First Lady Michelle Obama recognizes singer Ruslana Lyzhychko, a leader of Ukraine‘s Maidan movement for democratic reform, as she was awarded with the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award 2014 during a ceremony at the State Department in Washington DC, March 4
See the complete ceremony here
Text of the First Lady’s remarks here
More photos from the ceremony here
During the terrorist occupation of northern Mali, Fatimata Touré channeled her 22 years of experience advocating for women’s health rights to fight resolutely against countless acts of gender-based violence. When extremists attacked the hospital in Gao, she assisted victims in relocating and finding much needed safety and care. As the conflict ensued, Mme. Touré provided counseling and shelter for victims of rape and forced-marriage and publicly denounced perpetrators of gender-based violence. Her actions drew threats from the extremists and, even as her own home was under assault, Mme. Touré hid beneath her bed and used her mobile phone to continue documenting acts of violence against women. Her limitless courage ensured that victims received medical care and that the abuse they suffered was not forgotten during the conflict. As the current head of the Regional Forum on Reconciliation and Peace in Gao, she continues advocating for justice and women’s rights.
Laxmi was 16 when an acquaintance threw acid on her face while she waited at a bus stop, disfiguring her permanently. Her attacker, a friend’s 32-year old brother, planned to use the acid to destroy Laxmi’s face after she refused to respond to his romantic advances. Many acid attack victims never return to normal life: they often go to great lengths to hide their disfigurement, many forgo education or employment rather than appear in public, and suicide is not uncommon. But Laxmi did not hide.
She became the standard-bearer in India for the movement to end acid attacks. She made repeated appearances on national television, gathered 27,000 signatures for a petition to curb acid sales, and took her cause to the Indian Supreme Court. Laxmi’s petition led the Supreme Court to order the Indian central and state governments to regulate immediately the sale of acid, and the Parliament to make prosecutions of acid attacks easier to pursue. Much is left to be done, and Laxmi continues to advocate on behalf of acid attack victims throughout India for increased compensation, effective prosecution and prevention of acid attacks, and rehabilitation of survivors.
Read more about Laxmi’s story here