Human Rights Defenders Receive the International Women of Courage Award

Press Release
March 10, 2010

Human Rights Defenders Receive the International Women of Courage Award

Amnesty International Public Statement

March 10, 2010

Human Rights Defenders Receive the International Women of Courage Award and Reese Witherspoon Supports the International Violence Against Women Act


Three women, whose courageous efforts to defend human rights were highlighted by Amnesty International, were honored today by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the annual International Women of Courage Award Ceremony.

Sonia Pierre of the Dominican Republic, Shadi Sadr of Iran and Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe received the prestigious award that recognizes the work of courageous women who actively advocate for social justice, equality and human rights around the world. Amnesty International congratulates them and all of the other awardees and welcomes the Secretary of State's leadership role and continuous support for women's rights.

"Their stories remind us of how much work there is left to do before the rights and dignity of all people - no matter who you are or where you live - are respected and protected by the world's governments," Secretary Clinton stated at the ceremony. "But these women prove that change is possible. They are brave and they are making a difference, and they are up against powerful interests determined to bring them down."

Ms. Sonia Pierre is the founder of the Movement of Dominican-Haitian Women, an NGO that seeks to increase benefits and human rights protections for vulnerable populations in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Ms. Pierre played a pivotal role in the struggle for equality and the prohibition of racial discrimination in access to nationality and citizenship for Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. Amnesty International highlighted threats made against Ms. Pierre apparently in response to her human rights activism and urged the Dominican government to protect the rights of human rights defenders like Ms. Pierre.

Ms. Shadi Sadr is a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and women's rights champion and leader of the Stop Stoning Forever campaign. In 2009, after Ms. Sadr was abducted in Iran, Amnesty International called for her immediate and unconditional release, and secured global support that ultimately led to her release one month later.

Ms. Jestina Mukoko is the Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), an NGO that monitors human rights abuses throughout the country. In December 2008, she was abducted from her home by armed state security agents. Ms. Mukoko was held incommunicado in prison where she was interrogated and tortured repeatedly. Amnesty International called for her unconditional and immediate release. Once she was free from imprisonment, Ms. Mukoko took her case to the Zimbabwean Supreme Court where she was acquitted.

The honorees' courageous actions have incited many changes and improvements for women, yet injustices and disparities persist globally. "That's why we also need to support the passage of the International Violence Against Women Act," Actress and Avon Global Ambassador Reese Witherspoon declared. "This act creates a comprehensive approach to combat violence, from holding perpetrators accountable to supporting survivors and to promoting economic opportunities for them. These are initiatives that all of [the honorees] are already making possible, and by passing the act we can ensure that they are written into law"

For more information about the International Women of Courage Award and the biographies of other awardees, visit: http://www.state.gov/s/gwi/iwoc/index.htm