The Embassy of Honduras in Washington, DC on Friday paid tribute to the Rector of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), Julieta Castellanos, for being one of nine recipients of the International Women of Courage Award from the US State Department.
Honduras Ambassador to the United States Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro honored Mrs. Castellanos on behalf of President Porfirio Lobo and the people of Honduras for having turned a terrible personal tragedy -- the murder of her son, Rafael Alejandro Vargas Castellanos, by police officers in 2011 -- into a national cause to ensure security and justice for all Hondurans.
Mrs. Castellanos said he was very proud to be recognized by both the Honduran and US governments. She particularly noted the significance of the recognition from Honduran authorities, given how outspoken she has been about the urgency of the security situation in Honduras and the need for the government to do much more to address it. Mrs. Castellanos asked all those in attendance to support Honduras in its struggle to strengthen its law enforcement institutions and be better able to overcome the wave of violence in the country.
The event in honor of Mrs. Castellanos was attended by various officials of the US government and international organizations, including Ricardo Zúñiga, Special Assistant to President Obama on the National Security Council; Ambassador Liliana Ayalde, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs; US Ambassador at Large Sharon Wiener, Global Issues for Women; Francisco Gonzalez, Director of the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; Eric Olson, Director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center; Manuel Orozco, Senior Partner of the Inter-American Dialogue; and Eric Jacobstein, Bipartisan US Senate Group on International Narcotics Control and adviser to US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
Mrs. Castellanos received her International Women of Courage Award at a separate ceremony at the US State Department in Washington. That event was hosted by US First Lady Michelle Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry, who presented the awards to Mrs. Castellanos and eight other women from around the world, including Malalai Bahaduri of Afghanistan, Dr. Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin of Nigeria, Elena Milashina of Russia, Fartuun Adan of Somalia, Tsering Woeser (in absentia) of Tibet, Razan Zeitunah (in absentia) of Syria, Ta Phong Tan (in absentia) of Vietnam, and Nirbhaya (in absentia) of India.
In her speech honoring the recipients, Mrs. Obama said, "When these women witnessed horrific crimes or the disregard for basic human rights they spoke up, risking everything they had to see that justice was done. When they saw their communities or their countries were ignoring issues like sexual violence or women’s rights, they gave those issues a face and a voice. And with every act of strength and defiance, with every blog post, with every community meeting, these women have inspired millions to stand with them, and find their own voices, and work together to achieve real and lasting change." (3/11/13) (photo of Michelle Obama, Julieta Castellanos, and John Kerry courtesy AFP)