Women for Women International in Washington, D.C., has been named the winner of the 2006 Hilton Humanitarian Prize, which comes with a $1.5 million award, one of the largest monetary prizes, in any category, in the world.
Founded in 1993 by Zainab Salbi — who survived years of strife in Iraq — Women for Women International (WWI) works with female survivors of war and conflict in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Sudan. Picking up where humanitarian aid leaves off, WWI has served more than 70,000 women, assisted 380,000 family members, and distributed approximately $28 million in direct aid and micro-credit loans. The organization also operates a sister-to-sister program and a letter exchange that matches female sponsors with women who have lived through similar conflicts; its field offices are staffed almost entirely by country nationals. Salbi said the prize money will serve as a challenge gift for a $6 million campaign to build permanent safe women's centers in countries in which WWI operates.
"Women and children bear the major burdens of the unprecedented number of wars and civil conflicts raging worldwide and are often left to rebuild their lives without the basic necessities for survival or a viable means to earn a living and take care of their families," said Steven M. Hilton, chairman and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. "Women for Women International has demonstrated that it can create change and stability within a society by providing women survivors with the tools and resources to rebuild their lives. The organization also gives women the training and confidence to engage in their communities' and ultimately their nation's economic, political and social structures."