US Secretary of State Award Honours Two IOM Staff Members

Posted: 
03/10/08

Two IOM staff members have received the Women of Courage Award for
their courage and leadership as they struggle for social justice
and women's rights.

In celebration of International Women's Day, US Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice presented the second annual Award for
International Women of Courage to eight women from around the
world.

Among them were Cynthia Bendlin, manager of the IOM
counter-trafficking information campaign in the tri-border area
(Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay), and Dr. Eaman Al-Gobory, IOM's
National Medical Officer in Iraq.

They were selected from more than 90 exceptional women nominated
by US embassies worldwide for their extraordinary work in advancing
women's rights.

When she learned that she had been selected to receive the
award, Dr. Al-Gobory said: "I want to accept my award as a staff
member of IOM because without my family, my IOM family, I would not
have been able to fulfill my duties for the people of Iraq.  I
sincerely want to share this recognition with IOM staff all over
the world, especially the Medical Health Unit."

The award comes on the day the body of the husband of an IOM
doctor and colleague of Dr. Al-Gobory was found. Also a doctor, he
had been kidnapped on Sunday. His death highlights the reality of
the incredible dangers of living and working in Iraq.

At the request of the Iraqi Ministry of Health, IOM implements a
medical evacuation programme for Iraqis who cannot be treated for
their conditions inside the country.  The programme matches
Iraqi patients who require urgent medical attention with pro-bono
medical assistance provided by hospitals in the region and
abroad.  Approximately 6,000 Iraqis are currently on the
official list of the Ministry of Health awaiting life-saving
assistance for various conditions including heart disease, cancer,
spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders.  Many of the
patients are children or war wounded.

Over the years, IOM's medical evacuation programme has assisted
several hundred people with support from Kuwait, the European Union
and various other countries. Currently, the programme is being
funded from the proceeds of German author Dr. Juergen Todenhoefer's
latest book on Iraq.

Dr. Al-Gobory, a recipient of the IOM Director General's Award
for Outstanding Staff in 2005, is also involved in helping to
rebuild the Iraq healthcare system by providing medical training
and education.  She works closely with IOM partners including
Project Hope, Operation Smile, the National Spinal Cord Injury
Association and Operation Give.

For Cynthia Bendlin in Paraguay, the "award provides renewed
strength so that we can continue with the important work that lies
ahead.  There are an estimated 6,000 potential victims in the
tri-border area, so we must respond in a clear, forceful and
effective manner."

The IOM information and awareness-raising campaign in the
tri-border funded by the US State Department's Office to Monitor
and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP) and managed by Bendlin,
covered the towns of Puerto Iguaçu, Argentina; Fez do
Iguaçu, Brazil; and Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. The area is
a hot spot marked by diverse criminal activities and large regular
and irregular movements of people through the porous borders,
including the smuggling and trafficking of human beings. 

The majority of the victims trafficked for sexual exploitation
in the region are young women from poor rural areas.  They are
lured with false promises of jobs as waitresses or domestic
helpers, and are taken to small cities and towns.

Bendlin and her colleagues work under extremely difficult
situations in the trip border areas.  As the human trafficking
criminal network operating in the area saw their livelihood
threatened by IOM's information campaign, they issued death threats
against Bendlin and her team. 

To access IOM studies on human trafficking in Argentina, Chile
and Uruguay as well as Paraguay, please visit "paragraph-link-no-underline" href=
"http://www.oimconosur.org">www.oimconosur.org.

For more information or to schedule an interview with one of the
IOM staff member, please contact:

Niurka Piñeiro

IOM Washington

Tel: +1-202.862.1826 ext. 225

E-mail: "mailto:npineiro@iom.int">npineiro@iom.int