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August 17, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Local women nominated for Nobel Local women nominated for Nobel (August 17, 2005)

Anne Firth Murray and Lois Abraham recognized for philanthropic achievements

by Aurora Masum-Javed

Two local women have been nominated for Nobel Peace Prizes for their efforts to aid others throughout the world..

Anne Firth Murray, a consulting professor at Stanford, and Lois Abraham, a former Palo Alto attorney, were nominated through an effort known as "1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005." The program is designed to recognize female humanitarians worldwide, as only 12 women have received the Nobel since its inception in 1901.

"It was humbling in the extreme because I have lead a very privileged life, and many of the women who have received this nomination have worked for peace and against violence in some truly life threatening situations," Abraham said. "They have done incredible things and are incredibly courageous."

Murray was recognized for establishing the Global Fund for Women, a foundation that provides grants to women's human rights organizations around the globe. Abraham was honored for co-founding 34 Million Friends, a group formed to protest President George W. Bush's decision not to support the United Nations Population Fund, considered to be the world's largest source of international assistance for the rights and health of women.

To undertake such large projects, both women demonstrated Herculean wills and a great deal of passion.

For Murray, the Global Fund emanated from a lifelong interest in global issues. She spent several years as a program officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which provides funds to nonprofits throughout the world. Frustrated by the lack of funding for small grassroots women's organizations, she started the Global Fund in 1987.

"Anything that works as well as the Global Fund works doesn't just start out of your head. It starts out of your passion and your heart as well," Murray said. "It was part professional, but it also came out of a sense of injustice and unfairness against women in general."

Since its inception, the Global Fund has granted more than $42 million to nearly 2,800 women's groups in 162 countries. Last year, the group distributed more than $7.3 million in grants.

"Creating the Global Fund from scratch was the job of a fanatic, and it was so incredible to do it," she said. "For five years I did nothing but work on the Global Fund for Women."

After serving nine years as president, Murray retired from the fund and taught, wrote and served on various nonprofit boards. "The later years of life are the time to coach and tell others that individuals can make positive world change," she said.

Abraham's background includes stints in the electronic industry, practicing law and managing her own arbitration firm. She considers 34 Million Friends one of her greatest accomplishments.

After the Bush Administration declined to fund the UNFPA, which provides access to education, contraceptives and basic maternal care worldwide, Abraham helped set up an e-mail chain letter asking Americans to donate a dollar each and make up for the $34 million shortfall.

"We are the only country that has ever cut funds for political reasons, and when we do it gives kind of an umbrella for other countries to cut funding too," she said. "To me, it is simply a matter of our national interest to try to alleviate poverty and the results of poverty around the world."

Although the White House has continued to withhold funds each year from the UNFPA, Abraham and 34 Million Friends have been able to raise more than $2 million for the cause.

She also recently traveled to Nicaragua to observe the UNFPA-supported "Casa Materna," a free clinic for women in need of medical care. .If not for the clinic, many of those women would never see a hospital or a doctor, despite having six or seven children.

In East Timor, Abraham was rushed out of a "safe room" as a father carrying his small, beaten child was hurried in. No older than 5, the girl had been raped by her uncle and the family had nowhere else to turn. Without the Population Fund, these programs would not exist.

"I wish that every single American could see the things that I've seen, and I haven't seen that much," Abraham said. "When you go to the places and meet the women, you realize that such a small amount of money can go so far in saving lives and helping people who deserve help."

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