On March 8, Ms. Ranitha Gnanarajah was bestowed with the 2021 International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award by the United States Secretary of State for demonstrating her demonstrated long-term commitment and outstanding leadership on advancing and advocating peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment – often at great personal risk and sacrifice.
The US State Department announced that the Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken hosted the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award virtual ceremony honoring a group of extraordinary women from around the world. The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden delivered remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of these women.
As the Head of the Legal Department of the Centre for Human Rights and Development, Ms. Gnanarajah is known for her work on accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. She commenced her career as a lawyer at the Home for Human Rights (HHR) in 2006. Ranitha Gnanaraja’s services to human rights span over 25 years.
According to the Press Release of the US State Department “Ms. Gnanarajah continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges. As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ms. Gnanarajah has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations. She committed herself to stand for women and child survivors of sexual violence and also appeared in high profile, sensitive court cases on child abuse and sexual violence.”
The ceremony also honored 07 Afghan women leaders and activists who were assassinated for their dedication of improving lives of women. Now in its 15th year, the U.S. Department of State has recognized more than 155 awardees from over 75 countries through this award. U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries, and finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.
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