The IAWRT Awards have been an integral part and the highlight of the IAWRT International Biennial Conferences since 1994, when Mette Janson, from NRK, Norway and Christina Ruhnbro, from Swedish radio, planned and coordinated the first awards in the Philippines. They were very engaged in changing the underrepresentation of women in the media at that time, hence the rules that Awards entries must be made by women and be about women. In its first years Mette Janson, in cooperation with Christina Ruhnbro, organised the Awards.
The first year the competition was only for TV documentaries, accepting entries in two categories, factual and fiction. However, Christina Ruhnbro, being a radio journalist, strongly advocated for a radio award to be included. At the IAWRT awards in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1997, radio programmes were included in the competition. To secure a broad representation within the two respective juries, IAWRT members were chosen from all continents. It was also decided that a representative from the hosting country of the conference should act as the jury chair.
In 2003 Gerd Inger Polden, Norway assisted Mette Janson and then took over as coordinator in 2005 after Mette Janson's death. Gerd Inger was the Awards coordinator for 12 years, during that time the media landscape and platforms totally changed, and Gerd Inger modernized the awards by including two more categories, web video and web audio documentaries.
In 2017 the IAWRT Awards were again modernized. Rather than presenting awards by traditional formats they are now in three areas; Social Impact, Innovation and Emerging Talent. The board called for applicants for coordinator of New Awards. in May 2017 and Arshiya Ashsan the founder of the IAWRT-USA chapter and communications professional in the not-for-profit sector was chosen as the new coordinator.
The Awards bring a capacity building element to our membership by strengthening relationships and keeping our members informed about advances in our respective fields. They offer a unique opportunity for critical dialogue and viewing for the jury members who then make a presentation to conference participants. The IAWRT Awards are a critical aspect of professional development at the conferences. Each conference concludes with an AWARDS ceremony and banquet, which is one of the highlights of the conferences.
The Awards work is facilitated and sponsored by FOKUS, the Forum for Women and Development, and in the past has been assisted by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.