International Women of Courage Awards

This week at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards ceremony, together with special guest First Lady Michelle Obama.  The ceremony took place on the 100th Anniversary of International Women Day. 

The Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage annually recognizes women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women's rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk.


First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulate International Women of
Courage Award recipients.

At the ceremony, Secretary Clinton described the courageous acts of this year’s honorees: “The women in this room all know how to lead by example.  Henriette, who is working for good governance in Cameroon; or Jianmei, fighting sexual harassment cases for women in China; Eva, seeking to stop so-called “honor killings” in Jordan; Marisela, who is starting a federal witness protection program so cartels can be prosecuted in Mexico; Maria, insisting on defending women brutalized by domestic abuse even after her own home was set afire in Afghanistan; Agnes, defending the rights of Roma women from a seat in Hungary’s parliament; or Ghulam, insisting that every girl in her rural Pakistani village deserved to be enrolled in school.  Each of these women – and I mention them in a personal way because this has been a personal mission for them – they have reached down deep and done what was necessary. And I often wonder how many of us, including myself, under those circumstances, could have done the same. Their courage, their compassion, their commitment, their quiet moral authority has come from putting the well-being of others before their own.”

In her remarks, First Lady Michelle Obama applauded the work of this year’s awardees: “The women we honor here, standing on this stage today, risk their lives to fight for themselves and for their mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, and friends. And in doing so, they create a better society not just for them, but for their fathers, sons, brothers, grandfathers, and husbands.  The women we honor today are not just changing their own circumstances; they're changing the world.”

The 2011 winners of the Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage are:

  • Her Excellency, Roza Otunbayeva, President of the Kyrgyz Republic;
  • Maria Bashir, Prosecutor General, Herat Province (Afghanistan);
  • Nasta Palazhanka, Deputy Chairperson, Malady Front (Young Front) non-governmental organization (Belarus);
  • Henriette Ekwe Ebongo, journalist and publisher of Bebela (Cameroon);
  • Guo Jianmei, lawyer and Director of the Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Center (China);
  • Yoani Sanchez, Innovator and Blogger, Founder of Generación Y blog (Cuba);
  • The Honorable Agnes Osztolykan, Member of Parliament, Politics Can Be Different Party (Hungary);
  • Eva Abu Halaweh, Executive Director of Mizan Law Group for Human Rights (Jordan);
  • Marisela Morales Ibañez, Deputy Attorney General for Special Investigations against Organized Crime (Mexico);
  • Ghulam Sughra, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Marvi Rural Development Organization, (Pakistan)

The full biographies of the honorees are available here:

Rachel Vogelstein is Senior Advisor in the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and represents the State Department on the White House Council for Women and Girls

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