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It takes courage to seek justice when the powerful stand against you.

Laws can protect the innocent or persecute the oppressed. When the rule of law becomes a tool of tyranny, or when the structures in place simply fail to live up to the promise of equality, fairness, and humanity, we appeal to a higher ideal: Justice.

The women we honor today have worked tirelessly to ensure that their nations’ legal systems protect all people, no matter their gender, beliefs, or background. And when those systems cannot—or will not—protect every citizen, they have fought to transform them. They have broken barriers, risen to new heights, and inspired other young women to follow their lead.

Because without women’s rights, perspectives, and participation, there can be no justice. But when we all have the opportunity to shape our laws, we create systems that can truly serve us all.

And now, Dr. Biden and Secretary Blinken will present the awards.

As the first woman to lead the Central African Republic’s Constitutional Court, Danièle Darlan became known as the “woman of iron” for her refusal to be intimidated. She’s spent her career working to ensure the law delivers justice to all, no matter their background. And in the face of enormous pressure to allow the president to rewrite the constitution to give himself an illegal third term, she refused, sacrificing her career to safeguard the rule of law.

As founder and Executive Director of Jordan’s Justice Center for Legal Aid, Hadeel Abdel Aziz provides legal services to thousands of people every year who would not otherwise have access to a lawyer. She works to educate people about their rights so that they know how to protect themselves and are empowered to do so… and she was at the forefront of the successful movement to abolish Article 308, a law that allowed rapists to avoid imprisonment if they married the survivor.

During political unrest in Kazakhstan, which resulted in deaths and credible reports of torture, long-time civil rights advocate Bakhytzhan Toregozhina used phone calls to expose human rights violations during an internet black out. She then founded a coalition to continue documenting violations and provide legal and mental health support to victims of torture and abuse.

Please join me in congratulating these incredible women.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future