Honoring diplomat Katherine Diop

November 16, 2016 | Swanee Hunt

For more than a decade, the U.S. State Department has recognized one or two foreign service staff members each year for supporting women as policy shapers somewhere in the world. This year, the Swanee Hunt Award for Advancing Women’s Role in Policy Formulation went to Katherine Diop for her work in Ethiopia. Swanee attended the award ceremony on Nov. 16 in the elegant Benjamin Franklin Room on the eighth floor of the State Department.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken presided at the much-anticipated awards event, recognizing American diplomats for bravery, innovation, and excellence.

Swanee Hunt with honoree Katherine Diop and past winner Mara Tekach.

Swanee with honoree Katherine Diop and past winner Mara Tekach.

Swanee endowed the award after completing her service as U.S. Ambassador to Austria from 1993 to 1997, where she saw first-hand the need for more women in decision-making roles. This belief also drove her to found the Washington-based nonprofit, Inclusive Security, which advances women as leaders in peace and security globally.

The Swanee Hunt award can go to U.S. foreign service officers and foreign nationals employed by a U.S. embassy who have advanced women’s policy leadership. This year, the $5,000 prize went to Katherine, a program officer at the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa, for her work with Ethiopian women. She flew with her husband, Aly Diop,from her current post as a diplomat in Ivory Coast to receive the honor.

Katherine’s achievements included combating gender-based violence by working with Ethiopian organizers who spawned the “Yellow Movement” to raise awareness of the huge number of women who are victims of violence. This initiative followed a horrific rape in which a victim was refused hospital care. For Women’s History Month, she led an online challenge to create three-minute videos depicting women’s concerns; the top three videos drew more than 10 million views around the world.

The State Department nomination said the social media campaign “gave women a safe space to discuss issues of concern to them (everything from earnings to rape) despite local taboos and shrinking civil society space.”

Also at the ceremony was last year’s winner, Mara Tekach, who is now Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy for the Western Hemisphere.

Tony Blinken saluted the winners and stressed the immense challenges they face across the globe. “Some even wonder if the age of diplomacy is over. I could not disagree more. Diplomacy is more important, especially right now.” He noted that President Barack Obama had come to the State Department a day earlier to tell the American diplomatic corps: “there is no doubt the world is indisputably better off thanks to your efforts.”

Swanee Hunt and Tony Blinken, Nov 2016

Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Swanee at the ceremony.