Recognising Women of Courage

L-R: Parisa Hafezi from Iran, Chiranuch Premchaiporn from Thailand, Adela Navarro Bello from Mexico and the Lifetime Achievement Award to Katie Adie from UK at the Courage in Journalism Awards ceremony on 27 October 2011(Photo image: IWMF)

The Courage in Journalism Awards were in a couple of hours. Rosie and I got dressed to go to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It was raining so I wore pants instead of the skirt I had  planned to wear. I took out my Kenneth Cole shoes, a good find in a thrift store, where I had gone to buy sweaters and couldn’t resist adding the shoes to my shopping cart.  We thought that we would make it on time. We got out and ran into Grand Central Station. Rosie was running ahead of me. I could not keep up. The Kenneth Cole shoes were not made for fast running and the Dr Scholl in-sole padding I bought for the heels are actually bogus. I felt my feet getting sore.  Note to self: don’t buy additional in-sole whatever stuff they advertise on TV.

We ran around, and stumbled into the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Rosie had said the hotel security detail was made up of former CIA personnel. It sounded exciting. I think I have been watching too many Hollywood movies. I didn’t have time to admire the ostentatious architecture in the building. We were late. We run up to where the awards were taking place.  Checking our names on the list we were given table numbers. We were seated at table 36. The food was already set at the table. Near each plate was a bottle of nail polish (no I am not kidding. Bright red polish which I later took with me) and a box of cookies ordered by Bank of America.

We sat at our table and made small talk with our neighbors. I looked around me and it sunk in that I was at this whatever star hotel. Is there something above 5*? Unrated perhaps? We had salads and chicken I think or whatever white meat that was. I was like, is this it? I did not know what I dreamt of before coming here. Ok I will agree the cutlery was well polished. And when I dropped my fork, a waitress appeared out of nowhere to give me another fork. The same waitress who surreptiously carried a bottle of nail polish from our table.

We watched the stage, under the bright lights as the awards were announced and the awardees presented. A short video clip capturing the core of IWMF’s work was shown. The luncheon was also a fundraiser. Sponsors were recognized. A recorded video message from Secretary of State, Hillary R. Clinton was then played.

The Courage in Journalism Awards were awarded to Adela Navarro Bello from Mexico,  Parisa Hafezi from Iran and to Chiranuch Premchaiporn from Thailand, and the Lifetime Achievement Award to Katie Adie from UK. A video of each awardee was played before she came on stage to make her acceptance speech. We saw the life of the brave women from Iran to Thailand to Mexico. It was inspirational what the women do to get the stories into the spotlight. They are all deserving winners. In the words of Katie Adie, who admits that reporters in the West do not have to go through the same kinds of risks like the ones in other countries experience.  I headed to the front and to take pictures of the awardees. I am not posting the pictures here because I did not get good pictures.  So for now, we shall do with the link on the official IWMF website where the pictures are taken by the pros. I told you that I am still new to this.

After the luncheon, Carolyne Lee, Rosie Whitelaw, Christine Moore, Peter Canellos and I headed out for a drink. They are part of the selection committee of the IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship. In the lobby of the Waldorf I saw all these people moving in and out, and honestly I had this wicked voice that told me to walk up to them and ask them, ok so how rich are you? So what’s it like being super rich or is it the 1%? Can I take a picture of you for my blog, so my friends back home can see a real rich person? The only thing that stopped me and my camera in our tracks was the reminder that former CIA agents run the security here. I did not want to end up on the other side, if what I have watched in the Hollywood movies is true.  I walked out calmly past the shops with hideous looking stuff that would certainly pay for generations of my clan back home, without indulging my curiosity.

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