TRC Commissioner Massa Washington has received the prestigious US State Department 2009 Liberian Woman of Courage Award as a finalist in the African category of the International Women of Courage Award.
Receiving the award Monday from United States Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield Commissioner Washington challenged Liberians and international partners to ensure that recommendations of the TRC will be fully implemented following the end of the Commission in June.
Commissioner Washington said in three months the TRC will be facing out having fulfilled its mandate but noted that the challenge than becomes for people to work concertedly to ensure that the recommendations of the commission including that of reparation for victims, especially women are given priority while ensuring that appropriate mechanisms are institutionalized to deal with the issues of impunity and prosecution. "Impunity must be dealt a serious blow and accountability for those determined culpable a must," the Commissioner said.
Ms. Washington was speaking Monday night when she received the Award in celebration of International Women's Day at the US Embassy in Monrovia. This is the only award within the Department of State that pays tribute to outstanding women leaders worldwide. It recognizes the courage and leadership shown by women the world over as they struggle for social justice and human rights. Commissioner Washington is among over 80 exceptional women nominated by U.S. Embassies worldwide for their extraordinary work in advancing human rights in their respective Countries.
"Victims must feel safe again; people must know that their rights will be protected and that there are consequences for our actions. It cannot continue to be business as usual," Commissioner Washington said at a colorful program held at the Ambassador's residence attended by prominent local and international dignitaries and civil society members.
Commissioner Washington said that "God in his infinite mercy has given Liberia a new lease on life with the end of the war, the abundance of international goodwill, lots of natural resources and a resilient population, but said Liberians must seize the moment and move the country forward in the right direction.
The TRC Commissioner who has oversight for women at the TRC in addition to other oversight areas said that her commitment to working with women especially on the TRC has been out of sheer desire to see that women get the attention they deserve after what they have gone through by reflecting their issues and ensuring that their voices are heard.
"Most importantly and pursuant to the TRC legislation, it has been our vision to ensure that women began to reclaim their lost dignity through validation of their sufferings and the incorporation of accountability mechanisms in our process to protect their future."
US Ambassador Greenfield presenting the award earlier said Commissioner Washington's positive spirit in the face of adversities has made her an inspiration and support not only for so many Liberian women today but also for so many women around the world.
She said the award is in recognition of Commissioner Washington's heroic courage during Liberia's 14 years civil war when she worked as a journalist and her tremendous efforts to promote reconciliation and healing for women throughout post conflict Liberia.
"We are really delighted to honor her here today as she deserves this award. As a young journalist during the war she risked her life on several occasions while covering women's experiences on all sides of the conflict. She interviewed so many women whose families were killed in front of them; women who suffered grave sexual abuse or were forced into combat and experienced abuses herself because of her work but never let that stopped her." Ambassador Greenfield said