Connect to share and comment

Ukraine's Ruslana among 10 brave women honored by US

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Ukrainian pop star Ruslana, who has spent months singing for protestors in Kiev, was Tuesday among 10 women honored for their bravery at a US ceremony.

First Lady Michelle Obama paid tribute to the 10 chosen for the 2014 International Women of Courage award, saying the winners should be an inspiration to women around the world.

"When we see these women raise their voices, and move their feet and empower others to create change, we need to realize that each of us has that same power, and that same obligation," Obama said at the State Department ceremony.

Women everywhere should seek to "summon a fraction of their bravery in our own lives and communities, whether that means ending wage discrimination in the work place, or fighting sexual violence on college campuses, or confronting any of the small injustices that we see every day."

The event, which Secretary of State John Kerry had to skip to pay a lightning trip to Ukraine amid threats from former Soviet master Russia, comes ahead of International Women's Day on Saturday.

Ruslana Lyzychko, who won the 2004 Eurovision song contest, was honored for joining the pro-democracy demonstrations in Kiev.

"Every evening, in face of pending police attacks and death threats she performed the Ukrainian national anthem for the other demonstrators to reinforce the promise of a diverse and unified Ukraine," said Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom.

One night in December when police arrived she stood her ground urging calm and calling on the security forces to respect human rights and refrain from violence.

"Anyone who was there that night will tell you how her rallying cries steadied the nerves of the protestors giving them the courage they needed to successfully withstand more than 2,000 riot police," Higginbottom added.

Obama said the common foundation uniting all the women winners was their education.

And she called on all girls around the world "to commit to their education so that they too can write their own destiny."

- Campaigner against acid attacks -

The nine others at the State Department ceremony included a young Indian woman Laxmi, who when she was 16 had acid thrown in her face after she rejected the advances of a 32-year-old friend of her brother's.

Instead of hiding her disfigured face "she became the standard-bearer in India for the movement to end acid attacks," Higginbottom said, adding she had managed to win over the Supreme Court to regulate the sales of acid.

In a moving moment, smiling broadly Laxmi read aloud her first poem at the ceremony defiantly telling her attacker "you will hear and you will be told, that the face you burned is the face I love now.

"You will hear about me in the darkness of confinement. The time will be a burden for you, when you will know that I am alive, free and thriving and living my dreams."

Also honored were Fatimata Toure from northern Mali who was attacked by extremists for helping rape victims in Gao; Nasrin Oryakhil a gynecologist from Afghanistan, and Roshika Deo a pro-democracy advocate from Fiji.

"We want to see full participation of women in the economic, political and social lives of their country," said Higginbottom. "Strong women make the world a better place."

The five other award winners were Rusudan Gotsiridze, a bishop from Georgia; Iris Yassmin Barrios Aguilar a judge from Guatemala; Beatrice Mtetwa, a human rights lawyer from Zimbabwe; Maha al-Muneef who works to halt domestic violence and child abuse in Saudi Arabia and Oinikhol Bobonazarova, a human rights pioneer from Tajikistan.

jkb/sg

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140304/ukraines-ruslana-among-10-brave-women-honored-us