By Alexa Ahern
DES MOINES, Iowa — Women around the world were the stars of this past week’s World Food Prize. Speakers such as Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, and honoree Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi — the second ever female president on the African continent — and founder of Joyce Banda Foundation, were highlights of the conference at the Marriott Downtown Hotel.
The theme was the same at nearly every session: ending hunger starts with women’s empowerment. And it carried through to the laureate ceremony Thursday night at the Iowa State Capitol.
The World Food Prize was awarded to Sir Fazle Hasan Abed under the crystal chandeliers and gold-trimmed ceilings of the House Chamber.
Abed’s organization, BRAC, was founded on the notion that women and girls are the key to lifting communities out of poverty and hunger.
The ceremony continued with performances by women. A poem, “In Any Language,” written by Lucille Morgan Wilson, a 90-year-old female Iowan, was recited by World Food Prize Founder Norman Borlaug’s daughter, Jeanie Borlaug Laube.
Abed was brought to tears by a surprise performance by his favorite musician, Bangladeshi singer Shama Rahman. And the ceremony ended with an uplifting performance of “I am Woman; Hear Me Roar” by the all-female Empowered Voices Chorus.
Abed’s acceptance speech reiterated the role of women in his organization.
“The honor does not belong to me alone,” he said. “The real heroes in our story are the poor themselves, women especially.”