Gongs for the girls – from the Americans

by Rashmee

Posted on March 8, 2013



Poster for Women's Day, March 8, 1914: Those were the early years of a 'festival' that started as a Socialist political event
Poster for Women’s Day, March 8, 1914: Those were the early years of a ‘festival’ that started as a Socialist political event

One can only imagine what the US Department of State is thinking (if anything at all) when it comes up with its final list of the right girls to receive gongs. The gong in question is the International Women of Courage Award, which “annually recognizes women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk.” The State Department has honoured 67 women from 45 countries from 2007.

It did so again today, International Women’s Day.

How do they decide who to dignify with their appreciation? How do they decide where to focus? Does some bod at the State Department get out a map of the mad, bad and dangerously bolshie countries in the world? Or a map of the countries next to the mad, bad and dangerously bolshie? Or do they just think of the all clichés current in the last year; or perhaps all the stories that became CNN Breaking News (which is pretty much every story)?

How else to explain the posthumous award for “Nirbhaya”, as my former employer, The Times of India, christened the Delhi rape victim; Afghanistan’s Malalai Bahaduri, Afghanistan; Samira Ibrahim, Egypt; Julieta Castellanos, Honduras; Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin, Nigeria; Elena Milashina, Russia; Fartuun Adan, Somalia; Tsering Woeser, Tibetan author in China; Razan Zeitunah, Syria and Ta Phong Tan, Vietnam?

Clearly, the only “women of courage” worth noting (if you go by the State Department list) are those in the developing world, the emerging economies, post-Soviet Russia, post-invasion Afghanistan, unquiet Egypt and the wilds of Africa. Are there none in the ‘First World’, in the UK, Europe, the US even?


Rashmee has lived and worked in several countries in the past decade, including Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Tunisia, the UAE, US and UK

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