ACT for Women and Girls: Women of Vision Award

ACT LogoACT for Women and Girls (ACT) is located in Visalia, California, the epicenter and largest metropolitan area of Tulare County. Led by Erin Garner-Ford, ACT’s mission is to engage women of all ages in leadership opportunities to promote social and personal change. ACT was founded in 2005 with the creation of the Female Leadership Academy (FLA) program. From the inception of FLA, it was evident that reproductive justice issues demanded to be addressed, as participants were often misinformed about reproductive health, justice, and access. Unlike Southern California and the Bay Area, Tulare County has few resources and is the most adversely impacted region in California regarding social issues, such as poverty, unemployment, teen pregnancy, and environmental degradation.  ACT takes an active role in eradicating the oppression that lies deep in the roots of the Central Valley. Through one young woman at a time, ACT makes an impact.

ACT engages young people ages 14-24 through three program areas: The signature eight month leadership program, Female Leadership Academy (FLA), which develops young women leaders to actively engage in the reproductive health and justice movement; ACTion Teams for young women and men to educate their peers on sexual health information in the community through events, street outreach and education; and Teen Success, a support group for pregnant and parenting teen moms. ACT’s program participants come from every rural community in Tulare County.

Through ACT’s programs, young women are prepared and energized to actively participate in shaping the future of their communities (both locally and globally). ACT focuses on reproductive justice leadership, developing young women leaders to engage in civic participation projects and partners with state and national groups for policy advocacy work. The overarching vision of ACT’s reproductive justice work is to INCREASE ACCESS to reproductive health education, contraception, abortion, and protection against sexually transmitted infections. ACT strives to promote services that are comprehensive and culturally competent, influence legislation, and provide a voice from the Central Valley on important bills that impact women and their health.

Each of ACT’s program participants contribute to ACT’s grassroots campaigns to increase awareness of reproductive health and justice. One of the cornerstones to developing young women’s leadership is through direct action and organizing opportunities. Participants help shape and implement three signature reproductive justice campaigns annually: Pharmacy Access;  Comprehensive Sexual Health and Education Initiative; and “Don’t Let a Hot Date Turn Into a Due Date.”

Visit: ACT for Women and Girls

Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.: Women of Vision Award

CDM Logo_200pxSince 2005 Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM) has advocated for the labor and human rights of migrant workers. CDM is a binational, multilingual and woman-led organization empowering low-wage workers with critical tools to defend their rights.

Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM), led by Rachel Micah-Jones, focuses on improving working conditions for low-wage workers in the United States. Created in 2005 as a response to the abuses Micah-Jones witnessed among and heard about from migrant workers in rural Florida, CDM advocates for migrant workers’ rights on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. In the past ten years, CDM has met with more than 6,000 people in 23 states across Mexico to ensure that migrants know their rights before they cross the border.

Through direct services, advocacy and education, CDM empowers migrant workers with tools that help them build self-sufficiency to fight against harassment and abuse. CDM has collaborated with workers and allies to recover more than $5 million in unpaid wages and to establish important legal precedents and policies to protect migrants all along the migrant stream.

With services such as Proyecto de Mujeres Migrante, CDM also focuses on the unique situations that female migrant workers face. Their work with migrant workers has resulted in reports such as “Picked Apart” (2010) which shone a light on the harsh conditions women working in Maryland’s crab industry endure; the “Fair Workers, Fair Wages” campaign, beginning in 2011, which fought to protect workers in the traveling carnival and fair industries from human rights abuses; and in programs such as Comité de Defensa del Migrante, a committee led by community-based migrant workers who educate, train and organize fellow workers to defend their labor and human rights.

CDM’s binational, multilingual staff are based in Baltimore, Maryland, Mexico City, and in Juxtlhuaca, Oaxaca, with advocates in Zacatecas. The Ms. Foundation is proud to honor Centro de los Derechos del Migrante for their efforts to promote economic justice and autonomy for low-wage workers.

Visit: Centro de los Derechos del Migrante

Janet Mock: Marie C. Wilson Emerging Leader Award

Janet Mock_600pxJanet Mock is the New York Times bestselling author of Redefining Realness. She considers herself a Beyoncé scholar, but is widely known as a sought-after speaker and prominent advocate for trans women’s rights. Currently, she hosts the weekly culture show “So POPular!” on MSNBC’s Shift network and serves as Contributing Editor for Marie Claire.

