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Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, the chief of the Dedza district in Malawi who has been steadfast in her stance against child marriage, has been named the recipient of the 2016 Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award.
Over a decade ago, Chief Kachindamoto was made chief of Dedza, responsible for oversight of 900,000 people. Since then, she has made education a top priority, insisting—in spite of common cultural traditions—that children must finish school. One of the primary obstacles to completing an education has been the prevalence of child marriage, which both curtails school attendance and often hastens parenthood. Chief Kachindamoto is changing the priorities for her tribe.
Five years ago, the Kalishers created their Humanitarian Award to recognize someone who has made a positive impact on humanity at great risk to themselves and reward him or her with the gift of art. “This is our small way of thanking the world’s bravest actors of change,” Jesse said. Chief Kachindamoto will receive a limited edition, hand-signed and numbered fine art photograph of Jesse’s and a $2,000 donation to her tribal efforts to end child marriage.
According to UN Women, the United Nations’ Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, “in Malawi in 2012, one in every two girls was married before the age of 18 and…it has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, ranked 8th out of 20 countries considered to have the highest rates.” Cultural customs and financial pressures are often the cause of child marriages in Malawi despite a national law that bans marriage before the age of 18. Despite stiff resistance from her own community, Chief Kachindamoto has remained resolute in her determination to eliminate child marriage, even going door-to-door to convince her constituents that education should be the priority for the district’s children.
Thanks to Chief Kachindamoto, several hundred customary child marriages—both of boys and girls—have been annulled in the past three years. She has obtained commitments to ban future child marriages and to annul existing ones. To further the community’s dedication to this cause, she has installed a parent network to ensure that education remains the priority. Generating support from the community, Chief Kachindamoto is improving the future of thousands of children in Dedza.
Chief Kachindamoto has made headlines across global news outlets and non-governmental organizations, including Al Jazeera, the New York Times, and the United Nations. Today, she received the 2016 Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award.
“I am honored to receive this Huminatarian Award,” Chief Kachindamoto said from her home in Malawi. “Art plays a critical role in Malawi and in the world and I appreciate that artists are taking a stand to support what we’re doing here. When artists speak out, the world is a better place. I thank Helen and Jesse for recognizing the importance of giving children the opportunity to be children—to learn, to grow. Thank you for joining me in my commitment to allow the children of Dedza district to do that.”
In bestowing the award, Mr. Kalisher pointed out that Chief Kachindamoto has made significant contributions to humanity, starting with her district in Malawi. “Just as education is important to every child, art is important to our progress as a society,” he said. “Chief Kachindamoto is making a remarkable statement against child marriage in her country—and, critically, doing something to effect change.”
Susana Trimarco, an Argentinian human rights activist who has dedicated her life to fighting human trafficking, has been named the recipient of the 2014 Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award.
In 2002, Trimarco’s 23-year-old daughter, Marita, was kidnapped by a human trafficking network and believed to have been forced into a life of prostitution. Trimarco, at great risk to herself, went undercover in search of her daughter and in the process, helped free other women who had been kidnapped and forced into a life of prostitution.
In 2007, Trimarco founded Fundación María de los Ángeles ("Foundation of María of the Angels") in order to continue to rescue kidnapped girls throughout Argentina. Since then, her organization has helped free hundreds of women, and Trimarco has testified against and helped convict numerous human traffickers. “I don’t care if they kill me,” Trimarco said. “I will never give up. I will never shut up, never, never.”
Globally, millions of people are trafficked each year, half of them children. This can be tied directly to the explosion of legal prostitution around the world in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons report, between 4 and 27 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide. Eighty percent of the trafficked people are women and girls and 70 percent of those are believed to have been trafficked into the sex industry.
Because of Trimarco’s work, human trafficking was finally made a federal crime in Argentina four years ago. Since then, 7,000 people have been rescued from such slavery. Trimarco herself has rescued 150 girls including some as young as 12 years old.
