This year the State Department marked the tenth anniversary of the International Women of Courage (IWOC) award by honoring current and past honorees, nearly 100 women from 60 different countries over ten years. The ceremony recognized the legacy of women from 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.
To help mark this milestone, the State Department continued a recent tradition of the past few years, inviting social media influencers and storytellers to join us for the important event in an effort to help bring the inspirational stories of each of the awardees to a greater online audience. As in previous years, we were fortunate to have an impressive group apply and register for the social media meetup.
This year’s meetup group comprised of entrepreneurs, non-governmental organization representatives, bloggers, and students majoring in public affairs -- each drew out different themes and stories to highlight on their preferred social media platforms.
Excited to be here-- tune-in now! https://t.co/UnRZPFPNDL
— PeaceTech Lab (@PeaceTechLab) March 29, 2016
Delighted to be @StateDept today with @JohnKerry & @VP for International #WomenofCourage Awards. #women #StateMeetup pic.twitter.com/xL3BwNK3XB — Cindy Chin (@cindylchin) March 29, 2016
While other guests gathered in the auditorium waiting for the start of the event, our meetup began with a photo opportunity with the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel, and a glimpse at the awardees before the official ceremony. Later seated in the first few rows of the audience, our participants had an unobstructed view of the stage in the Dean Acheson Auditorium where they set up their devices to live-tweet and photograph the awardees and the ceremony.
The ceremony began with Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell welcoming the audience and Secretary of State John Kerry highlighting the courage, accomplishments, and inspirational stories behind each of this year’s awardees.
Meetup participants were also invited to join special guests and the IWOC honorees in the grand Benjamin Franklin Room on the eighth floor of the State Department for a reception. This year several IWOC alumni were also present for the festivities so meetup participants were fortunate to hear their stories and updates on how receiving the IWOC award has impacted their personal and professional lives.
Hearing from these women directly was incredibly moving and our meetup participants' posts reflected the awe they experienced firsthand during the Forum. Unique to this year’s Forum, Vice President Joe Biden delivered stirring remarks during the reception which was later followed by a moving performance from young Afghan rapper Sonita Alizadeh.
At the end of the day's events, meetup participants tweeted out summaries of the IWOC highlights and we thank them for their assistance in getting the message of these courageous women out to a wider audience, helping to inspire the change that they so bravely seek.
Following this week's ceremony, our current IWOC awardees will visit Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama, California, North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program. The group will reconvene in Los Angeles to reflect on their visit and discuss ways to work together to improve the lives of women and girls around the world. You can follow the awardees as they travel from coast to coast with a clear message -– the voices and contributions of women matter, and the world is a more peaceful, prosperous, and secure place with their help.
If you were unable to join us for the IWOC Meetup this year follow @StateDept for information on future opportunities to participate in events.
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