Secretary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama host the annual International Women of Courage Awards at the Department of State.
VIDEO / TRANSCRIPTS
Washington — First lady Michelle Obama and Secretary
of State Hillary Rodham Clinton honored women human rights
activists from around the world with this year’s Women
of Courage awards at a special ceremony March 10 at the
“These 10 women have overcome personal adversity,
threats, arrest and assault to dedicate themselves to activism
for human rights,” said Melanne Verveer, the State
Department’s first-ever ambassador-at-large for global
women’s issues, in introductory remarks. “From
striving to give more voice to politically underrepresented
women in Afghanistan to documenting human rights abuses
in Zimbabwe, these heroic individuals have made it their
life’s work to increase freedom and equality in the
The awardees this year are Shukria Asil of Afghanistan,
Colonel Shafiqa Quraishi of Afghanistan, Androula Henriques
of Cyprus, Sonia Pierre of the Dominican Republic, Shadi
Sadr of Iran, Ann Njogu of Kenya, Dr. Lee Ae-ran of South
Korea, Jansila Majeed of Sri Lanka, Sister Marie Claude
Naddaf of Syria and Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe.
The Women of Courage award was established in 2007 by then-Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice to recognize and honor women around
the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership
in promoting women’s rights and advancement.
Clinton said the stories of this year’s honorees
are a reminder of how much work there is to do before human
rights are respected and protected by all governments. She
told the Women of Courage awardees: “We are standing
with you. … We here at the State Department and [the
Obama] administration are trying to be good partners. …
We look forward to building relationships with you.”
Clinton emphasized that the United States will be watchful
of the awardees’ safety. “We send a message
to your governments, who may not be thrilled that you are
here, that we will be watching them as well.”
Michelle Obama lauded the awardees for taking risks and
facing hardships few people are willing to endure. She noted
that among the invited guests in the room were young women
from a local school and from the White House mentoring program,
which pairs young people from area high schools with White
House staff mentors for a year.
“Listen closely,” Obama told the young women,
“because if these women can endure relentless threats,
then surely you can all keep going. … None of you
are too young to start making a difference.” She urged
the young American women to take inspiration from the Women
of Courage awardees.
Speaking on behalf of all the awardees, Jestina Mukoko
of Zimbabwe said the Women of Courage award is “a
solidarity message that unites women all over the world.
… By accepting this award, we confirm that women have
a place in the fight for equality and justice.”
Also speaking at the awards ceremony was Andrea Jung, chairman
and chief executive officer of Avon, a 125-year-old company
that got its start by providing women with opportunities
for economic independence through the sale of cosmetics.
Jung announced that the Avon Foundation for Women is presenting
a $500,000 grant to the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s
Fund for Global Women’s Leadership for programs designed
to help end violence against women.
Jung also said the foundation is donating another $1.2
million to Vital Voices, a nongovernmental organization
aimed at training women the world over for leadership. That
grant will bring together women leaders from 15 countries
to share insights in furthering the progress of women in
fields such as business, government and law enforcement.
A video replay of the awards ceremony and transcript of remarks are available at http://www.state.gov/video/.