Trimarco has been recognized over the years with many awards including the Premio Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (Domingo Faustino Sarmiento Award) for her work in promotion of human rights awarded by the Argentinean Senate as well as the International Women of Courage Award, conferred by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Department of State. Today, she received the 2014 Helen & Jesse Kalisher Humanitarian Award.
Five years ago, The Kalishers created their Humanitarian Award to recognize someone who had done something miraculous for humanity and to reward him or her with the gift of art. “It's a small way for us to say thank you and to show our appreciation and respect for the tough choices that someone has made,” Mr. Kalisher said. “It’s our way of showing support and for being heard,” he added, pointing out that this year’s honoree, Ms. Trimarco, has made significant and remarkable achievements, and in the face of grave threats against her, in order to better the world in which we live.
Mr. Kalisher’s interest in women’s rights was influenced by the fact that he was raised by Ilse Kalisher, a single mother. In addition, the Kalishers have traveled much of the world since 2001, during which time – while not exposed to the perils of human trafficking – they have been impressed with the need to actively support the human rights of women worldwide.
“I am honored to accept this award,” Ms. Trimarco said from her home in Argentina. “Art is important and plays an invaluable role in our lives and in society. Indeed, art is a mirror of who we are at a moment in time. And I appreciate the effort the Kalishers are making to use their art to raise awareness. It all helps and is all important.
The Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award a gift of a limited edition, hand signed collector’s print of one of Mr. Kalisher’s photographs (www.jessekalisher.com) as well as a $1,000 donation to Fundación María de los Ángeles.
The previous recipients of the Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award have been Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, who was instrumental in exposing lies and fraud within the American Tobacco Industry, Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, who successfully led a peace movement in Liberia, Urmi Basu, a champion for at-risk girls and young women in Kolkata, India, and Ann Cotton, a British woman who is revolutionizing the lives of women in sub-Saharan Africa.
Ann Cotton, a British woman who is revolutionizing the lives of women in sub-Saharan Africa, has been awarded the 2013 Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award.
Ms. Cotton first visited Zimbabwe in 1991. She was so moved by what she saw that two years later she founded Camfed (Campaign for Female Education) with a bake sale that sent 32 girls to school. Today, in her 22nd year, more than 2,000,000 women can look back and thank Camfed for having helped them get a life-changing, if not life-saving education.
The first step in making a difference is to, “understand the reality, and the context of people’s lives." Ms. Cotton said. When asked what it takes to succeed in changing the lives of girls and others in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ms. Cotton observed, “you need to be absolutely dogged. You need to listen to the people experiencing the problems, and their ideas need to crowd out the words of the 'can't be done-ers'.”
According to the World Bank, in 2010, 48.5 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lived on $1.25 a day or less, a principal factor in causing widespread hunger and inequality. In this environment, work often supersedes education. Indeed, due to poverty, most parents choose to send only their sons to school, leaving as many as 24 million girls without access to an education at any given time.
A girl in this part of Africa may marry as young as 13, give birth to (on average) 5.2 children and has a one in 22 chance of dying in childbirth. One in six of her children will die before the age of five. In contrast, if that same girl receives an education she will a) earn up to 25% more and reinvest 90% in her family, b) be three times less likely to become HIV-positive and c) have fewer, healthier children who are 40% more likely to live past the age of five.
In light of these facts, the mission of Camfed and Ann Cotton couldn’t be more important. “A social entrepreneur,” Ms. Cotton has said, “is someone who witnesses the pain and struggle in the lives of others and is compelled to act and to alleviate them... The only failure lies in not trying, or giving up.”
Ms. Cotton has been recognized over the years with many awards including The Order of the British Empire and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Her organization, CAMFED, has also received the International Development Charity of the Year Award for starting a significant change. Today, she received The Helen & Jesse Kalisher Humanitarian Award.