Mock first told her story of growing up as a trans girl in 2011 in Marie Claire — a magazine for which she now works, writing articles about pop culture, gender, race and representation. She released her memoir Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More in February 2014, with feminist critic bell hooks calling Mock’s memoir, “A lifemap for transformation,” while Melissa Harris-Perry said “Mock does what only great writers of autobiography accomplish—she tells a story of the self, which turns out to be a reflection of all humanity.” The book was featured on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live,” “The Colbert Report” and “Melissa Harris-Perry,” and debuted at No. 19 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Mock has since brought her storytelling skills, journalism training and culture commentary to television. After guest hosting “HuffPost Live” and Pivot’s “TakePart Live,” she landed her own weekly popular culture show, “So POPular,” featured on MSNBC’s all-digital network Shift. She also serves as a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight. She was also featured in the HBO documentary The Out List and has appeared in the Washington PostNew York Times, NPR, Rookie, Salon, Slate, Feministing, Colorlines and more.

In 2012, Mock — who was called one of “the smartest women on Twitter” by Fast Company — launched #GirlsLikeUs, a social movement that empowers trans women and celebrates the diversity of womanhood. In 2013, Mock joined the board of directors at the Arcus Foundation, a leading global organization advancing social justice and conservation issues. The Feminist Press, GLSEN, Planned Parenthood and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project have honored Mock for her work. She was named one of TIME magazine’s 12 new faces of black leadership, as well as Vitamin W’s 2013 Woman of the Year and Advocate’s 50 Most Influential LGBT People in Media. She’s also been listed on the Out 100, Root 100, GOOD 100 and Grio 100.

A native of Honolulu, Mock attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, earned her MA in journalism from New York University, and worked as a Staff Editor for (People magazine’s website) for five years. She lives and writes in New York City with her fiancé, photographer and filmmaker Aaron Tredwell and their cockapoo Cleo.

Suzanne Lerner: Woman of Vision Award

Suzanne Lerner HSSuzanne Lerner is an entrepreneur, political activist and philanthropist. She is currently the president of Michael Stars and owner of Lerner Et Cie.

Suzanne Lerner boasts decades of experience in business, as well as a background in dozens of causes, primarily centered around female empowerment.  In 1983, Lerner founded Lerner et Cie, a wholesale fashion showroom, currently with four locations nationwide.

Lerner co-founded and currently serves as President of fashion clothing company Michael Stars.  The brand produces men’s and women’s lifestyle clothing and accessories and is carried in over 1000 stores including Bloomingdale’s and websites like Revolve and Zappos, and has 11 of its own branded retail stores with 3 more opening this year.  Michael ran the company with Lerner primarily overseeing sales and marketing.  In 2015, Lerner was appointed President of Michael Stars.

Lerner’s second career is philanthropy and giving back to communities both domestically and abroad.  She supports numerous causes personally, as well as through the Michael Stars Foundation.  The Foundation supports a variety of charities including the Joyful Heart Foundation, Ms. Foundation and We Advance, a non-profit co-founded by actress Maria Bello to advance the health and well being of women throughout Haiti.  With the help of Lerner, We Advance launched We Advance University, an online education portal with instructional videos for Haitian women and their communities.

Lerner serves on the board of Women Thrive Worldwide, ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Prosperity Catalyst and is an advisory board member of Children Mending Hearts.  She is also a member of Women Donors Network and Women Moving Millions. Lerner funds a number of NGO’s that focus on women’s empowerment, economic stability, gender reconciliation and gender-based violence.  For a full list, please visit

Lerner attributes her knowledge and education to her world travels and social activist agenda.  She also lived in India, France, and Australia, as well as studied at the University of Aix-en-provence.  She resides in Los Angeles.

GoldieBlox: Corporate Innovation Award

GoldieBlox logoGoldieBlox is a toy company founded by female mechanical engineer, Debbie Sterling. Sterling founded the company because she was bothered by the lack of women in the engineering field, and the lack of encouragement girls receive to go into the math and science fields.

