The award recognizes women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights, empowerment, and justice, often at great personal risk.
Ekneligoda’s husband, a well-known political cartoonist and journalist disappeared in January 2010 but she resolved to seek the truth about his fate. She appeared in court more than 80 times in the face of obstructionist judges and authorities.
The State Department said that a member of the majority Sinhalese community in Sri Lanka, Sandhya has become a symbol for the many thousands of persons — including from the Tamil minority — who have suffered the loss of disappeared relatives over the course of the 27-year civil war and earlier insurrections.
Mrs. Trump applauded the honorees as “true heroes,” saying they’ve “fought on the frontlines against injustice.”
The First Lady declared that “we are all ultimately members of one race. The human race.”
“Sandya represents the dedication and perseverance of women from all ethnicities across Sri Lanka who are seeking information about their missing loved ones,” said U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap. “The American people support their efforts as a step towards a brighter future of truth, reconciliation, and lasting peace for all Sri Lankans.”
“Pursuing the truth is not a crime. Protecting the perpetrators is,” said Sandya about her campaign.
The 13 honorees were chosen for their advocacy on issues as diverse as combatting early child marriage, gender-based violence, human trafficking, improving interfaith relations, and preserving the environment. They will travel to cities across the United States to discuss the challenges they have faced and inspire others to action.
Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored nearly 100 women from 60 different countries, including Jansila Majeed of Puttalam in 2010 for her advocacy on behalf of internally displaced persons. (Colombo Gazette)