Sunday, April 3, 2016

3 African Women Named Among 2016 International Women of Courage

Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the 2016 International Women of Courage Award Ceremony

On Monday March 28, 2016, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented the 2016 Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award to a group of extraordinary women from around the world at the U.S. Department of State.

The Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award annually recognizes women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk. Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored nearly 100 women from 60 different countries.

The 2016 awardees are:

• Sara Hossain, Barrister, Supreme Court, Bangladesh

• Debra Baptist-Estrada, Port Commander, Belize Immigration and Nationality, Belize

• Ni Yulan, Human Rights Activist, China

• Latifa Ibn Ziaten, Interfaith Activist, France

• Thelma Aldana, Attorney General, Guatemala

• Nagham Nawzat, Yezidi Activist and Gynecologist, Iraq

• Nisha Ayub, Transgender Rights Advocate, Malaysia

Fatimata M’baye, Co-founder and President of the Mauritanian Association for Human Rights, Mauritania

• Zhanna Nemtsova, Journalist and Activist, Russia

• Zuzana ┼átevulov├í, Director of the Human Rights League, Slovakia

Awadeya Mahmoud, Founder and Chair of the Women’s Food and Tea Sellers’ Cooperative and the Women’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative for Khartoum State, Sudan

Vicky Ntetema, Executive Director of Under the Same Sun, Tanzania

• Rodjaraeg Wattanapanit, Bookstore Owner and Co-founder of Creating Awareness for Enhanced Democracy, Thailand

• Nihal Naj Ali Al-Awlaqi, Minister of Legal Affairs, Yemen

Fatimata M’baye, Mauritania

In 1988, Fatimata M’baye, the co-founder and president of the Mauritanian Association for Human Rights, became Mauritania’s first woman lawyer. In the 30 years since, she has achieved many more firsts – the first conviction for child exploitation, the first indictment for slavery, and the first prison sentence applied under the 2007 anti-slavery law, which she helped draft. Despite multiple imprisonments and threats to her life, she regularly takes on the most difficult legal cases – from representing clients accused of apostasy to her work on behalf of a “committee of widows” seeking justice for husbands murdered during a period of state-sanctioned communal violence. In a country struggling with unresolved ethnic tensions, Ms. M’baye promotes a message of tolerance: “I do not see myself as a black woman. I could be born white, yellow, Mongolian, or Kurdish, and I would have recognized myself in each of these. For me, the value of the human being is above everything.”

Awadeya Mahmoud, Sudan

A champion of women working in Sudan’s informal sector, Awadeya Mahmoud has been fearless in confronting government authorities, challenging unfair social norms, and overcoming economic obstacles. Ms. Mahmoud is Founder and Chair of both the Women’s Food and Tea Sellers’ Cooperative and the Women’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative for Khartoum State. The cooperatives represent some 8,000 women, many of them internally displaced by conflict in Darfur and the Two Areas, who depend on selling tea and other informal sector work to survive. Like the women she represents, Ms. Mahmoud was displaced by conflict and became a roadside tea seller when her family moved to Khartoum. As a “tea lady,” she faced harassment from authorities. Unshaken by the fact that she had no legal recourse in Sudan’s male-dominated society, she organized women into cooperatives, encouraging them to assert their rights, engage politicians on police behavior, and skillfully use the media to draw public attention to the challenges women in the informal sector face. 25 years later, her continuing resolve to seek justice and equal opportunities for women remains an inspiration to women throughout Sudan

Vicky Ntetema, Tanzania

Vicky Ntetema is Executive Director of Under the Same Sun, an NGO dedicated to ending the often-deadly discrimination against people with albinism. A decade ago, as the BBC’s Tanzania Bureau Chief, Ms. Ntetema went undercover to investigate the gruesome business of buying and selling the body parts of people with albinism. Posing as a potential buyer, she infiltrated networks of witchdoctors who claimed the body parts could bring luck to purchasers. Death threats followed the airing of Ms. Ntetma’s stories, and temporarily forced her into hiding. But her courageous reporting galvanized international attention and led to a series of arrests and convictions. Ms. Ntetma has remained fearless, eventually leaving journalism to fight with international public and private sector partners for the human rights of people with albinism.

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