Women of Courage’ Award


SAN LEANDRO, Calif., United States

Laxmi, a young Indian woman disfigured by acid who has become an outspoken activist for women’s rights; and Roshika Deo, a Fiji-Indian feminist and political aspirant, were among a group of influential women honored by First Lady Michelle Obama and leaders of the State Department at the International Women of Courage Awards at the White House Mar. 4.

Accepting her award, Laxmi — who was 16 when a spurned admirer threw acid on her face in 2005 — recited her poem in Hindi that read in part: “You will hear and you will be told that the face you burned is the face I love now. You will hear about me in the darkness of confinement. The time will be burdened for you. Then you will know that I am alive, free and thriving and living my dreams.”

Heather Higginbottom, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, said, “Thanks to her hard work and tremendous diligence, Laxmi was successful in petitioning the Supreme Court to order the Indian government to regulate the sale of acid and to make prosecutions of acid attacks easier to pursue.”


Deo has been a vocal advocate for Fiji’s return to democracy and especially for the participation of women and young people in the democratization process. She was one of the very first candidates in the country to announce her intention to stand in Fiji’s 2014 elections, the first since a military coup in 2006, according to her organization’s Web site.

Despite intense criticism, constant threats of rape and violence, and financial difficulties, Deo and her “Be the Change” political campaign are inspiring a new generation of Fijian women and youth to believe in democracy and the power of civic participation.

Higginbottom stated: “In [Deo’s] bold efforts to expand political participation among all Fijians, Roshika has refused to be silenced or intimidated.”

The First Lady posed proudly with the honorees and said, “This is the sixth time that I’ve had the pleasure of attending this event, and it is one of the highlights of my year because I always walk away feeling inspired by these women, determined to reflect their courage in my own life.”

Among other awardees are Nasrin Oryakhil (Afghanistan), Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze (Georgia), Iris Yassmin Barrios Aguilar (Guatemala), Fatimata Toure (Mali), Maha Al Muneef (Saudi Arabia), Oinikhol Bobonazarova (Tajikistan), Ruslana Lyzhychko (Ukraine) and Beatrice Mtetwa (Zimbabwe).

Read more at http://www.indiawest.com