Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Famed artiste and humanitarian Rita Marley has been honoured with the International Women's Forum (IWF) Leading Light Award for 2013.
The honour was bestowed on Marley last Friday night during the IWF Cornerstone Conference's closing celebration held at the Seawind Beach Club in Montego Bay, St James. The 5,000-member, women-only organisation recognised Marley for her role in alleviating poverty and hunger among African youth, through the Rita Marley Foundation.
The conference's theme was 'Music - An Instrument of Change'.
"She has made it her mission to combat hunger and poverty by promoting youth empowerment, economic investment and health-care education on the African continent," said IWF President Deedee Corradini.
In a glowing tribute to the widow of reggae legend Bob Marley, Corradini said the IWF has another definition of Rita Marley.
"She is the leading light who brings hope to the world through individual acts of commitment, dedication and contribution," she said.
"We reserve one of the highest global awards for singular leaders, whose individual acts and contribution not only lift the prospects of women, but also change the communities in which they live and serve to ease the burdens and struggle of others on the way to a better future."
ENSURING HUSBAND'S VISION
Rita Marley has been credited for ensuring her husband's vision of social development through advocacy for change continues to be fulfilled. Marley has awarded a number of scholarships to music students at Ghana's Berkeley College and also hosts the annual Unite Africa forum, which aims to spread global awareness about issues that affect the continent.
"Her foundation has assisted hundreds of African children and she has adopted 35 children in Ethiopia. She is a tireless advocate for African people," stated the IWF president.
As Marley accepted the award from Corradini and IWF Jamaica President Pat Ramsay, the over 400 women attending the ceremony showed their appreciation.
"Mrs Marley is a champion for a better future for all. Through her creative talents, generosity and heart, Rita has changed the world," said Pat Ramsay, who was instrumental in getting Marley to accept the invitation.
In her response, Marley said she is not a star. "I am a mother, a sister and a wife," she asserted.
Looking upwards, she praised the Creator for the blessings showered upon her. "It is wonderful to be here, praise the Lord. This has happened for a reason and a purpose. This is the beginning of something big that is happening in my life. I have made so many new friends, so many new sisters. There are so many things to say right now. To get a recognition like this, it means a lot," Marley said.
As Marley accepted the Leading Light Award, her elated sister in music, Marcia Griffiths, and long-time friend, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, stood in the audience. Marley, who currently resides in Ghana, West Africa, said she had to forgo an award ceremony in Ethiopia in order to come to Jamaica for the IWF conference.
Friday's celebration capped off two days of deliberations and exchanging ideas at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St James, where more than 400 women from some 30 countries converged.