Najla El Mangoush, pictured here in 2015, is among 12 recipients of the U.S. State Department's 2022 International Women of Courage Award. She is the first female foreign minister of Libya and a 2015 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. (Photo courtesy of Howard Zehr)

Najla El Mangoush MA ‘15 honored with International Women of Courage Award

Eastern Mennonite University alumna Najla El Mangoush, foreign minister of Libya, will be among 12 women honored by the U.S. State Department for “extraordinary courage, strength and leadership in improving the lives of others and their communities.” She is a 2015 graduate of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

El Mangoush will receive the International Women in Courage Award in a virtual ceremony Monday, March 14, hosted by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, will deliver remarks.

President Susan Schultz Huxman and Professor Jayne Docherty, executive director of the center, offered joint congratulations: “We applaud the recognition of Najla El Mangoush by the U.S. State Department. As with many of our students, she arrived at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding with considerable experience and became a lively and much-loved member of our learning community. She is, indeed, a woman of courage and a champion for peace with justice.” 

The award was established in 2007 by then Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to coincide with and support celebration of International Women’s Day. This annual celebration occurs on March 8 in many countries. Each U.S. Embassy can nominate a candidate for the award. Since 2007, the State Department has honored 170 women from more than 80 countries.

El Mangoush became Libya’s first female foreign minister in March 2021. The lawyer and human rights activist headed Libya’s National Transitional Council’s Public Engagement Unit during the country’s 2011 revolution, supporting a strong civil society. El Mangoush came to EMU as a Fulbright scholar and after finishing her master’s degree in conflict resolution at EMU, earned her doctoral degree at George Mason University.

El Mangoush is among two women representing the Middle East and North Africa. The other honoree from the region is Taif Sami Mohammed, Iraq’s deputy finance minister since 2019. She has fought corruption for 36 years through her work at the Ministry of Finance. 

Other honorees include:

Africa

Facia Boyenoh Harris, of Liberia, co-founded the Paramount Young Women Initiative and coordinates with other groups addressing issues ranging from political participation and sanitation to sexual violence.

Roegchanda Pascoe, of South Africa, advocates for peace, justice and economic inclusion of historically marginalized communities in Cape Town despite threats and attempts on her life.

Southeast Asia

Ei Thinzar Maung, of Burma, emerged as a symbol of peaceful resistance following the Burmese military’s coup in February 2021. A longtime defender of human rights and inclusive government, she was imprisoned in 2015 after opposing a law banning student unions and instruction in minority languages.

Phạm Đoan Trang, an author, journalist and blogger in Vietnam, advocates for improvements in the rule of law, political inclusion and human rights. In December 2021, she was sentenced to nine years in prison on a charge of “disseminating anti-state propaganda” for peacefully expressing her opinions.

Europe

Doina Gherman, a member of Moldova’s Parliament, advances women’s rights, promotes women’s political leadership, and empowers survivors of domestic and gender-based violence. Gherman also has served on the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee.

Carmen Gheorghe is president of E-Romnja, which defends the rights of women and minority groups in Romania. She trains other public interest groups on LGBTQI+, gender and Roma issues, and has worked for the National Agency for Roma, developing government policies supporting Roma communities.

South and Central Asia

Rizwana Hasan has won court cases against pollution, deforestation and illegal development in Bangladesh. As an environmental justice lawyer, Hasan defends marginalized communities and was named one of the world’s 40 environmental heroes by Time magazine in 2009.

Bhumika Shrestha, of Nepal, advocates for gender minority rights in Nepal. Her work helped prompt Nepal’s Supreme Court to allow people to identify as a third gender on citizenship documents. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Shrestha advocated for government policies supporting the LGBTQI+ community.

South America

Simone Sibilio do Nascimento, a prosecutor in Rio de Janeiro, combats drug trafficking, organized crime and corruption. She tackles controversial cases, police impunity for human rights violations, and has exposed gender-based violence and attacks on social activists.

Josefina Klinger Zúñiga, of Colombia, is the founder of Mano Cambiada (Changed Hand), promoting sustainable eco-tourism and empowers Afro-Colombian and Indigenous people in rural communities along Colombia’s Pacific Coast.

Join the Discussion on “Najla El Mangoush MA ‘15 honored with International Women of Courage Award

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