While accepting Vital Voices' Global Trailblazer Award presented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who founded the organization, Melinda French Gates recalled her early life with husband Bill.
"Bill and I, when we think on our own lives, the first thing that comes to mind is how incredibly lucky we are," she said. "We grew up, both of us, in families that taught us in giving back. Those were lessons we got at a very young age."
Gates said she found inspiration from her husband's ailing mother, who died shortly after the pair was married in 1994.
"We had a bridal lunch that was all women," Gates said. "Bill's mom, my future mother-in-law, was very ill with cancer. We knew she wasn't going to make it. In fact, she made it about six more months. But she read a quote, 'To whom much is given, much is expected.'"
Gates was one of many women recognized at the 2010 Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards that honored women around the globe who inspire change.
Lolosoli also empowers women financially by selling beads in the village -- and that's when she bumped into Von Furstenberg who met Lolosoli in her New York design studio. Inspired by her story and her beadwork, Lolosoli's jewelry designs ended up on the DVF catwalk and are now being sold in stores.
Many of Washington's power players, diplomats and celebrities joined the cause to celebrate women's leadership around the world including actress Reese Witherspoon, AnnaLynne McCord, wife of the Kuwaiti ambassador Rima Al-Sabah, co-founder of BET Sheila Johnson and financial guru Suze Orman.