here and abroad, she is a beacon for the continued efforts to ensure that women around the world have control of their bodies and their health.”

IWHC Board Chair Marlene Hess delivers her remarks | Photo: Sean Sime for IWHC

In her remarks, Hess reflected on a recent trip to Brazil where she accompanied IWHC staff on grantee partner site visits. Explaining how IWHC bolsters the women’s movement through its partnerships with local women’s groups, she noted: “We listen to them, we learn from them, and it informs all of our work. And we are absolutely committed to strengthening this generation of activists so that they can…fight for their rights and defend themselves and their voices can be heard.”

IWHC President Françoise Girard provided the keynote address and stressed that though the tide is turning for women’s rights, there is still work to be done. “We should be proud of our accomplishments, but we must not mistake progress for victory,” she urged. “In fact, because of the gains we have made, opposition groups are fighting harder than ever to roll back women’s rights.” The message was clear: this is a moment for urgency, not complacency, and we must press the advantage.

The evening spotlighted the gains made this past year on abortion rights in Argentina and the sweeping mobilization of the Green Wave. The activism of this movement led the lower house of Congress to cast a historic vote to pass an abortion decriminalization bill and move it to the Senate for a vote, where it was narrowly defeated. As this fight continues for legal change in Argentina, the Green Wave has already achieved a major victory: it has ignited a national discussion on abortion rights and started to uproot harmful cultural norms. For millions of Argentines, there is no going back.

IWHC Director of Grantmaking and International Partnerships Jessie Clyde presents the Joan B. Dunlop Award to Marta Alanis | Sean Sime for IWHC

In a heartfelt moment, IWHC Director of Grantmaking and International Partnerships Jessie Clyde presented the Joan B. Dunlop Award to Marta Alanis, and the crowd welcomed her to the stage by waving green pañuelos in a recreation of the Green Wave. Moved by the solidarity in the room, Alanis attributed the strength of the Green Wave to its diversity, acknowledging the various sectors and players that participated in the movement, in particular, young people.

Argentina’s Green Wave is just one example of how IWHC’s sustained support of local women’s groups can help create change. Highlighting the organization’s commitment to resourcing the women’s movement over the long-term, Girard said: “We are laying the groundwork for a future victory. As we’ve done time and again, we at IWHC play the long game.” IWHC will continue to support movements like the one in Argentina for as long as it takes to achieve gender justice.

At the event, IWHC shared Marta’s story through a special video presentation. Watch now to learn more about her fight to advance women’s rights in Argentina:



If you missed the event and are inspired to support IWHC with a generous gift, please donate here.

Special thanks to our steering committee:

  • Alexander M. Farman-Farmaian
  • Françoise Girard
  • David Knott
  • Sophie Nicholson
  • Susan Nitze
  • Marnie S. Pillsbury
  • Kathleen Regan
  • Diana L. Taylor
  • Sarah Billinghurst Solomon
  • Jim Zirin

If you are interested in getting involved in the IWHC Annual Dinner Steering Committee for 2020, please contact Lindsey Amato at or +1 212-801-1280.

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