Four years ago, Mr. & Mrs. Kalisher created their Humanitarian Award to recognize someone who has done something miraculous for humanity and to reward them with the gift of art. “It's a small way for us to say thank you and to show our appreciation and respect for the tough choices that someone has made,” Mr. Kalisher said. “It’s our way of showing support and for being heard,” he added, pointing out that this year’s honoree, Ms. Cotton, has made significant and remarkable achievements, and in the face of great odds against her, in order to better the world in which we live.
In 2001 and 2002, Mr. & Mrs. Kalisher traveled through countries in the Middle East, India and sub-Saharan East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar). “I was particularly struck by the lives of women in many of the countries we visited,” Mr. Kalisher said. “There’s a challenge in this part of the world in which women are second class citizens. It’s shocking that this is simply accepted by so many people around the world as the status quo.” Jesse and Helen left the area convinced that, long-term, they needed to find a way to help women get on equal footing.
“I am honored to accept this award,” Ms. Cotton said from her office in Cambridge, England. “Art matters – and artists are often the window to our values and priorities. I appreciate that Helen and Jesse, as artists, are engaged in the world and want to make a statement about the value and importance of educating girls and our work at Camfed.” Ms. Cotton added that she is going to ask the Kalishers about helping evolve the art curriculum for the Camfed program.
The Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award a gift of a limited edition, hand signed collector’s print of one of Mr. Kalisher’s photographs (www.jessekalisher.com) as well as a $1,000 donation to Camfed. Ms. Cotton selected “San Francisco Sunrise,” an image with particular meaning to Ms. Cotton. “I rode a bicycle over the Golden Gate Bridge once. Somehow I had not understood the scale of the bridge and I got severe vertigo! All I could do was try and concentrate on my feet, walking one step after the other to get to the other side alongside the bike. I guess this is metaphorical for the way I have had to conquer my fears at times in my work and just move forward, one step at a time."
Urmi Basu, champion for at-risk girls and young women in Kolkata, India has been awarded the 2012 Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award. In the face of overwhelming poverty and the associated risks of the sex trade and human trafficking, Ms. Basu and the organization she founded, New Light (www.newlightindia.org), stand firmly in support of those most at risk of being harmed.
Ms. Basu founded New Light in 2000 with $200. She continued her work despite serious objections and resistance from her matrimonial family. Today, New Light provides shelter, food, healthcare and education for hundreds of at-risk women and children. “What New Light really provides,” Mr. Kalisher observed, “is a chance at a life free of abuse of all types.”
“Every act of violence can be overcome with tolerance and compassion,” Ms. Basu said, adding that, “What matters is not how much we do, but that we at least do something.”
Mr. Kalisher noted that his mother Ilse Kalisher shared the same philosophy. “When I was a child, mom often pointed out that what mattered most was that we take small actions on the theory that if everyone around us did the same, we would have significant impact on the world around us.” Mr. Kalisher added that his mother’s reaction to a crime wave in Washington Heights where they lived was not to stay indoors, but just the opposite, to go outside in the hope that if everyone stepped out onto the streets, the criminals would disappear.
In India, a nation where nearly half the women are illiterate, where the World Bank reports 800 million people live on less than $2 a day, where Human Rights Watch reports 15 million children are bonded laborers (sold as collateral on a debt), and where other reports place an estimated 1.2 million children and nearly another 1.8 million women work in the sex trade, the work of Ms. Basu and New Light is critical not only in the direct assistance it provides, but in the example it sets and the leadership it offers for other like-minded people and organizations.
In 2001 and 2002, Mr. & Mrs. Kalisher traveled through countries in the Middle East, East Africa as well as in India. “I was particularly struck by the lives of women in many of the countries we visited,” Mr. Kalisher said. “There’s a challenge in many countries in which women are second class citizens and it’s shocking that this is simply accepted by so many people around the world, indeed here in the United States, as the status quo.”
