Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The State Dept. Honors Women of Courage

Here's the First Lady with Hadizatou Mani, one of the eight women being honored by the State Department's Women of Courage Award this year.

Hadizatou was born into slavery in Niger, a country which only outlawed slavery in 2003. Her master bought her for $500 when she was only 12 years old. He beat her, forced her to work in the fields, and raped her, making her bear him three children. When slavery was outlawed, he tried to tell the government that she was not a slave, but one of his wives. Hadizatou fought for and won a "Certificate of Liberation" and married a man of her own choosing, but her former master sued her for bigamy and she was forced to spend six months in jail.

She worked with the Niger NGO Timidria and fought her sentence, despite huge pressure not to do anything. She brought a case to the Economic Council of West African States (ECOWAS), which finally found that Niger had failed to protect her rights under the anti-slavery laws and awarded her 10 million CFA (roughly $20,000 USD), as well as her freedom. Thanks to Hadizatou's courage, there is hope for the many citizens of Niger who remain enslaved.

It's just one small reminder of the injustices women and men face all over the world, and our responsibility to be always be aware and active, fighting for better human rights in whatever way we can.

Read the rest of the profiles of the Women of Courage Award Recipients by clicking on their names below:
Norma Cruz, Guatemala

Mutabar Tadjibayeva, Uzbekistan

Suaad Abbas Salman Allami, Iraq

Veronika Marchenko, Russia

Ambiga Sreenevasan, Malayasia

Wazma Frogh, Afghanistan