NEW YORK, June 1, 2007 – Zipporah Sein, the director of AJWS grantee Karen Women’s Organization in Burma, has won the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award in recognition of her leadership in helping the oppressed women of Burma achieve equality, education and other basic human rights. This prestigious award recognizes the life and work of outstanding advocates for women’s rights in developing countries.
As a member of the Karen, an ethnic minority in Burma particularly targeted by the country’s oppressive military government, Zipporah Sein is working tirelessly to bring awareness to the heinous crimes committed against the people of Burma and has devoted her life to justice and human rights.
Sein is a current elected leader of the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO), a community-based organization that promotes women’s participation in the struggle for freedom and equality in Burma. KWO has a membership of over 30,000 people living in Burma and in exile in Thailand and other countries.
Under Sein’s stewardship, KWO has become a key organization in providing health, education and humanitarian aid to women and their families in displaced and refugee communities. KWO documented the ongoing rape, murder, torture and forced labor under the military regime in a critical report, State of Terror.
The Perdita Huston Human Rights Award is internationally recognized as a testament to those who are working to empower women in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The award celebrates the work of Perdita Huston, an American journalist and human rights activist.
“Zipporah Sein is a true leader in the field of human rights, and her story is one of great strength and inspiration,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “AJWS is proud of our partnership with Karen Women’s Organization, an organization that has made tremendous contributions to the education and empowerment of women from Burma. We are thrilled that she is being recognized for her lifelong commitment to peace and social justice.”
In Burma, a military government rules the country and is considered one of the world’s worst dictatorships, carrying on a campaign of destruction, suppression and neglect of its citizens. Widespread rape, summary executions and forcible displacement target ethnic minority groups such as the Karen.
The Karen people are based primarily in eastern Burma, where over 3,000 villages have been destroyed in the last decade and an estimated 500,000 people remain internally displaced. In renewed military attacks targeting civilians, an additional 25,000 people were displaced. Most recently, five villages were burned down by the Burmese Army, causing 4,000 civilians to be displaced.
Sein has lived as an internally displaced person in Burma and a refugee in a camp in Thailand. Despite the obstacles she has faced, Sein is bringing hope to tens of thousands of women through KWO.
AJWS congratulates Sein on this wonderful recognition of her struggles and triumphs. In the spirit of Perdita Huston, AJWS applauds human rights defenders everywhere who are working for a more just world.
Sein will receive the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award at the Kenney Auditorium of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday, June 6 at 6:30 p.m.
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David L. Marcus