US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken introduces the 12 courageous women from across 4 continents who have been lending their voices on issues from organized crimes, women's rights, environmental degradation, human rights and other issues concerning marginalized groups.  


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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you, and good morning, everyone, and good afternoon, good evening to those joining us from literally around the world, especially our honorees today.  Kat, thank you so much for that introduction, but also and especially for the great work that everyone in the Office of Global Women’s Issues does every single day to try to advance gender equity and equality around the world.

We’re especially honored to be joined today by the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, who has been such a powerful advocate for women and girls for her entire career and is elevating these issues as our First Lady.  Welcome.  Thank you for being with us today.

And Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, representing the United States at the United Nations every day with skill, with integrity, with a powerful voice for these issues and virtually every other issue that is before the United Nations.

I also want to start by thanking several people for their leadership in this area:

Lee Satterfield, our assistant secretary of state for Educational and Cultural Affairs, connecting this year’s honorees with people across the United States for learning and collaboration.

Jen Klein, the executive director of the White House Gender Policy Council, a true partner to the State Department.

And Rina Amiri, our new – not so new now – special envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights.  As women and girls face continuing restrictions on their education, employment, freedom of speech, ability to move freely around their communities and country, Rina is helping lead our efforts to advocate for their rights and their freedoms.

As we meet, millions of Ukrainian women have fled their country with their families.  Millions more have stayed to help their country fight against Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified war.  I saw many of them on the border with Poland just about a week ago, and it’s something that stays embedded in your mind and memory as you see women coming across the border, children in tow, fleeing the Russian aggression.  One of them is Ruslana Lyzhychko, a singer, democracy leader in Ukraine and a 2014 International Women of Courage awardee.  During the EuroMaidan protests in 2013, Ruslana performed the Ukrainian national anthem every night – despite death threats – to cheer other protesters, to encourage nonviolence.  She’s in Ukraine now, using her voice to share information about the war.

Like Ruslana, this year’s Women of Courage are making our world more peaceful, more just.

Across four continents they’re tackling complex challenges, from organized crime to environmental degradation.  They’re advancing the rights of women, girls, LGBTQI+ people, and other marginalized groups.  And despite harassment, violence, imprisonment, they persist.

Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s awardees are joining us via video, but I am deeply honored to introduce and celebrate these remarkable women:

In December, Phạm Đoan Trang was sentenced to nine years in prison in Vietnam for her writing on democracy and human rights.  She wrote about crackdowns on protestors and secretly recorded her own police interrogation; when media outlets stopped printing her work, she founded her own.  Despite facing threats – constant threats – she continued educating others about their rights.  We condemn her unjust imprisonment; we call for her immediate release.

These twelve women are separated by thousands of miles – but they are united in their dedication to serving their countries and communities with extraordinary courage and self-sacrifice.

The United States stands with them.  We’ve seen the remarkable progress they’ve made toward building peace, building security, building equality, building justice.  And through our diplomacy, we’re working alongside them to advance those goals.

We also want to lift up other women like them. We know there are future Facias, and Bhumikas, and Carmens who share many of the same aspirations – and face many of the same obstacles.

That means we have to address gender inequities that often relegate women to the sidelines and combat the violence that women and girls around the world endure every single day.  That’s why we’re incorporating women’s equal rights throughout our foreign policy, with initiatives like the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality.

And we know policies designed with women and girls in mind are more effective and more enduring.  By advancing gender equity, we can achieve greater prosperity and more lasting peace and security for all.


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