Secretary Rice Inaugurates International Women of Courage Award

By Jane Morse
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – In the first ceremony of its kind at the U.S. Department of State, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice March 7 paid tribute to 10 women from around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership.  The honorees represented Afghanistan, Argentina, Indonesia, Iraq, Latvia, Maldives, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe.

At the awards presentations, Rice congratulated the women for their “dedication, commitment and passion” in their work that is transforming their societies and serving as an inspiration to the international community.

The awardees are Jennifer Louise Williams of Zimbabwe; Siti Musdah Mulia of Indonesia; Ilze Jaunalksne of Latvia; Samia al-Amoudi of Saudi Arabia; Mariya Ahmed Didi of Maldives; Susana Trimarco de Veron of Argentina; Mary Akrami of Afghanistan; Aziza Siddiqui of Afghanistan; Sundus Abbas of Iraq; and, Shatha Abdul Razzak Abbousi of Iraq.

They were selected from 82 women of courage who were nominated by U.S. embassies worldwide.

Acknowledging that the road to equal rights is a “long journey,” Rice thanked the awardees for combating attempts to dehumanize women.  The secretary shared with the audience the wisdom on a T-shirt she was given by Kuwaiti women when they won the right to vote that said:   “Half a democracy is no democracy at all.”

Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs, told USINFO that the concept for the International Women of Courage Award began with Rice and “her consistent and strong leadership on women’s issues.

“The secretary has often spoken about the courage of women throughout the world and the need to support their efforts,” Dobriansky said.  “Accordingly, these awards reflect the secretary’s desire to highlight achievements by outstanding women globally with a focus on recognizing women on the ‘front lines.’”

Dobriansky said, “Women are often overlooked as agents of positive change and women’s rights often viewed as a ‘women’s issue.’  This award recognizes women who are leading change at home, in spite of great obstacles.  It recognizes that women must be heard not just because they are the other half of the population but because they are a fundamental building block for free, open, prosperous societies.”

According to Dobriansky, this year’s awardees are “an inspiration to all, men and women, who champion human rights.”

“These women,” she said, “have dedicated themselves to ensuring that women have a voice.  When women are given tools to succeed, such as education and economic and political opportunities, they create stronger families and healthier, more vibrant communities, and directly and measurably increase economic development.

“Women’s participation,” Dobriansky said, “is fundamental to the growth of real democracy.”

“Women’s rights, like all human rights, are universal,” she said.  “They apply without exception, in every region and country across the globe.”

“Secretary Rice,” Dobriansky said, “has dedicated herself to leading positive transformation through diplomacy.   She has played a critical role in establishing and pursuing the president’s freedom agenda, a key component of which is advancing equality and opportunities for women.”

A transcript of remarks by Rice at the awards ceremony and a statement from her on International Women’s Day are available on the State Department Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Women in the Global Community.