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The U.S. Embassy Blog

Women Helping Their Communities: The Ambassador’s Active Citizenship Award

During my time in Montenegro, I have seen many outstanding examples of community activism.  Men, women, and even Montenegro’s youngest citizens have come up with bright ideas about how to move their country forward, whether by picking up trash in a park, creating shelters for women who have suffered domestic violence, or simply helping a neighbor in need.  Not only does this type of activism help Montenegro progress toward a prosperous and stable future; the connections we make through activism enrich our own lives.

For this reason, the Embassy established the Ambassador’s Active Citizenship Award.  This award recognizes individuals and organizations that are working to support and advance their communities. 

I know that activism is rarely easy.  All too often, people are much more willing to point fingers than to take responsibility.  Complaining about problems is much easier than committing oneself to finding a solution. 

The recipient of the second Ambassador’s Active Citizenship Award is a woman who knows this all too well.  Ms. Fana Delija has long been one of the strongest advocates for the rights of Roma and Egyptian women.  She is currently carrying out a U.S. Embassy Democracy Commission project that mobilizes women in the Roma and Egyptian community to resist early and forced marriages.  Fana and her colleagues have shared personal stories with young women at risk and have educated them about the resources that are available to support them. 

She has also educated the authorities and encouraged action to prevent young girls from being sold into marriages in which they had no rights, all in the name of cultural tradition.  Fana’s message is clear:  Culture must not serve as an excuse to violate human rights or to cut off opportunities for women and girls.  Because of this brave message, Fana has faced opposition from within her community and even physical attacks.  Fortunately for women in Montenegro and everywhere, she refuses to give up the fight. 

Throughout the month of March, we have celebrated Women’s History Month under the theme “Women Helping Their Communities.”  In an op-ed in honor of International Women’s Day earlier this month, Secretary John Kerry noted, “No country can succeed unless every citizen is empowered to contribute to its future. And no peace can endure if women are not afforded a central role.” 

The work that Ms. Delija does every day shows the truth of Secretary Kerry’s words.  Her bravery and dedication makes Montenegro a better place for women in her community and for all of this country’s citizens.

By Ambassador Sue K. Brown