First Lady, Secretary of State Clinton Present International Women of Courage Awards, Push for Inclusion of Women in Mideast Democracy Movements

Mar 8, 2011 3:19pm

ABC's Kirit Radia reports:

This morning at the State Department, on the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama presented the annual International Women of Courage awards to 10 women from around the world.

“They've risked their lives; they've served in prison; they've been harassed and oppressed; sometimes their own children's lives have been at risk.  They have been insulted, beaten and tortured.  And yet each of these women has found the strength to persevere in the face of fear, isolation or repression.  And they've done so not just one day or one year, but day after day and year after year,” Clinton said. 

Since 2007, the State Dept has honored 38 women activists from 27 countries with this award.
Women from Cuba and Belarus were unable to attend in person because their governments would not allow them to travel to Washington for the ceremony, Clinton said.

“These women are amazing. They are trail-blazing leaders,” Mrs Obama said. “Each in her own way decided to act.  They decided to speak up, to publish an article, to file a lawsuit, to run for office, to open a school.  And they have done these things at great, tremendous risk to themselves and to their families.  They've received death threats.  They have been beaten, kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured.” 

“So these women have accepted these risks.  They have worked for change.  And time and again, these women have discovered a very simple truth: that courage can actually be contagious,” the First Lady added. 

This year’s awards were given to:

– Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva, the first female president in Central Asia who recently guided country to democracySecy Clinton and First Lady present Intl Women of Courage awards, push for inclusion of women in Mideast democracy movements

– Maria Bashir, the Prosecutor General in Herat Province, Afghanistan who is working to fight domestic abuse

– Nasta Palazhanka, the Deputy Chairperson of Malady Front (Young Front), a non-governmental organization in Belarus. She was not permitted by her government to come accept the award in person, but is an outspoken critic of the dictatorship

– Henriette Ekwe Ebongo, a journalist and publisher of Bebela in Cameroon, who is working for good governance in her country

– Guo Jianmei, lawyer and Director of the Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Center in China. She is a lawyer fighting against sexual harassment

– Yoani Sanchez, Innovator and Blogger, Founder of Generación Y blog in Cuba. She also was not permitted to come by her government. She speaks out on blog against government

– Agnes Osztolykan, Member of Parliament, Politics Can Be Different Party in Hungary. She is the first Roma woman to become a member of Hungary’s parliament and advocating for Roma and minority rights in her country

– Eva Abu Halaweh, Executive Director of Mizan Law Group for Human Rights in Jordan. She has provided a legal outlet for victims of torture, abuse, and fights against honor killings

– Marisela Morales Ibañez, Deputy Attorney General for Special Investigations against Organized Crime in Mexico, is trying to create witness protection program to help fight against drug cartels

– Ghulam Sughra, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Marvi Rural Development Organization in Pakistan. She was the first woman to get a divorce in her rural village, and now fights for women to get access to education.

Speaking on behalf of all of the winners, Kyrgyz President Otumbayeva dedicated the award to the women and girls of her country and around the world who are still denied their rights. She spoke about how women’s rights have been rolled back in several parts of the world.
“I accept this award on behalf of all women of Kyrgyzstan who struggle from day to day to make their voices heard. This award belongs to those, who despite their condition, rise above and demand respect to their human dignity — in big politics when a woman stands up to a dictator, or it is in a domestic situation when she refuses to accept violence and humiliation,” Otumbayeva said. 

Clinton took the opportunity to urge leaders of reform and democracy movements in the Middle East to include women in the process. “We have seen similar tales of courage from women across the Middle East in recent weeks.  They have insisted their voices be heard.  And in the coming months and years, the women in Egypt and Tunisia and other nations have just as much right as the men to remake their governments to make them responsive, accountable, transparent,” Clinton said, drawing applause from the audience. “We will certainly be watching, and the world will watch.  And it's not just the rest of the world but the women themselves who deserve to be at that table, making those choices that will affect their lives and the lives of their daughters and their sons, no matter what government emerges,” she said. 

Clinton also announced a new partnership with Goldman Sachs, whose CEO Lloyd Blankfein described an initiative to provide scholarships to 100 women entrepreneurs over the next two years. “We intend, working with Goldman Sachs, to make sure that these scholarships help women receive world-class business and management training,” Clinton said. The first group of women will come from Haiti and Indonesia. 

– Kirit Radia


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