This International Women's Day, First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will honor ten courageous women, some of which have risked their lives to expose abuse and injustice.
Among these women is one fearless Tibetan poet, Tsering Woeser. As the U.S. Department of State acknowledges: "In a period marked by increasing self-immolations and protests in Tibetan areas of China, Tsering Woeser has emerged as the most prominent Mainland activist speaking out publicly about human rights conditions for China's Tibetan citizens." Tsering Woeser, however, will be unable to accept the award in person, as she has been placed under house arrest again. Just like before, for instance, when she was honored with the Prince Claus Awards in 2011, the Chinese government has refused her request to receive the award.
Born in Lhasa, Tsering Woeser has documented the unrest and self-immolations in Tibet for many years. She has famously said, "You have the guns, I have the pen." Her website, Invisible Tibet, together with her poetry and non-fiction and her embrace of social media platforms like Twitter, have given voice to millions of ethnic Tibetans who are prevented from expressing themselves to the outside world due to government efforts to curtail the flow of information. The English translation of her blog has become a primary source for information about Tibet. She is married to Wang Lixiong, a Chinese scholar and Tibetologist, who has become one of the most outspoken dissidents in China.
The State Department praises Tsering Woeser in the awards statement with these words:
Despite the constant surveillance of security agents and routinely being placed under house arrest during periods deemed to be politically sensitive, Tsering Woeser bravely persists in documenting the situation for Tibetans, noting that "to bear witness is to give voice to," and asserting that "the more than 100 Tibetans who have expressed their desire to resist the forces of oppression by bathing their bodies in fire are the reason why I will not give up, and why I will not compromise.
"The International Women of Courage Award represents due recognition of Woeser's courageous efforts to champion justice and rights in Tibet and China," said Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet. "This award is not only an acknowledgment of Woeser's personal accomplishments, but also an affirmation of the U.S. government's concern for the Tibetan people in their struggle for rights and dignity."