MELANESIAN MESSENGER 090619-1
June 19, 2009
[Melanesian Messenger - Melanesia] Sister Doreen Awaiasi of the Community of the Sisters of the Church was the countrys winner for this years US Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award.
Unites States Ambassador Leslie Rowe presented the award to Sr. Doreen Honiara on Wednesday night.
The US Department of State established the award to pay tribute to women around the world who courageously champion human and equal rights in their communities.
Sr. Doreen was given the award in recognition of her determination to establish a refuge for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
For the last 18 years, Sr Doreen had been taking care of homeless children and women who were victims of domestic violence.
Besides providing them shelter, she also gave them counseling.
More than 70 officials from the Government, non-government organisations, private sector and the diplomatic corps witnessed the event on Wednesday.
United States established the award in 2006 as part of International Women's Day.
This is the only Department of State award that pays tribute to emerging women leaders worldwide.
Sr Doreen was the third Solomon Islander to receive the award. Previous recipients were Apolonia Talo (2007) Martha Bumai Horiwapu (2008).
Ambassador Rowe said Sr. Doreen was an outstanding international woman of courage.
“Sr Doreen had been vocal in the media about the issues of domestic violence against women,” she said.
Ambassador Rowe said Sr Doreen’s courage and leadership has truly made a difference for people of Solomon Islands in enabling them to move on with their lives.
“Sister Doreen was identified to be the winner of the award for taking in assaulted and abused women and children in the Christian Care Centre where she had kept them safe,” she said.
“During the ethnic tension Sister Doreen continued to shelter women and children who were victims of abuse and domestic violence,” she added.
Ms Rowe said it was after RAMSI arrived in the country that she sought help after realising that there were no more room for the increasing number of women and children she kept.
“She found a piece of land and collected donations to build a Care Centre that would provide more protection for the women and children she had helped.
“Mobilising the community and even capitalising on visits by US ships to help in painting, she was able to finish the building.
“Recently she has opened a school at the Centre to provide education for the children she gathered from the streets and those from abusive situations,” the ambassador said.
Ms Rowe commended Sister Doreen’s family, friends and those in the non-government organisation, especially those from the Christian Care Centre who have helped her become the strong lady she was today.
Sr. Doreen dedicated the award to women and children who suffered abuse in silence whether emotional, sexual, physical or mental abuse.
“Their voices maybe not heard but they suffered patiently while they wait for you and me to bring justice to them,’” Sr Doreen said in her speech.
She commended them for their courage, saying her courage comes from their courage, “through my work at the Christian Care Centre I have found happiness and personal satisfaction”.
“I really appreciate the award because it recognises my need to have courage in the face of injustice,” she added.
Sr. Doreen said the work she had done was not easy, her motivation had been through God and knowing the stories of the women and children whom she stands for.
Sister Doreen said a lot of times she had been approached by people criticising the Christian Care Centre.
She said when people approached her and say Christian Care Centre encourages divorce, making women going away from their husbands, her answer would always be a NO.
Sister Doreen said Christian Care Centre was an avenue where women feel free to come and stay and have a safe space away from domestic abuse.
“It is a place where mothers and children can rebuild broken lives that was not based on fear but love, respect and dignity.”
Meanwhile Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Women, Youth and Children’s Affairs Ethel Sigimanu said Sister Doreen deserve the award.
Ms Sigimanu thanked US Secretary Hillary Clinton on behalf of Solomon Islands government for her recognition of the international women’s courage award.
“Women of Solomon Islands have much to be proud of because so far Appllonia Talo and Martha Horiwapu and now Sister Doreen have received the Award,” she said.