On March 29, 2016, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented 14 women with the “International Women of Courage” Award. According to the State Department, this accolade “recognizes women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk.” This year, there were three Europeans among the recipients.
- Zhanna Nemtsova is a Russian journalist and activist and the daughter of the murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. After being forced into exile to Germany for accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin as responsible for her father’s death, she established the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom to support research on Russian economics, politics, and propaganda.
- Zuzana Števulová, is the director of the Slovakian branch of the Human Rights League (HRL), an NGO that offers legal and other assistance to foreigners. Števulová emerged as Slovakia’s most prominent advocate for refugee and migrant rights and won numerous cases at Slovakia’s Supreme Court on behalf of clients in expulsion and asylum proceedings.
- Latifa Ibn Ziaten, is an Interfaith Activist from France. After having lost her son Imad in a terrorist attack, she devoted her life to combatting radicalization with tolerance and interfaith understanding. She is the founder of the Imad Association for Youth and Peace.
Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored nearly 100 women from 60 different countries.
The International Women of Courage Award is presented annually in March, the month in which the United States celebrates “National Women’s History Month” (NWHM). It is very fitting that this award is presented during this period as the recipients all fit the NWHM’s objective: “During Women’s History Month, we remember the trailblazers of the past, including the women who are not recorded in our history books, and we honor their legacies by carrying forward the valuable lessons learned from the powerful examples they set.” (President Barack Obama, 2016 National Women’s History Month Proclamation).
The good news is that over the last years, enormous progress has been made in people coming together and breaking down barriers. And I think everybody here knows that too many of those barriers have existed for too long in too many communities. This breaking down of barriers has not happened by accident. It’s happened because leading governments, including that of the United States, have made justice for women and girls a core part of our foreign policy. Even more, it is because individual voices around the globe have come together to form a mighty chorus in support of positive change. (Secretary of State Kerry, Remarks during the International Women of Courage Award Ceremony, March 29, 2016)
This year’s NWHM theme is: “Working to Form a more perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.”
We at the United States Mission to the European Union (USEU) decided to use the opportunity presented by Women’s History Month, and more specifically this year’s theme, to highlight a small selection of the many women in public service who have made an important contribution to the U.S.-EU transatlantic relationship in the last year. We asked our colleagues throughout the Mission to suggest four women out of the many worth of mentioning for the presentation of short profiles.
This is far from being an objective, exhaustive, or fully representative list. It was selected to highlight some of the diversity of issues in the U.S.-EU relationship, rather than to suggest that those profiled are necessarily more deserving than their peers. The list could have included many more women who might be equally deserving, including other Commissioners, other senior U.S. officials, Members of the European Parliament or U.S. Congress etcetera. Please feel free to mention other women who deserve special praise in the comments section adding why you believe they deserve a special mention.
Penny Pritzker (United States)
U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Penny Prtizker played an important role in the negotiation and agreement on the new EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. Secretary Pritzker’s leadership made evident her belief in the importance of the EU-U.S. relationship. In addition to her determination and commitment to achieve a lasting and mutually beneficial agreement with the EU on data privacy, she has made the development of a thriving, innovation-friendly transatlantic digital ecosystem a priority. From her promotion of entrepreneurship and her personal address to CS Europe events throughout Europe on the need for greater participation of women in tech to her championing of free and open data flows, Secretary Pritzker has invested significant time and energy to ensuring that the long economic partnership between the United States and Europe remains strong and vibrant and continues to produce growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
Věra Jourová (Czech Republic)
Věra Jourová, the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers, and Gender Equality, played a leading role in bringing the Safe Harbor/Privacy Shield negotiations between the U.S. and the EU to a successful conclusion. Following the agreement, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker thanked Commissioner Jourová and her team for their “incredible, persistent work” and “her leadership during the process“. Next to her work on data privacy, Commissioner Jourová has been an outspoken advocate of women’s rights in specific areas such as: women’s equality and breaking the glass ceiling to political and corporate leadership positions. She has also resuscitated the negotiations on the proposed Anti-Discrimination Directive, which would ban discrimination in all areas where the EU has jurisdiction. This legislation, which was passed by the European Parliament in 2009, is currently being blocked by eight countries in the European Council, who believe it should remain a national competency.
Federica Mogherini (Italy)
The EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini distinguished herself in the last year on various fronts. She made significant contributions to keeping the EU and the U.S. on a common line on dealing with the Ukraine crisis and the related sanctions against Russia. The former Italian Foreign Minister also demonstrated the strength of the transatlantic relationship by closely coordinating with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the Iran nuclear agreement. As Secretary Kerry said: “there is no end to the need for major EU-U.S. and other country coordination, and we’re very grateful to Federica for her leadership and for her willingness to be a key partner in helping to provide some solutions to these very thorny, tricky, complicated issues (ed. such as Yemen, Libya, Ukraine, Syria, and Iran). (Secretary Kerry, April 29, 2015)
Dara Corrigan (United States)
Dara Corrigan, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Associate Commissioner for Global Regulatory policy played a leading role in the Mutual Reliance initiative, a strategic Agency program designed to deepen the U.S. reliance on the European Union (EU), specifically for the oversight of good manufacturing practice (GMP) inspections of human drugs, and continues to do so in her current capacity. The FDA says: “this is a high profile initiative between the U.S. and the EU and its success has been touted as sending a strong message that the U.S. and the EU can find ways to work together that will benefit consumers and industry on both sides of the Atlantic.” Prior to being appointed this position in July 2015, she served as the Director of the FDA’s Europe Office in Brussels.
These four women are only a small sample of the numerous women who work tirelessly every day to further the U.S.-EU Transatlantic relationship in diverse policy fields. USEU would like to hereby thank all of them for their efforts.
“And that is why we celebrate Women’s History Month — not to get complacent, but to take a moment each year and celebrate the achievements that women have fought so hard to achieve, and to rededicate ourselves to tackling the challenges that remain.” (President Barack Obama, Remarks at the Reception for National Women’s History Month, March 16, 2016)