News / USA

    2016 Women of Courage Award Winners

    VOA News
    Women of Courage 2016 Awardees (L to R) Sara Hossain, Debra Baptist-Estrada, Ni Yulan and Latifa Iibn Ziaten.
    Women of Courage 2016 Awardees (L to R) Sara Hossain, Debra Baptist-Estrada, Ni Yulan and Latifa Iibn Ziaten.

    Sara Hossain, Bangladesh

    Hossain is a human rights lawyer in Bangladesh who advocates on behalf of women and girls. She has brought cases in the country’s highest courts to, among others, challenge the practice of forced veiling and using fatwas to punish women. She also played a major part in drafting Bangladesh’s 2010 Domestic Violence Act, which criminalized violence against women.

    Debra Baptist-Estrada, Belize

    Estrada has fought corruption from within the Belize Department of Immigration for the past 20 years. From her position as port commander of the country’s only airport, Estrada helped U.S. officials break up a large drug and human smuggling ring last spring. Estrada was transferred to Belize’s northern border this summer, where she has repeatedly turned down bribes and unflinchingly upheld immigration laws.

    Ni Yulan, China

    Ni is a business lawyer who has been fighting to protect the legal rights of Chinese citizens for the past 15 years. For her efforts, she has been arrested and imprisoned twice, sentenced to hard labor and beaten so severely, she lost the use of her legs. None of this has stopped her, though, and she continues to file lawsuits against public security officials on behalf of her fellow citizens.

    Latifa Ibn Ziaten, France

    In 2012, Ibn Ziaten lost one of her sons to an Islamist terrorist attack, and since then, has been travelling across France speaking about religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue. She founded the Imad Association for Youth and Peace in honor of her son and uses it as a platform to help young people in troubled communities develop positive identities and a sense of responsibility.

    Women of Courage 2016 Awardees (L to R) Thelma Aldana, Dr. Nagham Nawzat Hasan, Nisha Ayub and Fatima M'baye
    Women of Courage 2016 Awardees (L to R) Thelma Aldana, Dr. Nagham Nawzat Hasan, Nisha Ayub and Fatima M'baye

    Thelma Aldana, Guatemala

    Aldana now serves as the attorney general of Guatemala, but she started out in a more humble position – as a janitor in a local family court. Aldana took the job while she studied at night for her law degree. She quickly moved up in the court system to become the only woman magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice. Since becoming Guatemala’s top attorney, she brought corruption charges against the president who appointed her and has worked tirelessly to hold high-ranking officials accountable.

    Nagham Nawzat, Iraq

    Nawzat is a Yazidi activist and gynecologist who has dedicated her life to combating gender-based violence and promoting equality for women. When Islamic State took over the city of Sinjar in 2014 and began massacring thousands of Yazidi men and enslaving women, Nawzat was one of the first physicians on the ground helping to assist and rescue the enslaved women. Now, Nawzat travels to internally displaced persons camps across the country to provide basic health care to women and their daughters.

    Nisha Ayub, Malaysia

    Ayub is a transgender rights advocate in Malaysia who has founded two NGOs to help aid transgendered people. One, the SEED Foundation, provides support to transgendered people, while the other, Justice for Sisters, provides legal aid to transgendered people. Ayub has been repeatedly arrested and imprisoned for dressing as a woman, yet, despite constant threats, she continues to fight for transgender rights.

    Fatimata M’baye, Mauritania

    M’baye is the first woman ever to practice law in Mauritania. Since becoming the country’s first female lawyer in 1988, she successfully prosecuted the first child exploitation case, helped draft the first anti-slavery law and got the first indictment for slavery under the law. Throughout her career, she has been imprisoned and had her life threatened, but she never let that stop her from taking on the toughest legal cases.

    Women of Courage 2016 Awardees Zhanna Nemtsova, Zuzana Stevulova, Awadeya Mahmoud and Vicky Ntetema.
    Women of Courage 2016 Awardees Zhanna Nemtsova, Zuzana Stevulova, Awadeya Mahmoud and Vicky Ntetema.

    Zhanna Nemtsova, Russia

    Nemtsova is a Russian reporter and human rights advocate. After her father Boris Nemtsov, a Russian opposition politician, was assassinated last year, Nemtsova stayed in Russia to demand a thorough and transparent investigation into his death. Despite personal threats, she continues to assert that Russian President Vladimir Putin bore “political responsibility” for her father’s death and supports research in Russia through the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom.

    Zuzana Stevulova, Slovakia

    Stevulova is the director of the Human Rights League – a Slovakian NGO that provides legal assistance to foreigners. She advocates on behalf of refugees and migrants. Slovakia denies the majority of asylum applications, but Stevulova has successfully defended numerous clients in the Supreme Court and halted their expulsion proceedings. Since the migrant crisis in Europe began in 2015, she has been a prominent voice of compassion and stood up to anti-refugee politicians.

    Awadeya Mahmoud, Sudan

    Mahmoud became displaced by conflict in Sudan and became a roadside tea seller to help support her family. Now, 25 years later, she serves as a champion for women who work as tea sellers and in other informal professions. She founded the Women’s Food and Tea Sellers’ Cooperative and the Women’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative for Khartoum State, which represent 8,000 women who depend on selling tea to survive.

    Vicky Ntetema, Tanzania

    Ntetema runs the Under the Same Sun NGO in Tanzania, which attempts to end discrimination against people in the country who have albinism. Prior to serving as the NGO’s executive director, Ntetema was the bureau chief of BBC’s Tanzania office, where she exposed the gruesome trade in albino body parts. After her stories were published, she was forced to temporarily go into hiding, but she never let the threats stop her from fighting for people with albinism in Tanzania.

    Women of Courage 2016 Awardees (L to R) Rodjaraeg Wattanapanit and Dr. Nihal Naj Ali Al-Awlaqi.
    Women of Courage 2016 Awardees (L to R) Rodjaraeg Wattanapanit and Dr. Nihal Naj Ali Al-Awlaqi.

    Rodjaraeg Wattanapanit, Thailand

    Wattanapanit is a bookseller and co-founder of Creating Awareness for Enhanced Democracy (CAFÉ), a non-profit organization that promotes the free exchange of ideas. She was forced to temporarily close her bookstore for a year and, in 2014, forced to go to military camps for “attitude adjustment,” but she never let it stop her efforts to engage her community with political awareness. She reopened her book store, Re:public, last fall and the shop now serves as a public space for her neighbors to discuss political problems together.

    Nihal Naj Ali Al-Awlaqi, Yemen

    Al-Awlaqi serves as Yemen’s minister of legal affairs and is a member of the Republic of Yemen Government’s delegation to Yemeni peace talks, due to begin in April. She helped draft the country’s constitution and made sure women’s rights and interests were represented in the new document. She is seen as a voice for peace and human rights in Yemen during one of the most challenging times in the country’s history.

    Source: The United States Department of State

    You May Like

    Video US Observes Memorial Day With Wreath-laying, National Concert

    Obama lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora