Amazing Women of International Women’s Day 2011-2013 Remembered

“International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900′s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.”

“IWD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. Many global corporations [including Google] have also started to support IWD by running their own internal events and through supporting external ones.  Year on year IWD is certainly increasing in status. The United States even designates the whole month of March as ‘Women’s History Month’.”    —

Now in its 6th year, the Ten Thousand Villages International Women’s Day Awards have allowed many amazing individuals to be recognized and share their stories.

 Let’s take a look back at some of the women we have celebrated!


Left to Right: Niyanta Spelman, Amy Mills, Susana Almanza, Maggie Miller, Dawn Perkins, Dr. Ellen Jefferson, Sheila Smith, Jerri Conrado

Left to right: Niyanta Spelman, Amy Mills, Susana Almanza, Maggie Miller, Dawn Perkins, Sheila Smith, Dr. Ellen Jefferson, Jerri Conrado (Finalist not shown: Cindy Allbrooks)

Winners and Finalists


Jerri Conrado (Branch leader, Women’s Global Network)

Jerri Conrado’s organization Women’s Global Network is a network and affiliation of women’s organizations around the world.  The members of these organizations understand that to truly effect permanent change, their organizations must collaborate with each other so that time is not wasted or important traction lost because of the duplication of efforts.

Jerri creates monthly events to celebrate the contributions of people from multiple backgrounds and cultures.  As the Austin Branch Leader of the Women’s Global Network for over the past two years, Jerri has given many hours to the local community; and by encouraging Global Partnerships, she has supported the global community as well. Her service to the women in the community, and women around the world, is the result of over twenty years of efforts as a business owner and an educational background in global business relations.

Maggie Miller (Founder, DiscoverHope)
 Since filing the 501(c)(3) in 2007, DiscoverHope, has funded more than 325 loans and 800 development classes for 1,900 women in Peru who live on less than $5 a day.  Loan recipients have reported more than $9,000 in new income generation directly related to skills and knowledge obtained in the classes – which cycles directly back into their families and communities.  Maggie’s organization honors the value and the amazing potential in every person through asking the women what they want and need to develop as business owners, mothers, wives, and women. DHF’s hope is that women will pass these new frameworks for thinking onto their children, families, and society.
Dawn Perkins (Relations & Volunteer Manager, Front Steps/ARCH)

Dawn makes the most of her position at Front Steps, the facility that manages the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH).  She is accepting of all people and eager to help the needy, even in some of the most trying times.  Regularly, even in her free time, she connects with the homeless to understand how they can best be served, and she works hard to provide them with the critical resources they need. Dawn continuously communicates with local media in order to keep Austin’s homeless in the news.


Susana Almanza (Co-Founder, Co-Director, PODER: People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources)

Susana works to help Austinites, particularly the under-served and often exploited residents of East Austin.  She is a former member of the City of Austin Environmental Board and former Planning Commissioner for the City of Austin.  On the national level, Susana has served on numerous committees including the EPA’s Title VI Implementation Advisory Committee. Susana has served as one of the co-chairs for the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, a regional network.

In addition,  she has mentored numerous youth, college students, women and environmentalists through her organization, PODER.  By redefining environmental issues as social and economic justice issues, and collectively setting the agenda to address these concerns as basic human rights, this organization has done amazing things such as lead 6 multi-national oil companies to shut down their polluting tank farm in East Austin and closing the dangerously polluting Holly Street power plant.  For over twenty years, Susana’s efforts have helped the Austin area to have better health while strengthening the voice for neighborhoods and communities of color.

Niyanta Spelman (Founder, Liveable City; Executive Director, Rainforest Partnership)

Niyanta Spelman is founder and executive director of Rainforest Partnership, a founding member of Livable City, and a chair member in the Austin Asian-American Chamber of Commerce.  Liveable City is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and advocacy organization that works to address the long-term holistic needs of the people of Austin.  Rainforest Partnership is a non-profit corporation that she hopes will contribute to the vital  green global network.  Her nonprofit now teams with rainforest communities in Peru and Ecuador to protect ecosystems by providing forest-friendly means of earning money. Niyanta’s vital efforts to protect our rainforests in distant lands and our local environment while caring for humanitarian needs have been innovative and supportive.

