On March 5, Ambassador Robert Sherman and wife Kim Sawyer hosted a reception at their residence to commemorate International Women’s Day that included over 80 attendees. International Women’s Day falls on March 8, and is a time to reflect on progress made, to make a call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was Make it Happen, which encourages effective action for advancing and recognizing women all over the world. Purple was chosen as the representative color because it symbolizes justice and dignity – two values strongly associated with women’s equality.
The event was organized by the Embassy’s Commercial Service, and provided an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of Portuguese women and to highlight the work being done by so many to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. Among attending participants, the Ambassador specifically recognized the following women for their leadership:
• Mariana Monteiro is well-known for her acting roles in the theatre, TV and cinema. Last year, Mariana was appointed to be a champion for gender equality by the United Nations. This appointment marked the 20th year anniversary of the “Beijing Platform for Action”. The Ambassador congratulated Mariana on her appointment by the United Nations and applauded her efforts to raise awareness on important issues such as domestic violence and gender equality.
• Catarina Furtado has worked for Portugal’s leading media companies as a host, interviewer, actress and spokesperson. She also produced and hosted a series of TV documentaries that introduced Portuguese audiences to maternal health and youth issues. The Ambassador called Catarina “a champion of women’s rights,” mentioning that she was nominated by the Association of Family Planning to be a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. Catarina has written articles for books and newspapers about reproductive health and rights, with a focus on adolescents, youth pregnancy, safe motherhood, HIV/AIDS, gender, and family planning.
• Katia Guerreiro was recognized by the Ambassador, calling her “one of the most important voices in Fado music in Portugal today.” In 2010, she was recognized by the Amália Rodrigues Foundation as the “Best Performer of Fado”. In 2013, she was recognized by the Government of France for being a “Great Ambassador of Portugal in the World“. Following the release of her new album “Até ao Fim”, she was honored with the Commendation of the Order of Infante D. Henrique, by the President of the Portuguese Republic, in recognition of her contribution to the expansion of Portuguese culture and values.
• Paula Leite’s compelling story was told highlighted by the Ambassador as well. She is 34 years, and lost her leg after a car accident. A hard reality to come to terms with, Paula felt the need for support from someone who had gone through the same and that could give her some perspective. Driven by the lack of moral support provided by hospitals to amputees, she formed the National Association of Amputees in January 2015. The organization, whose motto is “For a Life With More Life”, has programs that range from specialized volunteering to social gatherings in order to make people more active, change perspectives, create acceptance and fight discrimination.
The Ambassador also recognized his wife, Kim Sawyer, a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman. He also highlighted the Embassy’s Connect to Success program which aims to strengthen and accelerate the growth of Portuguese women-owned businesses. Under the leadership of Kim Sawyer, the Embassy kicked off the Corporate Mentoring Program in November 2014, and just launched the MBA and Master Business Consulting program on March 6 and held the first set of Workshops for Entrepreneurs on March 7.