GoldieBlox “[aims] to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.” They create toys that help tap into kid’s verbal and spatial skills and give them the confidence to invent and create. Historically, toys that are geared towards engineering and building have been marketed toward boys, but GoldieBlox wants to change the equation and “inspire the future generation of female engineers.” GoldieBlox was crowd funded using Kickstarter to raise money to manufacture the original toy prototype.

“Goldie,” is a smart young girl that Sterling created to be featured in the book that comes with the construction toy. The girls help Goldie solve problems by building things. The toy has been picked up by multiple big name stores, including Toys ‘R’ Us and Target.

Debbie Sterling gave a TED talk recently and the brand has been featured in the New York Times, Good Morning America, Elle, USA Today, and the Huffington Post, just to name a few. GoldieBlox won the American International Toy of the Year in 2014 and recently GoldieBlox received a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl for best small business.

Visit:     GoldieBlox
See:     GoldieBlox videos

Joan Ganz Cooney: Peggy Charren/Free to Be Award

Ganz Cooney with MuppetsJoan Ganz Cooney, co-founder in 1968 of Children’s Television Workshop (renamed Sesame Workshop in June 2000) and originator of the preschool educational series, Sesame Street, served as President and Chief Executive Officer until 1990. She is currently Chairman of the Executive Committee of Sesame Workshop’s Board of Trustees and in November 2007 introduced the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, dedicated to investigating the potential of digital media to help children learn and collaborating with educators, media producers, policymakers and investors to put this research into action.

Sesame Street, which began as an experiment, is the first preschool program to integrate education and entertainment as well as feature a multi-cultural cast.  It has been broadcast daily since 1969 in the U.S. on the more than 300 stations of the Public Broadcasting Service and is seen by millions of children in more than 150 countries.  Indigenous co-productions of Sesame Street reflecting local languages, customs and educational needs are produced for audiences all over the world.

Following the successful launch of Sesame Street, Mrs. Cooney and her colleagues created other award-winning children’s series on network and public TV including The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact, Square One TV, Ghostwriter, CRO, Big Bag, Dragon Tales, Sagwa the Chinese Cat and Pinky Dinky Doo, each offering educational opportunities around science, mathematics, reading and bringing new experiences to life.   Sesame Workshop programs have been awarded over 150 Emmys and have received scores of other honors presented here and around the world.  The Workshop’s activities also include publishing, digital media, product licensing and community engagement efforts such as the award winning program — Talk, Listen, Connect — launched in 2006 to help military families with young children between the ages of two and five build a sense of stability and resiliency during times of separation and change.

Mrs. Cooney received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arizona.  She began her career as a reporter in her hometown of Phoenix.  From 1954 to 1962 she worked as a publicist for NBC in New York and for the U.S. Steel Hour, a highly acclaimed CBS drama series.  She was an award-winning public affairs producer for New York’s WNET/Thirteen before conducting the study for Carnegie Corporation of New York in 1966, entitled, “The Potential Uses of Television in Preschool Education,” which led to the founding of the Workshop.

Mrs. Cooney is presently a Director at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and a Lifetime Trustee of the Paley Center for Media, The New York Presbyterian Hospital, WNET Channel 13/Educational Broadcasting Corporation and of the National Child Labor Committee.  She once held Corporate Board positions with the Chase Manhattan Bank, Xerox, Johnson & Johnson, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and Edison Schools, Inc.  She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

She has served as a member of the President’s Commission for a National Agenda for the Eighties, the President’s Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, the Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations, the Carnegie Foundation’s National Panel on the High School and the United Nation’s Reorientation of UN Information Activities Task Force.  Among her many honorary degrees are those from Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Barnard, New York University, Smith, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Oberlin, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Northwestern and her alma mater, the University of Arizona, from which she received the Centennial Medallion Award in 1989.

Mrs. Cooney has received numerous awards including a Daytime Emmy for Lifetime Achievement in 1989 and, in 1990, was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame and received the Founders Award from the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  In 1995, President Clinton awarded Mrs. Cooney the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and in 1998, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  Mrs. Cooney was honored with the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s award for Distinguished Contribution to Children and Television, noting Sesame Street as being “the quintessential children’s educational program” and in 2003 she was honored with the National Endowment for the Humanities Award by President George W. Bush.

Mrs. Cooney is married to New York businessman Peter G. Peterson, Chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

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