Sarah Cleto Rial, a native of Southern Sudan, received The Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights

Washington (NSV)– Sarah Cleto Rial, a native of Wau, Southern Sudan, was one of four people honored on Friday with The Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights at a ceremony highlighted by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The award was established in 1998  in honor of the former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, whose presentation contributed to the passage of the UN  Declaration of Human Rights 62 years ago.


Sarah Cleto Rial

In a press statement posted on the State Department’s website right before the ceremony, “This year’s honorees – Professor Louis Henkin, Alice Hartman Henkin, Wade Henderson, and Sarah Cleto Rial – were selected for the extraordinary work they have done to improve human rights, both at home and abroad.”

Sarah Cleto Rial has been devoting her life to causes to do with empowerment of women, whether in her native country of Sudan or around the world.

Her advocacy for women issues was born of a bitter childhood experience when the government in Khartoum arrested  her at a younger age of 17 over dress code.

“I was arrested when I was 17 years old because of the way I was dressed. I was put in an open truck that was driven around town. People were looking at me and throwing things at me and then I was taken to a civil court where I was interrogated and humiliated. Many others suffered worse,”  Ms. Rial said according to a quote from her past conversations.

Speaking of the horrors of slavery days in the Sudan,and her passion for women issues, Ms Rial  had said: “That kind of mistreatment and the civil unrest in Sudan triggered my political activism. For more than 25 years I have been advocating for the lives of the marginalized people in Sudan and I specifically focus on the importance of women’s voices to be part of this movement.”

In addition to honoring the four honorees this evening, Ms. Clinton highlighted the importance of Human Rights by saying , “Everyday is Human Rights day.”

A preview of Secretary Clinton’s remarks posted on the State Department’s website Friday morning read : “When Eleanor Roosevelt presented the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the UN General Assembly, she proclaimed: “We stand today at the threshold of a great event, both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind.” On December 10, 1948, the world moved to recognize and protect the equal and inalienable rights of all people, inspiring individuals around the globe to claim the rights that are our common heritage.”

Ms. Clinton’s statement added: “The Declaration has long served as a beacon to those seeking the protection of fundamental, internationally recognized rights and liberties. Today, and every day, the United States stands with those committed to making the vision enshrined in the Declaration a reality for all people. We call on every nation to join us in working to fulfill the Declaration’s promise, at home and abroad.”

Sarah Cleto Rial received the award with friends and family cheering on, saying her the award is a testament to the resilience of the spirit possessed by all sudanese women. 

She lives in United States where she works as Program Director for My Sister’s keeper, a women-led humanitarian organization that was started by American women after their trip to Southern Sudan in 2001 as part of slavery redemption mission.

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