Each year, the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award honors women who have played transformative roles in their societies, often at great personal risk. This is the only Department of State award that pays tribute to emerging women leaders worldwide for championing human rights, women’s equality, and social progress. The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) brings the honorees to the United States to meet with Americans and make connections that will continue to empower women in their countries.
In 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama and Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom presented ten extraordinary women with the award. During the ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to the importance of women activists as a mutually-inspiring, global network. “That message of cultural exchange is the focus of all of my international travel, because [it is] that connection—the idea that a girl in Dakar shares the same hopes and dreams as a girl from Fiji or Ukraine or the South Side of Chicago—that reminds us that we’re never alone in our struggles… Every day, with every life they touch and every spirit they raise, these women are creating ripples that stretch across the globe.”
In Washington, D.C., the honorees also met with Under Secretary Richard Stengel and ECA Assistant Secretary Evan Ryan and shared their stories, like that of Laxmi of India, an acid attack survivor who is now advocating on behalf of victims of gender-based violence.
Following the ceremony, the honorees visited cities across the United States before reconvening in Chicago to reflect on their visit and to discuss ways to work together to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.
The International Women of Courage Award has honored 76 remarkable women since its inception in 2007, and is consistent with the United States’ commitment to gender equality and women’s security at home and abroad.
The ten women honored in 2014 are:
Dr. Nasrin Oryakhil, Director, Malalai Maternity Hospital Kabul (Afghanistan)
Ms. Roshika Deo, Feminist and Political Activist, Be the Change Campaign (Fiji)
Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze, Bishop, Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia (Georgia)
Dr. Iris Yassmin Barrios Aguilar, Tribunal President, High Risk Court, (Guatemala)
Laxmi, Campaigner, Stop Acid Attacks (India)
Ms. Fatimata Touré, Community activist and Executive Director, Groupe de Recherche, de’Etude, de Formation Femme-Action (Mali)
Dr. Maha Al Muneef, Founder and Executive Director, National Family Safety Program (Saudi Arabia) * awarded in absentia
Ms. Oinikhol Bobonazarova, Director, NGO Perspektiva Plus (Tajikistan)
Ms. Ruslana Lyzhychko, EuroMaidan volunteer and People’s Artist of Ukraine (Ukraine)
Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa, human rights lawyer (Zimbabwe)