Awadeya Mahmoud Kuku, active since 1979 in fighting for the rights of Khartoum tea sellers, was awarded the 10th annual International Women of Courage Award by the U.S. State Department.
The International Women of Courage Award brings attention to women who have shown leadership in working for the equality of women and who have shown outstanding levels of courage.
“Awadeya Mahmoud has been fearless in confronting government authorities, challenging unfair social norms, and overcoming economic obstacles,” the State Department said in making the award. Awadiya received the award from United States Secretary of State John Kerry. There were fourteen awardees this year.
Since 1979, Awadeya has been selling tea in Khartoum. She helped develop a union of women selling tea and food on roadsides and in other small businesses. There union grew to include 8,000 women. The union’s activities were intended to protect these workers from harassment and mistreatment. She knew that the women did not have legal recourse so she used their numbers and the media to bring attention to the difficulties they faced, including police persecution and unfair taxes.
Women who received this year’s award came from all over the globe including Sudan, Mauritania and Tanzania. The event was attended by Secretary of State Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Navy Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michelle J. Howard.
“Trailblazers matter because they give faith to those coming along,” Admiral Howard said at the event. She would know. She is the U.S.’s first female four star Admiral.
The full list of International Woman of Courage Award recipients: Nihal Naj Ali Al-Awlaqi, minister of legal affairs, Yemen; Thelma Aldana, attorney general, Guatemala; Nisha Ayun, transgender rights activist, Malaysia; Debra Baptist-Estrada, port commander, Belize; Sara Hossain, human rights lawyer, Bangladesh; Fatimata M’baye, first woman lawyer, Mauritania; Awadeya Mahmoud, founder Women’s Food and Tea Sellers’ Cooperative, Sudan; Nagham Nawzat, Yazidi activist and physician, Iraq; Zhanna Nemtsova, reporter and human rights advocate, Russia; Vicky Ntetema, runs Under the Same Sun NGO, Tanania; Zuzana Stevulova, director Human Rights League, Slovakia; Rodjaraeg Wattanapanit, founder Creating Awarness for Enhanced Democracy (CAFÉ); Ni Yulan, business lawyer, China; Latifa Ibn Ziaten, founder of Imad Association for Youth and Peace, France