StateraArts has named Sophie Dowllar Ogutu as the 2019 recipient of the Martha Richards Visionary Woman in Leadership Award. Sophie hails from Nairobi, Kenya. She is a mother, an unapologetic women's rights defender, a community mobilizer and organizer, and above all - a feminist artist. She is a key coordinator of The 5 C's Theatre Collective, co-founder of the Mamma Africa Community Centre, a board member of the Kenya Community Media Network (KCOMNET), a mentor with the Girl’s Brigade, and the principal organizer for SWAN Day Kenya. Sophie is also an International Committee Member for the World March of Women, which has led to collaborations with the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa.
This award, established in Martha Richards’ name, is given annually to a visionary woman who uplifts, amplifies, and advances women in the arts. StateraArts established this award to recognize outstanding leaders and support the work of women who are creating pathways for others. StateraArts is honored to highlight the extraordinary achievements of women leaders in the arts who provide powerful role models for mentorship and intersectional equity. The recipient is nominated by the public and chosen by committee. The award comes with international recognition and a $2,000 prize.
StateraArts will officially deliver the award to Sophie Dowllar Ogutu on Sunday, October 27 during a ceremony at Statera’s National Conference in New York City.
“I appreciate, value, and respect people, and I love working with everyone. In my art-ivism, I work a lot with diverse communities, a rare opportunity that makes the arts space special and unique. Born and raised in a happy and loving family of 10, we learned to love and cherish any opportunity that comes along the way. I started my art journey as a teen, acting in church. When I graduated from high school in 1995, the first opportunity to prosper in life, was in an arts space. It was a radical, political space, and too much for a young girl, but given my background, I continued to strive. This shaped me and helped me choose the arts path. That opportunity made me who I am today. I continue working with women in arts and will always support wherever I can. The role that arts play as a medium for communication, has enabled me to reach many vulnerable hearts of women seeking ways to share and talk about their plights. Women in the arts remains my number one form of interaction and connection to those many hearts.”
ABOUT MARTHA RICHARDS:
Martha Richards has spent a 40-year career centering on the voices of women and under-represented artists. This year marks twenty-three years as Executive Director of WomenArts, a non-profit Martha founded dedicated to increasing visibility and opportunities for women artists in all genres. Prior to WomanArts, Martha served as Executive Director of Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College and as Managing Director of StageWest. She has received many honors including a 2006 nomination for the prestigious international Montblanc Due La Culture Award for outstanding service to the arts, induction into the BayPath College 21st Century Women Business Leaders Hall of Fame for her work in philanthropy, and recognition as one of three "founding mothers" of the Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts. In 2018, StateraArts established the Martha Richards Visionary Woman in Leadership Award in honor of the global impact of her work for gender parity in the arts. Richards has changed the landscape for women artists.
QUOTES FROM SOPHIE’S NOMINATIONS:
“Everything Sophie does is WOMEN-centered. She introduced international grassroots feminist women to us here in Kenya. She also introduced SWAN Day Festival. She believes in empowering women. She truly is a believer of women's advancement and true empowerment.”
“Despite huge personal challenges Sophie has been the driving force behind SWAN day in Kenya for over a decade and shows altruism and compassion in all she does. In a culture steeped in patriarchy and corruption she is a beacon of honesty and courageously stands up for women’s rights in particular through theatre and the arts. She has been working for change ever since I first met her when she was an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.”
“Sophie gives women the courage to stand for themselves. Networks have been created to ensure that women can not only engage in business but also support one another emotionally and socially. She helps women become a sister's keeper and their wellbeing has become strengthened through this.”
“We have walked the 5Cs journey together and I’ve seen Sophie champion the rights of many. She seizes every opportunity to empower women artists. Now with the SWAN Day platform, we see even more opportunities created through creatives. Sophie is one resilient person.”
“Sophie’s theatre collective, the 5Cs, which is a women led human rights group, is one of the most progressive groups with community social change approaches.”
“Given the complex reality of gender inequality, factors that render women most liable to discrimination are not always easily identifiable, but through the SWAN platform, Sophie has created panels where women in the arts have talked about their forms of discrimination in their work as women artists, and continue to seek alternatives to those problems / challenges through active participation of women artists.”
“Sophie is a committed feminist in a patriarchal society. We set up Mamma Africa Community Centre as a small charity supporting rural women around Lake Victoria. This gave them access to training to become better at whatever they chose: to learn from agricultural practices, first aid, the arts, or technology. The project has developed based on the analysis that the culturally encouraged lack of confidence in women is what holds women back from developing their potential and that trained women can look at evidence of competence to build their confidence one bit at a time. Sophie has been the driving force.”
Statera's mission is to take positive action to bring women into full and equal participation in the arts. Statera, deriving its name from the Latin word for balance, normalizes a humane and holistic creative environment that nourishes innovation. Learn more at www.stateraarts.org.