IRODA, WAVES, and AIL win 2022 Juliette Gimon Courage Awards

Global Fund for Children recognizes three organizations challenging systems that exclude children and youth from education.

WASHINGTON, DC and LONDON, June 01, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Global Fund for Children announces the winners of the 2022 Juliette Gimon Courage Awards today, recognizing the perseverance of three organizations working to challenge systems that exclude children and youth from education.

This year’s winners are IRODA in Tajikistan, Women Against Violence and Exploitation in Society (WAVES) in Sierra Leone, and Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) in Afghanistan, which are being honored for their work supporting children and youth who have been excluded from formal schooling. The three winners are committed to defending the rights of young people to access quality education and reach their full potential.

IRODA was founded by Dr. Lola Nasriddinova and her husband Fazliddin after their five-year-old son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), at a time when medical professionals in Tajikistan had limited knowledge of ASD and children with ASD were not accepted into school. Lola and Fazliddin gathered a group of parents experiencing the same situation and established an organization to support children with ASD.

IRODA has since pioneered ASD services and support across Tajikistan, training professionals and parents who work with children with ASD; helping children with ASD enroll in formal school and young adults with ASD find employment; and setting up both the first social enterprise café and the first early intervention resource center in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

“We have traveled a difficult and thorny path that has led us from being parents who were feeling lost and isolated to becoming activists and professionals working in the field of autism,” said Dr. Nasriddinova, the Executive Director of IRODA. “Thank you to all of those who have traveled this path with us, and above all, thank you to our children who have changed our lives and given us courage.”

WAVES was founded by Hannah Yambasu in 2005. After personally experiencing childhood abuse and fighting to remain free of an arranged marriage, Hannah has dedicated herself to advocating for girls’ rights to freedom from violence and access to education. At great personal risk, she has confronted practices such as child marriage and female genital cutting, as well as advocating for policy changes that benefit girls and women.

WAVES empowers girls to speak out against sexual and gender-based violence and to advocate for their sexual and reproductive health and rights, while engaging adults in the community to adopt more supportive attitudes and practices. One of the organization’s greatest achievements is successfully advocating to overturn a government ban in Sierra Leone that prohibited pregnant girls from attending mainstream schools and sitting for national exams.

“We believe the award is recognition of our hard work and commitment to creating a safe and enabling environment for women and girls,” said Yambasu, the Executive Director of WAVES. “This award inspires confidence and passion in us to continue to address issues relating to women and adolescents, especially girls, and to do more to build the agency of young people to speak out against sexual and gender-based violence, advocate for sexual and reproductive rights, and become agents of change in their communities.”

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi founded AIL after witnessing as a child the struggles women and children faced accessing health care and education.

Since its inception in 1995, AIL has significantly increased access to education for girls and women by providing them with private schools and learning centers and by fostering literacy. AIL delivers leadership and human rights workshops, including a two-year leadership program for high school students and a women’s empowerment program for 70 female leaders in Herat, Afghanistan. The organization also set up a legal clinic to enable women to understand their rights and access free legal assistance. With growing concerns about girls’ access to schools and education again, AIL is exploring safe ways to bring education to girls and women, including a partnership with TV Meraj for a televised education program that would reach children without access to school.

“It means the world to me to receive this award because children are the hope for a peaceful future – we must nurture and put them above all,” said Dr. Yacoobi, AIL’s Executive Director. “I am a voice for millions of Afghan children suffering through such crises who are not being heard. I know how much it meant to Juliette to see children happy, given opportunities, and succeed in all parts of the world.”

Global Fund for Children gives the annual Courage Awards through the Juliette Gimon Fund for Courageous Leadership – a more than $1 million endowment made possible by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and other donors – in honor of Juliette Gimon, who passed away in 2018. A former GFC Board Chair, Gimon helped shape GFC through her wisdom, insights, and profound concern for children, changing hundreds of thousands of young lives across the globe.

“We’re delighted to recognize IRODA, WAVES, and AIL for their dedication to challenging systems that are excluding young people from education and for helping children to access essential needs and become agents of change in their own communities,” said John Hecklinger, President and CEO of Global Fund for Children. “Like Juliette, the leaders of the winning organizations are brave women who are passionate about supporting children and youth.”

This year, the Courage Award Selection Committee has designated a new category of award recognition, honorees, to celebrate more community-based organizations positively impacting children in challenging circumstances. Along with the 2022 award winners, the 2022 honorees have demonstrated incredible courage in service of social change.

In Peru, 2022 honoree Yanapanakusun provides housing, access to education, and other support to child and adolescent laborers, migrants, and trafficking survivors, as well as to other young people in vulnerable circumstances. In Honduras, 2022 honoree Warriors Zulu Nation Honduras empowers youth in neighborhoods with a significant gang presence to practice different art forms while exploring social issues that impact their communities.

The 2022 Courage Award winners were selected from among 14 finalists that have empowered children and youth to overcome tremendous obstacles, including inequality, exploitation, and a lack of access to quality education.

Join Global Fund for Children on June 16 to celebrate 2022 Courage Award winners and to meet their inspirational founders. Register for the online event today.


Global Fund for Children partners to build a world where all children and youth enjoy equal resources and opportunities in society and live free from violence, discrimination, and exploitation. To that end, GFC invests in innovative local organizations, helping them deepen their impact and develop their capacity for social change. Together, GFC and its partners advance the rights of children and youth facing poverty and injustice and equip them with the tools and skills to reach their full potential. Since 1997, Global Fund for Children has invested $51 million in more than 900 organizations, reaching more than 11 million children and youth worldwide. For more information, visit


Juliette Gimon, a former Board Chair of Global Fund for Children, passed away on February 24, 2018. GFC established the Juliette Gimon Fund for Courageous Leadership, a more than $1 million endowment made possible by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and other generous donors. Annual awards from the fund – the Juliette Gimon Courage Awards – recognize innovative grassroots organizations around the world that are positively impacting children in especially challenging circumstances. Some recipients have overcome considerable obstacles to pioneer an innovation that transforms circumstances for children and youth. Others demonstrate the courage of resilience, thriving amid unusual contextual challenges; still others have leaders who have navigated personal hardship and channeled adversity into their organization’s cause. For more information, visit


Dushanbe, Tajikistan

IRODA provides access to quality services appropriate for the unique needs of children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In a context where there is a lack of knowledge and acceptance of ASD, IRODA trains professionals and parents on working with children with ASD, facilitates a parent support group, and helps children with ASD enroll in formal school. The organization has partnered with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection in Tajikistan to create guidelines for the clinical diagnosis of ASD and initiated the first early intervention resource center at a local preschool in Dushanbe. For more information, visit


Bo, Sierra Leone

WAVES develops the capacity of girls in Bo, Sierra Leone, both in and out of school, to speak out against sexual and gender-based violence, advocate for sexual and reproductive rights, and become agents of change in their communities. The organization also conducts extensive community outreach and advocates for policy changes to benefit girls and women. WAVES stands with girls and women who are experiencing challenging social norms, such as child marriage, and advocates for their rights to education, employment, political participation, and social justice. For more information, visit


Kabul, Afghanistan

The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) increases access to education in Afghanistan by providing women and children with education, health care, and health education. The women-led organization supports youth clubs and offers training on a range of topics including peace, leadership, and human rights to both youth and women. AIL has also set up a legal clinic offering free advice and representation for women. The organization’s founder, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, has established 352 learning centers and four schools, as well as a hospital, a radio station, and a TV station, in Afghanistan. For more information, visit


Afghan Institute of Learning WAVES