, NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 12 – Kenyan political activist Ann Njogu is one of this year’s winners of the International Women of Courage (IWOC) award initiated by the US Department of State to recognise women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and advancement.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama presented the awards to honorees at a ceremony at the Department of State in Washington, DC on Wednesday.
The awardees are: Ann Njogu (Kenya), Shukria Asil (Afghanistan), Col. Shafiqa Quraishi (Afghanistan), Androula Henriques (Cyprus), Sonia Pierre (Dominican Republic), Shadi Sadr (Iran), Dr Lee Ae-ran (Republic of Korea), Jansila Majeed (Sri Lanka), Sister Marie Claude Naddaf (Syria), and Jestina Mukoko (Zimbabwe).
The annual International Women of Courage Award was started in March 2007 to recognise women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women\’s rights and advancement.
This is the only award within the Department of State that pays tribute to outstanding women leaders worldwide. It recognises the courage and leadership shown as they struggle for social justice and human rights.
“These ten women have overcome personal adversity, threats, arrest, and assault to dedicate themselves to activism for human rights,” said Melanne Verveer, the State Department’s first ever Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.
“From striving to give more voice to politically underrepresented women in Afghanistan to documenting human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, these heroic individuals have made it their life’s work to increase freedom and equality in the world.”
In 2008, Ms. Njogu was co-convener of the Civil Society Congress, which worked to avert total political collapse in the aftermath of the violence that tore Kenyan society apart after the December 2007 elections.
Her organisation, the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), documented sexual and gender based violence during the post election period, providing essential data for national and international
investigations of possible criminal conduct by Kenyan leaders. Ms Njogu was also instrumental in passage of Kenya’s Sexual Offences Act, as a co-drafter and lobbyist.
Ms Njogu has been a leader on Constitutional reform, which is crucial to Kenya’s future. She was the Co-Chair of the Multi-Sectoral Committee on Constitutional Reform, the Co-Chair of the Joint Dialogue Forum on Constitutional Reform and a delegate to the Bomas National Conference on Constitutional Reforms.
Using the influence of her organisation, CREAW, she has kept pressure on lawmakers for Constitutional reforms, and ensured that the reform process is representative and not skewed to benefit the existing power structure.
These activities have come with great personal sacrifice. In 2007, Ms Njogu was physically assaulted and arrested by state security for demanding that Members of Parliament review their hefty salaries in light of the generally poor state of the country. With the other arrestees, she filed a Constitutional reference now popularly known as "Ann Njogu and others versus the State," which was successfully adjudicated and now limits the time a Kenyan citizen can be held in custody to 24 hours. Hundreds of Kenyans have since used this landmark case to secure their release when police have arbitrarily arrested them and held them against their Constitutional guarantees.
In 2008, with six others, Ms Njogu was arrested and beaten by police when the group raised the issue of possible corruption in the sale of the Grand Regency Hotel. The matter is still pending in court, but it is just another example of her dedication to exposing corruption and fighting for reforms in Kenya.