WASHINGTON — To a packed auditorium, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged further commitment to international women’s advancement at the annual International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony Tuesday, announcing a new partnership with Goldman Sachs that will fund 100 entrepreneurship scholarships for women.
“The evidence show that women are creating new jobs for others,” Clinton said. “They drive GDP growth all over the world and they’re one of the highest yield investments we can make.”
The announcement was made to a cheering crowd, many of whom were being honored for their contributions to women’s rights, including first lady Michelle Obama.
Ten women received awards for their support of empowerment, often at great personal risk.
“They’ve risked their lives,” Clinton, who hosted the event at the State Department, said. “They’ve been insulted, beaten, and tortured, and yet each of these women have found the strength to persevere.”
Award recipients include Roza Otunbayeva, president of the Kyrgyz Republic, Henriette Ekwe Ebongo, a journalist and publisher of “Bebela” in Cameroon, and Eva Abu Halaweh, executive director of Mizan Law Group for Human Rights in Jordan.
Only eight of the women were in attendance. Two recipients — Nasta Palazhanka, deputy chairperson of the Malady Front (Young Front) organization in Belarus, and Yoani Sanchez, founder of Generacion Y blog in Cuba — were forbidden by their governments from attending.
At the podium, President Roza Otunbayeva stepped onto a stool to reach the microphone. In her brief speech, she laid some blame for the current condition of women.
“There is a lot of talk of how the developed west is trying to impose its values on humanity, but no one talks about a different kind [of imposition],” Otunbayeva said. “[They don’t talk about] how billions of dollars are spent on programs that are spent to re-enslave women, to deny them their rights or the ideologies of religious extremism that refuse to see women as equally important. The time has come to stop shying away from those in our countries who declare women as inferior creatures.”
Clinton echoed that sentiment when she referenced the changes in Egypt and Tunisia.
“The women in Egypt and Tunisia have just as much right as their men to remake their governments,” Clinton said. “The U.S. will stand firmly with the proposition that women must be included. No government can succeed if it excludes half of its population.”
During the ceremony, Clinton and Obama singled out each recipient, detailing a piece of their story.
“They are activists and they are truth-tellers,” Obama said. “Each in her own way decided to act, to speak up, to run for office, to open a school, to write an article.”
The women were also honored in song by an original piece written by Grammy-award winning songwriter, Tina Clark. Judith Hill performed “I Believe,” as both Obama and Clinton tapped their feet.
Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, honoring the efforts of women around the world. Many of the speakers acknowledged the struggle of ordinary women who work to better their families and communities.
“[Honorees] have made the journey easier for so many others,” Julia Gillard, the first woman Prime Minister of Australia, said. “Today, we honor every brave mother who raised a strong daughter.”