Two women from Mauritania and Rwanda have been named as recipients of the 2018 International Women of Courage Award for their show of “strength, courage, and leadership” to members of society often to the detriment of their own well-being and comfort.
L’Malouma Said and Godelieve Mukasarasi are among 10 women to be honored with the annual Secretary of State’s Award on Friday for their contributions to their communities, the U.S. State Department announced on Wednesday.
The ceremony will take place on March 23 at 2:00 pm EDT and hosted by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. It will be live-streamed on the U.S. State Department website.
L’Malouma Said – Mauritania
Born into slavery in her native Boutilmitt, Mauritania in 1972, L’Malouma Said showed leadership skills early on – by becoming the premier activist at her school for the liberation of Haratines at the age of 17. A Haratine woman herself, she was elected as a member of parliament to the Mauritanian National Assembly in 2006. In 2013 she became the president of a cooperative of women traders while simultaneously holding a position as the officer in charge of women in the El Hor Movement; a cause for the liberation of Haratines in Mauritania. Said is a founding member of S.O.S. Esclaves; an anti-slavery organization now being led by her husband, Boubacar Messaoud. She is also an advocate for prisoners in Mauritania, believing that their needs are ignored and their voices are silenced. Subsequently, this has led to diminished social and educational opportunities for them. Prisoners are also left to live in conditions that lead to the outbreak of illnesses. Said fights for the voiceless regardless of their social status; her track record shows her passion and dedication to defending civil rights for all citizens.
Godelieve Mukasarasi – Rwanda
After the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Godelieve Mukasarasi decided to fight for peace in her native Rwanda. In 1996 she was approached by the United Nations team responsible for organizing a case against the former mayor of Taba, Jean-Paul Akayesu for his role in the genocide. She complied and was threatened by fellow community members. Her husband and daughter were also killed. Undeterred, Mukasarasi founded Solidarity for the Development of Widows and Orphans to Promote Self-Sufficiency and Livelihoods (SEVOTA) subsequently arranging for four SEVOTA members to testify against Akayesu. Mukasarasi continues to rebuild the Rwandan community’s social, economic, and human relations ravaged by the genocide. SEVOTA via Mukasarasi’s governance has enabled 1,300 households to take part in savings clubs, 2,000 youth to join peace and development clubs, and overall continues to promote the rights of women and girls affected by sexual violence in war-torn areas on an international scale.
The International Women of Courage Awards was established in 2007. The Secretary of State uses this opportunity to honor women who are fearless and selflessly stand for a cause.