Forum Agenda

Introductory Remarks
Catherine Russell
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues

Spark Talk
Ms. Latifa Ibn Ziaten
2016 Honoree from France

Panel: Women’s Leadership and Political Participation: “Standing Up for What’s Right”
Debra Baptist-Estrada, 2016 Honoree from Belize
Thelma Aldana, 2016 Honoree from Guatemala
Agnes Osztolykán, 2011 Honoree from Hungary
Nihal Naj Ali Al-Awlaqi, 2016 Honoree from Yemen
Moderated by Mary Jordan

Spark Talk
Admiral Michelle J. Howard
Vice Chief of Naval Operations

Panel: Women and Ending Gender-Based Violence
Sara Hossain, 2016 Honoree from Bangladesh
Nagham Nawzat Hasan, 2016 Honoree from Iraq
Nisha Ayub, 2016 Honoree from Malaysia
Maha Al Muneef, 2014 Honoree from Saudi Arabia
Moderated by Margaret Brennan

Spark Talk
Jestina Mukoko
2010 Honoree from Zimbabwe

Panel: Women and Civil Society – Voices for Democracy and Social Justice
Zhanna Borisovna Nemtsova, 2016 Honoree from Russia
Awadeya Mahmoud, 2016 Honoree from Sudan
Vicky Alice Ntetema, 2016 Honoree from Tanzania
Rodjaraeg Wattanapanit, 2016 Honoree from Thailand
Moderated by Michele Norris

Armchair Discussion and Performance: Ending Forced and Early Marriage
Sonita Alizadeh, Afghan rapper and activist

Introduction of the Keynote Speaker
John F. Kerry
Secretary of State

Keynote Address
Joe Biden
Vice President of the United States

Closing Remarks
Catherine Russell
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues


Joe Biden
Vice President of the United States

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr, is the 47th Vice President of the United States. Until his election with President Obama in 2009, he served as Senator from Delaware for 36 years. A former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Vice President Biden advises President Obama on international issues. He has been a leading architect of the U.S. strategic vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. As a Senator, the Vice President led the effort to enlarge NATO to include the former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern and Central Europe after the collapse of the Iron Curtain. The Vice President leads the administration’s effort to support a sovereign, democratic Ukraine. In the Middle East, the Vice President has been deeply involved in shaping U.S. policy toward Iraq. He has met with leaders from around the Middle East and has championed Israel’s security. The Vice President has also played an active role in supporting the Administration’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. Vice President Biden is the Administration’s point person for diplomacy within the Western Hemisphere. He has worked to realize his vision of a Hemisphere that is “middle class, secure, and democratic, from Canada to Chile and everywhere in between.”

A longtime advocate against sexual assault and domestic violence, the Vice President appointed the first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, then-Senator Biden was widely recognized for his work on criminal justice issues, including the landmark 1994 Crime Law and the Violence Against Women Act. In 2013, he worked with Congress to ensure the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

John F. Kerry
Secretary of State

John Forbes Kerry is the 68th Secretary of State of the United States. Secretary Kerry joined the State Department after 28 years in the United States Senate, the last four as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The son of a Foreign Service Officer, Secretary Kerry served in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War, returning home from Vietnam with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts. Secretary Kerry was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1982, and two years later, he was elected to the United States Senate. In 2009, Secretary Kerry became Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, assuming a leadership role on key foreign policy and national security issues facing the United States, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, nuclear nonproliferation, and global climate change. Secretary Kerry was the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States in 2004.

Catherine M. Russell
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues

Catherine M. Russell has served as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues since 2013. Under her leadership, the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues seeks to ensure that the advancement of the status of women and girls is fully integrated in the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy. The Secretary’s International Women of Courage Award is a signature program for the Office. Before assuming her current position, Ambassador Russell served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, focusing on military families and higher education, and coordinating the development of the Obama Administration’s strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally. She previously served as Senior Advisor to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During the Clinton Administration, the Ambassador served as Associate Deputy Attorney General. She has also served as Staff Director of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senior Counsel to Senator Patrick J. Leahy.

Admiral Michelle J. Howard
Vice Chief of Naval Operations

Admiral Michelle J. Howard is the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations. On July 1, 2014, she made U.S. Navy history as the first woman promoted to four-star Admiral and the first African-American woman to attain a four-star rank in the Department of Defense. In 1999 she took command of USS Rushmore becoming the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. She supported Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Arabian Gulf, Operation Joint Endeavor in the Adriatic, and operations with navies of seven African nations. As Amphibious Squadron Seven Commander she led tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf. She commanded Expeditionary Strike Group Two and Task Force 151, a multi-national counter-piracy effort in the US Central Command Theater.