Cindy Allsbrooks (Board of Directors Co-Chair, Keep Bastrop County Beautiful)
Cindy Allsbrooks and Co-Chair Dorothy Skarnulis started KBCB in order to focus on school recycling and education, and to support public awareness about anything to do with our environment, such as illegal dumping and beautification. Through work with local waste disposal companies as well as county and school officials, Bastrop can now boast of curbside recycling in many subdivisions.  Thanks to her perseverance, Lone Star Disposal opened a drop-off recycling center on Hwy 71, and recycling programs have been started in some area schools.  Cindy has been instrumental in educating her community about the importance of environmental protection.


Amy Mills (Executive Director, Emancipet)

Amy has served as the Executive Director of Emancipet since 2006 and through her leadership has transformed the organization into one that now serves as a model for animal welfare leaders nationwide.  Amy provides them with coaching and support by sharing what she has learned over her years at Emancipet.  As Executive Director, Amy Mills has given over 10 years of service to the community, aided over 100,000 surgeries, and launched innovative new programs.  While serving as Executive Director of Emancipet, Amy Mills also spent several years volunteering at the Austin Humane Society, teaching a dog manners class.  Amy believes whole-heartedly in the power of prevention and the work that we do, and is as invested in improving the lives of people as she is in improving the lives of pets.

Dr. Ellen Jefferson (Executive Director, Austin Pets Alive!)
After Jefferson founded Emancipet in 1999, she later joined Austin Pets Alive! in 2008.  Within the first year of her leadership, APA! reduced the killing of homeless cats and dogs in Austin by more than 20%.  She also served on the National Spay/Neuter Task Force from 2007-2009 and has been published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine.  She was the first no-kill director of Austin’s city pound, Town Lake Animal Center (TLAC).  In 2010, just two years after she started with APA!, the group had saved as many animals from TLAC as all of Austin’s other rescue and shelter groups combined.
Sheila Smith (Founder, Shadow Cats Rescue)
Sheila Smith has been involved in animal welfare all her life, but took on a more active role in 1997 when she founded Shadow Cats Rescue. She has been a board member since its incorporation in 2004 and is currently involved in its day-to-day operations as board president. Community cats are of special interest to Sheila, and she has committed countless hours and a driving passion towards improving their lives.  In addition to their spay/neuter mission for feral cats, Shadow Cats provides long-term care and hospice for feline leukemia positive cats at the Sanctuary.


Top left to right: Andi Scull, April Rose, Felora Derakhshani, Missy McCullough, Abigail Smith Bottom left to right: Trudy Marshall, Brandi Clark Burton, Shari Elkins, Diana Claitor

2012 Top left to right: Andi Scull, April Rose, Felora Derakhshani, Missy McCullough, Abigail Smith
Bottom left to right: Trudy Marshall, Brandi Clark Burton, Shari Elkins, Diana Claitor

Winners and Finalists


Diana Claitor (Co-Founder, Texas Jail Project)

Diana co-founded the Texas Jail Project in 2006, and has been a strong advocate in the humane treatment of jail inmates. Diana Claitor has been markedly active in calling attention to the harsh practice of jails shackling pregnant women.  Diana has worked with state and national advocacy groups to stop this practice, and 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 the practice of shackling laboring women.   She works in many awareness, activism, and support efforts such as writing articles (some published in the Texas Observer), petitioning, testifying before legislative committees and the TCJS, writing letters, counseling family members, investigating jail personnel, and a multitude of other ways.

Felora Derakhshani (Founder & Executive Director, ACT Women:Advancing Community Through Women)

Felora’s organization, ACT Women (Advancing Community Through Women),  has offered opportunities for young women to take leadership action for change.  She regularly works with many organizations and projects for positive awareness and change including Peace Through Commerce, Austin’s Chapter of UNA USA, Advancing Women Entrepreneurs, and her Perception Management/Image Consulting business and seminars . She has been instrumental in coordinating ACT Women Conferences “for the spiritual transformation of women and girls” in Austin for the last 9 years.

Trudy Marshall (Founder & Executive Director, Libraries of Love)

Trudy has helped over 30,000 children in Uganda by building libraries in their schools.  So far, the organization has been able to provide 24 libraries. In one school, their 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 every day.  Through Libraries of Love, the students in our community are becoming aware of the global need to help others.  Trudy exemplifies the definition of humanitarianism and philanthropy — an invaluable lesson to teach our children, the future leaders of our world.


