Hilton Humanitarian Prize Goes to Women for Women International, Aiding Women Survivors in Conflict Areas with Emotional, Economic, Leadership Training Support

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$1.5 million prize to be used for safe permanent women’s centers; operates in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria, Colombia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

No society can progress if women are not fully engaged.

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Women for Women International (http://www.womenforwomen.org), a leading force in helping women in war and conflict areas move from crisis and poverty to stability and self sufficiency, has been selected to receive the 2006 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation presents the annual award, the world’s largest humanitarian prize, to an organization that significantly alleviates human suffering.

“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 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,” he added.

Founded in 1993 by Zainab Salbi, herself a survivor of war and conflict in Iraq, Women for Women International today works with women survivors of wars and conflicts in nine countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Kosovo, Colombia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Picking up where humanitarian aid leaves off, Women for Women International has served more than 70,000 women and distributed approximately $28 million in direct aid and micro-credit loans, assisting 380,000 family members. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., field offices are staffed almost entirely by country nationals.

“We are incredibly proud and grateful to receive the Hilton Humanitarian Prize,” said Salbi. “It reinforces our vision that stronger women build stronger nations and encourages us to work harder to bring the voices and concerns of the women we serve to the forefront.

“Women are the glue that keeps families and communities whole,” she continued. “No society can progress if women are not fully engaged.” Salbi reports that the $1.5 million prize will be used as a challenge gift with the goal of raising $6 million to build permanent safe women’s centers in the countries where the organization has operations. “In this way, women will have a place to go to work, learn about their rights, operate businesses and teach others,” she says.

Inspired to start Women for Women International after reading of rape camps in Bosnia and Croatia, Salbi created an innovative sister-to-sister program that matches women sponsors with women whose lives have been torn apart by war and conflict. Sponsors donate $27 monthly to provide basic necessities such as food, clean water, medicine, schoolbooks or seed money for income-producing projects.

Sponsors also exchange letters with their “sisters,” giving hope and encouragement that is as critical to aiding a woman to move from victim to survivor to independent citizen as financial support, notes Salbi. Tens of thousands of women in every state of the U.S. as well as 56 other countries serve as sponsors and exchanged 47,000 letters last year as well as contributed about 40 percent of the organization’s budget.

Commenting on the Hilton Prize jury’s selection of Women for Women International, Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics, Harvard professor and Hilton Prize juror, said, “Women for Women International has sharply identified the nature and complexities of a much neglected need associated with wars — the urgency of providing rehabilitation to people, particularly women, left destitute, impoverished or displaced by the hostilities.” He added, “The organization is already protecting millions of lives from short-term agony and long-term ruination.”

Salbi wrote her personal story, “Between Two Worlds, Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam,” a best- selling book now being issued in paperback. She has become an international spokesperson on women in post-conflict situations and speaks at leading forums such as the 2006 Davos World Economic Forum. Salbi’s second book, “The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope,” will be published by National Geographic on September 19th, 2006.

This year’s Hilton Prize jury includes: Princess Salimah Aga Khan, International Ambassador for SOS-Kinderdorf International; Susanna Agnelli, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Italy; William H. Foege, M.D., Chairman, Global Health Council and Senior Advisor, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; James R. Galbraith, Director, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; Eric M. Hilton, Director, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and son of Conrad Hilton; Olara A. Otunnu, former UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and former Ugandan Minister for Foreign Affairs; and Professor Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics and Lamont University Professor at Harvard University.

“The Hilton Prize was established in 1996 to call attention to organizations that are effective and innovative leaders in addressing humanitarian needs and to encourage others to contribute to their good work,” according to Judy Miller, vice president of the Hilton Foundation and director of the Hilton Prize. Miller said Women for Women International was one of more than 250 nominees for the 2006 Hilton Prize. A distinguished international jury makes the final selection following a rigorous examination of the nominees, including field visits to sites around the world.

The Hilton Prize is presented in conjunction with the annual Hilton Humanitarian Symposium, this year set for October 30 at the New York Hilton, with Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, as keynote speaker. The symposium, created and spearheaded by Miller, brings together humanitarian and policy leaders from throughout the world to discuss global issues and solutions. This year's theme is “Democracy and Development: Political, Economic and Human Rights.”

The prize recipients are the finest organizations in the humanitarian world and all are helping the vulnerable throughout the globe. Previous recipients are: Partners in Health (Massachusetts) 2005; Heifer International (Arkansas) 2004; International Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (Denmark) 2003; SOS Children’s Villages (Austria) 2002; St. Christopher’s Hospice (England) 2001; Casa Alianza (Costa Rica) 2000; African Medical and Research Foundation (Kenya) 1999; Doctors Without Borders (France) 1998; International Rescue Committee (New York) 1997; and Operation Smile (Virginia) 1996.

Based in Los Angeles, the Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by the late hotel entrepreneur and business leader, Conrad N. Hilton, who left his fortune to the foundation with instructions to help the most disadvantaged and vulnerable throughout the world without regard to religion, ethnicity or geography. Along with its related entities, the foundation has total assets of approximately $2.6 billion and, since its inception, has provided more than $450 million for charitable projects throughout the United States and the world. It is one of the few U.S. foundations with a worldwide mission, in keeping with the wishes of Conrad Hilton who noted that the Hilton fortune was built internationally as well as domestically. The foundation is an independent nonprofit organization and is not part of the Hilton Hotels Corporation.

For more information, visit http://www.womenforwomen.org and http://www.hiltonfoundation.org

Contact: Casey Sayre & Williams

Barbara Casey

(310) 396-2400

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