Queen Rania Receives Prestigious Marisa Bellisario Award in Italy

October 21, 2009

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department - Rome) In a ceremony held at the Montecitorio Palace in Rome, seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, on Wednesday, received the Marisa Bellisario Golden Apple International Award in recognition of her humanitarian work, dedication to peace and lasting commitment to the rights of women and children around the world.

“I’m especially honored to receive the Marisa Bellisario Award, an award that symbolizes not just the achievements of some women but the aspirations of millions,” Queen Rania told over 300 political and business leaders, parliamentarians, diplomats and representatives of different UN agencies. The prestigious Bellisario “Golden Apple” award is bestowed annually to women for exceptional achievements in the pursuit of human rights, peace, solidarity and freedom.

Founded by Lella Golfo in 1989, the Bellisario Foundation promotes the professionalism of women in both the public and private sectors, recognizing their excellence in the fields of entrepreneurship, business, science, and public administration.

The Bellisario award, presented to Her Majesty by Gianfranco Fini, President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, was instituted in memory of Marisa Bellisario, one of the foremost figures in the history of Italian business and a renowned social pioneer. Addressing the audience upon receiving the prize, Her Majesty commended the work of the Bellisario Foundation citing Marisa’s strength as an example to women across the world, millions of which remain trapped in the cycle of poverty, being denied the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Queen Rania went on to highlight the rapidly changing role of women in today’s society, pointing to an estimated three and a half trillion Euros predicted to be injected by women into the global economy over the next five years, but also acknowledged the bitter contradiction inherent in today’s society: “Like the Roman God Janus, women today represent two sides of the world: they are the face of global recovery and the face of global poverty,” she said. “At one end of the scale, women are poised to reap the whirlwind of the financial storm.

At the other end, they are being battered and beaten by the crisis, while still chained down by history,” she added. Further reflecting on the existing paradox characterizing the status of women today, Her Majesty said: “As more women earn higher salaries and reach higher positions, millions more remain trapped in subsistence labor or cut off from work altogether denied the chance to reach their potential, condemned to live half-lives,” she said.

Her Majesty then paused to ask the audience what could possibly set these women apart. She responded: “A large part of the answer is Education. Education can be the difference between recovery and poverty, life and death.” Further underlining its significance, as the basis of a fulfilling future for both women and girls across the world, Queen Rania added: “When you educate a girl she becomes a woman who lifts herself and her family out of poverty, she is more likely to survive childbirth and avoid fatal diseases, like HIV. As girls and women are educated, and economies stimulated, gender equality surges.” Taking the opportunity to reflect on the sorrowful reality which still counts 75 million children out of primary school, and 776 million illiterate adults, two-thirds of which are women, Queen Rania concluded: ”We cannot afford to keep throwing away so much human potential. If we want to unleash more prosperity, we must unlock the power of girls.” Previous international award recipients include Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi; former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright; President of Ireland Mary McAleese; Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Josette Sheeran and Mayor of Milan Letizia Moratti.