Statement by the Ambassador on the Occasion of the Presentation of the International Women of Courage Award

Embassy of the United States in Mali
No: BAM2014-022 EN

Bamako, Mali – March,5, 2014
While the proverb says women hold up half the sky, I believe women like Ms. Fatimata Touré, carry more than their share of the burden.   What a pleasure it is for me to congratulate  Ms. Touré as one of ten women being awarded the U.S. Secretary of State’s 2014 International Women of Courage Award.  This prestigious award annually 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.   In my meetings with Ms. Touré, I learned firsthand why she is being honored today in Washington, D.C. by First Lady Michelle Obama and Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom.  Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored 76 women from 49 different countries. Ms. Touré was recognized for putting her own life at risk to publically advocate for women’s and children’s rights, including denouncing human rights abuses during the extremist occupation of northern Mali in 2012.  During Mali’s security and governance crisis, she continued to speak out against human rights violations even after being threatened by extremists, helping patients from the hospital in Gao to Mopti receive medical care and ensuring the abuses they suffered were not forgotten.  And the work continues.   As the current head of the Regional Forum on Reconciliation and Peace in Gao, she carries on advocating for justice and women’s rights.  This is truly a great day for not only the women of Mali, but all Malians.
Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard