IRI Honors Elena Larrinaga de Luis and Berta Valle with Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Award

The International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Women’s Democracy Network (WDN) held its annual Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Award ceremony on Tuesday, March 12th, honoring, Elena Larrinaga de Luis, a human rights activist from Cuba, and Berta Valle, a journalist from Nicaragua, for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of women in politics and civil society.

Valerie Dowling, Director of IRI’s Women’s Democracy Network (WDN) opened the ceremony by paying tribute to Dr. Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the first Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations and member of President Reagan’s Cabinet, calling her a courageous leader who made an “outstanding contribution to the advancement of women in politics and civil society.”

This year’s honorees, Elena Larrinaga de Luis and Berta Valle, joined IRI’s Vice President of External Affairs Antonia Ferrier on stage for a panel discussion where they reviewed the political challenges women are forced to confront in countries governed by authoritarian regimes. While explaining how women sustain the will to fight for their beliefs, Larrinaga de Luis stated, “Only a conviction of being on the right side is what keeps you going.”

While presenting the award, IRI’s President Daniel Twining thanked both of this year’s honorees for their sacrifices in extremely difficult political environments and for being “outspoken advocates for freedom and democracy.” Before the event concluded, Valle thanked IRI and the Women’s Democracy Network and said, “We must be united in our fight against the evils of dictatorship.”


Elena Larrinaga de Luis has a long history of working for human rights and democracy in Cuba. In 2007, she founded and was elected President of the Spanish Federation of Cuban Associations (FECU). Larrinaga de Luis collaborated on numerous projects and hosted dissidents detained in the 2003 Black Spring, who were arrested and sentenced under Fidel Castro’s government. Additionally, she served as president of the Association of the Ladies in White and its representative in Europe. Over the past decade, Larrinaga de Luis has played a crucial role in enhancing women’s participation in civil society movements in Cuba. She has actively worked to combat gender-based violence and empower Cuban women to establish businesses and achieve economic growth. Currently, Elena serves as the Executive Director of the Cuban Women’s Network, a platform dedicated to defending the rights of Cuban women.

Berta Valle is a Nicaraguan journalist, television presenter, human rights activist, and member of the steering committee of the World Democracy Movement. She is also a fellow of Oslo Freedom Forum and a long-standing member of the Nicaraguan independent media. Valle was nominated as a legislative representative for the Partido Liberal Independiente as part of the National Coalition for Democracy. Since 2019, she has led the Voces en Libertad initiative, providing space and visibility to over 30 independent media outlets in Nicaragua that face repression and censorship. Valle and her family have been denationalized, becoming stateless de facto, as the regime prohibits their return to Nicaragua.


The Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Award recognizes honorees for their commitment to increase women’s political and civic participation within their own communities and on behalf of women worldwide.  A long-time board member of IRI and the first woman to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Kirkpatrick was a strong advocate for women’s participation in politics.

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