First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom Honored At Vital Voices Gala

Alyse Nelson

Photo Credit: Arthur Kobin for Drew Altizer Photography

On Wednesday night, the ballroom at the St. Regis was transformed into a warm and welcoming space of female empowerment for the sixth annual Vital Voices San Francisco Gala. The event was a fundraiser for the Washington D.C.-based organization that helps women be heard. “To those of you who are not familiar with the organization, we serve the world. We are for women with a daring vision, whether they are working to combat human trafficking or uplift communities out of poverty, or change policies they’re discriminated for. We work with them by providing mentoring, support, training, and a network of peers,” Vital Voices co-founder and CEO Alyse Nelson said at the start of the program. “We provide them with visibility and credibility and investment on resources. We happen to take that vision, that choice that they made, and take it to scale. Because what we know is the only way that we can solve these global challenges is by tackling them on a local level.”

Manira Alva and Lina Khalifeh

Photo Credit: Arthur Kobin for Drew Altizer Photography

Over its 22 years in existence, Vital Voices has served over 16,000 women in 180 countries. Two of the incredible females who have benefited from the nonprofit were at the dinner: Lina Khalifeh and Jamira Burley. Khalifeh is the founder of SheFighter, a self-defense studio for women in Jordan. She chatted with Vital Voices vice president of political and civic engagement, Manira Alva. Khalifeh shared her inspiring story and discussed her plans for global expansion.

Jamira Burley and Audrey Cooper

Photo Credit: Arthur Kobin for Drew Altizer Photography

Burley, who was interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle’s editor in chief, Audrey Cooper, talked about how she turned tragedy into action. When Burley was just 15 a friend murdered her older brother. The Philadelphia native organized an anti-violence program for her high school that drastically reduced the crime rate. She gained recognition for her efforts and helped instill the program in the state’s ten most dangerous high schools. Today, Burley is an advocate and youth leader.

Alyssa Milano and Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Photo Credit: Arthur Kobin for Drew Altizer Photography

Actress Alyssa Milano was on hand to present first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom with the Vital Voices innovator for equality award. “In today’s charged political climate, Jen promotes compassion, social justice and the power of collective voice,” Milano said of Newsom. “When she sees a challenge, she doesn’t look for someone to blame–she looks for something to do. She’s used her talent and her platform to find solutions and lift others up. That’s what sets her apart–it’s what makes her a leader.” Newsom was celebrated for her documentary film work—she’s made two important films, Miss Representation and The Mask You Live In, that challenge gender norms and a third film, The Great American Lie, is on the way. “Jennifer uses her creativity to spark cultural transformation,” Milano said. “She knows that our society can’t fix problems it doesn’t recognize, so she tells stories we need to hear.”

Siebel Newsom speaking

Photo Credit: Arthur Kobin for Drew Altizer Photography

Siebel Newsom gave a passionate speech saying “it’s the privilege of a lifetime to serve the wonderful people of this state, because in California we know that we have a tremendous responsibility to lead and show the rest of country, and even the world, what is possible when women have seats at the tables of power. When women are fully valued, our voices and our contributions are fully valued. We will continue to lead and we will continue to work for a world where every girl and every boy can be their full human selves and realize their full human potential.”

David Arquette and Christina McLarty

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

After the program, guests mingled with the inspirational woman. The delicious three-course meal (mixed greens with crispy Laura Chenel goat cheese, roast chicken with creamy spinach and crunchy potatoes, and classic ice cream sundaes) paired with superb wines by Merry Edwards and Kathryn Kennedy. Notables in attendance included actors Julianna Guill and David Arquette, Hilary Newsom Callan, and Roselyne Swig.

Roselyne Swig and Alyse Nelson

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Nedia Titus, Jason Titus and Tamsen Plume

Photo Credit: Arthur Kobin for Drew Altizer Photography

Lucretia Iruela and Cecilia Flores

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Julianna Guill

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Katie Martinez and Erin Feher

Photo Credit: Arthur Kobin for Drew Altizer Photography

Joyce Hu and Tamsen Plume

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Temi Adamolekun, a friend, Camilla Papale and Betsy Rate

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Photo Credit: Arthur Kobin for Drew Altizer Photography

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