The U.S. Department of State in early March recognized ten women from around the globe with the Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. They were honored for their outstanding contributions to peace, human rights, gender equality, and social progress. These are women who speak and act against injustice, inequality, and insecurity. Some work to improve their communities. Others forge a path for others to follow. They include journalists who expose crimes against women, or ties between violent extremists and local organizations; advocates for human rights and peaceful reconciliation of conflict; founders of NGOs that help women succeed, or those that band women together to seek to redress injustice. One is a nurse who contracted Ebola while treating others for the disease, recovered, and returned to work; another is Afghanistan’s first female fixed-wing Air Force pilot.
Nadia Sharmeen is a reporter and women’s rights activist in Bangladesh. Two years ago, while working for a television station in Dhaka, she was assigned to cover a rally sponsored by an extremist religious movement. As she spoke with some of the rally participants, Ms. Sharmeen was attacked and severely beaten and badly injured. Her employer denied sending her on the assignment, refused to cover her medical bills and forced her to resign. Eventually, Ms. Sharmeen found work with another television station.
“Oppression, discrimination cannot be the solution, because being afraid can never be the solution,” said Nadia Sharmeen at the awards ceremony:
“It’s true that the mentor, the person who starts the battle suffers the most, so we being in front of the row against all the injustice struggled a lot and also suffered a lot. But we know if we give up, the people who are following us, they will also give up, and it cannot be a good example so we cannot let them be demoralized.”
“Despite of intense criticism, constant threats and dangers, we have to win the battle of truth and justice and establish our rights,” said Nadia Sharmeen. “Together we can be a great force that can bring justice, end the violence, and change the world. So let’s get together, step forward, create a better world.”