An Indian paramedical student who died after being brutally gang-raped on a bus in capital New Delhi is among ten "extraordinary women" selected for the U.S. Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award.
While the Indian woman will be awarded posthumously, the other three - a Tibetan author, a Vietnamese blogger and a Syrian human rights lawyer - will be awarded in absentia as they are either under state custody or in hiding.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will honor the awardees at a ceremony he hosts in the Dean Acheson Auditorium during the International Women's Day on Friday, the State Department said in a press release.
First Lady Michelle Obama will join Kerry as a special guest.
The Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award annually recognizes women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women's rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk. Since the inception of the award in 2007, the State Department had honored 67 women from 45 countries.
The award is in recognition of the woman, whom the State Department calls by the pseudonym "Nirbhaya," meaning "Fearless," as champion for justice. The courageous 23-year-old physiotherapy intern, whose brutal gang rape on a moving bus in New Delhi stirred widespread protests, has become the foundation of a popular movement to end violence against women in India, says the Department.
"For millions of Indian women, her personal ordeal, perseverance to fight for justice, and her family's continued bravery is helping to lift the stigma and vulnerability that drive violence against women. "Nirbhaya" bravely recorded two police statements while in the hospital, repeatedly called for justice against the six attackers, and stated her will to survive to see justice done," it added.
The rape victim, who had suffered from multi-organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain, died in a Singapore hospital on December 29 after undergoing multiple surgeries. Six men were arrested and two police officers suspended over the gang-rape, while the Indian government ordered a special inquiry by a retired judge into the incident.
The other awardees are: Malalai Bahaduri, First Sergeant at Afghan National Interdiction Unit; Samira Ibrahim, the coordinator of the Know Your Rights movement, which works to raise political awareness and advocate for women's rights in Upper Egypt; Julieta Castellanos, who has repeatedly played a central role in efforts to overcome enormous challenges afflicting Honduras; Dr. Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin, who has handled over 2,000 cases of violations of women's rights in Nigeria, Elena Milashina, an experienced and influential Russian investigative journalist and human rights activist; Fartuun Adan, who has championed human and women's rights, peace-building, development, and the rehabilitation of child soldiers across Somalia; Tsering Woeser, the most prominent Mainland activist speaking out publicly about human rights conditions for China's Tibetan citizens; Razan Zeitunah, a leading voice of the Syrian revolution who was forced into hiding after the Syrian government accused her of being a foreign agent for reporting atrocities against civilians to internet and foreign media; and Ta Phong Tan, a ground-breaking Vietnamese blogger and poet currently serving a 10 year prison sentence with two additional years of house arrest.
The award winners are scheduled to meet with the press, organizations such as the Women and Girls Foundation and Gwen's Girls, State Department and White House officials, Members of Congress, and NGO leaders.
They will travel across the United States to engage with the American people, and will reconvene in San Diego to reflect on their visit and discuss ways to work together to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.
by RTT Staff Writer
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