This week's photo of the week is taken by State Department photographer Michael Gross at the 2011 International Women of Courage Award Ceremony, and features First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the award winners.
The Department of State and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton celebrated the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day with a series of events during the week, including launching the "100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges" and hosting the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony. The annual International Women of Courage Award was established in 2007 to recognize women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women's rights and advancement.
Secretary Clinton said at the ceremony, "I want to welcome this year's 10 winners of the International Women of Courage awards. Each and every one of these women is remarkable. I have known some for many years, some I'm meeting for the first time today. Now, I have to say, we've never before given an award to a head of state, but we were so inspired by the tremendous courage, leadership, and tenacity shown by the first woman to lead a Central Asian nation--President Roza Otunbayeva of the Kyrgyz Republic. In the face of a collapsing government, regional divisions, economic privation, she emerged as a unifier, someone who kept Kyrgyzstan whole after tragedy and upheaval. She is a president who knows how to lead, but she also knows how to let go. Because she has set an extraordinary example of what it means to relinquish power. She decided early on she would help to set up a new government, have a new constitution; and when the time came, after the elections were finished, she would turn over powers to the new prime minister and that government.
"In so doing, she has offered an invaluable lesson to fledgling democracies everywhere, because we know, of course, that elections alone do not produce democracies. It is that willingness to share power with other elected officials, to build democratic institutions, to hold a second and a third free and fair election, to transfer power peacefully--that's what allows true democracy to take hold. And this is a woman who I think can stand as an example to many leaders around the world about what democracy and power should be used for: to help the people that you are supposed to serve.
"...[E]ach of these women has found the strength to persevere in the face of fear, isolation, or repression. And they've done so not just one day or one year, but day after day and year after year. Now, two of our honorees, Nasta Palazhanka from Belarus and Yoani Sanchez from Cuba, could not be here because their governments would not allow them to travel here. But we are with them in spirit and we salute them for everything they are doing on behalf of their countries and their people. ...The women in this room all know how to lead by example: Henriette, who is working for good governance in Cameroon: or Jianmei, fighting sexual harassment cases for women in China; Eva, seeking to stop so-called “honor killings” in Jordan; Marisela, who is starting a federal witness protection program so cartels can be prosecuted in Mexico; Maria, insisting on defending women brutalized by domestic abuse even after her own home was set afire in Afghanistan; Agnes, defending the rights of Roma women from a seat in Hungary's parliament; or Ghulam, insisting that every girl in her rural Pakistani village deserved to be enrolled in school.""Each of these women--and I mention them in a personal way because this has been a personal mission for them. They have reached down deep and done what was necessary. And I often wonder how many of us, including myself, under those circumstances, could have done the same. Their courage, their compassion, their commitment, their quiet moral authority has come from putting the well-being of others before their own."
You can read Secretary Clinton's full remarks here.