4th Annual International Women’s Day Awards Finalists

Tonight Is the Night! 

The winners for the 4th Annual International Women’s Day Awards Nominees will be announced tonight at our ceremony/celebration!

Many fantastic Austin women were nominated for recognition in the following categories:

Humanitarian – A person devoted to promoting the welfare of humanity, especially through the elimination of pain and suffering. Humanitarianism is an ethic of kindness, benevolence and sympathy extended universally and impartially to all human beings.

Environmentalist – A person actively involved in attempts to protect the environment from pollution or destruction through such measures as ecosystem protection, waste reduction, pollution prevention, and conservation.

Animal Welfare Advocate – A person focused on the well-being of animals in such a way that they do not suffer unnecessarily, and who educates others to understand the needs of animals and how to reinforce positive interactions with them.

However, as excited as we are to honor the winners, we wanted to first take the time to recognize all of the Finalists in the above categories, as each woman has accomplished many amazing things and has made Austin a better place. The following information has been paraphrased from the information provided to us by nominators and from online bios.

Humanitarian Finalists

Felora Derakhshani – Founder and Executive Director, ACT Women

Felora, originally from Iran, has helped countless women and girls through her involvement in non-profits such as ACT Women (Advancing Community Through Women), Peace Through Commerce, and Advancing Women Entrepreneurs. She is also a past president of the Board of Austin Area Interreligious Ministries (now Interfaith Action of Central Texas), a vital community organization promoting understanding and peace among people of all religious faiths, and she currently sits on the board of the Austin chapter of the United Nations Association. ACT Women has a monthly local service project and several international service projects, such as the Mona Foundation for education of women in rural areas of Indore, India, and The Barli Development Institute for Rural Women, which focuses on giving poor young Indian women literacy training, practical knowledge of health, nutrition and sanitation, skills for income-generation, and an awareness of village-level environmental conservation. She has also helped with secondary education of girls in Uganda. Advancing Women Entrepreneurs works with women in Israel and Palestine, as well as other areas of strife to promote understanding, peace and commerce. Felora has been instrumental in coordinating ACT Women Conferences “for the spiritual transformation of women and girls” in Austin for the last nine years.  (Photo courtesy of Peace Through Commerce)

Diana Claitor – Cofounder, Texas Jail Project

Diana cofounded the Texas Jail Project in 2006, and has staffed it since without interruption.  The Texas Jail Project works to “improve conditions for incarcerated women and men by publicizing the widespread abuse and neglect in approximately 250 county facilities in Texas.” Claitor’s work with the Texas Jail Project has required great sacrifice, which she willingly makes due to her immense dedication to her work.  Her primary focus has been on calling attention to the imprisoning of pregnant women in Texas. She was instrumental in the passage of the 2009 Texas H.B.3653, “Use of Restraints on Pregnant Inmates in Texas County Jails,” which restricts but does not entirely ban the practice of shackling laboring women. She writes articles (some published in the Texas Observer), maintains a detailed blog, petitions, testifies before legislative committees and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, writes letters, counsels family members, hounds jail personnel, and in multitude other ways relentlessly works for humane treatment of jail inmates. (Photo courtesy of Texas Jail Project)

Trudy Marshall – Founder and Executive Director, Libraries of Love

Trudy Marshall founded the non-profit organization Libraries of Love, whose mission is “to partner with Africans to create libraries in individual schools. Through reading, students will develop a love of literature, as well as strengthen their knowledge in each curriculum subject area. Lifelong readers become lifelong learners. Therefore, the libraries will serve as bridges to a better future for the children of Uganda.” Trudy has helped over 30,000 children in Uganda by building libraries in 24 of their schools. In one school, reading scores for grades 2-8 went from 79 to the upper 90s one year after their library was built because they were able to read everyday. According to Trudy’s nominator: “While visiting Uganda in 2001, Trudy, a former Laurel Mountain Elementary librarian, was repeatedly asked by children not for clothes, shoes, or money, but for books. They had no libraries in their schools, and they often went without even textbooks in the classrooms. Through her strong belief that she was doing something that desperately needed to be done, Trudy managed to mobilize first her elementary school community and now the community at large. This quiet, unassuming woman now routinely speaks in front of groups and coordinates all efforts of the libraries (with the help of a small leadership team), managing volunteers both from the Austin area and outside of the state of Texas. She is a fearless and tireless leader who inspires all of those working with her to accomplish great things.”  (Photo courtesy of Libraries of Love)

Environment Finalists

Brandi Clark Burton – Founder, Austin EcoNetwork

Brandi is a prominent community leader and “eco-prenuer” here in Austin. To quote the Austin Business Journal, “If Austin had one green ambassador, it would be Brandi Clark.” ABJ also awarded Brandi the “Going Green Award” for her accomplishments as a “Green Advocate.” After graduating from Yale University with a B.A. in Sociology and Political Science, Brandi started Environmentality Inc., an organization that promoted environmental products, business models, and sustainable living. Environmentality Inc. was rebranded EcoNetworking, which expanded to do even more environmental good. Her recent accomplishments include founding Austin EcoNetwork, Austin CarShare, and Citizen Gardener, and producing city-wide events such as It’s My Park! Day, Austin Moving Forward, Live & Kickin’, and the Green Festival. In addition to all these amazing initiatives, Brandi practices what she preaches by living simply and sustainably, and she has dedicated her life to helping others do the same. From businesses to individuals, she passionately offers personalized consulting and promotes awareness as well as participation.  Her life’s work can be summed up by a mission statement she gladly shares with Pachamama Alliance: “Bring forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just human presence on this planet.” (Photo courtesy of Brandi Clark’s blog)

