Originally posted by DipNote Bloggers
On March 29, 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.
Fourteen women received the honor, which 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.
In remarks at the ceremony, Secretary Kerry underscored the importance of empowering women and girls to make their own choices. The Secretary described the desire of those who push for justice and fight for human rights — like this year’s honorees — as the impetus for historic movements, epic change, and progress that transforms dreams into reality.
While recognizing many barriers remain, Secretary Kerry took a moment to acknowledge the enormous progress that has been made toward people coming together and breaking down barriers over the last years. “This breaking down of barriers has not happened by accident. It’s happened because leading governments, including that of the United States, have made justice for women and girls a core part of our foreign policy. Even more, it is because individual voices around the globe have come together to form a mighty chorus in support of positive change,” he said.
As he concluded his remarks, Secretary Kerry said, “With the example of these extraordinary women in our minds, we will go out of here, I think, with the faith that every abuse exposed by our determination, every example of discrimination righted by our persistence, every challenge overcome by our unity, and every door opened by our vision will inspire others and strengthen the platform on which women and men of courage may stand for generations to come. What an extraordinary group of women.”
To mark the milestone of honoring nearly 100 women from 60 countries over 10 years, the State Department hosted a forum following the ceremony. Vice President Joe Biden delivered keynote remarks at the forum and congratulated this year’s awardees.
“You’ve endured unjust imprisonment, and often violence…and through it all, all of you refused to remain silent. You’ve all set a standard to which all men and women around the world should aspire. And we truly are in your debt,” he said. Vice President Biden also underscored the importance of empowering women to contribute to the social, economic, and political lives of their communities. The Vice President said, “Cultures and societies that don’t treat their women as equals will never obtain the growth they need to prosper.”
Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored nearly 100 women from 60 different countries. On April 1, the honorees will travel to cities across the United States to engage with the American people through an International Visitor Leadership Program.
They will visit Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama, California, North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania on their individual programs.
The women will reconvene in Los Angeles to reflect on their visit and discuss ways to work together to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.