Agnes Osztolykán

Agnes Osztolykán, a 2011 International Women of Courage Award winner, currently serves as an Advisor to the Hungarian Minister of Human Capacities and, since leaving the Hungarian Parliament in 2014, as an education expert and advisor for her party, Politics Can Be Different (LMP). Ms. Osztolykán was elected to Parliament in 2010, and was the only female Roma Member of Parliament (MP) in Hungary. As an MP, Ms. Osztolykán spoke out for Roma in the face of open hostility, fearlessly advocating for the equal rights and inclusion of Roma in Hungarian society. She continues this fight in her current position as a Cabinet advisor, making a tangible contribution to Hungary’s education regulations, executing an EU-funded project on Roma integration and education, and ensuring that Roma inclusion remains a priority of government programming.

Dr. Maha Al Muneef
Saudi Arabia

Dr. Maha Al Muneef, a 2014 International Women of Courage Award winner, is Founder and Executive Director of the National Family Safety Program (NFSP), the first organization to address domestic violence and child abuse in Saudi Arabia. A specialist in pediatric infectious diseases, Dr. Al Muneef has led efforts to spread awareness of domestic violence and child abuse, and to provide services for victims of abuse. From 2009 to 2013, Dr. Al Muneef served as an advisor to Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Council, the Shura Council. In 2013, the Council of Ministers adopted landmark legislation to protect victims of domestic violence. Dr. Al Muneef and the NFSP played an instrumental role in drafting and advising on the “Protection from Abuse” law, which defines and criminalizes domestic violence for the first time in Saudi Arabia.

Jestina Mukoko

Jestina Mukoko, a 2010 International Women of Courage Award winner, is the National Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), an NGO that monitors human rights abuses throughout the country. In 2008, Ms. Mukoko was abducted from her home by state security agents. She was beaten, tortured, forced to confess to a terrorist plot, and imprisoned. After Ms. Mukoko appealed her arrest, the Supreme Court ruled that state security forces had violated her human rights and ordered a permanent stay of prosecution. Ms. Mukoko’s case brought the subject of politically-motivated violence and human rights abuses home to all Zimbabweans. Across the country, people discussed “what happened to Jestina.”

During the 2013 elections, Ms. Mukoko was again targeted. The ZPP was raided, much of its equipment and information were confiscated, and Ms. Mukoko was charged with running an unregistered organization. Ms. Mukoko’s bravery in calling to account those responsible for her abduction and torture, as well as her insistence on continuing her role as head of ZPP, have reinforced her position as one of the world’s leading human rights defenders.

Sonita Alizadeh
Rapper, Activist

With a poet’s soul and activist’s passion, Sonita Alizadeh uses her rap lyrics and powerful voice to fight child marriage. At 16, Sonita was a refugee in Iran. Distraught over her own impending forced marriage, set to happen in her native Afghanistan, she wrote “Daughters for Sale,” which quickly went viral. In 2015 Sonita came to the U.S. where she is now a student and international spokesperson for the rights of girls to choose their own destiny. Sonita works with The Strongheart Group to share her message that child marriage can end in one generation. She was named one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Global Thinkers of 2015, and has been featured by BBC, CNN and over 150 publications in 20 countries.


Margaret Brennan

Margaret Brennan is a Foreign Affairs Correspondent for CBS News and joined its Washington bureau in 2012. Brennan’s reporting has taken her around the world from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and points beyond while reporting on national security and foreign policy. While covering the State Department, Brennan has reported extensively on the nuclear negotiations with Iran, efforts to confront ISIS, the diplomatic breakthrough to restore relations with Cuba, the conflict in Ukraine, and the accord to transfer control of Syria’s chemical weapons. She graduated with highest distinction from the University of Virginia, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Affairs and Middle East Studies with a minor in Arabic. As a Fulbright-Hays Scholar, she studied Arabic at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan.

Mary Jordan

Mary Jordan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist for The Washington Post, currently covering the 2016 presidential campaign. She spent 14 years as a Post foreign correspondent based in Tokyo, Mexico City and London and has reported from more than 40 countries. She and her husband, Kevin Sullivan, won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting and were finalists for the same prize in 2009 for a series of articles on discrimination and unjust treatment of women in every corner of the world. Jordan has co-authored two books, including Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland, which reached #1 on the New York Times best-seller list in 2015. Hope tells the true story of women who were kidnapped and held for a decade in Cleveland, Jordan’s hometown.

Michele Norris

Award-winning journalist Michele Norris is one of the most recognized voices in radio. She was host of NPR’s longest-running national program, All Things Considered until 2012. Norris and All Things Considered received many of journalism’s highest honors, including a Peabody Award, duPont Award, an Overseas Press Club Award, and she was named the 2009 Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. Norris is the founder of the Peabody Award-winning, The Race Card Project, an initiative to foster a wider conversation about race and cultural identity in America that she created after the publication of her family memoir, The Grace of Silence. Norris is also a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard.