US awards Women of Courage award to Sri Lankan lawyer

Sri Lankan lawyer Ranitha Gnanarajah received the International Women of Courage (IWOC) award in the US.

Ranitha Gnanarajah is one of few women from around the world who revived the award during a virtual ceremony attended by First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden and US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.

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.

Ranitha 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.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that every year on March 8th, the United States joins the world in recognizing International Women’s Day by celebrating the leadership, strength, and courage of women and girls. The United States recognizes the reality that the equitable participation of women in social, political, and economic life is critical to the peace and prosperity of our collective community.

“The COVID-19 pandemic presented an unexpected challenge to the safety and prosperity of women and girls in the last year. From an increased risk of domestic abuse during stay-at-home orders to increased economic and employment insecurity, women and girls have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Despite this disparity, women have led on the frontlines of this pandemic including as unpaid caregivers, healthcare workers, teachers, and other essential personnel, and continued to advocate for the dignity and rights of all people, building lasting change that will benefit their communities for years to come,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the recipients of this year’s award demonstrate that courageous women inspire a better world.

“These women have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership while advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment – often at great personal risk and sacrifice. We know that when women are empowered, they are agents of positive change,” he said

Blinken said the United States is dedicated to ensuring that gender equality and women’s empowerment are central tenets of US foreign policy and national security.

He said the United States is prepared to support and advance the health, economic, political, and human rights of every woman and girl. (Colombo Gazette)