March 24, 2017

IWOC Alumna Charts Own Path of Courage

Ten years ago, Ilze Jaunalksne received the International Women of Courage award by the U.S. Department of State. Ms. Jaunalksne is a journalist and anchor of Latvia's top current affairs TV program, "Neka Personiga."

In March 2006, Ms. Jaunalksne broke the story of a vote buying scandal involving prominent national political leaders from several parties. Her report led to the indictment of several high-ranking political figures, and forced the resignation of a minister. In the face of great opposition and threats to her own life, Ms. Jaunalkse helped to bring about reform for this democratic nation.

We caught up with Ms. Jaunalksne to reflect on her work since receiving the IWOC award ten years ago.

  1. In a perfect world, women and girls would:
    I arm myself with ambitions, when going towards my target, but when I get there, I always remember to remove the bulletproof vest and put on some red lipstick.
  2. In three words, what does courage mean to you?  
    Courage means resilience and commitment, and doing your homework.
  3. What’s your favorite memory from the International Women of Courage Award ceremony and/or your time on the exchange program?
    Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the ceremony, but the best memory is the satisfaction of having received the award, knowing it’s an investment in the whole of Latvian journalism.
  4. What other International Woman of Courage stands out to you from your time in the United States?
    Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the ceremony, but I’ve mentally shaken the hand of every woman who’s received the award. Courage and persistence is what unites us!
  5. How did the International Women of Courage Award change your work?  
    I see the award as appreciation of my work, a reminder that it’s possible to counter illegal actions of public officials, fraud and corruption, and win.
  6. What’s the secret to getting things done and making progress on the issues that matter to you?  
    I make sure that bad people don’t have it too easily. I’ve never given up on my principles and my ideals.
  7. What do you think is the biggest barrier to progress in your work?  
    It’s not exactly barrier, rather a change of values that has slowed me down – I now have a family and two lovely daughters that need their mother’s love and attention.
  8. What’s the accomplishment you’re most proud of? Are there any projects you’ve worked on since the award?  
    I continue my work as a journalist, and I’m very lucky to have so many great colleagues. It’s very important to feel support when fighting for a just cause.
  9. What should the next generation of women leaders know about leadership and courage? What can they do to continue your work? 
    Curiosity and not being afraid to chart your own path is something. Knowing I’ve served as a source of inspiration others also makes me really proud!