Brandi Clark Burton (Founder, AEN: Austin Eco Network)

Austin Business Journal has said, “If Austin had one green ambassador, it would be Brandi Clark Burton.  Her publication, Austin Eco Network (AEN), connects people, information, events, and resources related to Austin and the environment through a community website and twice-weekly Austin EcoNewsletter.  These green connections often offer business development support, green guidance for homes and businesses, funding leads for green business ventures, and consulting for those interested in finding a career with more meaning.  She regularly works to raise awareness in environmental causes and has incorporated a company, Environmentality, Inc., among many other notable efforts.  She has been called Austin’s “One green ambassador”, “Queen of Green”, and “Green Crush.”  This woman has worked as a strong ally for our planet and all that live upon and with it.

April Rose (Executive Director, Treefolks)

April has planted over 13,000 trees in a year, helped the victims of the Bastrop fires to re-forest their homes and properties, and she developed an urban forestry program and a stream bank restoration project.  She leads a program, City Shade, that partners with others to plan events that give citizens hands-on opportunities to improve their communities through tree planting. Also, she is leading the program to deliver free street trees through the NeighborWoods program. NeighborWoods is sponsored by the City of Austin’s Climate Protection Program to lower summer temperatures and reduce energy consumption by investing in tree canopy cover that will shade paved streets.  Finally, April also leads the Urban Orchard Program.

Andi Scull (Founder & President, Hope Campaign)

Andi Scull is one of the founders of the HOPE campaign, a socially conscious team of producers that work with artists and musicians to create events to mobilize people to take action for others who are in need around the world.  She also works with HOPE for Senegal in order to help establish projects such as high school scholarships, a science lab, and nursing supplies for a 4,000+ student population. Andi has helped design a workable structure to maintain the school as well.


Abigail Smith (Chief Animal Services Officer, City of Austin)

Abigail oversees the largest municipal animal shelter in Central TX, Austin Animal Center.  She has been able to lead the organization into a new way of managing and overseeing the care of the animals who end up at the shelter.  Notably, she has been able to save more than 90% of the animals that enter there.  She also piloted a free Pet I.D. day at the Animal Center to offer free I.D. tags and microchips.   Abigail is an excellent steward of the public’s tax dollars in that she is managing the $7.5 million dollar budget extremely efficiently and effectively.  The Austin community is a better place because of her work to protect the population from dangerous animals and diseases while strategically overseeing the animals with compassion and care.

 Missy McCullough (Founder & Executive Director, Animal Trustees of Austin)

Missy founded Animal Trustees of Austin in 1993 in order to make life-saving surgeries and vital wellness care more affordable.  Under Missy’s leadership, Animal Trustees serves more than 40,000 dogs and cats per year, always putting the animals’ welfare first.  She has also worked tirelessly with other animal welfare organizations to raise the level of services to our community.  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, and she has been appreciated nationwide.

Shari Elkins (Director of Training Programs, TCCTB: The Canine Center for Training & Behavior)

In her work as the Lead Behavior Consultant at The Canine Center for Training & Behavior, Shari has helped countless families and their dogs to be happier together. TCCTB’s exceptional training methods are free from pain, intimidation, and fear so that, instead, a dog’s behavior is shaped through rewards, praise, and leadership. In addition, Shari has mentored many interns by  working with them to improve their training skills.  Shari also helps as a vet tech at Animal Trustees of Austin, to lessen the pet overpopulation problem in central Texas.  Finally, to help people and their pets who struggle to afford dog training, Shari has established a scholarship fund.


Top left to right: Karen Cole, Liz Parker, Leslie Beasley, Christy Pipkin, Bottom left to right: Sarah Young, Paige Hill, Elisabeth Welsh

2013 Top left to right: Dr. Susan DuBois, Sheila Smith, Karen Cole, Liz Parker, Leslie Beasley, Kay Firth-Butterfield, Christy Pipkin, Kitty Bird
Bottom left to right: Sara Hickman, Sarah Young, Paige Oliverio, Elisabeth Welsh

Winners and Finalists


Christy Pipkin (Co-Founder & Executive Director, The Nobelity Project)

Christy has helped children by building schools and supporting libraries in Kenya, and she has assisted in the development of water systems throughout Africa. In the United States, she has brought a greater understanding of global and local issues to middle and high schools and encourages them to become part of the solution.  In 2005, Christy and her husband, Turk, created the Nobelity Project where they interviewed nine past Nobel Prizes winners around the globe for a documentary and asked them how to tackle the world’s problems.  In 2013, the Nobelity Project began work towards a mobile library to teach students in Honduras both Spanish and English.  She has also worked to encourage Austin schools to help plant new trees in Bastrop after the fires in 2011.  Throughout this, she has also survived breast cancer twice while raising two daughters.