Andi Scull – Founder and President of HOPE Campaign

Andi is an artist, graphic designer, director and producer. In fact, one of her most famous designs is the “Don’t Mess With Texas” logo! In addition to her creative work, Andi works as a passionate supporter of eco-products and philanthropic communities. She is Cofounder of the HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Campaign, which is “an energy-conscious non-profit focused on involving artists and their contributions in campaigns, programs and events to support existing social projects that promote education and peace around the world.” Some projects that have been initiated by this campaign are HOPE Farmers Market (Sundays at 5th & Waller in East Austin, and new this month: Wednesdays at Cherrywood Coffeehouse) and HOPE for Senegal. HOPE Farmers Markets introduce Austinites to area farmers, local artists, musicians, healthy lifestyle companies and community organizations. HOPE for Senegal provides funding for a high school in West Africa to grant scholarships to girls, build a science lab, and provide nursing supplies to the more than 4,000 students who go there. Our city is lucky to have such an amazing woman who dedicates her creative talents to social change in Austin and our global village. (Photo courtesy of HOPE Campaign)

April Rose – Executive Director of TreeFolks

A “Top 10 Austinite of the Year,” April is the leader of TreeFolks, a non-profit that “grows the urban forest of Central Texas through tree planting, education and community partnerships.” In just 15 months with TreeFolks, April helped residents of Austin plant over 13,000 trees! She also worked hard to help the victims of the Bastrop fires by providing  3,000 saplings to help them reforest their homes and properties. Before joining TreeFolks, April served as City Forester for four years in Pflugerville, where she developed an urban forestry program and a stream bank restoration project on Willbarger Creek that will reduce the effects of erosion and pollutant contamination. The programs she developed were challenging because the town never had someone on staff whose job was to plant and protect trees and interpret the value of the urban forest. April has a degree in Forestry and is a certified arborist, which qualifies her to formulate and teach programs about trees, ecology, and sustainability. She has taught and led programs in drought management of trees, tree planting, and riparian restoration. According to her nominator, “April has amazing kindness, energy, and organizational skills that result in effective programs, outreach, media, partnerships with government agencies, and interpersonal relationships with the public, the TreeFolks board, and staff.” (Photo credit: Leann Mueller for Tribeza)

Animal Welfare Finalists

Shari Elkins – Director of Training Programs, The Canine Center for Training & Behavior

Shari created the Schrodi Fund, which “teams with top dog trainers and behavior consultants to train owners how to handle and manage their dog(s) and their behaviors in a reward-based style” in order to provide training at an affordable price. Through her cooperation with this fund and her position at The Canine Center for Training and Behavior, Shari has helped over 200 dogs and their families who might have otherwise lost each other. In addition, she has served as a mentor to many training interns, helping them and working with them to improve their training skills. Shari helps as a vet tech at Animal Trustees of Austin in the spay/neuter clinic, where her work has helped to lessen the pet overpopulation problem in central Texas. For years Shari worked with Austin’s leading expert in reactive and aggressive dogs at the Lee Mannix Center for Canine Behavior (until Lee’s untimely death in 2010). She accompanied Lee Mannix and his team to an evaluation trip to Louisiana following Katrina, where they did behavioral testing on hundreds of dogs, helped provide medical care, and consulted with other organizations to help with the ongoing mental and physical health of the rescued animals. Their crew brought back more than 50 dogs to Austin and cared for, fostered, and found them homes. (Photo credit: Ben Swan, santafenewmexican.com)

Missy McCullough – Founder and Executive Director, Animal Trustees of Austin

Missy founded Animal Trustees of Austin in 1993 as a result of her determination to make a lasting difference to the animals of Central Texas. Animal Trustees makes life-saving surgeries and vital wellness care affordable to those owners who cannot otherwise afford private veterinary care. In some cases, these services are provided at no cost, so even the most financially challenged are able to keep their beloved pets in times of economic hardship. Under Missy’s leadership, Animal Trustees serves more than 40,000 dogs and cats per year! She has worked tirelessly with other animal welfare organizations to enhance communication, avoid duplication, and raise the level of services to our community, and she has built two animal clinics in Austin that provide affordable spay/neuter services, essential veterinary care, treatment for heartworm disease, and surgeries annually for tens of thousands of pets whose owners cannot afford to go elsewhere. In addition, Missy has made the lives of Central Texans and their pets better by advocating for optimum care and protection through public awareness, education and legislation. Through the special programs Missy has implemented, such as 4PAWS (For People and Animals Without Shelter), Recovering Hearts, and the Emergency Care Fund, Animal Trustees truly has earned the trust in its name — the trust of the animals, the trust of their owners, and the trust of the entire community. (Photo credit: YNN)

Abigail Smith – Chief Animal Services Officer, City of Austin

Abigail oversees the largest municipal animal shelter in Central Texas, Austin Animal Center.  She has only been in Austin for one year and reached what no other major Texas city has been able to achieve: a 91-percent live animal outcome rate for 2011, making the City of Austin the first major urban city in Texas to officially reach No-Kill status! Abigail has been able to reorganize and lead 90 staff members into a new way of thinking about animal welfare. She allows her staff to think creatively and come up with methods and ways to increase the number of animals that leave the shelter healthy and alive, while also working toward reducing the number of animals that enter the shelter system through increased outreach and animal welfare education. Abigail is passionate about her work and it shows through her daily interactions not only with staff, but with all members of the community. She recently piloted a free Pet ID event at the Animal Center for all members of the community to come get free ID tags and microchips for their pets. Almost 1,000 pets were tagged over the two-day period. Welcome to Austin, Abigail! (Photo credit: John Anderson for the Austin Chronicle)

Stay tuned to find out who the winners in each category are. We’ll post names and pictures from the 2012 International Women’s Day Awards Ceremony here.

— By Barbara-Anne Mansfield