Women from Afghanistan, Georgia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine were among the recipients of the State Department’s 2014 International Women of Courage Award, honoring leadership and courage in championing peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment.
The awards were presented by First Lady Michelle Obama and Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom at a ceremony on March 4 at the State Department.
The 2014 awardees included:
Nasrin Oryakhil, President of the non-governmental organization Afghan Family Health Association, has been a prominent leader and activist in the field of maternal health. Oryakhil founded the first obstetric fistula repair center in Afghanistan and has been Director since 2004. A practicing physician, Oryakhil provides emergency obstetric care to women in rural areas. She is also an active member of the Afghan Women’s Network and the Medical Council in Afghanistan.
Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia is a member of a religious minority and an advocate for religious freedom. In addition to promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding, Gotsiridze has championed minority rights and gender equality, and fought against gender-based violence in Georgia. She is one of the first religious figures in her community to openly support LGBT rights.
Oinikhol Bobonazarova is Tajikistan’s first woman presidential candidate and one of the country’s most prominent human rights activists. After the Tajik civil war ended in 1997, Bobonazarova played an instrumental role in bringing issues affecting women’s rights and migrant laborers to light. She has spoken out against torture, working in partnership with the non-profit organization, Coalition Against Torture, and helped establish Tajikistan’s first independent prison monitoring program.
Ruslana Lyzhychko is a pop music star and winner of the 2004 Eurovision song contest whose steadfast performances of the Ukrainian national anthem during the recent Euromaidan protests in Kyiv helped galvanize the movement and promote non-violence and national unity. Lyzhychko is currently continuing her efforts to advance democratic reform and human rights in Ukraine.
Speaking at the award ceremony in Washington on March 4, the First Lady said: "With every life they touch and every spirit they raise, these women are creating ripples that stretch across the globe."