Leslie Beasley (Founder & Managing Director, Open Arms)

Leslie has helped refugees who are running from civil unrest, warfare, and religious persecution to rise up from the bottom of the economic ladder. At Open Arms, their main focus is to provide these brave women with the means to survive and have the basic necessities that we take for granted everyday like food and shelter.  Open Arms teaches English as a Second language and provides a living wage to their clients.

Kay Firth-Butterfield (Professor, St. Edwards University)

Kay is a strong advocate against human trafficking and for greater human rights laws. She has worked with different international relief organizations and has served as the North American Ambassador for the Consortium for Street Children, serves on the Task Force against Human Trafficking with the support of the Attorney General of Texas, supported the Board of Directors of Austin’s Bernardo Kohler Center, which helps human trafficking victims receive “T” Visas, and she is a member of Austin’s ALLIES Against Slavery.

Dr. Susan DuBois (Endocrinologist; Founder & Board Member, Auxanomen)
After Susan began working as a Visiting Professor of Endocrinology at the Karen School of Nursing, National Council of Spiritual Churches in Haiti (CONASPEH) headquarters in Port-au-Prince, she decided to leave her private practice to care for the uninsured.  She founded Auxanomen Clinic to provide patient care for those in need and to enable them to pay what they can afford on the honor system. Dr. Dubois is a brilliant practitioner and compassionate individual. She truly cares about her patients and her community.  Auxanomen is a nonprofit clinic located in Southeast Austin with a  mission to provide low-cost diabetes, thyroid and metabolism specialty care regardless of ability to pay.


Paige Oliverio (Founder & Director, Urban Patchwork Neighborhood Farms)

Paige teaches Citizen Gardener classes about how to create gardens in homes and compost food waste properly.  She serves on the Sustainable Food Policy Board and has also proposed a Gray Water System to the City of Austin to help revolutionize the Austin food scene.  In 2009, she created an organization called Urban Patchwork  Neighborhood Farms that encourages neighbors to plant gardens in their front yards as a common food source to share for the neighborhood. Paige’s courageous and innovative efforts have helped to strengthen local, low-income communities, reduce pollution, and provide economic benefits as well as food.

Elisabeth Welsh (Program Director, Austin Youth River Watch)

Elisabeth has helped at-risk high school students in the Austin area by teaching them to be more environmentally aware while giving them personal and academic support. Nearly 100 percent of the participants that take part in her program, River Watchers, graduate high school with a third following a career in environmental science.  Over 20 years, she frequently engaged herself with Austin Youth River Watch and became the sole paid staff in 1999.  By 2008 she had hired another staff member to double the number of high school students they reach.  She also helps our community by gathering data for government officials at no charge for research.

Sarah Young (Youth Director, Discover Green- Young Environmental Leaders)

Over the past 2 years Sarah was able to organize 67 different events that involved youth and family in planting trees, picking up trash, and educating Central and Southern Texas.  While visiting Ghana, she helped to assure that 80 trees were planted and that necessary supplies were provided.  She has presented several workshops to youth to educate them about watershed pollution, recycling, and wildlife habitats.  She also trains and inspires young leaders like herself.  


Liz Parker (Board Chair, Emancipet; Publisher, Austin Pets Directory)

Liz has served on multiple boards and committees in Austin and she has used her magazine, Austin Pets Directory, which is a free publication that highlights pet related businesses, events, products, and people in order to raises public awareness of local and national welfare organizations. Through her service with the Emancipet board for seven years and while serving as Chair of the Board for the last three, the community has received more affordable spaying and neutering services which helps stabilize the homeless pet population across the nation.  She has saved many dogs personally and her efforts have relieved many troubled relationships with animal friends where it seemed like there was no hope.

Karen Cole (Founder, Lizzy’s Hospice)

Karen has provided a home to the most vulnerable companion animals that are in a shelter environment or end up in the shelter because of terminal illness, old age, or homelessness.  Through the organization Lizzy’s Hospice, Karen moved from a “regular neighborhood” to an area in rural Dripping Springs so she can have the space for elder dogs that need special care and attention. She provides the animals with nutrition, medical care, and much needed love and affection.

Sheila Smith (President, Shadow Cats Rescue)

See 2011 Animal Advocate finalists.

Phew!  What a wonderful few years!  Keep up with the 2014 awards by liking our Facebook and following our event page.