Brazilian and Colombian Women Honored by White House
By Dialogo March 12, 2012
Jineth Bedoya Lima, an investigative journalist from Colombia who has continued to write about women’s issues despite having been raped and tortured for uncovering an arms smuggling network; and Major Pricilla de Oliveira Azevedo of Brazil, who was invited to head the first “Police Pacification Unit” (UPP) in Rio de Janeiro’s Santa Marta favela after arresting a gang of criminals who had kidnapped and tortured her, were among the honorees at the White House to celebrate International Woman’s Day on March 8.
In total, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. first lady Michelle Obama honored ten of the world’s leading women activists with the 2012 International Women of Courage Awards for their efforts to improve the lives of women despite obstacles and threats to their safety.
Secretary Clinton said all the honorees have been working tirelessly to improve the lives of women and girls, despite sometimes having to endure imprisonment and abuse.
Mrs. Obama praised the women for refusing to accept the world as it is, and instead fighting to remake the world “as they know it should be.”
The award winners, who were all in attendance, are women from 10 different countries and also included Hana Elhebshi, a political activist from Libya; Yemeni dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman; Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former Liberian President Leymah Gbowee; Maryam Durani, a Provincial Council member from Kandahar, Afghanistan, who has survived multiple attempts on her life; Zin Mar Aung, a Burmese civil society activist who spent 11 years in prison; and Samar Badawi, the first Saudi Arabian woman to sue the Saudi government for the right to choose her own husband and was also imprisoned.
In a statement, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the world still has “a long way to go” before women and girls universally enjoy the same fundamental rights and freedoms as men. The secretary-general said the disparity is especially troubling for women and girls in rural areas, who make up about one-quarter of the world’s population.
The U.N. says the almost half-billion women who work as small farmers or landless workers continually rank at the bottom of almost all economic, social and political indicators. U.N. officials say that if women had equal access to resources, global agricultural production would rise by 4 percent.
They also say ensuring women in rural areas have equal access to resources would help make major inroads in the fight against hunger.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also urged governments to do more. She said the failure to capitalize on the potential of women is a global problem.