Bishop Rusudan at her ordination by Archbishop Malkhaz
Two days ago my friend the Georgian Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili was announcing me, confidentially, that soon, his colleague, and our common friend Bishop Rudusan Gotsiridze will receive at the State Department, in Washington the 2014 International Women of Courage Award, together with a number of other remarkable women.
Congratulations, Bishop Rusudan!
Here is the official announcement, for the ceremony that took place today:
Despite being a minority of a minority – a woman working in a predominately male religious field, and a religious minority operating in a society dominated by one faith – Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia bravely advocates for gender equality and for the equal protection of all of Georgia’s minorities. As a woman holding a position of church leadership, Bishop Gotsiridze occupies a unique and respected role, challenging the perception of the role of women in society. She contributes frequently to gender equality, efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, and other women’s initiatives. With her church, Bishop Gotsiridze has spearheaded a number of initiatives to promote tolerance and equality in Georgia, including the establishment of interfaith dialogues that have successfully worked to protect the freedom of religious expression in Georgia, especially for the Muslim minority. Bishop Gotsiridze was one of the first members of the religious community to speak in support of the rights of Georgia’s LGBT community. (Source, HERE)
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And here is also the official announcement of the US Embassy in Georgia:
Bishop Rusudan with Michelle Obama at the award ceremony
The U.S. Embassy is pleased to announce that Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia has been selected as a winner of the Secretary of State’s 2014 International Women of Courage Award. Each year, this award honors women who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in advocating for human rights, social justice, and women’s equality and advancement. This year, U.S. Embassies around the world nominated women who have worked to better their societies, fight discrimination or strife, resolve conflicts, as well as those who have taken risks to run for office or break down barriers in order to promote positive change. First Lady Michelle Obama will join Deputy Secretary Higginbottom and the awardees as a special guest at the morning ceremony at the U.S. Department of State.
Bishop Gotsiridze’s award recognizes her advocacy work on behalf of tolerance, opportunity, and equality for all her fellow Georgians. Bishop Gotsiridze will travel to Washington, D.C. to accept the award at a ceremony hosted by First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama and Deputy Secretary Higginbottom. Following the ceremony, Bishop Gotsiridze will participate in a two-week International Visitor Leadership Program, during which she will travel to several cities for meetings, presentations, and discussions with gender equality organizations, philanthropies, and advocacy groups. This is the first time a Georgian citizen has won this prestigious award. The United States and Georgia recognize the broader responsibility to end intolerance against all people, especially those who are marginalized. This award is symbol of that joint fight against discrimination and intolerance in all their forms.
The Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award annually recognizes women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk. Since the inception of this award in 2007, the Department of State has honored 76 women from 49 different countries.
The 2014 awardees are:
- Dr. Nasrin Oryakhil, Director, Malalai Maternity Hospital Kabul (Afghanistan)
- Ms. Roshika Deo, Feminist and Political Activist, Be the Change Campaign (Fiji)
- Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze, Bishop, Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia (Georgia)
- Dr. Iris Yassmin Barrios Aguilar, Tribunal President, High Risk Court, (Guatemala)
- Laxmi, Campaigner, Stop Acid Attacks (India)
- Ms. Fatimata Touré, Community activist and Executive Director, Groupe de Recherche, de’Etude, de Formation Femme-Action (Mali)
- Dr. Maha Al Muneef, Founder and Executive Director, National Family Safety Program (Saudi Arabia) *To be awarded in absentia
- Ms. Oinikhol Bobonazarova, Director, NGO Perspektiva Plus (Tajikistan)
- Ms. Ruslana Lyzhychko, EuroMaidan volunteer and People’s Artist of Ukraine (Ukraine)
- Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa, human rights lawyer (Zimbabwe)
Full biographies and photos are available here.
Following the award ceremony and meetings with U.S. Government officials and NGO counterparts in Washington, D.C., the honorees will travel as a group to Pittsburgh, then separately to cities across the United States to engage with the American people through an International Visitor Leadership Program. They will visit Denver, Des Moines, Indianapolis, Portland, Dallas, Minneapolis, and Syracuse on their individual programs. The women will reconvene in Chicago to reflect on their visit and discuss ways to work together to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.