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Voices of Faith, Caritas Award First Ever Women, Sowers of Development Award

Will Mark International Womens’ Day Sunday in Vatican’s Casina Pius XI

Nicaraguan farmers and Syrian refugees have won the Caritas-Voices of Faith-prize for women.

During a press conference yesterday at the Hotel Columbus in Vatican City, Caritas Internationalis and Voices of Faith gave the new prestigious “Women, Sowers of Development” award, which is awarded to groups which empower women and fight hunger.

The winners will receive their award, of 10,000 Euro, at the “Voices of Faith” storytelling event Sunday, March 8. International Women’s Day. 

To Caritas Nicaragua, the prize will be given for empowering rural women to grow more food to eat and to sell. In fact, the Caritas program gives farmers seeds, training, and irrigation systems, like motorized pumps and hoses, to those who otherwise would starve. Two Nicaraguan women farmers spoke to those present about how their initiatives are giving women the confidence they need to make a difference and realize their worth. 

“In communities where women are sometimes devalued,” said Juana Bertha Duarte Somoza, a Caritas Nicaragua staff member, “these women farmers have been able to change their lives for the better.”

She had been accompanied by farmer Alba Marina Rosales Ruiz to Rome for the Voices of Faith ceremony.

“The ‘Women, Sowers of Development’ award makes the work of women visible and empowers them to speak out for themselves,” said Martina Liebsch, director of advocacy for Caritas Internationalis.

Liebsch told ZENIT how meaningful it was to not only share with the world what these women have done, but to honor them and their work this weekend at the Vatican.

“Women are using their talents and being valued for what they do. The prize money should encourage them to continue their journey to help themselves, their families and their communities. Hopefully, other women will be inspired by their example,” she said.

In Syria, many refugee women are alone with their children and have no way to earn a living. Basmeh and Zeitooneh, an association helping refugee women who live in Lebanon, will receive the 10,000 euro prize for a non-Caritas project.

This charitable project runs an embroidery program and other projects that help refugee women from Syria and Palestine support their families. 

“These women are brave,” says Reem Alhaswani, a Syrian refugee herself who started Basmeh and Zeitooneh with other community leaders.

“We were able through our activities to turn this tragic situation into a fresh start for the women.”

Founder of Voices of Faith, Chantal Goetz, expressed, “We are very happy to partner with Caritas Internationalis on this prize to recognize the best ideas of women.”

 “Women have practical ideas on how to meet everyday challenges, but are seldom given the opportunity to share them in a meaningful way,” she noted.

Goetz also said that it was difficult to select among all the finalists who should win, and added how many best practices had been implemented.

It is our goal, she added, to create more collaboration with Catholic organizations “so that we can take advantage of each other’s strengths and promote solutions that work.”

The press conference also featured a speaker from the second annual Voices of Faith storytelling event, to be held in the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV Sunday.

Mary McFarland, founder and International Director of Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins, shared highlights of her upcoming talk “From Teacher to Student to Teacher: A Living Conversation about Education in Refugee Camps”.

McFarland spoke about the power of education and on Women’s Day. This Sunday, she and other women will speak about their work in accompanying the poor, upholding human dignity and promoting equality.

A core initiative of the Liechtenstein-based Fidel Götz Foundation, Voices of Faith works to enrich the lives of women and girls globally. It supports initiatives in the Vatican and with global Catholic organizations.

The official humanitarian and development organization of the Catholic Church, Caritas Internationalis is dedicated to serving the poor and promoting charity and justice.

Inspired by the Gospels and Catholic teaching, more than 160 national members of Caritas Internationalis work to promote peace between peoples, sustainable development, the right to food, safe migration, decent work and good health. 

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On the NET:

Caritas Internationalis : www.caritas.org

About the Fidel Gotz Foundation: www.fidelgoetzstiftung.com

About Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is a Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in four languages). She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight, and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, EWTN and Salt & Light. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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