Meet the Honorees for the 12th Annual DVF Awards

The DVF Awards are going global! After a pandemic hiatus, the empowering and inspiring event — established to recognize women across industries who are dedicated to elevating the lives of other women — is back and bigger than ever. This year, founder Diane von Furstenberg has joined forces with the Women's Forum, kicking off its annual conference by hosting the DVF Awards on Nov. 17 at the Opéra Garnier in Paris. Here, a look at this year's inspiring honorees. 

01 of 06

The DVF Awards Take Paris!

Diane Von Furstenberg attends the "Liberty: Mother Of Exiles" World Premiere at NYIT Auditorium on Broadway on October 07, 2019 in New York City
Monica Schipper/Getty

"It's an honor that such a prestigious conference invited us to be part of their opening event," von Furstenberg tells PEOPLE ahead of Wednesday's festivities. "And for me, I grew up here. Paris is where I became a feminist, and it holds a lot of meaning. It's like going home."

Calling this year's group of nominees "brave, compassionate and strong," von Furstenberg reiterates that the founding mission behind the DVF Awards is celebrating women who have "the strength to fight, the courage to survive and the leadership to inspire."

02 of 06

Melinda French Gates: Lifetime Leadership Award

melinda gates
Melinda Gates. Noam Galai/WireImage

As a global advocate for women and girls, the philanthropist and businesswoman has worked tirelessly for social progress and to improve gender equity around the world. Thanks to her 20+ year tenure as the co-chair of the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she continues to champion work that empowers women and families and showcases how important it is invest in women for the overall prosperity and betterment of society. She also founded the investment and incubation company, Pivotal Ventures, as another vehicle to drive opportunities for women and families in the United States. For all these achievements (and much more), Gates will be presented with Lifetime Leadership DVF Award.

03 of 06

Clarissa Ward: Inspiration Award

CNN's International Correspondent Clarissa Ward
Courtesy Clarissa Ward/Instagram

As CNN's chief international correspondent, Ward's high-profile investigative journalism assignments have spanned everything from covering the pandemic at the height of it's second deadly wave in India to reporting live from Afghanistan during the fall of Kabul. (And that's just in the past 18 months.)

Ward has dedicated two decades of her career as a conflict reporter on the front lines in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt and Ukraine. Documenting world-shifting events at close range, she's known for her fearless reporting and delivering in-depth investigations.

04 of 06

Vanessa Nakate: Next Generation Award

Vanessa Nakate DVF Awards Climate Change Activist
Courtesy Vanessa Nakate

The 24-year-old climate activist from Uganda founded the Rise up Climate Movement, to not only campaign against the harrowing effects of climate change but to also amplify the work of African activists.

She campaigns internationally to raise awareness on the lasting impacts of climate change already happening in Africa, while offering some actionable climate solutions, starting with the importance of educating young women.

Last month, Nakate covered TIME Magazine's climate issue, writing a powerful essay about the need to provide platforms to activists across the continent.

"I'll be the first to agree that we need more diversity on platforms and that more young activists should be given opportunities to talk about the challenges their countries or regions are facing," she wrote in her TIME piece. "There should be 54 or 216 or 1,026 activists from every African nation-state speaking at international climate conferences and to their own governments. Every activist has a story to tell; every story has a solution to give; and every solution has a life to change."

05 of 06

Dr. Rouba Mhaissen: International Award

Dr. Rouba Mhaissen, activist and economist, recipient of the International DVF Award
Courtesy Dr. Rouba Mhaissen

The Syrian-Lebanese economist and activist founded Sawa for Development and Aid​ (in 2011)​, a non-profit organization that supports Syrian refugees​ in Lebanon​​. The mobilizer is committed to helping refugees displaced by the ongoing violence in Syria and her organization has worked to create innovative aid approaches for Syrian refugees that are "holistic, inclusive, and considerate of the specific environmental and social context of the conflict and displaced individuals."

06 of 06

Wai Wai Nu: International Award

Activist Wai Wai Nu
Courtesy Wai Wai Nu/Instagram

The human rights activist spent seven years as a political prisoner in Burma, and since her release from prison in 2012, she's dedicated her life to championing for democracy on behalf of marginalized women and members of her ethnic group, the Rohingya. She's the founder and Executive Director of the Women's Peace Network in Burma, an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of oppressed groups across Myanmar.

"It our responsibility to ensure that justice is served for all refugees," she shared during a speech the Sedona Forum in April. "We must hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes, including sexual violence and genocide. If we fail to end all impunity, the cycle of violence and refugee exodus will continue."

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