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Zahra Aziz, Marketing Manager, Friends of UNFPA
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Executive Director of Sierra Leone's Women in Crisis Movement Receives International Recognition for Collaboration with UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund  

American representatives will travel to Sierra Leone in July to meet Ms. Juliana Konteh who will receive the 2011 Americans for UNFPA International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women  

New York, NY- June 15, 2011- Americans for UNFPA, the official U.S. support organization for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund selected Juliana Konteh, Executive Director of the Women in Crisis Movement (WICM), as one of two recipients who will receive the 2011 Americans for UNFPA International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women. 

Ms. Konteh is being recognized for improving the lives of women in Sierra Leone In October, she will travel on an all expense paid trip to the United States to meet with UNFPA supporters, students, NGO partners, members of the media and representatives from the United States Congress. She will be presented with the award at a gala held at Espace in New York City on October 6th. Ms. Konteh will also receive a grant to support the life-saving work she does with the Women in Crisis Movement. She will be honored alongside other Americans and Savithri Wijesekera, Executive Director of Women in Need from Sri Lanka.  Ms. Konteh and Ms. Wijesekera were selected from applicants spanning the 155 countries, areas and territories where UNFPA works.  They were selected by an independent jury.

Americans for UNFPA is a non-profit organization that works to raise awareness and support within the United States for UNFPA. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, provides life-saving services to women, children and families around the world. UNFPA works to counter extreme deprivation by ensuring increased access to adequate healthcare, the most basic of human rights. 

Awarded annually, the Americans for UNFPA International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women recognizes two people who have made exemplary contributions to women’s health (i.e. safe motherhood, family planning, HIV prevention) and/or the promotion of women’s rights (i.e. prevention of gender-based violence, promotion of education for women/girls).  Honorees must currently work for a program that is supported by UNFPA, as a volunteer or paid staff.

In 2011, the Gala and award program will also commemorate a major global milestone, as the world population is slated to reach 7 billion people in late October.  Ms. Konteh will share her experiences and accomplishments with American audiences to build global understanding of and support for women’s health and rights.

“With the support of UNFPA, outstanding women in countries around the world are dedicating their lives to ensure that women in their community are empowered and offered life chances that are otherwise a distant dream,” says Wendy Cai Lee Chair of the Board, Americans for UNFPA.  “This award allows us to share the strategies, successes and the urgency to improve women’s lives in one community, and these stories have the power to impact and inspire both American audiences and women around the world.” 

Ms. Konteh leads Women in Crisis Movement (WICM), a UNFPA partner organization in Sierra Leone, which offers health care, vocational skills training, shelter, and education to women so they can stop doing commercial sex work and establish some stability in their lives. In almost all instances, the women are survivors of brutal sexual attacks and other violence related to the 11-year war in Sierra Leone. Many were abducted and/or attacked when they were not yet teenagers. WICM offers psychosocial support so the women can begin to recover from trauma and develop healthy adult coping skills. A two-year vocational skills training program culminates with a public ceremony embracing the women as full participants and contributors to the community. Program graduates earn a business start-up kit which includes a sewing machine, seed money for rent, and a period of supervision while they start their businesses.  The program has improved dramatically the reproductive health and well-being of women in and around Freetown and the Tongo Field, a low-income mining area. Its success has slowed the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted illnesses, and offered economic and social power to women who previously had the least.

Angeline Martyn, a representative from Americans for UNFPA who oversees the annual International Award Program will be in Sierra Leone from July 19 - 25th to meet with Ms. Konteh, visit UNFPA field programs and meet with other dignitaries.  Tara Suri, a junior at Harvard University, and winner of the 2011 Student Award will accompany Ms. Martyn and will live blog about her experience on MarieClaire.com.

The Jury for the 2011 Americans for UNFPA International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women included: Debra Bednar, Strategist, Global Customer Marketing, Facebook; Dr. Florence Haseltine, founder of Society for Women's Health Research and the Journal of Women's Health and Gender-Based Medicine; Director of the Center for Population Research, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the NIH; Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Associate Dean for Diversity and Minority Affairs at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons; and Radha Subramanyam, SVP, Consumer Insights and Analytics at The Nielsen Company and NMIncite, A Nielsen McKinsey Company.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, provides women's health care and promotes the rights of women around the world.  Americans for UNFPA is dedicated to building American support for the work of UNFPA and to restoring the United States' moral, political and financial contribution to the organization.      

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