Sri Lankan lawyer to receive International Women of Courage award

Sri Lankan lawyer to receive International Women of Courage award

March 5, 2021   06:01 pm

Ranitha Gnanarajah, a Sri Lanka human rights activist and attorney-at-law, is among the recipients of 2021 International Women of Courage Award (IWOC) bestowed by the United States Secretary of State.

The U.S. Department of State on Thursday (March 04) announced the list of award recipients from around the world, including seven women leaders and activists from Afghanistan who were assassinated for their dedication to improving the lives of their fellow citizens.

Gnanarajah continues to fight for and defend the rights of the marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country, despite threats and challenges by the state, the U.S. State Department said in its media release.

“She has dedicated her career to accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances and prisoners detained often for years without charge under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act by providing free legal aid and related services.

“As an individual personally affected by the conflict and based on her extensive experience working with victims and their families, Ranitha has demonstrated tremendous passion and dedication to justice and accountability, especially for Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable populations.”

Gnanarajah, who is the Head of the Legal Department of the Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), embarked on her career as a lawyer at the Home for Human Rights (HHR) in 2006.

She committed herself to stand for women and child survivors of sexual violence and also appeared in high profile, sensitive court cases on child abuse and sexual violence.

U.S. State Department said the virtual ceremony of the annual IWOC Awards to honour extraordinary women from all over the world will be hosted by Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken on Monday (March 08).

The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden is expected to deliver remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of the awardees.

Now in its 15th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes 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 and sacrifice. 

From the inception of this award in March 2007 to today, the U.S. Department of State has recognized more than 155 awardees from over 75 countries.

U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries, and finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials.

Following the virtual IWOC ceremony, the awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) virtual exchange and connect with their American counterparts, the media release read further.

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