Aïcha Ech Channa, founder and president of a Casablanca, Morocco, organization that provides services to unmarried women with children, is the winner of the $1 million 2009 Opus Prize.

The University of St. Thomas and the Opus Prize Foundation conferred the award Wednesday night at an event in Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. The other two finalists – Sister Valeriana García-Martín of Bogotá, Colombia, and Father Hans Stapel of Guaratinguetá, Brazil – each received $100,000 awards.

The honorees will use the prizes from the foundation to further their faith-based, humanitarian efforts. The recipients are unsung heroes who address problems with a commitment to service and social entrepreneurship.

Ech Channa founded Association Solidarité Féminine in 1985 to help unmarried women with children gain the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure their own livelihoods. More than 50 women receive training every year in literacy, human rights, cooking, baking, sewing, fitness services and accounting. Participants also receive daily child care, medical treatments, counseling, and social, psychological and legal support.

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