Three years ago, Mr. & Mrs. Kalisher decided to recognize someone who has done something miraculous and under-recognized, for humanity and to reward them with the gift of art. “It's a small way for us to say thank you and to show our appreciation and respect for the tough choices that someone has made,” Mr. Kalisher said. “It’s our way of showing support and for being heard,” he added, pointing out that this year’s honoree, Ms. Basu, has made significant sacrifices in order to better the world in which we live.
“I am honored to accept this award,” Ms. Basu said from her office in Kolkata. “Art plays an important part in life and it’s a good lesson to us all, to see artists speaking up with their voices in support of helping others.” Ms. Basu said she looks forward to welcoming Mr. & Mrs. Kalisher back to India on their next visit.
The Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award includes a gift of a limited edition, hand signed collector’s print of one of Mr. Kalisher’s photographs (www.jessekalisher.com). Ms. Basu chose an image from the Taj Mahal that Mr. Kalisher captured when he was there with Helen in 2002. “We spent three days at the Taj Mahal,” Mr. Kalisher said, “watching the light change and waiting for perfect moments.” The image Ms. Basu chose (#2601) is one that Mr. Kalisher said he, “captured just before sunrise as the sun lit the sky and bounced off of high clouds, but had not yet peeked over the horizon.”
The previous recipients of the Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award have been Dr. Jeffrey Wigand who was instrumental in exposing lies and fraud within the American Tobacco Industry and Nobel Laureate, Leymah Gbowee who successfully led a peace movement in Liberia.
Leymah Gbowee, Liberian anti-war hero and Nobel Peace Laureate, was awarded the second annual Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award this past March. Ms. Gbowee achieved international prominence when in 2002, she led women throughout war-torn Liberia on a series of protests and strikes that ultimately brought an end to more than a decade of civil war.
“When we think of the lives Ms. Gbowee has saved,” Mr. Kalisher said, “when we think of the women, children, even the soldiers – not one or two, but millions of lives affected, tens of thousands – possibly more – saved from violence and premature death. And Ms. Gbowee did this through the use of persistent and creative non-violent protest… We are overwhelmed with admiration.”
“I’m honored to accept this award,” Ms. Gbowee said from her office in Liberia where she continues her humanitarian efforts. “Art plays an important role in our lives and I appreciate the gift and recognition.”
“Helen and I set out to recognize someone who has done something miraculous and under-recognized, for humanity and to reward them with the gift of art,” Mr. Kalisher said. “It's a small way for us to say thank you and to show our appreciation and respect for the tough choices that someone, in this case Ms. Gbowee, has made in order to better the world in which we live.
The Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award includes a gift of a limited edition, hand signed collector’s print of one of Mr. Kalisher’s photographs. Ms. Gbowee chose an image of an Ethiopian woman at a well, an empty clay jug perched atop her head. This image is part of Mr. Kalisher’s collection, “Half the Sky” which itself is a tribute to women.
The previous recipient of the Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award was Dr. Jeffrey Wigand who, at great personal and professional risk, was instrumental in bringing down the American Tobacco Industry.
Check out this amazing TED Talk:
Leymah Gbowee: Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girls
The winner of the 2010 inaugural Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award is Dr. Jeffrey Wigand. Dr. Wigand was the catalyst who changed forever the legal standing of tobacco in the United States (and indeed, the world) and who forced Big Tobacco to admit, ultimately and against their will, that tobacco is both addictive and deadly when used as instructed.
"Helen and I set out to recognize someone who has done something miraculous and under-recognized, for humanity and to reward them with the gift of art," Jesse said. "It's a small way for us to say thank you and to show our appreciation and respect for the choices that someone, in this case Dr. Wigand, has made."
The Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award includes a gift of a limited edition, hand signed collector's print of one of Mr. Kalisher's photographs. Dr. Wigand chose an image of the World Trade Center that he pointed out has, "deep personal and emotional meaning for him."