A Garfield High School senior who raised money to support girls’ education in Rwanda, along with a long-time advocate for Middle Eastern people in the Puget Sound received Seattle Human Rights Awards Dec. 13 at the annual event sponsored by the Seattle Office of Civil Rights.
The organization bestows awards on one activist, one organization and one young person each year.
Rita Zawaideh was nominated for the Human Rights Award because of her work as a human rights advocate for Middle Eastern immigrants living around the Puget Sound. Zawaideh founded the Arab American Community Coalition more than a decade ago. She has worked in the criminal justice system to ensure that Middle Easterners are treated fairly and justly.
Washington United For Marriage won the Human Rights Award given to organizations for its work to help pass Referendum 74, which ensured equal marriage rights for all couples. Hundreds of same-sex couples lined up outside the King County Administrative Building for marriage licenses Dec. 6. Couples tied the knot at City Hall and dozens of churches, bookstores, restaurants and community centers across the state Dec. 9.
The Youth Award went to Jessica Markowitz, a Garfield High School senior who founded Richard’s Rwanda IMPUHWE when she was 11 years old to help support the education of Rwandan girls. The group has raised $130,000 for education thanks to Markowitz’s message to American teenagers: “All it takes is $40 to send a girl to school in Rwanda for a year — that is what you might spend on a shirt.”
The Office for Civil Rights handed out the awards at City Hall to commemorate Seattle Human Rights Day. Van Jones, president and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, a nonprofit with a mission to fix the U.S. economy, gave the keynote speech.
Dec. 10 was Human Rights Day, which commemorates the 1948 passage of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration for Human Rights. It states that all people have inalienable rights to safety and freedom.